Updated: Jul 29, 2019
Frequently when you do find information about the locality of your ancestor you only know the name of the county. If you’re lucky enough to have an unusual name (like Moughty) and your ancestor was born after civil registration, that may be enough to set you on the right path. If you have a Murphy or Sullivan from Cork, even that might not help you <g>.
It’s always good to go back and start with the basics. Re-read everything in your files. You may already have at the answer and didn’t recognize it when you originally came across the record. Since you are now a more experienced researcher and you have acquired additional information that old piece of information may fit into your puzzle.
In addition to the name of your ancestor, you also need some corroborating detail…something that will allow you to distinguish your ancestor from the many others with the same name. What were the names of his parents, including his mother’s maiden name? You can frequently find the names of the parents on a death record (depending on time and location). Even better, a marriage record since the person providing the information probably knew their mother’s maiden name (unlike death where an informant is providing the name). If your ancestor didn’t leave the information, then it’s time for cluster research. Check the death and marriage records for all of the siblings you can identify. Also look at the names of the siblings’ children. Do they fit into a naming pattern? If all of the male siblings named their eldest son the same name, that is likely the name of the child’s grandfather (the father of your ancestor).
Having trouble identifying the siblings? Obtain the baptismal records for all of your ancestor’s children. Especially if they were Roman Catholic, the sponsors were likely relatives since they were responsible for taking care of the child if something happened to the parents. Research the sponsors as if they were your ancestors. Were they also immigrants? Where were they married? (It’s a bonus if they were married in Ireland.) Were any of their children born in Ireland? All of these are little pieces that will help identify the correct person in Ireland.
Now go to IrishAncestors [JohnGrenham.com]. From the home page you can type in the surname you’re researching (see image above). The results page gives you a lot of information on where the surname is located in Ireland. This information is taken from the surname distributions at the time of Griffith’s Valuation (1846-1864). Even if your ancestor left before Griffith’s, the likelihood is that some family members remained, so it still can be helpful.
Notice on the right side a list of alternate spellings. Daly was the most common spelling, but there are others. I’m still surprised when people say to me, “that couldn’t be my family because we’ve always spelled the name this way.” Spelling doesn’t count! Many of our ancestors could not read or write, and the name was written the way the priest or clerk heard it. I’ve found my Moughty name spelled: Mucty, Mughty, Murtagh, Murtha, Mooty, and Moody. So keep all of the variations in mind.
The center section breaks down the name by county. I knew that my Daly family came from Mayo. There were only 65 Dalys listed in Mayo. I’m glad they weren’t from Cork where there were 860 listed! One of the things to keep in mind is that Griffith’s was a tax list and an individual might be listed multiple times if they had more than one lease. They also might be listed twice if they sub-let a house on their holding.
The left side lists various resources…maps, family histories and websites referring to the name. On the bottom left is a field to type in a second surname.
This is where you add the maiden name of a couple married in Ireland. I added the name “Kirrane” which was the second wife of my John Daly.
Now I get a list of only those parishes where both names exist. Most of our ancestors would have married someone in their own parish, or in an adjoining parish. They didn’t travel very far to meet a spouse. Another name might be the name of a sponsor from a child’s baptism or witness to the marriage that occurred in the US. Finally, don’t forget census records. Is someone in the household identified as a cousin? Isn’t it likely that the cousin would be from the same general area in Ireland?
There are only three parishes in Mayo where both names appear. That gives me a good idea of where to start my research.
The three parishes identified are all adjacent to each other.
What are my next steps? Go to AskAboutIreland.ie and search for Daly in each of the three parishes. If you do that for Kilvine, you’ll find the list names a lot of people who do not have the surname Daly. If you click on the page icon for each of these, you’ll see that the Immediate Lessor, or landlord, is Bernard Daly (not mine). If you scroll to the bottom of the page, you’ll find Thomas, Michael, James and (at the top of the 2nd page) John. For the 22 listings, there are only five individuals; Bernard, the immediate lessor, as well as occupiers, Thomas, Michael, James and John. Look at each page and identify the townland in which they lived. [Thomas-Levallyroe; Michael-Boleyboy; John and James-Crumlin] In Annagh, there was a Thomas [Letterkeeghaun] and a Mary [Levallyroe]; and in Crossboyne there was a Patrick [Killeen]. Griffith’s Valuation was done in Mayo between 1855 and 1857 so you need to figure out if you’re looking for your ancestor or his father.
Another thing to do is look at the given names that have passed down in your family. John Daly married three times and named his sons James, Patrick, John, Thomas and Michael (along with Peter and Martin which came from the maternal line). No Bernard. Based on the proximity and naming patterns, it’s likely all but Bernard are somehow related.
Next week I’ll take you through the process of grouping families using both church and civil records (I did this before any of these records were online. It’s sure gotten a lot easier!)
If you’re not familiar with Griffith’s Valuation (it is more than just names) check out my Quick Reference Guide, Land, Tax and Estate Records in Ireland.