Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Magic Mike

Our 'Magic Mike', 26 December 2014.
Click on image to view larger version.
Sorry Channing Tatum fans, this post is not about that buff fellow in the movies. Instead, it is about a Mike with more magic in his spirit than any other Mike I have ever known. The Mike I am writing about is my elder brother Michael. Today is the one year anniversary of the day on which my brother suffered a serious heart attack which resulted in him having quadruple bypass surgery. 

The most shocking thing about this is that for most of his life — since he was about nine years old — Mike has been a dedicated athlete and a long distance runner. He ran track, and was on cross country teams in both elementary and secondary school.

Mike has run all of the major marathons, including those in Dublin, Boston, New York City and Toronto. For years he was also a cyclist, competing in races from coast to coast. He takes good care of himself and doesn't drink or smoke.

Mike is a nurse in the highly specialized field of Nephrology, and he is very fortunate in that he suffered his heart attack at work. Instantaneously, his shocked workmates went into rescue mode and brought Mike back into the land of the living.

The magic about Mike lies in the fact that within four months of his surgery he was back out running again. The thing about Mike is that he has an indomitable spirit. No matter what happens, he does not allow anything to defeat him; Mike just picks himself up and keeps on going. This is one of the things I most admire about him.

The photo I've included above is of Mike crossing the finish line at a 10 mile race the day after this past Christmas. Just over three weeks after this race Mike celebrated his 60th birthday, and he just keeps on running. That's our Magic Mike.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Irish valuation records: Tracing the tenancy & ownership of a family home: Warblestown

Consecutive years of rate books
are bound together into larger volumes.
Property valuation records are an important resource for learning about the places in which our ancestors lived in the land of Ireland. In searching through the extant rate books — which date from the mid-1850s — held by the Valuation Office in Dublin, we may be able to discover not only the homes in which our family members lived, but when they lived in them, thereby helping us to establish significant dates in our family histories. A change recorded in the rate books may help us to confirm details such as the date of migration for an ancestor, his/her date of death, or the date of sale for the property in which he/she lived.

The principal behind valuation records has always been to assess the financial value of land and buildings for the purpose of taxation. Each year any alteration in a property is recorded. Revisions documented include such things as the names of occupiers, i.e. the tenant or the person who paid the rent and immediate lessors, i.e. the person to whom the rent was paid (most often the name of the landlord or middleman, sometimes owner), differences in the quality of the property, increases in acreage leased (for farm land), as well as any modification in overall assessed value.

The key for the Kilsallaghan, County Dublin, rate book revisions:
on the left 1864-1872; on the right 1871-1884.
Notice that the difference in ink colours is not always so distinct.
Rate book revisions have always been noted in different colours of ink, with one colour for each year, and the alterations are usually dated, though not always. This can get a bit confusing, especially in those books in which the ink colours are quite similar year to year. Also, since the revisions were done once per year, not every change that occurred on any given property is recorded in the books, and sometimes changes are noted in more than one book — important information as my research bears out — and strict attention to detail is requisite for success.

Ideally you will already know the townland in the county in which the person for whom you are searching resided; however, if you have a good amount of time and a great deal of patience you can also browse through the valuation books.

The ink colour key for the revisions dating from 1893-1902.
Misters Campbell, Carbury and Irwin made the revisions.
Kilsallaghan, County Dublin, Rate Books.
On my most recent visit to the Valuation Office in the Irish Life Centre, Dublin City, I brought with me a list of properties connected to my family. On that list is Warblestown House, a home connected to Fitzpatrick and Kettle family ancestors on my maternal tree. I wanted to confirm information, as well as add to my previous research on the property.

Warblestown House

Members of the Fitzpatrick family lived in Warblestown House before it was occupied by Kettle family members, but their respective histories with the house are deeply connected. Splendidly, to this day, the house is still owned and occupied by Kettle descendants, an unbroken chain of provenance.

If you are familiar with Griffith's Valuation, and travel back in time to the valuation records of May 1847 — available online — you will find one James Mahon as the tenant of Warblestown, renting the house, 'offices' (a catchword denoting outer buildings on the property) and land, comprising 37 acres, zero roods, and 27 perches1, from his landlord Colonel Burton, and paying a total of £39 and 14 shillings rent per annum. Although I do not know what became of James Mahon, he left Warblestown house sometime between 1847 and 1861.

The earliest valuation record I was able to find for my Fitzpatrick ancestors indicates that in 1861 my 2nd great-grandfather Joseph Fitzpatrick held the tenancy of the house and land around it. Joseph and his wife Mary Kettle married 14 September 1857, and I believe Warblestown may have been the only home in which they ever lived together, so he may have held the tenancy earlier; however, there is no extant record to prove it.

