Thursday, August 13, 2015

My Ancestors Were From Cork

Having ancestors from Cork comes up time and time again when speaking with people in the American genealogy world. The names of these ancestors can sometimes be very 'Cork-like,' such as Cornelius Mahoney or Jeremiah Murphy. This came to mind when I wrote two of my recent posts (U.S. Census Series: Ward I, Boston 1860 and U.S. Naval Enlistment Records). In both, Cork has, by far, the largest representation from those who had their county of birth recorded. This is a potentially interesting observation and is worth looking at in more detail.

Can we say that if you don't know where your ancestors are from, and you want to play the percentages game, then Cork is the best place to start looking?

Before we go with this hypothesis it is worth highlighting three important points:
(i) about 10% of Irish people in the Naval enlistment records and 57% of Irish people in the Ward 1, Boston census returns recorded a place of birth. As this is the case, caution should be used before extrapolating any findings from the subset of records that record place of birth. 
(ii) these examples are just two record sets, one a point in time survey (census) from 1860 and the other (naval enlistment records) is a record set created via self-selection, as in some people chose to enlist, while others did not.
(iii) while it can't be measured, a maxim I have learned is that leaving from Ireland via the port of Cobh (known as Queenstown from approx. 1849 to 1922) can sometimes turn into 'born in Cork,' as family stories are passed down through the generations.

Despite all this, two interesting observations can be made if we look at statistics that can help with genealogical research. First, in the 1851 to 1880 period, county Cork had the largest number of emigrants leave Ireland (table one). 

Table 1: County with the highest number of emigrants leaving Ireland, 1851-1880[1]
1. Cork
1. Cork
1. Cork
1. Cork
2. Tipperary
2. Antrim
2. Antrim
2. Antrim
3. Limerick
3. Down
3. Tipperary
3. Down
4. Kerry
4. Tipperary
4. Limerick
4. Donegal
5. Galway
5. Limerick
5. Kerry
5. Tyrone

Second, Cork had the largest population of all counties in the 1851 to 1881 period (table two).  

Table 2: County with the largest population in Ireland, 1851-1881[2]
1. 653,512 Cork
1. 544,818 Cork
1. 517,076 Cork
1. 495,607 Cork
2. 410,919 Dublin
2. 410,252 Dublin
2. 405,262 Dublin
2. 421,913 Antrim
3. 352,912 Antrim
3. 368,977 Antrim
3. 404,015 Antrim
3. 418,910 Dublin
4. 333,650 Tipperary
4. 308,913 Down
4. 293,449 Down
4. 272,107 Down
5. 328,860 Down
5. 271,478 Galway
5. 249,720 Galway
5. 241,212 Mayo

It could be inferred that the reason Cork had the highest number of emigrants was because it was the county with the largest population. However, Dublin was the second most populous county in the same time period but did not produce the second highest number of emigrants. A casual observation for Cork and Dublin could be there that there were less economic opportunities in a large rural county than in a predominantly urban one. However, the 'large population = lots of emigrates' trend re-emerges with Antrim, the county with the third highest population and home to the second largest city on the island, Belfast.

So, to answer the question posed at the start: based purely on emigration numbers, probably, but even though Cork had the largest number of emigrants, that percentage is probably going to be small.

[1] Miller, Kerby A. Emigrants and Exiles: Ireland and the Irish Exodus to North AmericaNew York : Oxford University Press, 1985.
[2] Census of Ireland for the Year 1891, Preliminary report with abstract of the enumerators' summaries 1891. Dublin: Alexander Thom. 1891.p. 13.  Available online at

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Online U.S. Catholic Parish Registers

Widespread access to online Catholic Church parish register records in the U.S. is still but a pipedream. A few blog posts could easily be written about the realities of why this is so, but that is a story for another day. Instead, I've decided to be positive and gather together in one place all of the online Catholic Church records that I'm aware of.

