Behind the scenes at The IFHC: Pronunciation.

“He Came From Par Knocknet Murky in County Down, Ireland”  (Where!?)

For those not familiar with Irish place names, the pronunciation, the spelling, and even the correct placements of syllable accents are all barriers to finding where an ancestor came from. Add to these difficulties the complication of a document mistranscription and place names can get a serious mangling. I had a case of this in mid-April 2017 at the Irish Family History Centre (IFHC, Dublin) when an English lady came in looking for a late 19th century ancestor from County Down.

With her help, I did a quick sketch of the relevant part of her family tree. It became apparent that getting a particular marriage was key if real progress was to be made. With the help of IFHC colleague Gerard Leen, we found the relevant index record, which the client could now order. This would open all kinds of doors into the 19th century records, and we were all well pleased.

But then, the client came out with the news that her ancestor had originally come from County Down and that she had a record somewhere saying he was specifically from the town of Par Knocknet Murky. She had done all kinds of internet searches but could not find the place. Both myself and Gerard looked in various townland indexes. Nothing. Then, the lady said that this name appeared on the UK 1911 census [the ancestor had moved to the UK by then]. She refound it on her smartphone, and it did look like Par Knocknet Murky. Time ran out; the client left delighted with that all-important marriage index. But where was this place that her ancestor said he was from?

Afterwards, during a quiet moment, I revisited that UK 1911 census and within minutes had figured out what was happening. The space for writing the place of origin was small and the ancestor had used two separate V-shaped insert signs to write the name in several parts: ‘Par’ was for ‘Parish’, and ‘Murky’ had been split-off from the longer whole name of ‘Knocknamuckley’. What had happed was that the ancestor had spelled the name itself wrong, he had had to split the name to make it fit, the transcriber has mis-read all this complexity, and county was incorrect anyway. Knocknamuckley is in County Armagh!


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