Monday, May 4, 2015

Mystery Monday: A curious find in Irish valuation records sparks new questions.

Never let anyone tell you there isn't a little magic and mystery in research.

Last week I shared with you finds made in the revision books of the Valuation Office in Dublin that allowed me to confirm the provenance of Warblestown House, a home that has been in our family for over 150 years. On that research day I went to the office with a list in hand, and specific goals in mind about exactly what I hoped to accomplish. Some of the items were crossed off my list, and some of those goals were met, but then I got distracted.

It was late afternoon, and the office was very quiet, when a deep sigh of frustration bellowed out of the lungs of an elderly gentleman who was sitting at a table behind me, doing research of his own. 'I know the feeling behind that sort of sigh', I said out loud before thinking, adding that I hoped the sound of my camera wasn't disturbing him, since I had been taking photographs shortly before his sigh sounded out. 'No, no, not a t'all', he graciously replied, in a voice that sounded so familiar I nearly fell off my chair when I spun around to see him. Just for a moment I felt as though I was there with my late father, and it was his voice I had heard.

When I had sufficiently recovered myself, we made introductions and struck up a conversation. Tom told me he had been searching in the revision books of the Pembroke West district in Dublin City for the record of a family home. Tom was frustrated because what he had been told — by a cousin even older than him — and what the records revealed were at odds with one another. We chatted for a bit, and then Tom decided to pack it in, talk to his cousin, and try again another day.

Back in 2014, I had searched in exactly the same district as Tom, but in the books of later years, as part of the research included in the post 'Within these walls, the life of a family: 80 years on Gordon Street, Ringsend'. I had found the valuation record confirming that in 1923 my maternal grandparents Patrick Ball and Mary Fitzpatrick Ball were tenants in 69 Gordon Street, Dublin. Beyond the record I had been seeking, I sought out nothing else for Gordon Street at that time.

According to the information I had initially found, in 1923 Patrick Ball was the tenant of Patrick Moran, paying £8 rent for the house at number 69 Gordon Street. Previous tenants are listed as Thomas Sturgeon in 1922, and James Donnelly in 1921. Also, the Irish census shows that James Donnelly and his family were the denizens of 69 Gordon Street in 1911.

69 Gordon Street, Ringsend, Dublin:
Immediate Lessor: Patrick Moran,
Occupiers: James Donnelly, revised to Thomas Sturgeon, 1922, revised to Patrick Ball, 1923.
Here's the magic and the mystery:

As my fellow researcher Tom approached the service desk to hand in the volume of 1909/1910, and settle out his research costs before leaving for the day, suddenly I felt as though my father was giving me a push and telling me I needed to look at that revision book. I scurried over to the desk and asked if I might have it before they returned it to storage, and they obliged me.

Not focussed on a specific find, I decided to browse through the volume. As I settled on one of the pages for Gordon Street, I came upon a surprising entry.

In the 1910 book, Patrick Ball is listed as the occupier of 69 Gordon Street.

Patrick Ball on Gordon Street in 1910? 'Who is this 'Patrick Ball?', I wondered.

In the 1910 book, Patrick Ball is listed as the occupier of 69 Gordon Street.
Click on image to view larger version.
In 1909, I believe, my maternal grandfather Patrick Ball was living with his parents and siblings on Fishamble Street in Dublin. His father, my great-grandfather Francis Ball (son of my 2nd great-grandfather Patrick Ball), died in the infirmary of the South Dublin Union Workhouse, and although Francis' death registration records the place of death as the workhouse, it gives the family address in 1909 as Fishamble Street. (see The Certificate read 'Place of Death: The Workhouse'). The workhouse register shows the Fishamble Street address, and Stafford Street in Dublin as Francis' last addresses, prior to the workhouse infirmary. The Stafford Street address also appears in the record of the Glasnevin burial register.

The census of Ireland shows that in 1911 my grandfather Patrick Ball was living with his siblings, Christopher and Mary, and their widowed mother Jane in Stafford Street, Dublin. Based on the records of Francis Ball, it appears the family moved there in 1909.

Questions, questions, questions:

Is the Patrick Ball living at 69 Gordon Street in 1910 my maternal grandfather?
OR
Is it possible that this Patrick Ball is my 2nd great-grandfather, father of Francis Ball, and my Patrick Ball's grandfather?
(After the fact edit — insert knock on the head here — 2nd great-grandfather Patrick Ball died in 1884, so he could not have been resident in Gordon Street in 1910, at least not in corporeal form.)
OR
Is this Patrick Ball not connected to me at all?

Is it possible that in 1909 my grandfather Patrick Ball was living with his family in Fishamble Street, and then moved to Stafford Street later in 1909, and then in 1910 was the tenant of 69 Gordon Street? Did he move back to Stafford Street in 1911, only to move back into 69 Gordon Street thirteen years later, in 1923, with his wife and baby son in tow? I'm exhausted just thinking about it.

Is it possible? Yes, it is in the realm of possibility, but is it probable?
Is it more likely than not that the Patrick Ball who lived at 69 Gordon Street in 1910 and the Patrick Ball who lived there in 1923 are one in the same?