Joseph Fitzpatrick, tenant of Warblestown, renting the house, offices and land
comprising 31 acres, 10 roods, for £35 per year from 'Reps. of Colonel Burton'
(an indication that Burton was probably dead).
The entry is revised in May of 1862, making note of 4 buildings added to the property.
Joseph and Mary welcomed nine children into Warblestown House over the course of their residency there. Sadly, the house would bear witness to profound losses in the Fitzpatrick family.

During one terrible autumn in 1864, their eldest daughter Mary died on 27 November aged only five years. Only eight days later, on 5 December, their 4th born son Nicholas, twin of my great-grandfather Thomas, also died. Nicholas was barely twenty-one months old. Mary and Nicholas both died of 'Cynanche Trachealis', what we now know as the croup.2

Tragedy stuck the Fitzpatrick family again, on 23 April 1871, the day of second born daughter Alice's 10th birthday, Mary Kettle Fitzpatrick died at Warblestown House. Mary was only 39 years old, and her youngest child Teresa was just two months shy of her 1st birthday.3 On that day, as the eldest surviving daughter, Alice stepped into her mother's role, caring for her younger siblings.

After the death of his wife Mary, it appears that Joseph and his children did their best to persevere. The family stayed on at Warblestown. In fact, on 29 September 1872, the lease on the house and property was renewed for a term of 32 years.

In 1876, only five years after their mother's death, the Fitzpatrick children suffered yet another horrific loss. On the night of 22 December, just three days before Christmas, their father Joseph Fitzpatrick froze to death on a road in north County Dublin. He was 47 years old.

There was a coroner’s inquest because of the manner of Joseph's death, an inquest which offered the following conclusion: 'Certified cause of death: Exposure to cold whilst under the influence of liquor some hours.' It was judged that because he was inebriated, Joseph decided to leave his horse and carriage outside a public house in Swords and walk home to Warblestown house. The following day Joseph's body was found by the side of a road in a state of undress commonly associated with a person suffering hypothermia.4

Joseph Fitzpatrick died intestate — that is, without leaving a will. Mary’s brother Patrick J. Kettle applied for letters of administration over the estate. In 1877, Patrick was granted administration over the matters of the estate; the grant cited his having taken guardianship of the Fitzpatrick children, the youngest of whom was then just shy of 6 years of age.5

Advertisement that appeared in
The Freeman's Journal,
announcing the 1877 auction of the
Fitzpatrick property and effects.
As administrator of the estate Patrick was responsible for the disposal of all of the assets. In 1877, Patrick Kettle mounted an auction of the estate, via the firm of George Crooke, an auction which included the lease on the house and on all lands farmed by Joseph Fitzpatrick, as well as everything that in any way pertained to the property, including all animals, equipment, products of the farms, and every stick of furniture in the house.

It appears as though the auction may not have gone forward,  or only some of what was on offer may have been auctioned, because the death of their father was not the end of the legal relationship the Fitzpatrick children had with the property.

Despite the fact that his father left no will, court records find that in 1879, 1892, 1894 and 1895, John Fitzpatrick — eldest son of Joseph Fitzpatrick and Mary Kettle Fitzpatrick — was legally recognized as ‘the person rated or liable to be rated of being concerned in the management of the hereditament’.6 Use of the word ‘hereditament’ signals that the lease of the house was part of an inheritance.

The 'hereditament' as it applies to John Fitzpatrick, was an ‘incorporeal hereditament’, that is, an inheritance of the right to lease the property. Although the tenancy was initially offered for sale, it appears John may have exercised his right to it, rather than have it sold. Thus the Fitzpatrick children likely stayed on at Warblestown House after the death of their father. Also, marriage registration records show that Alice Fitzpatrick, the second born daughter of Joseph Fitzpatrick and Mary Kettle was married from the house in August of 1886.7

Although first born son John Fitzpatrick was still legally connected to the property until at least 1895, the Irish Land Commission Return of Judicial Rents of November and December of 1888 (published 1889; see entry #108 in the image below)8 revealed an odd finding. It shows William F. Burton as the landlord of Warblestown House, and has Andrew J. Kettle named as the tenant rather than John Fitzpatrick. Given that A.J. Kettle was living with his family in Millview House, Malahide, at this time, this likely indicates that he was paying the rent on the tenancy, not that he was living there.

Irish Land Commission Return of Judicial Rents of November and December 1888.
Click on image to view larger version.

The court records of 1879, 1892, 1894 and 1895 that I mentioned earlier are principally concerned with John Fitzpatrick not taking care of business with respect to Warblestown. John had failed to pay the taxes on the property, and wasn’t properly maintaining the property, leaving him liable in the Petty Sessions Court. It appears Andrew J. Kettle may have stepped in, perhaps because John was unable to successfully manage the farm lands in order to support his siblings and pay the rent on the property.

