Jump to content

Tracing my Irish Roots


Lisa O`Brien
 Share

Recommended Posts

I have been trying to trace my father`s side of the family for a few years now,mostly I have to say,with not much success. My dad was born in,wait for it,1903, and died in 1978 when I was 10 years old. Why don`t children think of asking their relatives deep,profound questions such as "Tell me about your grandparents and where were they born" etc?. We are all lucky nowadays of course with the Internet and all that information at our fingertips. But I have to say the constant brick walls I keep coming up against are driving me nuts.!!  Plus,it`s costing me a small fortune. There is one terrific website that is,surprise surprise,not free. It allows you to search the Census Returns or Birth Death and Marriages and gives lots of really accurate information.The problem is,to search just one entry of a birth,death or marriage,in order to check it is accurate it costs 25 Euros. In order for it to then tell me that particular Michael O`Brien  couldn`t have been my grandfather as he died when he was 2.! Grr. The last few months I have gone through some serious money on different sites. I don`t live anywhere near where the O`Brien`s were originally from  which I found out is County Offaly, and to go there and trace local records would require a few days spent down there plus paying for accommodation etc.So I`ve been trying to do it the easy way from my armchair. But it is becoming increasingly difficult to do. As if my grandfather,Michael O`Brien`s name wasn`t common enough,his father was called Patrick. Do you have any idea how many Michael and Patrick O`Brien`s there were in the Irish Midlands 100 years ago? A lot.!! Still, it IS a nice hobby to have all the same,even though it does have me screaming internally at times. But I am seriously considering commissioning a professional Genealogist to help me with my search. He charges 35 Euros Per Hour,which sounds exhorbitant I know. But then I waste 25 Euros in two seconds by clicking on the wrong birth entry.! He is very experienced and would probably have far more luck than me, so I might end up saving money in the long run anyway. Does anyone on here have any experience in tracing their family history,and any useful tips to pass on ? Thanks.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Have you tried your local library? Over here most public libraries have free access to Ancestry amd Findmypast on their public PC's. May be different though where you are. You can't save anything but can print anything you find.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes Kathy. My local library when I still lived in Stretford,Manchester was great for info.The 1933 Census revealed most of the family all living in Trafford Park. I have my dad`s birth certificate from 1903,his death cert from 1978,my grandparents marriage cert from Dec 1896,my grandfather`s death cert from 1946. But trying to go beyond this is really hard.Especially seeing how my grandfather Michael O`Brien was born in Ireland in 1864,which is exactly the year they began the registers. But it would be so much easier if they had an unusual surname.!!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

No tips from me I'm afraid.  My Dad's sister has been tracing my paternal family and a cousin on my Mum's side has had a straight line traced back.

 

I know my Grandpa was from Newry but I hadn't realised on my Dad's side that it's basically a mix of Irish and Welsh.  On my Mum's side it's Scottish!  Turns out I'm not as English as I thought I was - in fact I'm a right Heinz 57!

  • Like 5
Link to comment
Share on other sites

For cost effectiveness, I recommend a yearly subscription to the ancestry website. Once you're subscribed then there are no extra costs. findmypast.co.uk has a similar deal, although not sure how good their Irish records are.

 

PM me if you'd like me to do a preliminary search for you on either of those sites. Good luck - it's fascinating and addictive once you get started!

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Quays, have you asked members of your extended family if they have information?  Cousin Fiona in Wexford is our family historian and she's come up with amazing stuff, but that lack of records in Ireland hampers every search and there are so many annoying gaps.  You never know about things such as old photos unless you ask around. 

 

The biggest conundrum for us is that the family name, Lyons, was the Anglicized version of two particular names that were conveniently changed because they were considered unpronounceable outside the Irish community, one name was from Cork and the other from Galway; we think we were from the latter family as we hail from County Mayo, so closer to Galway, but of course that might not be the case. 

 

Anyway, good luck, I know only too well how frustrating these searches in Ireland can be.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

If any of your family from Ireland emigrated to the USA, their records might very well be found in the huge genealogical library kept by the Mormons.

 

As I understand it, it's free, it's not at all just about Mormons, anyone can use it.  On a trip that took us through Salt Lake City, we visited the archive (large, well staffed), but did not use it because of time constraints.  However, a cousin of mine found a lot of family records there though we are not Mormon and have no connection to that community.

