Researching Families..

Each newsletter we offer you a research tip written by one of our expert researcher’s, in the hope that we can somehow help along your genealogy path. This week Stephen Peirce has written a research tip on….

Researching Families.

When researching families we often use evidence from civil certificates to guide our searches. In particular townland addresses are of use to avoid doppelgangers where a name is common.

However, addresses can sometimes be more instructive on certain documents than others. For instance, a series of birth certificates for the issue of marriage can offer an indication of how long a family were resident in an area. If five children were born in the same townland over a 10 year period, it is a safe bet that the family were resident in that townland for those 10 years.

Therefore, even if you’re only interested in a direct ancestor, often obtaining birth certificates for older or young siblings can be useful if you’re experiencing difficulties in locating a family outside of the birth of an ancestor.

One to be wary of however is residence at time of marriage. Time and again we see instances where the residence recorded for individuals, particularly men, is just that, their residence when they married, rather than actually their place of origin. In particular be wary when dealing with potentially ‘nomadic’ professions, such as ancestors that may have worked as labourers on the railroad.

A good rule of thumb if you believe the recorded townland may not be the place of origin is to turn to a census (if the event is between 1880 and 1930), census substitute (if the event is before 1880) or best of all the Cancelled Books, and see if the surname is in that townland. If there’s no sign of the surname, this may be an indication that you need to broaden your search.


By Stephen Peirce