John Fitzpatrick died 10 June 1899 at the age of only 41. Unlike his father before him, John left a will. The will was probated in 1902, with Andrew J. Kettle named as the sole beneficiary.9

The Warblestown property again emerged in the property records in 1901 when it is shown that the property was bought by Laurence J. Kettle (eldest son of Andrew J. Kettle). The Return of Advances under the Purchase of Land (Ireland) Act, 1891, Section 33, 1901-1902 shows that Laurence J. Kettle bought the property — 30 acres, 3 roods, 38 perches — on 18 April 1901 for £980. This seems curious, since other evidence shows that in 1901, at 23 years of age, Laurence was out of Ireland on an apprenticeship (he was an electrical engineer). Laurence did not return to live in Dublin until 1906, lodging — at 5 shillings a week — in Clonmore House on Naul Road, another house owned by his father.

As I mentioned, it seems somewhat curious that, given his circumstances, Laurence would have bought the house, but according to the aforementioned return apparently he did buy it.

Considering the fact that A.J. Kettle was the lone beneficiary of John Fitzpatrick’s will, and in light of the 1888 Land Commission return, I surmised that it was A.J. Kettle who had bought the house. When I searched in the revision books, I found that A.J. Kettle was named as the owner of the house, as illustrated below. Laurence Kettle is not named in the revision books.

Andrew J. Kettle bought Warblestown house and lands in 1907, as indicated in the immediate lessors column.
L.A.P. indicates it was a purchase under the Land Acts, meaning Kettle received financial assistance under
the Land Act to help him purchase the property.
In 1914 a further revision was made, assessing the property at 31 acres, zero roods, and 5 perches.
Click on image to view larger version.
In another Kilsallaghan revision book I found another entry, inserted below, for Andrew J. Kettle's connection to the property. As you can see it confirms the purchase of the property in 1907 via L.A.P.; however, there are a couple of other very interesting revisions.

The first revision is recorded in light blue pen and is barely legible; in fact, you may not be able to see it. In the far right column the number '99' appears, indicating 1899. Its corresponding entry appears in the column Townland & Occupiers: 'Reps. of Joseph Fitzpatrick' is crossed out and above it in light blue is written the name John. Why was John named as the tenant in 1899, the year in which he died? The crossing out of 'Reps. of Joseph Fitzpatrick' serves as a marker of the death of Patrick J. Kettle, who had been the legal representative of Joseph Fitzpatrick, as noted earlier in this post, and had indeed died in 1894. It is likely the reason for the appearance of John's name in 1899. Entered in red in 1901, Andrew J. Kettle is again named as the tenant.

1899: John Fitzpatrick named as occupier; Reps. of Joseph Fitzpatrick is crossed out.
1901: Andrew J. Kettle named as occupier.
1907: Andrew J. Kettle is named as owner, thus the phrase 'In fee',
having bought the property under the Land Acts.
The house does not appear in the 1901 census. There are a couple of possibilities in this case. The 1901 Dublin Census Townland Index does indicate a Warblestown entry or entries and this/these census records may be among the very small batch of materials that the NAI has not yet released, or the record may no longer be extant. Another possibility is that the house may not have been occupied on census day, so it would not be included since a census is principally a record of individuals not houses.

The 1911 census shows the continued ownership of Warblestown house by members of the Kettle family, and as I mentioned at the outset of this piece, the house is still owned and occupied by Kettle descendants. Combining the history of the Fitzpatrick family with that of the Kettle family, records show that Warblestown House has been in our family for more than 150 years.

All valuation record images that I photographed, and include in this post, are from this volume:
County Dublin, District of Balrothery,
Electoral Division of Kilsallaghan, 1856-1941.
Retrieved at Valuation Office, Irish Life Centre Dublin, 19 January 2015.