 

I don't know if the archive includes people who did not emigrate.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

If any of your family from Ireland emigrated to the USA, their records might very well be found in the huge genealogical library kept by the Mormons.

 

As I understand it, it's free, it's not at all just about Mormons, anyone can use it.  On a trip that took us through Salt Lake City, we visited the archive (large, well staffed), but did not use it because of time constraints.  However, a cousin of mine found a lot of family records there though we are not Mormon and have no connection to that community.

 

I don't know if the archive includes people who did not emigrate.

 

It is called the IGI (International Genealogical Index) and it is free to search online. Their records cover countries all over the world.

 

The only thing I would mention is that you need to rely on the entries extracted from original records - ie: Census returns, and Parish Registers, passenger lists, etc.. Many of the entries on the IGI are submitted by Mormon families from their own research and with these you need to check and double-check their research against original records before relying on it. The data displayed tells you where it originated.

 

For England and Wales there is a website called FreeBMD which has transcribed Birth, Marriage and Death records from the General Register Office. The work is on-going and isn't up-to-date, but is incredibly useful :)

 

If you are ordering certificates online, make sure you use the official GRO website as there are many others which charge you over-the-odds.

 

Edited to add: the Mormon IGI website is familysearch.org

Edited by taxi4ballet
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you so much everyone for your help and suggestions.Marianne,thank you so much for your offer of help .But I am beyond preliminary searches ;I found that information relatively easily.Thank you so much anyway for your kind offer. Grand Tier Left,I know all about the 1922 destruction of records and it is SO frustrating that so much has been lost forever. Thank you for the info on the website.Not heard of that one,I don`t think,although I`ve searched so many different websites it`s hard to tell if i`ve used it already or not.![if i have i usually make a note of them]. MAB,Unfortunately there are no family members alive to ask anything.! My dad was born in 1903,when he was 64 years old.I saw two of his sisters[who at the time I thought were aunties] when I was very small but after my dad died when I was 10 in 1977,all contact with my dad`s side of the family was lost.When I came to start researching my family tree it was too late.My dad was one of 10 children and every one had died.I did meet up with a cousin and we swapped letters.He remembers our grandparents and was able to give me a few bits of information.He seemed to think my grandfather came from Bantry in West Cork,but from looking at records this just doesn`t tie in. BTW,you mentioned Mayo.My son`s late father and all his cousins aunts and uncles on his father`s side are from Ballina in Co.Mayo.Sean goes over to Ballina several times a year to see them all. Anjuli,yes the International Genealogical Index is a fantastic resource and very helpful.I am pretty certain that my great grandfather must be in their records that relate to the Chelsea Pensioners Service Records,1760-1913 SOMEWHERE.! On my grandfather`s and grandmother`s marriage certificate[they were married in 1896] it says occupation of his father Army Pensioner-Deceased.I know my grandfather was born in 1864, and he got married in 1896,by which time his father was dead.So this narrows it down to his father[my great grandfather] dying sometime between 1864 when his son was born and 1896 when his son got married]. My grandfather and his wife and children are all on the 1911 Census for England and Wales,and i`ve found my grandmother on the 1881 Census[she was born in 1872]. But finding the male side is a tricky thing,principally with the name being O`Brien.There are just so many of them,so I never know if it is MY relation or not. I will keep plugging away but I do think to make any real progress I am going to have to get in touch with this Genealogist.  But do please keep any suggestions coming folks, and thank you so much for all your help so far,it is really appreciated.! Lisa.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Some of the things I've found out (usually because I've made assumptions and got it wrong!!!)

 

The names of witnesses on marriage certificates can be very helpful especially if the surnames are different as you might be able to identify the married surnames of sisters and female cousins/aunts

 

The informant on death certificates may have had to guess the age of the deceased, especially if they were not the surviving spouse, and may not have known middle names etc

 

Surname spellings do change over time (and back again), sometimes in the same document!

 

People may not necessarily have told the truth to census enumerators and other officials

 

Widowers occasionally remarry someone with the same first name as their first wife, so Mary, the wife of John Smith on one census could be replaced by a different Mary on the next one. 

 

First names are interchangeable. William Arthur Smith may have been known all his life as Arthur William.

