Extraordinary Case Studies in Irish
I would like to share some experiences in Irish Family
Research so that researchers in Irish Family History are prepared
for the unforseen things that research can throw up.
For some people, the more unexpected and the more
harrowing the history, the more interesting they find it to
be. For others,
can be a cause for sadness and in some cases
I will not use real names, but let
me say that I am familiar with and connected to all the cases
Adoption in Ireland
A woman asked us to investigate a situation in which a single woman -the owner of a substantial farm
- had died
without a will. This
is not so uncommon in Irish Families as one might think.
There was a suggestion that the woman - unmarried - had
had a baby many years previously and had given the baby up for
there was no official adoption in Ireland prior to 1953, the
baby would be difficult to trace.
Fortunately, an older neighbour remembered a cousin
from the USA coming to the
village many decades ago and taking the baby of the States
to be the child of another family.
Now if the baby had grown to adulthood without being
officially adopted, he was going to inherit the farm and
whatever cash was left behind.
After some searching, the person was found, and the
delicate task began of finding out if he knew he was adopted,
and, if he did know, did he know who his birth mother was.
The man in question did know he was adopted and he was
vaguely aware who his birth-mother was.
The search entailed getting access to
airline records and the child was found travelling as a one
year old with a man who turned out to be the cousin.
took a long time to get proof that he had been adopted and so,
a woman in Ireland died thinking her son would get her farm,
but alas, under the adoption laws of most countries, when you
are adopted, you cut legal ties to birth parents.
You are adopted into one family and acquire inheritance
rights, but you are adopted out of your birth parents families
and lose any inheritance rights.
An extraordinary tale unfolded when we
were asked to assist in discovering the lineage of a man –
let’s call him Bill -who had been born in another country ,
and all his life he had believed he was the great- grandson of
a Mr. Murphy. He
even had a birth certificate of this Mr Murphy and when on the
trip of a lifetime to Ireland he looked up people who were
bound to be cousins, he was told that he was not related in
any way and he had the wrong great-grandfather!!
Many decades of research down the drain.
(When you are researching, be your own worst critic,
never assume, never skip the various stages of research.)
Fortunately, we were able to unravel the mystery and
found the correct great-grandfather's Irish Birth Certificate
and then found the burial place of the ancestor.
What a surprise we all got.
The man who was researching turned out to be from a
gentry family and his grandfather had apparently left home
after a family rift with great-grandfather and settled in
another country. It must have been tough to lose a family
history and gain another all in one year and realise that your
supposed birthright had also been lost.
Fortunately our now friend was very philosophical about
it all and he now has an Irish passport because his
grandfather was born in Ireland.
The mistake was very simply made.
Bill's father had written to the appropriate county
registrar in ireland many decades beforehand and given some basic
information as he had remembered it from his own father.
The registrar should have asked more questions but
didn't...... and picked the wrong Mr. Murphy from the Registry of
Births. A copy
certificate was then sent to Bill's father and this had been a
cherished piece of family history for several decades.
It's interesting that is was so easy to acquire an Irish
Passport just by giving a name and a possible date to the
Sister or Mother?
In case number three, it was a request to
assist in another case of a man who died without a will.
It actually turned out to fairly straightforward given
that family members had quite a bit of knowledge and knew the
names of all the children of that
family - some of whom were still living and would inherit. But alas!
One of the children turned out to have been born out of
wedlock to her 'supposed eldest sister' - Mary - and had
been brought up by Mary's mother as her own child.
But no formal adoption ever took place, so no Irish
Birth Certificate could be obtained that showed this person to
be the child - adopted or otherwise - of that family. The
family had grown up as a family of seven children but only the
survivors from the other six could now inherit. Mary's
daughter was one generation removed from the inheritors.
So, this woman saw her family home being sold and monies
dispersed to her exclusion.
She had lost a mother in more ways than one and also
lost her inheritance.
She lost a mother and sister
in one day but acquired a 'new' mother. We hope it
worked out for them!
This is a mildly humorous but cautionary tale
regarding Irish Roots that I heard from a man of learning some
years ago. He was
a busy man practising law in Dublin but he had been born and
educated in his native County Tipperary.
He (Jack Walsh) once
received a request from the USA from a family of the same name
asking if he might be related.
he had a great uncle from the townland mentioned in the letter
and he knew several members
of that family had emigrated to the USA.
He had no time to be searching in Irish Birth Records
and Irish Census records, so he wrote back and said yes, he was
most likely a cousin.
A couple of years later following some
correspondence he agreed
to travel to his home place in Tipperary for a reunion with ‘his’
American family. A
party of thirty Walshs were travelling to Ireland to meet
their cousin and to see the ruined cottage from where their
ancestors had come. Jack
arrived in the
village on Friday evening and planned to meet his Walsh
cousins on the Saturday when they were to be bussed in from
Shannon airport. He
went to the local pub for a quick drink the evening before
they arrived to chat about
Family History in Ireland with old friends.
An elderly acquaintance overheard his conversation and
came over to him and said, “ Jaysus, Jack, I think you have
the wrong family there! The
Walshs you are speaking of were actually from Ballyglin and
not related to you at all.”
A quick dash to a local historian who consulted
Griffiths Valuation and the Irish Tithe records proved the
acquaintance correct. There was another Walsh family
very close to where his own Walshs had lived. What was
he to do? The
Walshs were at that moment in the air over the Atlantic and
winging their way towards him.
He never told them.
He spent the next day walking around roads and fields
with his non-cousins and celebrated with them that evening in
the local hotel. They
never found out that Bill was not their cousin and never found
out that they had walked the right roads and maybe the correct
fields but not with their cousin.
Well, what would you have done??