Catholic Convert and Qualification Rolls.

One of the most interesting aspects of studying family history is the ability to recover the stories of individuals, families and even communities.  As more records collections are published online, I often revisit old case-studies, to see if it’s possible to recover gaps in the narrative.

Recently the Catholic Convert and Qualification Rolls were released online. There are 52,060 names in these two records sets, allowing for some repetition.

The Convert Rolls date from 1703, and encompass ca. 5000 individuals, from 1701 to the 1840s. The Qualification Rolls date from 1774, and encompass ca. 47,000 individuals.

There I found Andrew Cruise, Gent. of Drynam, in Swords, county Dublin, who in November 1778 qualified as a ‘loyal Catholic’ when he took an oath of allegiance to the government, before the Court of King’s Bench.

Scion of a baronial family present with Strongbow in Ireland in 1176, the Cruise’s were ‘in on the ground floor’ of the Norman conquest. In the 17th and 18th Centuries the family lost extensive lands and status, but they always seemed to stick with their religious faith and married into other Catholic families – viz. Maguire, Taylor, and O’Neill. This otherwise opaque entry in the Qualification Rolls confirmed that even during the worst of the Penal times the head of the family did in fact remain Catholic. It tied up a loose-thread not previously discovered.

On 28th November 1778 Elinor Skelton, widow, of Enniscorthy qualified as a loyal Catholic. Previous research showed the Skeltons were descended from an English Catholic gentry family who by the 1630s settled in Wexford Ireland, as religious refugees.

What is of interest here is not that these families remained Catholic during religious wars and Penal Laws, but that it’s possible to trace them to a relatively early time in the surviving records. Of course, it isn’t that surprising if you are only researching a baronial or a gentry family, as they were always well documented in land and tax records, and acted as officials in courts and local government. However, one of the most interesting aspects of these records, I found, is that social coverage sometimes extends beyond the affluent middle.

On 12th February 1779 Paul Quartermass, Tanner of Swords, county Dublin, qualified as a loyal Catholic, before the Court of King’s Bench. Earlier research proved that Quartermass was descended from an English soldier of the ‘middling sort’ that settled in Ireland in the Tudor conquest.

Recorded on the same page we find John Quinn, Schoolmaster, of Navan county Meath; Michael Quinn, gardener of Palmerstown; and Hugh Quinn, labourer of Drumall, nearby Carrickfergus.  

The Qualification Rolls also include women’s name – an estimated 1500 women are named, of whom the greater number are recorded not by marital status (typically spinster, widow or wife,) but by occupation.

In May 1784, we find evidence of Margaret Field ‘Starch-manufacturer’, Church St., City of Dublin: while in Dec. 1784 Judith Fitzsimons, ‘Dairy-woman’, in the city of Dublin steps into the courts to take an oath.

Even now after almost a quarter century in research, it’s stimulating to find my own preconceptions challenged by what I find in the records. It also confirms the usefulness of re-visiting old cases, as new records become available.

By Expert Researcher 

Fiona Fitzsimons

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