1. Irish land was measured in units of statute acres, roods and perches, and they relate to one another as follows: one statute acre measures 4840 square yards and is equivalent to 4 roods, thus one rood measures 1210 square yards (4840 ÷ 4 = 1210). One rood is equivalent to 40 perches, so one perch measures 30 square yards (1210 ÷ 40 = 30). With land divided in this manner it was easier to rent/sell small parcels of land. See

2. Per civil registration records of death: Mary Fitzpatrick, Nicholas Fitzpatrick, GRO, Dublin.

3. Per civil registration record of death Mary Kettle Fitzpatrick, GRO, Dublin.

4. Per civil registration record of death: Joseph Fitzpatrick, GRO, Dublin.

5. Joseph Fitzpatrick: Calendar of Wills and Administrations, National Archives of Ireland, 1877. Online access.

6. Irish Petty Sessions Court Records, via

7. Per civil registration record of marriage: Alice Fitzpatrick Ward, GRO, Dublin.

8. 'Return of Judicial Rents Fixed by Sub-Commissioners and Civil Bill Courts, Notified to Irish Land Commission, November and December 1888.' Enhanced British Parliamentary Papers On Ireland. Web. 15 Dec. 2013. (

9. John Fitzpatrick: Calendar of Wills and Administrations, National Archives of Ireland, 1899. Online access. As well, other legal records tie Andrew J. Kettle and John Fitzpatrick. Irish Court Petty Sessions records cite both men as surety (i.e. ‘a person who takes responsibility for another person’s performance of an undertaking’) for repairs to the property of Patrick J. Kettle, in the two years prior to Patrick’s death in 1894.

Resources for further research:

Unfortunately, the valuation revision books dating after 1856 for the 26 counties of the Republic of Ireland are not currently available online; however for those searching for family members in counties Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry and Tyrone, the valuation revision books for the years between 1864 and 1933, inclusive, are available for free searching on the PRONI website. As is the case with in-person searches, you cannot search by family name, but instead must search by townland or county and parish. For several years now Land Valuation Books for 1824 to 1856 have been available via the website of the National Archives of Ireland at

For another angle on what might be found in valuation records, see Mystery Monday: A curious find in valuation records sparks new questions.


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Tuesday's Tips: Is someone playing 'Telephone' with your Irish family history?

'Well let me tell you, as the story goes...'
This post evolved out of a reader's comment on an earlier blog post, a comment that referenced the childhood game of 'telephone'. Thinking about that game led me to consider the ways in which a family story can change as it is passed down, much like the story in the game of telephone.

Perhaps when you were a child you played the telephone game, also called the gossip game, or the whisper game, and probably lots of other names too.

With a group of your friends you would sit in a circle. One member of the group would begin by whispering a story to the person beside them, who would then whisper it to a second person, and so on, all around the circle until you reached the last person. He/she then had to recount the story he/she had been told.

The story that emerged from the final player was often very different from the one first told. We played this game at a sleepover party when I was in elementary school, and I remember howling with laughter, because it seemed that the larger the group, the more cockeyed was the story that emerged in the end.


Is someone playing 'Telephone' with your Irish family history?

There are a lot of clues that can reveal to us just why the inherited 'history' of an ancestor may not be quite correct; however, that does not mean there isn't some truth to the story. Just as in the telephone game, the narrative may simply have become somewhat skewed along the way as it was passed down.

There are a number of elements, such as timeline, geography, and extant evidence, that we can look at to help us uncover the truth of the matter. Each of the stories I have included here was passed on as actual family history.

1. Timeline:


'Martin' says his uncle joined the Irish Volunteers in the autumn of 1921, and was one of the Volunteers who fought in the General Post Office [GPO] during the Easter Rising.


The 1916 Easter Rising took place in, well, 1916. If Martin's uncle did not enlist in the Irish Volunteers until the autumn of 1921, then he would not have taken part in the 1916 Rising, at least not as a member of the Irish Volunteers.


With respect to the 1916 Easter Rising, the fact is men who were members of the Irish Volunteers, and women who were in Cumann na mBan, were assigned to various battalions and companies, and each of these was assigned to a particular place during the Rising.

Sometimes, when it comes to the 1916 Easter Rising, it seems as though every Tom, Dick and Harry claims to have a relative who fought in the GPO. Such claims may stem from the fact that the GPO is the best known site of battle; however, it was most certainly not the only location in which fighting took place during the Rising. There are extant lists of those who fought during the 1916 Rising, along with the locations in which they fought. (See: Going to the bookshelf to find family history)

If Martin's uncle joined the Irish Volunteers in the autumn of 1921, that was after the Truce of July 1921, so he may have been involved in the Irish Civil War, either as a volunteer with the Anti-Treaty forces — Eamon de Valera's men, known as the 'Irregulars' — or as a soldier in the National Army of the Irish Free State under the command of General Michael Collins or General Richard Mulcahy. Contacting the Irish government, via the Military Pensions Office (see 'Granny was in the IRA': Turning a story into a history), to find out if there is an extant military pension application record may help him uncover the whole story.