 

Lying about your age when getting married or signing up for the armed forces is really common

 

If there are several births in a locality, you can often rule some of them out by finding records of their death. Many children died young, sadly.

 

Reading the cause of death on a death certificate and discovering that your great Grandmother's sister was murdered makes you feel very odd for weeks afterwards

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Some of the things that we have come across that have made searches more challenging are in large families if one of the first children dies as an infant it doesn't seem uncommon for a later child to be given the same name. So you find a birth and death record and then come across a further record to confuse matters especially if it is a marriage. We also came across various individuals all born in the same location, with the same name and very close DOB/baptism but on further investigation they will be the off spring of say two brothers, born within months of each other, given the same name and obviously registered at same place!  We came across a couple of widowers that married their late wife's sister - frowned on but happened anyway.

 

Like Taxi we uncovered something, about a great great uncle, that was harrowing and I was surprised by how I felt about it. Only came across it though because another great great uncle was seen as a Victorian hero and various books had been written about him. We would otherwise have commented on the dates of death of two family members so close together as unfortunate but not unusual for the times.

 

Tracing your family is addictive. Frustrating when you reach dead ends but hugely satisfying when you can go back generations on some branches - normally because no one moved far from where they were born and generation after generation went into the same trade.     

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Good luck with this.  I have started to do our tree about a year ago via ancestry.co.uk and what I found is that I had to go all round the houses to check for tricky people to find. We had some common surnames and there were lots of entries and possibilities and so I have ended up being methodical and finding all siblings then their families and then working my way back to the tricky one as can sometimes cross check siblings with census info or travel records. It's been really interesting.

 

I did go off on a wrong path about 6 months ago and wasted an awful lot of time so am being really methodical now :)

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have found this thread fascinating.  My father was the youngest of 10, but I only ever met one sister.  His father died when he was very young, and he lost his mother quite early as well.  He never, ever spoke about his parents, so I know nothing about his side of the family at all.

 

I have decided to have a look into his ancestry, so thanks for all the tips.  I haven't started yet, I am hoping my paternal grandfather wasn't Irish, it sounds as though it would add so much extra work to the search!

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

One detail I forgot to mention is that a lot of Irish people adopt a confirmation name that they then put on legal documents such as a marriage certificates.  My mother was simply Mary on her birth certificate but by the time I was born she was Mary Bridget.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Is Ireland not the same as England in that pre civil registration (around 1837) you have to look at the church records? The problem is that the baptismal records often record only the father's name and not the mother's which makes searching difficult unless you have an unusual name or some corroborating evidence in the form of, say, names and dates recorded in a family bible. I have Northern Irish ancestry but my father did not manage to get very far back. On one English side he traced the family to a village in Oxfordshire (with very good parish records going back to the 17th century) but there were many families with the same surname living there and it was impossible to know which family we were related to. In the 18th and 19th centuries a fairly small pool of christian names was used, particularly for men, and this makes searching even harder. Actually, my father wrote down a lot about his, my mother's and their parents' lives, which is a very valuable resource for my family especially now that he has died and my mother has advanced Alzheimers. Although drawing up a family tree is interesting, equally interesting is knowing about your parents' and grandparents' lives and I would urge older members of the forum to write about their and their parents' and grandparents' lives before it is too late (oh, and mount and label any old family photographs - which my father also did; he was a very methodical man). 

  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Luckily my mother spoke about her family history quite a bit - and a fascinating one it was.  My aunt's history was worthy of a book and it is her life about which I wrote.  The book was serialized by a magazine online.  Unfortunately, that was several years ago and that particular server had a major collapse and the material is not recoverable online.  But, I do have the book both in WORD and hard copy - so all was not lost.  But, there was one particular family story that really intrigued me.  My grandmother told it to us and she also witnessed it.  

 

My great grandfather had a very large home (not Downton Abbey - but large), numerous staff, in the countryside outside of Kiev - all of which was lost during the Russian Revolution.  In the mid 1800's two of the Von Rothschild brothers were traveling through Russia and needed a place to stay in the area of Kiev.  This was difficult as not many homes could accommodate their retinue and  religious requirements.  My great grandfather's home was recommended.  The Rothschild brothers wrote to him and of course he was happy to extend an invitation to stay at his home.