Sadly, the list is short, especially when you consider the thousands of parishes that exist across the United States. Please post a comment if you know of any I have missed and I'll add them to the list.

Another access method for Catholic parish registers that is sometimes not considered is microfilms from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. Eventually, all of their microfilms will be on, but until that point is reached they remain a great way to access these records.

For example, see the list of registers for the state of New Jersey on the Familysearch Catalog (use Ctrl+F/Command+F Catholic to quickly highlight the relevant microfilms).

Access and Format Key
S - Scanned
I - Indexed
NI - Not Indexed
T - Transcriptions

Region/Parishes Covered
Access & Format
St. Joseph's Catholic Cemetery, Woodland, Yolo County
St. Mary's Catholic Parish, Littleton
Delaware and Eastern Shore Maryland on Delmarva Peninsula
1795-1925 (S/NI)
Archdiocese of Chicago
City of Chicago and surrounding area
South East Ohio / County map of parishes
Familysearch (S/NI)
St. Michael's Parish, Daviess County
St. Michael's Parish, Daviess County
Delaware and Eastern Shore Maryland on Delmarva Peninsula
1795-1925 (S/NI)
New Jersey
Archdiocese of Newark
St. Peter's Parish, Belville
Immaculate Conception Parish, Montclair
NYC Nuts (T/I)
New Jersey
Archdiocese of Newark
Various Parishes
19th Century
Familysearch (T/I)****
New York
Our Lady of Sorrow Parish, Bushwick
St. Leonards of Port Maurice, Bushwick
Most Holy Trinity, Williamsburg
New York
Ancestry: here & here (T/I)
North west Ohio
Familysearch (S/NI)
Ancestry (S/NI)
of Philadelphia
Philadelphia and south east Pennsylvania
18th & 19th Century

* Search for: "Burial register, St. Joseph's Catholic Cemetery, Woodland, Yolo Co., California"
** Search for: " St. Mary's Catholic Church, 1915-1985, of Littleton Colorado"
*** Records are contained within the database New Jersey, Births and Christenings, 1660-1980
**** Search for: "Register of St. Michael Catholic Church, Daviess County, Indiana"

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Emigration And The Single Woman

@RTÉArchives is a very interesting twitter account to follow to learn about Ireland over the last 50 years. Last week, they tweeted about a 1995 Radharc documentary called Emigration and the Single Woman. This clip discussed the Mission of Our Lady of the Rosary for the Protection of the Irish Immigrant Girls that existed in New York City in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The records of this organizations are digitized and available for free online. They were quietly released in March 2014, of which you can read more about in my post from when they went online. Researching in them is a must if you have female immigrants from Ireland who came to New York during that time period.

Emigration and the Single Woman, from Radharc via RTÉ Archives.

Click here or here to read Townland of Origin posts about how other Radharc documentaries can help with genealogy. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The New Catholic Parish Registers Website And Ne Temere

Unless you have been under a rock for the last two weeks, you will know all about The National Library of Ireland's brand new website for Catholic parish registers. Simply put, it's a joy to use. There has been plenty of coverage all about it so there is no need for me to rehash it all. So what can researchers in the U.S. and Canada get from the website? Well, the most obvious benefit is free, unlimited access to digitized images of the registers. That's a no brainer.

Beyond that, there are some other benefits that will be of particular use to researchers who are tracing immigrant Irish ancestors. Genealogy research is all about trying to get original records, or if that is not possible, a photocopy, picture, or digital scan of the record; it allows a researcher to see all that has been written on the document. This includes all the necessary information needed to create the document and any possible notations, later amendments or commentary that has been added by the record creator or another party. Having access to digital scans of the Catholic register microfilms allows a researcher to do this.

This ability can be very useful when we consider the possibility of Ne Temere positively impacting on our research. Ne Temere was a decree of Catholic matrimonial law in relation to marriage, with one part stipulating that all marriages must be registered in the place or places where the contracting parties were baptized.[1] With Ne Temere coming into force in 1908, conceivably, it can be expected that such register amendments will be found from about 1848 to 1890, if a person who is born in Ireland gets married in the U.S./Canada between the ages of 18 and 60.

