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Research Trip Preparation - Part 2

Last week I began creating my Research Plan for the Johnston Family in preparation for my May trip to Ireland. I decided on my research question and reviewed the material I already had. The next step is to start identifying resources to research. I have a brick wall at my 3x great name. If my hypothesis is correct, and Rachel Johnston had two sisters and a brother (I still have to prove this) then it is likely that their mother died sometime between the birth of William, about 1852 (based on census and death records) and the second marriage of James to Jane Johnston in 1858. With young children, James would likely have married pretty quickly. James' second wife, listed as a Spinster of full age on her marriage record, was also a Johnston from the townland of Aghanlish, and her father was Edward (who appears in Griffith's Valuation in that locality). Although I've seen this before (my Martin married a Martin in Monaghan), I was surprised to see how common this was with the Johnstons. It made me think that perhaps my DNA connections are not related on the line I thought, or perhaps I have a double relationship which may be showing more cMs hinting at a closer relationship.

The first thing I need to do is a survey of what's available. My first stop is John Grenham's site ( I'll begin at the Sitemap and select County Leitrim, then Rossinver Parish. In the upper right I'll check all of the sources he suggests. An alternative is John's book, Tracing Your Irish Ancestors (5th Edition).

Another place to check is IrishRoots Magazine. (As a matter of disclosure, I have written articles for this magazine but I have no affiliate relationship.) Over the years they have had articles about researching in each of the Counties of Ireland. If you don't subscribe, you might find a copy at your favorite library with a genealogy collection. In each issue they publish a list of the most recent articles. This is just a snippet. Leitrim is covered in Volume 106 (that's the number at the right) and I do have a copy of that issue. It was written in 2018 so it's fairly recent although some of the links are broken. In one case with a broken link to the site publishing a Journal for the area, I just googled Breifne Journal and quickly found the site. They had a list of the articles in their Journals (it was a PDF so you need to read through it) which highlighted some articles I'll be looking for at the National Library in May. (This was also listed in John Grenham's resources.) One the problems researchers experience when going into a "closed stack" library or repository is not knowing what to look for. These resources are a big help in getting started.

Because there are no church records of baptisms and burials until 1877 (Church of Ireland records lost in the fire in 1922), I need to find some other way of identifying my 2x great grandmother and it will probably be through collateral research. Since I've already identified all of the Johnstons in Rossinver parish (see my blog of April 5th) using a townland map, I decided it would be helpful to do a one name study on the Johnstons. The civil birth records start too late (1864) and the death records don't give any family information. Marriage records at least give me the name of the bride and groom's fathers and their localities so I can begin to put together family groups. I do this in a spreadsheet. Since Church of Ireland marriages were recorded from 1845 I might be able to identify some of these other families. There are close to 200 Johnston marriages between 1845 and 1900 in the Registration District of Ballyshannon which covers parts of Donegal and Fermanagh as well as Leitrim. I know from previous research that the border between this area of Leitrim and Fermanagh was fairly porous for the Johnstons. So below is the beginning of the list. I've already noticed some interesting items. There are marriages in multiple generations between Johnstons and Johnstons, as well as Johnstons and Whittens. As late as 1907 my great grandmother's brother returned to Ireland from the US, married Susan Whitten and returned with her to settle in Connecticut. She was the daughter of Stephenson Whitten and Elizabeth Johnston married in 1871. In most cases marriage records indicate "full age" (over 21), but where ages are indicated it is helpful. I especially noted that Andrew Johnston, a widower from Cornagee (which both my 2x great grandmother and her sister indicated as their residence on their marriage records) was 65 (born about 1800) when he married his 30 year old spinster wife, listed as a servant.

I believe if I'm going to be able to answer my first research question, the name of my 3x great grandmother it will be through collateral research which is why this one name study is important. It was through a DNA match that I discovered the second marriage of my 3x great grandfather. The match was also able to identify one of the pictures that appeared in my great grandmother's photo album. I'm headed to Connecticut for the holidays and I'm going to try to do some additional research while I'm there.

This will be the last blog for the year. Best Wishes to all of your for a safe, happy and healthy Holiday and New Year.

Happy Hunting!

Happy Christmas!

A few reminders

The Irish Quick Reference Digital Bundle is on sale (50% off) through December 31st. If you order the print versions, they won't get sent out until early January as I'll be out of town until then. If you are outside of the US, please order the digital version.

There are still a few spots open for the May Belfast Research Trip, as well as for both Dublin and Belfast in October. I'm doing monthly Zoom calls with the participants to help in their preparation for the trip. Register early so you can take advantage of these calls.

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Dec 14, 2021

I'm hoping that I can move this research forward. I also have ancestors from Down (Moag) and have seen the Johnstons there as well. There is an active Johnston DNA group through FamilyTree DNA. If you've tested you might want to look at joining. You can also join the North of Ireland Group Project as well.

Merry Christmas!


Dec 14, 2021

Donna - great stuff re the Johnston family and your research here. Fun fact - I have a Johnston in our family tree as well. However, they came from Cork, fleeing after being "burned out by the RC" and landing in County Down mid 1800s. The surname was MacShane (son of John) and they changed it to Johnston (son of John) once they arrived in the Protestant North. Those Johnstons - they walk among us! Merry Christmas to you and yours. Ron

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