Irish Records

NLI Parish Registers Digitisation Project

This is huge. This is absolutely fantastic. This has the potential to transform (and by “transform,” I mean radically improve) Irish family history research.

Press release from the National Library of Ireland:

We are delighted to announce that we will make the NLI’s entire collection of Catholic parish register microfilms available online – for free – by summer 2015…

…Commenting today, Colette O’Flaherty, Head of Special Collections at the NLI, said: “This is the most ambitious digitisation project in the history of the NLI, and our most significant ever genealogy project. We believe it will be of huge assistance to those who wish to research their family history. At this stage, we have converted the microfilm reels on which the registers are recorded into approximately 390,000 digital images. We will be making all these images available, for free, on a dedicated website, which will be launched in summer 2015.

More on this in a later post.

GRO Indexes now temporarily unavailable

A few weeks ago, I posted a link to the GRO Indexes at IrishGenealogy.ie. And a week or two after that post, the indexes became “temporarily unavailable.” There is no indication, yet, of when they will be back online.

Update:

And it looks like “temporarily” is going to mean “for a very long time.” Apparently the website had to be taken down because it included information not only on dead people, but also on living individuals. See Claire Santry’s Privacy concerns close civil registration indexes site” and Chris Paton’s “RIP: GRO Ireland’s credibility (2014-2014)”.

 

The Ballad of James and Margaret

The family lore surrounding my 3x-great-grandparents James Moran and Margaret Jamieson is so romantic (and I have to say, so seemingly improbable) that I sometimes refer to the story of their elopement to Canada as “The Ballad of James and Margaret.”

The story goes something like this:

Margaret Jamieson came from a family of quality, and was the daughter of a doctor, and the granddaughter of a landed gentleman, even; whereas James Moran, of much humbler origin, worked for her family as a coachman. Margaret suffered a tragic loss at an early age with the untimely death of her first husband, a Mr. Conroy. The young widow and her family’s coachman then fell in love; and, her family being opposed to the match, James and Margaret eloped to Canada.

Doesn’t the above story make my 3x-great-grandfather sound like “The Gypsy Rover”? (He whistled and he sang til the green woods rang/And he won the heart of a lady…). Except that James Moran didn’t end up as “lord of these lands all over.” Instead, he ended up as a yeoman of Huntley Township, Carleton County, with 200 acres of land to divide between his two surviving sons Thomas and Alexander Michael.1 Not exactly “lordly,” but not bad for an Irish Catholic emigrant who was likely the landless son of a landless tenant farmer back in Ireland.

But back in Ireland where?

  1. Another son, James, born about 1824 in Huntley township, died in 1851. There is a notation of his death in the 1851 census, with the cause of death listed as “collara” (cholera).

Thomas Benton and Catherine Dwyer, Cappawhite, Tipperary

One of my brick wall ancestors is my great-great-grandfather Thomas Benton, who was born in Ireland about 1830, emigrated to Canada in the 1850s, and died at Arnrprior (Renfrew County, Ontario) in 1890.

He married Hanora (“Annie”) Ryan about 1856, but I’ve yet to find a marriage record for this couple, and I don’t know whether they were married in Ireland or in Canada. Thomas Benton and Hanora Ryan had nine known children, apparently all born in Canada, with eight surviving to adulthood. I have baptismal records for seven of these nine children, but not for the two eldest, Catherine Benton (born about 1857) and Thomas Benton Jr (born about 1859). The first real proof of Thomas and Annie [Ryan] Benton’s presence in Canada is the baptismal record for their third child, Bridget Benton (born in February 1861; baptized 1 March 1861). The family can be found in the 1861 Census of Canada (Pakenham, Lanark Co., Ontario), where the birthplace for Thomas Benton and his wife Anne is given as Ireland, and the birthplace for their children Catherine and Thomas given as Upper Canada.

Thomas Benton died 7 March 1890, of head injuries sustained in a horrible accident at a lumber mill. While I have his church burial record (St. John Chrysostom, Arnprior), I have not found an Ontario civil death registration. An obituary in the Arnprior Chronicle does not name his parents. So: with no marriage record, and with no mention of his parents in either his RC burial record or his obituary, the trail goes cold.

But there’s a family in Cappawhite, Tipperary that interests me (especially as Thomas Benton married a Ryan whose family came from Tipperary):

A Thomas Benton married a Catherine (“Kitty”) Dwyer in Cappawhite, Tipperary on 11 March 1809. The couple had at least five known children, all born Cappawhite, Tipperary:

  1. Hanora Benton, baptized 19 December 1818
  2. Kitty Benton, baptized 15 October 1821
  3. Winny [Winnifred] Benton, baptized 8 February 1824
  4. Thomas Benton, baptized 8 June 1826 (could this be my 2x-great-grandfather?)
  5. William Benton, baptized 9 May 1832

So I’m looking for information on the descendants of Thomas Benton and Catherine (“Kitty”) Dwyer, of Cappawhite, Tipperary. Any information would be much appreciated.

John Lynch and Unity Fox, Strabane, Co. Tyrone

A reader is looking for information about her great-grandparents John Lynch (born about 1856, Co. Tyrone) and Unity Fox (born about 1856, Co. Tyrone). The couple were married on 22 May 1878 at a Roman Catholic chapel (possibly Cloughcor Chapel?), parish of Leckpatrick, Strabane, Co. Tyrone, Ireland, with Daniel Murphy and Mary J. Murphy serving as witnesses. Their marriage record lists their residence as Woodend, parish of Leckpatrick, Strabane, Co. Tyrone.

John Lynch married Unity Fox as a widower; the name of his first wife is not known.

John Lynch and Unity Fox had at least one son, John Lynch (Junior), born 17 October 1879, Strabane, Tyrone, Ireland, who married Mary Catherine Boyle in 1909. John Lynch (Junior) and Mary Catherine Boyle emigrated to Canada in 1913, with their four young daughters Winnifred, Catherine Jane, Helen, and Elizabeth Lynch. The family settled at Cornwall, Stormont Co., Ontario, where they had two more children, sons Jack and James Lynch.

The reader is trying to find out the names of her great-great-grandparents (i.e., the parents of John Lynch [Senior], who was born about 1856, and of Unity Fox, who was also born about 1856).

Any information would be greatly appreciated.

Pre-1901 Irish Census Records Online

First, the bad news (not that it’s news: if you’ve been pursuing Irish genealogy at a level beyond that of absolute beginner, you already know about the sad loss of the nineteenth-century Irish census returns):

There are no surviving census returns for 1891, 1881, 1871, and 1861. And there are very, very few surviving census returns for 1851, 1841, 1831, and 1821.

Yes, I know: it is to weep. John Grenham explains the sorry situation at his Irish Roots column.

And now for a bit of good news (and this really is a new and welcome development):

The surviving pre-1901 census records (and to reiterate: most pre-1901 Irish census returns did not survive) are now available online, and free of charge, at the National Archives of Ireland’s website (census.nationalarchives.ie).

Shaun O’Connor at Ottawa Family Tree has a nice post on the topic, with a summary of what’s available.

Link

As if Ireland hasn’t already lost enough invaluable and irreplaceable genealogical records, John Grenham sounds the alarm over the state of the original Roman Catholic parish registers — which are “still sitting in the sacristies and presbyteries around the country where they have been for the past two centuries,” with no preservation plan in place, and “no archival programme to ensure their survival.”