Some examples of this are evident in the registers. The following entry is found in the baptismal registers of Kilmore Erris parish in County Mayo:

Married John Naggius [?] 27 June 1928 in St Paul's Cathedral, Pittsburgh USA
13 [February 1870] Mary Barrett [daughter of] Richard [and] Peg Murphy [from] Cross [townland]; [Sponsors] Tom Barrett [and] Ellen Do [Ditto, therefore Barrett][2]

Another example comes from Keel parish in County Kerry:

15 [Septembris 1878] Idem bapt Juliaus f. leg. Thomas Griffin et
matrimonius _____ est ___ Ioanne Hennessy ____ S. Benan ___ New York ___ 20 Julius 1910
Julia Duggan Sp Ioannes Flynn et Maria McElligott[3]

[15 September 1878; the same, baptism, legitimate daughter of Thomas Griffin
Marriage ____ of __ John Hennessy ____ S. Benan ___ New York ___ 20 July 1910
and Julia Duggan; sponsors John Flynn and Maria McElligott]

With this example, the proof of this later addition can be seen in the index for marriage records from New York City[4]

Other interesting notations that can provide possible clues about immigration to the U.S. are also evident, such as this example, also from Kilmore Erris parish:

16 [December 1860] Wm [?] Dixon [son of] Rodger [and] Bridget Kilcar [from] Tip [? townland]; [Sponsors] Pat Dixon & Mary McDonald[5]

If you come across a relevant entry in the registers, make sure to examine closely around it and elsewhere on the page for such notations and additions.

[1] Galles, Duane. "Roman Catholic Church Records and the Genealogist." National Genealogical Society Quarterly. No. 74 (December 1986). p 272.
[2] Kilmore Erris Parish (Mayo, Ireland), Baptisms 24 June 1860-13 May 1881, unnumbered, p.6, William Dixon, 16 December 1860; digital image, Catholic Parish Registers at the NLI accessed 18 July 2015.
[3] Keel Parish (Kerry, Ireland), Baptisms 1 March 1845-7 November 1880, unnumbered, p.155, Julia Griffin, 15 September 1879; digital image, Catholic Parish Registers at the NLI accessed 18 July 2015.
[4] New York City, NYC Grooms Record Index, Grooms Database 1908-1937, John J Hennessy  and Julia A Griffin, 20 July 1910; index entry, Italian Genealogical Group accessed 18 July 2015.
[5]Kilmore Erris Parish (Mayo, Ireland), Baptisms 24 June 1860-13 May 1881, unnumbered, p.33, Mary Barrett, 13 February 1870; digital image, Catholic Parish Registers at the NLI accessed 18 July 2015.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Tracing The Irish In Missouri

The July/August edition of Irish Lives Remembered magazine is out and in this issue I've written about Irish genealogy research in Missouri. Click here to access this free magazine.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Archives Of Irish America

The Archives of Irish America is a repository of primary research materials at New York University that aims to transform our understanding of the Irish migration experience and the distillation of American Irish ethnicity over the past century.[1] Sometimes, it is not obviously apparent how a university archive collection can help with genealogy, but searching through the catalog can reveal some hidden gems.

The oral history collection contains a large number of interviews with Irish-born immigrants and those who are descendants of Irish immigrants from previous generations. Some of the interviewees from Ireland were born in the 1930s and could possibly give an insightful understanding about coming to America and assimilating in the first half of the 20th century. Places of origin in Ireland and the names of parents and grandparents could also possibly be provided.

The Archives also houses the Gaelic Society of New York Collection and the John T. Ridge Collection, among many others. Both of these collections have documents and information from the 19th and 20th centuries. Many Irish immigrants joined fraternal, cultural, social, and political organizations in the U.S. These collections cans shed light on their involvement in such organizations and possibly provide pertinent genealogical information.

