Before you jet off to Ireland (or any other country) to find the roots of your immigrant ancestor, you need to do your homework. I know that now!
As I mentioned in my first blog, my daughter is the one who got me started on this journey (her sisters like to remind her that it’s her fault their mother chases dead people). The year Sarah was working on her project, I had a business trip to Ireland. The week before my trip was Sarah’s school vacation so she and I headed to the "Ould Sod" to find the Moughty’s. After loading all of our things into the rental car at Shannon Airport at 7 a.m., and climbing into the wrong side of the car to drive on the wrong side of the road, the car wouldn’t start. A trek back to the Hertz desk brought the question, “Did you pull out the choke?” A choke??? I thought they were only on golf carts! So began our week’s journey around the Irish Republic.
We knew that some of our ancestors had come from Mayo, Leitrim, Westmeath, Monaghan and Louth (we didn’t enter the North on this trip). That was about all we knew. Most of our pictures from that trip consist of Sarah standing next to town signs where our ancestors might have lived!
After four days we drove into Dublin (at one point I felt like “Family Vacation” trying to get out of a roundabout). Off we went to the National Library. Now, if you haven’t worked in a research library, you may be surprised to find that most of the libraries are “closed stacks” and require a “reader’s card.” We dutifully produced our passports, had our pictures taken, filled out forms and after about two hours were in possession of our reader’s cards. After checking our purses and backpacks, up the stairs we went to a beautiful room with desks and a domed skylight (picture above). In awe, we moved to the reference desk and were asked what we were looking for. We really didn’t know...perhaps the book on the Moughty family? We were told we were in the wrong place with a suggestion that perhaps we might want to try the General Registrar’s Office on Lombard Street (known as Joyce House). Two hours for the reader’s cards and five minutes in the Library and off we went to the GRO.
Now that fact that Moughty is such an unusual name actually allowed us to find information at the GRO including Patrick Moughty’s birth certificate and to learn he wasn’t from Mullingar in Westmeath (my mother-in-law’s recollection) but from a town called Aughnaboy about six miles away. That might not sound far, but had we been searching for a more common name, we would have been searching in the wrong place. Mullingar and Aughnaboy are in different civil parishes (church records), different registration districts (civil records) and different baronies (Griffith’s Valuation).
Sarah and I had a wonderful time, but I can’t say it was a successful research trip.
In Ireland (and many other countries) the most important piece of information you need to distinguish your ancestor from the many others with the same name is the precise location from which they came (in Ireland, that’s the townland). Many of our ancestors didn’t talk about their life in Ireland and that important piece of information has not been passed down. If the information exists, it is most likely in a record here in the United States (or other country of immigration). You need to look for every type of document which named your ancestor, but don’t stop there. If you don’t find the information begin searching all of their siblings. Recently, I found the information about the place of origin for one of my clients three generations removed from the immigrant in the records of the great grandchild of a sibling. After siblings, look at witnesses named on various documents as well as neighbors.
Remember, it’s like a jigsaw puzzle and your need to get all of the pieces in the correct place.