Also, Martin might make use of websites such as The Bureau of Military History Archives [BMHA], which has the Irish Army Census for those who were serving in the National Army of the Irish Free State as of November 1922. He may find his uncle gave a statement or is mentioned in the BMHA Witness Statements. As well, the BMHA has made available online many of the military pension application records of those who participated in the Easter Rising.1

The Four Courts, another significant site during The 1916 Easter Rising.
Members of 'A' Company, First Battalion, Dublin Brigade
fought from here, under the command of Edward 'Ned' Daly.
Extra Tips:

If you believe your family members may have participated in rebellions or military activity in Ireland, consider creating a timeline for each of those persons on your family tree.

Notice which events mesh with the dates on your timeline:

Are there possible connections to the 1798 Rebellion, the 1803 Rebellion, the Young Irelander Rebellion of 1848?

Was anyone in your family involved in the 'The Tithe War' or the 'The Land War'? Strictly speaking neither of these was a war, but each one is marked by acts of non-violent civil disobedience and agrarian agitation. As well, during the Tithe War there were violent clashes that resulted in fatalities. The Tithe War dates to 1831-36. The Land War was a long period of civil unrest and agrarian agitation that lasted almost three decades beginning in 1870.

Would your ancestors have been of an age to have participated in the 1916 Easter Rising, the Irish War of Independence 1919-1921, or the Irish Civil War 1922-1923?

Make use of websites that offer access to Irish Prison Registers. You may find ancestors who were interned for distributing seditious materials, such as newsletters and flyers. Perhaps your ancestors are among those who were imprisoned for 'agrarian agitation' or for 'unlawful assembly' during the Land War. (View Prison Registers on a paid site that includes images, or on a free site that has some restrictions on access to images.)

2. Geography:


'Sinéad', who is searching for Mayo ancestors, says her family story tells of her Westport born great-grandfather being imprisoned in late 19th century in the gaol at Naas (pronounced 'nace', as in 'place') because he prevented Mayo fishermen from fishing locally in the Irish sea.


Photo Credit: Magellan Geographics.
There are a couple of problems with this story. First, County Mayo is on the west coast of Ireland, and the Irish sea is on the east coast of Ireland, so Mayo fisherman would not have fished 'locally' in the Irish sea.

There are quite a number of areas in Mayo where fishermen would have fished in the 19th century. In addition to the bays of the Atlantic Ocean, fishing for profit was also done in lakes and rivers. As well, there are various types of 'fishing' to be considered, such as salmon and trout, eel and oysters.

Second, Naas Gaol is in Naas, County Kildare, so it is unlikely — though not impossible — that he would have been imprisoned there. For a crime committed in or near Westport, it is more likely he was interned at Castlebar Gaol.

Also, just as we think of tenancy of the land, and renting a place to live, so too, there was tenancy of the natural world, so to speak, with leases covering the various bodies of water, and landlords holding rights over access to the fish on their lands (as well as rights over hunting and fowl).

In the 19th century, in the west of Ireland these leases were strictly managed, with lease holders taking legal action against anyone who infringed on their rights.2


Sinéad's great-grandfather may very well have been imprisoned, but the particulars of his internment may be a bit skewed. Again, look at Irish Prison Registers and Petty Sessions Court Registers from the area in which he lived, to see if you can find him in the records, and discover the real reason for his internment.

Also, the right to fish was a transferable asset, so rights for fishing show up in property sales in the Encumbered Estates Court. Sinéad may want to consult the Landed Estate Court Rental records on sites such as and to see if there is any mention of her great-grandfather having fishing rights as a part of a tenancy agreement.

Extra Tip:

Map out the locations of your ancestors on the island of Ireland to see what patterns might emerge, and notice what makes sense and what seems a little off.

3. Legitimate evidence exists which counters a claim:


'Patrick' is researching his family's connection to the Irish War of Independence and says his family told him that two cousins were shot and killed in Croke Park on Bloody Sunday in the summer of 1919.


Two problems with this story: First, Bloody Sunday did not happen in the summer of 1919. That terrible day occurred on 21 November 1920, more than a year after the deaths of his cousins. Additionally, comprehensive information about those killed and wounded in Croke Park on that day is extant, and his cousins are not named in that data.


Since Patrick knows that his cousins died in the summer of 1919, acquiring copies of the registration records of their deaths — assuming those deaths were registered — will be the most helpful thing he can do. Those records will state the actual cause(s) of death, likely clearing up the details of his family story.

The fact that both cousins died in the summer of 1919 hints at a couple of possibilities. They may have fallen victim to the Spanish Flu which continued to take lives in Ireland well into 1919 (see Sudden Death in Bow Bridge: The Flu Pandemic in Ireland), or there may have been an incident or accident that resulted in both of their deaths.

The death registration records will bear out any of these as possibilities.

