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Records aren't always where you expect them to be!

Kilbarron Church of Ireland in Balllyshannon (

I’ve been looking for my 3rd great grandparents graves for a number of years. Mathew and Isabella Mackey/Mackay lived and died in the northern part of County Leitrim, Kinlough in Rossinver parish. I have both their death certificates (from the 1870s), but had no idea where they were buried. In 2012 I visited the Parish Church of Rossinver (where records don’t begin until 1878) and met the parish secretary who opened up the church for me. She then took us to the Old Kinlough Cemetery where the stones in many cases were broken or overturned and even the ones standing were difficult to read. No Mackeys to be found. We also visited the New Kinlough Cemetery, but no luck there either.

Well, now I know why! They were buried in the Parish Church of Kilbarron in County Donegal. And lo and behold, the parish records for Kilbarron were not at the Public Records Office in 1922 and survive back to 1812. My Mathew was born about 1783, so that doesn’t take me back far enough, but I was hoping that maybe their children were baptized there. The only one I know for sure is my 2nd great grandfather, James, born about 1830 and of course, he wasn’t in the records and although I found a number of Mackeys, none with parents of Mathew and Isabella. I did find a burial record for an Isabella Mackey, age 32 from Kinlough on 8 Feb 1859. That would make her birth about 1827, making her the right age to be a sibling of James. Isabella was the mother of James, and James named one of his daughters Isabella. I also found a number of identified family members buried in Kilbarron…my 2nd great grandparents, James and Rachel and their son Henry. I'm pretty sure I have the correct family, but of course, there is no gravestone (my luck).

I frequently remind people to look at a map and to check the surrounding parishes for records. Your family's townland might have been closer to the church in the next parish. That wasn’t the case with the Mackeys, as there were at least two Church of Ireland Churches between where they lived and Ballyshannon. There must have been some connection between the family and Ballyshannon. Now I just need to figure out what it was!

This week I was working on a consultation for a person going to Belfast next year on my Research Trip. She had found two marriage records in Belfast at the same church for her 2x great grandparents a year apart. The second one indicated a dispensation was required because of a relationship between the two individuals. She hasn't found baptismal records yet for the individuals (about 1850) to specifically isolate a locality so it is unknown if the families were originally from Belfast. There is a birth record for the first child of the marriage in Belfast but no subsequent children and the family emigrated to the US in the early 1880s. But there was a hint on the marriage record which stated, "husband's parents from England." The marriages were in 1874 and 1875, so I searched the 1871 England census and found the mother with two sons living in Cumberland, England (all born in Ireland). I'm pretty sure it's the correct family since the occupation of the sons was Iron Miner, the same occupation as on the marriage records. She now has the name of a brother to research as well.

The migration of the Irish to England or Scotland, either seasonally for work, permanently or as a step migration to another country (US, Canada, Australia) was fairly common and honestly, this is good news. England has a lot more records than Ireland. Civil Registration in England began in 1837 and census records begin in 1841. By the 1860s approximately 600,000 Irish had migrated to England (this wasn't an immigration since they were part of the same country). If you can't find your Irish ancestor, consider the possibility that they spent some time in England or Scotland. If you find them first in England or Scotland and are trying to get them back to Ireland, read the history of the area where they settled. People migrated to an area where they knew someone and the Irish population in England was no exception. Look for a local history of the area in England to see if it identifies a locality or region in Ireland for their Irish migrants.

Happy Hunting and Stay Safe!

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