 

My great grandfather was told that he needn't bring in more staff as they were traveling with their own.  On the day of arrival a large train of wagons appeared with everything a Rothschild might deem necessary - and then some - including their own chef.  Apparently it all fit into the house and everyone  enjoyed the visit.  At the end of the visit, the Rothschild brothers - as a way of saying thank you - set out large tables under the trees on my great grand father's lawns and gardens.  Supper was served to everyone - including my great grandfather's staff.  The dessert was served on lacy sugar plates which could themselves be eaten.

 

So that's the story as my grandmother told it.  

 

Recently I read a book written by Baroness Hannah Rothschild  - a biography of her aunt.  On the book jacket was an e-mail contact -- so I wrote to her and related this story curious as to whether there was any truth to it.  I received a cordial reply in which she asked that I contact the director of the Rothschild Archives - whom she would alert to hear from me.  In response to my contacting the director of the Archives, I was sent a hardback book - an annual (quite beautiful) detailing various activities and collections of art and artifacts of the family history.

 

One article in the Annual was a history of two of the Von Rothschilds (brothers) who indeed did make a trip through Russia, including Kiev, and stopping along the way at various homes with the ability to accommodate them.  The date, description and itinerary fit exactly with my grandmother's story.  

 

She told this to us as we sat in her tiny home in an emigrant neighborhood in Philadelphia.  The beautiful home in Kiev, the staff - that entire way of life was long gone - including her husband who had been murdered.  But she had her grown children with her and three grandchildren (me), her life, and her proudest possesion - her new American citizenship - for which she was forever grateful..

 

Hearing these tales gave me a perspective on life I would not otherwise have had.  There are several other family members about which a book could easily be written.  

 

I also have a beautiful picture of the family sitting under those same trees.

 

Sorry for the overlong post....

Edited by Anjuli_Bai
  • Like 5
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Anjuli, do you get a programme called 'Who do you think you are?' in your neck of the woods?  Celebrities of course, but many of their stories are really intriguing as they are researched by teams of experts.  Brooke Shields was descended from kings, Popes and saints and could trace back through an Italian ancestor to almost the dawn of recorded time.  Sarah Jessica Parker found she was descended from a Salem witch and Barbara Windsor found her family was connected to the painter John Constable.

 

I have an interesting ancestress myself, an Irish lady accused of murder when a villager recognised her cloak as she presumably fled the scene of the crime.  To escape justice she went off to America, but hated it there and said she would rather be hanged in Ireland than live another day in America (conditions for immigrants in those days were frightful).  On her return the crime had been solved, her lodger had disguised himself in her cloak that night to commit the murder and later confessed.  You could make a film out of that! 

  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Anjuli, do you get a programme called 'Who do you think you are?' in your neck of the woods?  Celebrities of course, but many of their stories are really intriguing as they are researched by teams of experts.  Brooke Shields was descended from kings, Popes and saints and could trace back through an Italian ancestor to almost the dawn of recorded time.  Sarah Jessica Parker found she was descended from a Salem witch and Barbara Windsor found her family was connected to the painter John Constable.

 

I have an interesting ancestress myself, an Irish lady accused of murder when a villager recognised her cloak as she presumably fled the scene of the crime.  To escape justice she went off to America, but hated it there and said she would rather be hanged in Ireland than live another day in America (conditions for immigrants in those days were frightful).  On her return the crime had been solved, her lodger had disguised himself in her cloak that night to commit the murder and later confessed.  You could make a film out of that! 

 

To my knowledge we do not get the program - but it certainly sounds interesting!

 

There were a fair number of Irish immigrants who did return to Ireland.  Wasn't Frank McCord's family (Angela's Ashes) one of them?  Life was very difficult for these immigrants but many, many did prosper.  Probably was more difficult for women.  The men in my mother's family lost everything - but being exceedingly hardworking and enterprising very shortly became marvelously successful in America.  The women did not fair as well.

 

My mother remembered as a ten year old passing the Statue of Liberty in NYC harbor and knowing that finally her life was safe.  

 

I bet almost all of us could write a book about several members of our families.

 

The moral of your story, MAB, is keep a close eye on one's cloak.  :)  But - what a fright she must have had!