In order to find a reference to an incident or accident, Patrick may want to consult newspapers, via such sites as the Irish News Archive, which holds more than 40 Irish newspaper titles covering a period of over 300 years, and the British Newspaper Archive, which holds a significant number of Irish titles.  The Irish Times Archive, is also a valuable asset for uncovering stories during this time period. Each one of these is a paid site that has a number of subscription options.

Also, Patrick can use this as an opportunity to learn more about Irish history by reading about the Irish War of Independence, and incidents such as Bloody Sunday. Although relatives may not have been killed or wounded during these events, learning about the conflict may give him a better understanding of what life may have been like for his family members in the period. (see Going to the bookshelf...)

Extra Tip:

Always break down the story to its most bare elements, in this case the death of an individual/ individuals, then choose the best starting source for information, in this case the registration of a death or deaths.

4. Some elements of the story simply cannot be true:


'Enya' was told her great-grandmother was in Cumann na mBan — the women's council of the Irish Volunteers — and in order to help during the War of Independence (1919-1921) this great-grandmother had her gold Irish dancing medals melted down, and she donated the gold to the IRA.


Although Irish dance medals were awarded in competition dating back to the late 19th century, with the formation of the Gaelic League (Conradh na Gaeilge, 1893), they were never made of solid gold that could be melted down.

Irish Dance Medal awarded at the 1912 Oireachtas Competition
to Dubliner Mary Moran who was 'victorious in dancing'.
Photo credit: Antony Wilson, Professional Numismatist.

Although the medals part of the story cannot be true, this great-grandmother may very well have been a member of Cumann na mBan. Again in this case, contacting the Irish government, via the Military Pensions Office, to find out if there is an extant military pension application supporting her great-grandmother's membership in Cumann na mBan, may help in uncovering the whole story. (See 'Granny was in the IRA': Turning a story into a history)

Extra Tip:

Always welcome with warmth and appreciation any family stories that are passed on; however, keep a keen ear for something that sounds slightly amiss, and ask yourself if it makes sense.

5. Attaching someone famous to the family tree:


'Margaret', with the surname Pierce/Pearse (that is how she put it), wrote to me saying her family looks forward to commemorating the 1916 Easter Rising every year because Padráig Pearse was her grandfather.


Bust of Padráig Pearse,
on the grounds of the Museum of
St. Enda's School, Rathfarnham, Dublin.
The surname difference is the least of Margaret's worries. The very significant problem with this claim is that at the time of his execution in 1916, Padráig Pearse was not married and had no children (real, alleged, or imagined), so it would not be possible for him to have grandchildren.

Padráig Pearse is the man most readily associated with the Easter Rising. He was an orator, teacher and founder of St. Enda's Boys' School.

Also, Pearse was the man chosen to read the 'Proclamation of the Irish Republic', on the steps of the General Post Office in Dublin, at the start of the 1916 Easter Rising on Monday 24 April 1916. Both Padráig Pearse and his brother William were executed by firing squad on in the stone breaker's yard at Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin. Padráig on 3 May and William on 4 May, 1916.


Although Padráig Pearse is not Margaret's grandfather, it is possible she might be connected to his family in some other way. Pearse's brother William was like his brother, unmarried and without children, so she would not be connected to him. She might be connected to one of Pearse's relatives; however, any claim of a connection would require actual proof, so looking at primary source documents is essential.

Extra Tips:

Working 'from the outside to the inside' often proves problematic when it comes to family history/genealogy; however, this tends to be something people do when they want to attach someone famous to their family tree. (See Family History: The problem of researching from the outside in...) Often such researchers fail to appreciate the fact that sharing the same surname as someone famous doesn't mean they are connected to that person.

Seek out well-documented family trees for famous people to whom you may be connected. Some of these can be found online.

With respect, don't be a surname collector. Attach someone to your family tree only if you can prove that they are actually connected to you.

In conclusion:

As is the case with the telephone game, the narrative which emerges when a family story is passed down may have some element of truth in it, but that truth may have gotten a little mixed up along the way. By consulting the large number of resources available to help us, we can get to the bottom of the story, and turn it into an actual history.




1. Military Pension application records are available only for those persons who applied for a service pension, or whose surviving family members applied for a survivor's pension.

The Bureau of Military History Archives at Cathal Brugha Military Base in Dublin is an excellent archive for information, some of which can be accessed online, about ancestors or family members who may have participated in military action. Within their stellar collection are materials pertaining to the 1916 Easter Rising and The Irish War of Independence of 1919-21, as well as some materials germane to the Irish Civil War of 1922-23.

2. Lane, Pádraig G., 'Galway and Mayo Fisheries in the Mid-Nineteenth: Transferable Assets' in The Journal of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society, Vol. 62, (2010), pp. 144-156. Accessed through JSTOR Digital library.