I'm not so sure about that likelihood.

More research is definitely in order, but I do like a good mystery.

Thanks Dad for being on my mind that day, and giving me a push!

The tome of Pembroke West revisions, 1909-1910.
©irisheyesjg2015.

10 comments:

  1. Oh, the mystery and intrigue... Isn't it odd that it was near to the end of your day's research that this happened? I sometimes wonder about the strange ideas/opportunities that pop up when your head is full and time is running short on a research session, as though it's a worm on a hook just as you are having to pack up for the day. Those are the times that I joke with the staff about locking me in until the morning. I'm looking forward to hearing what your conclusion was :-) Jo

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    1. Jo, thanks very much for your comments. I’m with you, just lock me in please! Why do these things always happen near the end of the day? I’m a little flummoxed as to where to look next. The voters’ lists for 1908-10 have no Gordon Street listing, even though the 1901 census shows there was a Gordon Street in 1901, but no #69, so there's no finding him there. The 1901 census and voters’ lists (08, 09) place Francis Ball at 2 Fishamble Street for almost 10 years prior to his illness and internment in the South Dublin Union infirmary, and the 1910 voters' list has him at the Stafford Street address. I’m assuming their son, my grandfather, Patrick was there with them, but maybe not. Hopefully the answer is out there somewhere just waiting to be found.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  2. Jennifer, that is an interesting 'coincidence' and I'm looking forward to hearing what you make of it! I know what you mean about 'hearing' your father's voice in someone else - I occasionally hear my uncle in others too, especially with some of his school friends - it's quite captivating.

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    1. Dara, thanks very much for your comments. I’m glad I have 'kin' in you as far as ‘hearing voices’; it is quite captivating. Though sometimes I worry about mentioning it in blog posts, it seems I often ‘hear’ the voice of my dad when I’m in a bit of a fix, research and otherwise. As I said to Jo, I’m not sure where to look next, but I am looking forward to finding some sort of answer.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  3. On my third trip to Ireland, I traveled with one of my sisters (I have several) and her husband. We got to our B&B and were getting out the car. Very quickly we were surrounded by two friendly dogs whose owner (our unseen host) yelled to them. His voice sounded like my father's voice. As our host came around the side of the house, my sister and I about fell over - not only did he sound like my father (very much alive and in USA) but he could have been his twin (neither of my uncles has my dad's looks). The weekend was wonderful but it took some getting used to every time we saw him. It reminded me of my first trip to Ireland (with yet another sister). On day 1 we were feeling a bit confused in Dublin. But everywhere we looked we saw people who looked like my grandparents and our aunts and uncles - and they sounded like my grandfather. It was an oddly comforting experience as we were in a foreign (but not really) land.

    As to those moments when you check one more page or open another book that you had not planned on, what can I say Jennifer - genealogy serendipity. Thanks for sharing your experience and I look forward to hearing how you work through the mystery.

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    1. Tessa, thanks very much for your comments. I’m with you in thinking these sorts of discoveries are indeed serendipitous! I’m with you too in thinking it’s wonderful if we are fortunate enough to we see/meet doppelgängers, much like your father’s, when we are in Ireland. A favourite one of mine is Mrs. Lucey, who operates Garnish House, a stellar B&B in Cork City. She is the spitting image of my mother’s long deceased aunt May Barnwell, and is just as lovely and welcoming as was ‘Auntie May’.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  4. Jennifer, what a marvelous discovery! It might sound strange to those who know me best, but I firmly believe in the power of 'the push from the great beyond'. I remember you saying your father inspired you to begin your family history research in earnest, so it does not surprise me it would be his voice prodding you to view that book. Like the others who have commented, I look forward to you solving the mystery. Catherine.

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    1. Catherine, thanks very much for your comments. I know what you mean, since the logical/rational side of ourselves can sometimes fight against the side that believes in the magical, but I’m glad to know I’ve kin in you as well with belief in ‘the push’. It is so true, as you say, that my father reawakened in me the drive to uncover more about our family. As I mentioned to Dara, I often ‘hear’ my father’s voice or feel his guiding presence in such situations, and as Tessa mentioned, there is something comforting in such occurrences.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  5. Jenn, another great find. I’m getting green around the edges. I am so intrigued by these registers and what can be found in them. Can I pack my bags and come along next time? BTW, I saw your comment on FB and I haven’t made a final decision, but soon you may have to call me Princess, or Queen, or at the very least HRH. :-) :-)

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    1. Charlotte, thanks very much for your comments. You always bring a smile to my face, HRH.

      The valuation books really are intriguing. I’d like to get into them more fully for my Mayo connections, so pack your bags. If it appeals to you, you can view some of them on microfilm through your local LDS Family History Centre. On microfilm the records can be somewhat challenging, given that microfilm is black and white, rendering those revisions written in coloured pen with no date attached to them sometimes difficult to interpret. You’d have to enquire with respect to rules for access, availability, etc. Nevertheless, definitely worth a look.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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Cheers, Jennifer

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