For a full list of the collections, click this link and select Archives of Irish America (AIA) Collection at the top of the page.

[1] New York University. Archives of Irish America. Year Unknown. accessed 7 May 2015.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A New Genealogy Job

Later this month, I will begin working as a genealogist for in Ireland. This, of course, means that my American adventure is coming to an end. It's been a great 5+ years in  New York City and Washington, DC. The buzz around genealogy, both as an industry for those who work in it and as a pastime for those who do family history research, has increased dramatically over that time. I'm still just a relative newcomer when compared to some of the pros who have been in this industry for decades, but the changes I've seen in the last five years alone have been phenomenal. The years ahead promise to be even better and I am really excited to begin working for the ProGenealogists group.  
What does this all mean for Townland of Origin? Well, I absolutely intend to try and continue highlighting records and resources that can help people with their Irish genealogy research in the U.S. and Canada. I have made connections with some great people over the last couple of years because of the website. It's been really great getting to know you all. I hope that some of you have learned about new records, organizations, and groups for your genealogy research.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

NYU Radio Hour Interview

Last March, I did a radio interview with Dr. Miriam Nyhan at the Glucksman Ireland House at New York University. The focus was, of course, genealogy, and we discussed how I got into it, researching the Irish in New York City and the wider U.S., Irish research compared to other ethnicities, and research in Ireland.

This page will bring you to an archive of their shows. The relevant show is March 14th and my interview runs from 30:30 mins - 48:20 mins.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Catholic Order Of Foresters Indexing Project

In January 2014, I wrote about The Irish Ancestral Research Association and highlighted the databases on their site. One database contains information about the records for the Massachusetts Catholic Order of Foresters. This was a fraternal life insurance organization founded in Boston in 1879 by a group of Irish immigrants. Over the ensuing decades, the organization spread throughout the state and by the end of the 19th century there were ninety-five branches throughout Massachusetts.[1]

An archivist from the Joseph P. Healey Library, University of Massachusetts-Boston got in touch to let me know about the efforts that have led to the creation of an online index for this set of records on the library website. This index facility includes more search parameters and also contains the most recent versions of the indexing efforts, a project that is still ongoing. Records for the Foresters, which are housed at the library, are available through 1942, with the index currently covering the years up to 1935.

Read more about the Catholic Order of Foresters, access the indexing project database, and learn where to write to for copies of the records by clicking here.

[1] TIARA. Tiara Foresters Project. 2011. accessed 16 December 2013.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Prince Edward Island Data Pages

Rootsweb houses many fascinating pages researched and developed by volunteer genealogists. A useful one for those with Irish ancestors on Prince Edward Island (PEI) is the Prince Edward Island Data Pages. This database is a compilation of some records of Irish immigrants to PEI from before 1846.

In all, there are about 1,000 entries. The compiler, Marge Reid, advises that when using the database, “the documentation on the four data pages of the PEI IRISH PROJECT is shoddy. (There are OTHER words that could be used to describe the sourcing, but I wouldn't want to offend anyone!) Use the data as a "finding aid" or a "kick-start", but remember - it's only worth what you've paid for it...”[1] It’s useful advice as we should always try and get from an online database or transcription to a copy of the original record. Some local knowledge will definitely be useful when using this database as the compiler uses abbreviations for sources and local place names.

A considerable amount of the database entries give an Irish county of origin. For example, an obituary (from an unknown, undated newspapers) for Bridget Regan gives the information that she was from Sligo and emigrated in 1844. Her husband was John Butler and she (presumably) lived in Ch’town (Charlottetown). The dates 1825-1900 are also provided, possibly her year of birth and death.[2]

[1] Marge Reid. Prince Edward Island Data Pages. 25 January 1999. accessed 11 May 2015.
[2] “IRISH-BORN in PEI before 1846”, database,
( accessed 11 May 2015), entry for Bridget Regan, date unknown; QUINN through WYNN, p. 4.