Thanks to The Graphics Fairy for the image of the girl on the telephone.
Portions of this post originally appeared on this blog in 2012.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Wednesday's Child: 'Marina': An elder sister who never was

Dedicated to every woman who has ever lost a baby...

When I was a little girl, rummaging as I sometimes did in the bottom right hand drawer of my mother's dresser — the drawer in which I had found other treasures — I came across a small blue notebook with a soft smudged cover. Within its pages, written in my mother's hand, was a name: Marina. On page after page, line upon line, the same name appeared: 'Marina, Marina, Marina'. Why had my mother written this name so many times? What did it mean? As a child, I didn't dare ask.

One afternoon many years later, I was searching through that drawer again, sifting through a pile of envelopes and other papers, helping my mother look for a document that had gone missing. Once again I noticed the little blue notebook, and I recollected the content of its pages. This time I decided to ask, 'who is Marina?'. A look of great surprise came over my mother's face, and there was a slight catch in her throat as she asked where I had come across the name.

Believing I had upset her, I held up the little blue notebook and timidly explained my long held curiosity since first finding it, its pages brimming with 'Marina'. I recall her pausing for a moment, taking the notebook from my hand and thumbing through its pages, then continuing to quietly work her way through the small pile of papers in her lap. After a couple of minutes she said, 'Marina is the name I gave to the baby who would have been your older sister'.

That look of surprise had now made its way over to my face, and after a while I asked my mother if she would please tell me more about Marina. Mom dismissed me at first, saying Marina was a lost baby, a miscarriage, someone who you were to forget and — as everyone told you 'back then' — something from which you were just to move on. Then, without further prompting from me, my mom went on to talk about Marina and what had happened to her.

It was 1956, and there was a lot going on as my mother and father prepared to emigrate away from Ireland with my brother. Mom said that when they learned she was expecting another baby not only did she and Dad feel overjoyed, but they felt certain the child would be a girl, a little sister for my brother Michael. For some inexplicable reason my mother had always loved the name 'Marina' — called Mari — a name which means 'of the sea'. Their little family soon would be travelling across the sea to a new life together, so perhaps that is why, together with my father, it was decided that if the baby was a girl, Marina would be her name.

The name was decided upon, but it would never come to pass.

On that spring morning perhaps the sun glowed a little less brightly, and the air did not smell so sweet. As my mother stood in her night dress, a single bright red drop fell upon her feet, and then another, signalling that life was bringing about a wretched sea change. There was the deeply frightening trip from their home in Belgrave Square to Holles Street Hospital, her fond hope that all would turn out well, and her increasing dread that it would not. For all one knows, it may have been due to the stress of preparing to leave Ireland, and the fear of the unknown that was building with the passage of time — life offered no rationale —but whatever the reason, my mom lost the baby. Marina was lost to our family.

My mother generously shared with me what she recollected about that day at the hospital. The room into which she had been taken was filled with bright light, the sheets on the bed were crisp and cold to the touch, and so white she had worried she would soil them. Afterward, the nurse charged with her care was very matter of fact, as she explained that yes it had been a girl, but the baby's gestation period had been too short to call her still-born, so 'it' would be 'termed a miscarriage'.

Mom didn't mention to them that she had already named her little daughter. It would be of no consequence to the nurse or to the doctor, who had briefly placed the baby's remains in 'a sort of glass jar' on a table just beyond my mother's reach, and then had taken them away, as protocol entailed. The nurse was kind, but dismissive, and said there would always be more babies.

The medical staff would never recollect, as my mother did, Marina's completely translucent bright pink skin, like a thin veil covering her soft bones, with bright blues and reds seeming to glow beneath. They were indifferent to the heartache that was stirred by gazing at the little eyes which were shut tight, never ever to be opened, and the tiniest hands and feet that would never know her mother's touch. They did not hear my mother whisper in prayer the name of her lost baby daughter, 'Marina'. Looking almost other worldly, Marina had come from heaven, but was not quite ready to be with her family on earth.

With a heavy sigh, my mother told me she was encouraged not to speak about her pain over the loss of Marina. Mom recalled feeling very sad for quite a while afterward, so perhaps it was her sadness that one day compelled her to write out Marina's name, time and again, in that little blue notebook. I did not press her for a reason.

It strikes me that her tender heart might have felt this as a way to almost call Marina back into existence, as each pass of the pen over the page sounded out her baby's name, like a kind of mantra. At the very least, the exercise of recording Marina's name may have helped to lessen the pain of losing her and ensure she would never be forgotten. Whatever became of that little blue notebook with the soft smudged cover, I cannot tell you.

After a while, when we talked about Marina again, I asked my mother, why they had not given me the name, since I was the next girl born. 'The name didn't belong to you', was Mom's simple reply.


