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More on Brick Walls (or Speed Bumps)

Updated: Dec 26, 2018

   I just read an article on Irish Central by Rachel Brown on Seven tips for getting “unstuck” in your Irish genealogy research.  I shared the article on my Facebook page, but I’ve linked to it here in case you are not on Facebook.

   Not only would I agree with what Rachel has written, I’ve probably discussed many of the same issues on various blogs. It is, however, a great reminder, in one place, of how we sometimes have to take a step back and rethink our research.  As Rachel says, “Try something new.”  

   Do the records you are looking for even exist?  I could keep searching for the baptismal record for John Daly born about 1831 in Kilvine, Mayo but unless there is a miracle, I’m not going to find it because the records for that parish don’t start until 1870!  What’s the old joke about why you keep hitting your head against a [brick] wall?  Because it feels so good when you stop!  Maybe it’s time to look for some other records.  It might not give an exact birth or baptismal date, but could it show your ancestor was living in that time and place?  From marriage records I know that John Daly’s father was also John and I have a record showing John in Kilvine in Griffith’s Valuation in 1856.  I can also follow that record in the Revision Books to find John the son, then his wife, Mary (during which time the land was purchased), to their son Martin, to Martin’s wife Norah, to their son Patrick (in 1960). The land is now owned by another Patrick, a nephew, who no longer farms the land, but leases it.  So I know this is the same land back to 1856.  So far, I haven’t been able to find any estate records, but I hope that if and when the land commission records from the early 1900s are released (the records regarding the purchase under the Land Acts) I might find some earlier records. 

   Are you overwhelmed with the amount of information and can’t figure out which Michael Daly is yours? Remember, it’s all about location.  If you haven’t identified the place in Ireland, you need to step back and look at your research question.  Where in Ireland was Michael Daly born? Chances are if that information exists it’s in some record in the country  where he emigrated. Make sure you’ve collected every record he/she left in the US or other country of emigration, and if you don’t find the information, start looking at other members of the family to see if they left the information.  Then move on to friends associates and neighbors.  A few weeks ago I wrote about using church records to identify the place in Ireland.  Remember, not everything is online! (My Quick Reference Guide #1, Preparing for Success in Irish Research is all about finding the place in Ireland.)  

   Do you have former ancestors?  Those are the ones you’ve researched for years, only to find you got into the wrong family (sometimes that will show up with DNA testing). Because of Irish naming patterns it is not unusual to have multiple individuals of the same name living in the same area, perhaps an adjoining townland.  This is good and bad news.  The bad news is that it is not difficult to identify the wrong ancestor.  The good news is that if you research each individual as if they were your own ancestor, you may be able to separate the families and determine their relationship to each other. One of the ways I do this is with maps.


 For those of you who are new to my blog, in 2017 I wrote a series starting with the basics and moving through various resources.  You can use the Blog Archive in the sidebar to go to January of 2017 and follow the series.  Here’s a link to one of the blogs on creating a research plan.  There is a difference between researching and surfing.  If you begin with a plan you’ll be more likely to answer your research question.


Rachel has some great tips for your Irish research, so I hope you enjoy her article.


Happy Hunting!

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