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've been researching my family tree for about 10 years (although it takes a back seat at the moment as I spend every evening driving dd to and from ballet) and it has been a fascinating journey.

 

My paternal great-grandparents were married in the church of St Paul, Covent Garden, (so I'm hoping that is a good sign) and I've found two uncles, a cousin and a niece and nephew I never knew I had.

 

One of the surnames I'm researching is German and very uncommon - so uncommon in fact, that every British one I've found is related to me :). My grandmother was the youngest of 12 and there must be a couple of hundred of us, all descended from one couple (my maternal great-great grandparents) who emigrated to the UK from Germany around 1850. 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mind you, my ancestors with the German surname had to change it to an Anglicised version during the First World War, in order to avoid persecution and internment.

 

One branch of the family kept the new spelling, and the other branch (mine) reverted to the old spelling in the 1920's.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Anjuli, your story sounds fascinating.

 

I very much doubt if there is anything so illustrious in my ancestry.  I come from poor, working class stock on both sides of the family.  I count myself extremely fortunate to have been born in an era that  had free, compulsory education, otherwise I would have been doing manual labour myself. 

 

Edited to add that I might find a rich person somewhere in my background, you never know!

Edited by Fonty
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Fonty I know what you mean.On my grandparent`s Birth Certificate and my dad`s Birth Cert. It says an X and next to it is written "The mark of Phoebe O`Brien", on her son`s B.Cet, and on their marriage cert is an X after both name with "The mark of Michael and Phoebe O`Brien". So obviously both my grandparents were illiterate. Oh and I think someone on my dad`s side had been in prison a few times for drunkenness and larceny. But will need to double and triple check it`s the same family. Probably is though,as a cousin on my dad`s side who met my grandfather a few times when he was a child told me Mick used to drunkenly stagger up the road,shouting obscenities at anyone who would listen,and waving his walking stick at people. Oh dear.!!!!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

People who made their mark 'X' rather than sign their name may not have been illiterate. I read an article once which said that often the parish clerk or registrar would assume they couldn't write and asked them to make a mark instead.

 

I've had some interesting times trying to find ancestors' marriages. I would start with the birth date of the child, and then work backwards...

 

With one lot I had to go back 27 years, another 3 months(!) and another one forward 8 years...

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mind you, my ancestors with the German surname had to change it to an Anglicised version during the First World War, in order to avoid persecution and internment.

 

One branch of the family kept the new spelling, and the other branch (mine) reverted to the old spelling in the 1920's.

 

 

Didn't the House of Wiindsor do the same?  

 

 

 

Anjuli, your story sounds fascinating.

 

I very much doubt if there is anything so illustrious in my ancestry.  I come from poor, working class stock on both sides of the family.  I count myself extremely fortunate to have been born in an era that  had free, compulsory education, otherwise I would have been doing manual labour myself. 

 

Edited to add that I might find a rich person somewhere in my background, you never know!

 

Well, it's a lifestyle (personal maid/chef, etc.) I've never known.  But it might be nice to try it.  However,  I have been fortunate in my marriage to live a comfortable life and that's all I ask.  I do remember my aunt and grandmother talking about that long gone lifestyle - the large houses, travels, the pastry chef, etc.  My mother never knew it - she was 6 months old when my grandmother - carrying the infant - ran through the house as it was burning over her head, grabbing silverware off the table as she ran - her husband murdered.....she ran her life for four years - with the baby.  They finally crossed over a river at night on a raft from Russia to Romania as soldiers shot at them.  Then she waited 6 yrs for entry to the USA.  

 

When they sailed from Cherburg to NYC, they did not go steerage, but second class on the beautiful White Star Liner "Majestic."   My grandmother felt very much at ease ordering from a menu, having cabin service, etc.  My aunt who was already in the USA worked for ten years in a shirt factory to bring my grandmother and my mother over.  She didn't want them to come steerage.

 

My uncle (mother's brother) came here penniless - all his wealth gone.  But walking across a trash filled lot in Philadelphia one day, he picked up a rusty bucket, some rags and started cleaning windows of small shops.  Some store owners paid him, some didn't.  But from that he built a very large and lucrative commercial window cleaning business.  Like I said - the men were very enterprising.  The women suffered more - they were educated but hadn't been raised to work.

 

I really haven't done any research - all this was told to me.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...