I got a lot of interesting comments last week on my blog. Yes, I know the locality is the most difficult piece of information to find, but it's critical. Last week I looked at those born after 1864 when Civil Registration started, and I heard from a number of you that your ancestors were born before then. This week I'll look at a case where the birth and/or immigration was earlier.
I know that everyone wants to jump the pond and immediately look for their ancestor in Ireland, but if the information exists about their origins, it will most likely be in a record, or group of records in the county of immigration. I'm going to discuss primarily the US, but if your ancestors went to another country, think about the types of records there. Also consider that they may have spent time in England or Scotland prior to their immigration...and that's good news. The records in either place are more plentiful and may provide the information.
The principle of your ancestor's FAN club, as explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills, focuses on their friends, associates and neighbors. Of course you have already researched all of their family members...right? If not, get cracking! I once found the place in Ireland four generations removed from the immigrant on a collateral line. Everything I wrote about last week is still important. Have you created a timeline? Identified missing records? Collected all of the church records for your ancestor and all of their children? Do you have them in every census? You might think that census records aren't that important for identifying a place because all they say is Ireland. But are you ignoring other information that might be there.
Where is Ireland was Michael Owens born? According to the 1900 census (above), Michael was born May 1848 in Ireland and emigrated about 1873. His wife Esther was born in Scotland about Mar 1859 (after Scottish Civil Registration), but both her parents were born in Ireland. Michael and Esther have been married 20 years (about 1880) and she has had 8 children of which only 4 are still living. Michael immigrated around 1873 and according to the census was Naturalized. The issue here is that Michael was born before civil registration and during a time period (1820-1892) when passenger lists only give the name, age, occupation and that they were from Ireland. He also naturalized when the information was limited to the fact that he gave up his allegiance to the Queen of Great Britain. Not a lot to go on.
Notice, however, that in addition to Michael, his wife and children, there is another person in the household...Bridget Baxter, identified as Michael's cousin who was born April 1880 (after civil registration) and immigrated in 1898 when passenger lists provide additional information, including their last residence in the previous country. Bridget's last residence was Ballyconnell, she left from Liverpool (England) and arrived in Philadelphia going to Mrs. Michael Drones (close enough to Owens to be of interest). The actual manifest image says she was met by Michael Owens, her cousin. This appears to be the same person as the census. What are the chances that Michael came from the same general area as his cousin? Probably pretty good! Note that many Irish after the Famine practiced "chain migration." One person would emigrate and send money back for the next family member to join then. When deciding where to settle in the new country, they didn't throw a dart at the map, they went someplace where they knew someone...a family member or someone from the home place.
If Bridget was born in 1880 she should be listed in the Civil Registration records. There was only one Bridget Baxter listed for 1880 in the Registration District of Cavan. It lists the place of birth as Drumhillagh and her father as Philip and her mother as Ellen McGaughran.
Is there a Ballyconnell in Cavan? Like many localities in Ireland there are multiple Ballyconnells, but yes, there is one in Cavan.
Are there Owens households in Cavan? Checking JohnGrenham.com shows that there are. It would be helpful at this point to have the name of Michael Owens father. Since these numbers are taken from Griffith's Valuation, a tax list, Michael would not be old enough to sign a lease, so the household would be in his father's (or possibly his mother's) name.
An exercise I go through is to look at the target location (in this case the civil parish of Scrabby as it is where Bridget was born) and map the locations of each of the Owens households. Are there locations that are closer, and more likely to be the home of Michael? The green arrow shows the location of Scrabby and the red arrows show the locations of the Owens families.
I haven't yet identified a specific place of birth for Michael Owens, but I have a theory that I have to continue to research. All of the names you've collected are important. Church records are not all extant and start at varying dates. There is always the possibility that Michael was baptized in a parish where records started too late.
So here are some next steps.
In the US (or other country of immigration)
Look for corroborating details which will help you identify Michael in records in Ireland. What were his parents' names (check death certificates and marriage records). Do you know the same of his siblings? Since Michael was living in Philadelphia, the records for the Roman Catholic Diocese are online at findmypast.com. (They also have record for New York City, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Toledo and Chicago and AmericanAncestors.org has records for Boston.) If your ancestor was not in one of these areas you will have to write to the local parish church to obtain records. Don't forget to obtain obituaries and death notices for your ancestors and all of their siblings. Remember, your direct line might not have been the one to leave the information.
Obtain the baptismal records for each of your ancestor's children. Who were the sponsors? Sponsors for Roman Catholic children tended to be family members or close friends (possibly from the same place in Ireland) as they were responsible for the children if something happened to the parents. If you don't know who they are research each of them as if they were your ancestor. Note all of the surnames and check them to see if the names fall in the same area (in this case, Cavan).
Once you have a name research it both forward and backward. So for the example of Bridget, look for the marriage of her parents. Note the marriage took place in 1871 and since Bridget was born in 1880 there are likely multiple siblings. Search RootsIreland.ie for baptismal records for Baxter children in Cavan with a father Phillip and mother Ellen. Using baptismal records look for the baptism of Phillip somewhere around 1841 (in this case I'd probably use ±10 years). Do the same for Ellen. Use the residence information to confirm it is the correct person. Move forward to the 1901 and 1911 census. Did the siblings all remain in Ireland? For the siblings also move forward looking for marriage, birth of children and death records at IrishGenealogy.ie
Another place you need to check is Griffith's Valuation. This is a tax list of occupiers of tenements (land or buildings). It was done between 1846 and 1864 (different dates for each county) and in the case of Cavan was done between 1855 and 1857. In 1870 Phillip was in the civil parish of Scrabby when he married, and in Griffith's John Baxter (the father of Phillip was in Scrabby). There was a Philip Baxter in Griffith's in Kilmore parish and based on naming patterns, this could be the above Philip's grandfather. There were also Owens in Kilmore and if Bridget and Michael Owens were cousins they could be sharing grandparents or great grandparents. What you are doing here is building a case based on evidence. You need to do this on both sides of the family. There were McGaughrans in Scabby and Kilmore as well in Ballintemple (where there were only Owens). Here we're identifying an area where all the names overlap. You can strengthen your case by adding surnames that might appear in US records associated with Michael Owens.
If you are not familiar with the records mentioned above in Ireland check out my Quick Reference Guides. Guide #1 Preparing for Success in Irish Research is on identifying a locality in Ireland; Guide #2 is on Irish Civil Registration and Church Records; and Guide #3 is on Land, Tax and Estate Records in Ireland (including Griffith's Valuation). These are available either as 4-page laminated sheets, or as PDF documents.
No one said this was going to be easy, but if you're serious about finding the place in Ireland you need to do serious research, offline as well as online.
If you know where your ancestors lived and would like to continue your research in Ireland, join me for the Ireland Research Trips in October. Dublin is almost full, but there are still a few spaces left. Belfast is open at this time. Questions on whether you are ready?
E-mail me to set up a consultation.
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