Sunday, April 5, 2015

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

'A wig maker of Dublin with propense malice' & other Parish Register oddments

In addition to searching for the baptism and marriage records of ancestors, and other family members, one of the best things about perusing Roman Catholic parish registers, on microfilm at the National Library of Ireland, is that sometimes you come across odd little stories and amusing details that bring to life, foibles and all, some of the individuals who created these records so very long ago. 

In the parish register for Lusk, County Dublin, dating to 1763, the following story is related of the Reverend James Strong, whose death was apparently precipitated by the actions of a Mr. Tyans — [Tryans] — a malicious wig maker from Dublin. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

It reads:

The Reverend James Strong, Native of the Parish of Holy-wood, succeeded W. Bethel. He administered this parish five years, and some months, and was a truly pious & zealous priest. He was removed to Swords by Doctor FitzSimons, and lived there about two years and a half in general esteem. He was cut in his leg by the lash of a horse at the funeral of one of his Parishioners. One Tyans [Tryans], a wig maker of Dublin, with propense malice, made his horse kick behind at Mr. Strong & cut him. He followed Mr. Strong to his house, and struck him, wounded as he was, at his own door. The mob of Swords, at Mr. Strong’s own earnest request, let him go with his life. Mr. Strong’s leg was laid open in Dublin. A fever superseded and he died universally regretted. 

Although we will likely never know the truth, the details of the story make me wonder about the nature of the relationship between the wig maker and the priest.

Why did Tyans the wig maker have such enmity for the priest?
Was Tyans angry because he was owed money for a wig he had made for the pious Reverend?
Why did Tyans follow the Reverend Strong to his home and continue to assault him?
Was the wig maker known to the village, or was he a simply a dangerous stranger from Dublin?
From whence came the 'mob of Swords', and did any of my family members play a part in it?


The parish register of Donabate reveals that on 30 December 1798, the wedding day of my 4th great-grandparents William Cavenaugh and Mary Brien, in addition to the child for whom they stood as godparents, three other children were baptized that day.

Seems it was quite a busy day for the poor fellow who recorded these events. Although he makes note of the individual baptisms, he cannot fully recollect all of the details about those who were baptized. He refers to them as 'a child' and 'a boy and girl whos[e] names I forget'. He does manage to note the names of the parents in the first case; however, in the second case while the names are likely those of the parents, and that of a sponsor, it is unclear because he includes no such notation.

The entries read:

eadez Die [Latin translates to: the same day]
B: A Child of Peter Carpenter and Wife Margaret
Bap A Boy and Girl Whos[e] names I forget
Jean & Christopher Thorn & Briget Nugent

('B' signifies 'born of'; 'Bap' signifies Baptism)


Returning to the parish register of Lusk, and an entry from 1761, in which the Pastor of Lusk expresses disdain at the record keeping talents of his predecessor the Reverend Teeling, whose marriage records Mr. Mooney 'faithfully transcribed'.

Reverend Mooney writes,

Mr. Teeling's marriage register ends here — He never mentioned the names of Witnesses at his marriages — He barely said they were married in the presence of Parents, friends or neighbours — I have accurately & faithfully transcribed them as I found them in Mr. Teeling's hand-writing.


The last in this quartet of oddments is an entry from the parish of Lusk that introduces the register entries of 1762. It gives what amounts to a biography of the life of the Reverend Robert Bethel, and is rounded out with a paean of praise for Mr. Bethel's positive attributes.

It reads,

The Rev'd Robert Bethel, native of Dublin, took up session of the parish of Lusk, May 1st 1762. He administered this parish about a year and eight months, and was translated to Swords, thence to Chappel-Izod, thence to Crumlin. He was Dean of this District, & afterwards Dean at Swords; a pious priest, a zealous Pastor, an elegant Preacher, a warm cordial friend, eminent in the grave studies of his profession, and the polite reading of a Gentleman.

It may speak more to my suspicious mind than it does to his words; however, I cannot help wondering why the writer heaps such praise upon Mr. Bethel. Did it have anything to do with wanting to remain in the Reverend's good graces, given that Mr. Bethel became Dean of the district, or was it a genuine expression of amity?

It is perhaps reassuring to know that people in the 18th century were capable of the same sorts of inclinations and lapses — praise and deep enmity, pettiness, forgetfulness and obsequiousness — as those in the 21st century, who might have a tendency to romanticize the lives and sentiments of those who lived so long before us.


IMPORTANT NEWS: Images of the microfilm of the Catholic Parish registers held by the National Library are scheduled to be released online on 8 July 2015, so you can seek out parish register oddments of your own.

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