Which Kerry Family?

Popular surnames in Kerry can be the cause of a lot of head scratching when searching for Kerry Ancestors.   O’Sullivan, O’Connor, O’Connell, O’Donoghue, Fitzgerald, Stack, McElligott, Murphy, Walsh families are thick on the ground and when these surnames are combined with the traditional naming patterns of sons and daughters, identification of YOUR family can be a bit fraught.

Have I any hints to help you identify the correct family.  I have been giving this some thought lately. I have been researching the family of William Walsh who was living in Janesville, Wisconsin in 1860[1].  His descendant Molly had done sterling work going through U.S. records and found a William Walsh living in New York in 1855[2].  This Census stated that William was aged 30, Head of the Household, lived with his wife Honora (20), his son Michael (0) and his mother Joanna (54) Widow,  and his brother John (17).  While we would have to discount all these ages as only approximate (with the exception of Michael, born in N.Y), we have really good stuff here – William’s mothers’ name and a brother’s name.  And most importantly, William’s first son is called ‘Michael’, from which we can almost certainly take it that William’s father’s name was also Michael.  See Kerry traditional naming practices.  All are 'Born in Ireland' with the exception of Michael.

So when Molly started to look in the various census records for Janesville which living U.S, relatives were able to identify as ‘home’, it was easy to find William, Honora and Michael.  Mother Joanna and brother John were not in Janesville though.  There is a long story here and Molly was able to pinpoint the location of all Joanna’s family in the U.S., but our part was to identify them in Ireland.

Very helpfully Molly had, through DNA testing, got a match in the North Kerry area precisely,  but without a local knowledge, she had gone up and down a few one way alleys, even identifying her ancestor in East Cork.   Once I had eliminated East Cork we were back on familiar Kerry territory.

Ballydonoghue/Ballybunion/Tullamore were our targets.   This is when the fun starts!   This particular area of North Kerry is rich in Walshs, particularly the Civil Parish of Galey.  Unfortunately no Tithe Applotment records have survived for this parish, but there are 178 Walsh names in the North Kerry Baronies of Iraghticonnor & Clanmaurice.   Griffith’s Valuation of 1851 is probably outside our search parameters as we know William and his mother, a widow, are in New York by at least 1855. There are 76 Walsh names occupying land  in this parish alone – many of them called the same christian names – William, Edmund, Maurice, Thomas.   So how to pinpoint our particular family.  Well that was not too difficult as we knew the mother was Johanna and presumably the father was Michael.  This was confirmed by the location of baptismal certificates for three of the family.  Baptismal records start in Ballybunion in 1830 so we do not have verification of William or Edward’s baptisms.

Family of Michael Walsh/Joanna McCarthy
Baptism Name Address Sponsors Church
1826?* William No record
1830? Edward No record
15.11.1831 Martin Tullabeg, Gale Bartholomew Walsh/Mary Walsh B’bunion**
19.6.1834 John Tullamore Wiliam Walsh/Catherine Walsh B’bunion
7.6.1837 Stephen Tullabeg Daniel Walsh/Mary Walsh B’bunion
My stand out ‘hint’ for sorting out which family is the correct one, is to start with the traditional naming pattern but then concentrate on the mother, her surname and the sponsors at the baptisms, who are usually near relatives of both father and mother.   If there are unfamiliar Christian names in the family or unfamiliar surnames in the sponsors, caution is required until positive proof emerges.

There is a sad ending to the story of one of William’s brothers.  Joanna placed an advertisement in the Boston Pilot in 1867 looking for her son Stephen:

Information Wanted

Information Wanted

Joanna was living in New York when she placed the advertisement.  A reward of $10 was offered for information.  We don’t know if she ever located him or not but in December 2015, Molly Harris says: .’I think I found Stephen's wife and children living in a mining town in Nevada. https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MDC8-T1Q The occupation of the men on the page is "works in mine." It is a mining town. We know they last heard from Stephen that he was mining in Nevada. The box is ticked for "married" for the wife, Alice, but I wonder if they meant to tick the box for "widow," as the men of the other families are present. Or maybe Stephen was just away working somewhere else. 

The reason I think it could be Stephen's family is because: (1.) the second son is named Stephen,  (2.) the children's father was "born in Ireland," and (3.) there do NOT seem to be ANY other Stephen Walshes in Nevada, in this census or the earlier censuses. I have ordered the death certificate of the son Stephen, to see if his father's name was Stephen.

[1] U.S. Federal Census 1860 [2] New York State Census 1855, Verona, Oneida, New York


  1. Sherrie Sherrie
    January 4, 2016    

    Thank you for this article. I am always interested in my Irish family, named McElligott. My Aunt believes we were cousins to the Fitzgerald’s, which I have always found interesting. Thank you for a great website to learn more about our culture and ancestors.

    • kaymoloney kaymoloney
      January 4, 2016    

      Thanks Sharon, as you know yourself, luck plays a great part in the sleuthing! Kay

    • kaymoloney kaymoloney
      January 4, 2016    

      Sherrie, thank you for your comment. If I can be of any help in your search, just email me. Kay

  2. January 4, 2016    

    Excellent Sleuthing Kay.

    • kaymoloney kaymoloney
      January 4, 2016    

      Thanks Sharon, as you know yourself, ‘luck’ plays a great part in the sleuthing. Kay

  3. Nancy McNaughton Nancy McNaughton
    January 5, 2016    

    I am seeking information about the Sullivan family. Parents John & Johanah ( née O’Connor) of Tralee. John was a Blacksmith. Their daughter Ellen came to Australia 1895. She was born 1866/67/68. She married in 1900 to Richard Bibby in Geraldton W.A. She was my Grandmother.
    Thank you for the opportunity to maybe knock down my Brickwall.

    • Kay Caball Kay Caball
      January 6, 2016    

      I have searched the Tralee transcripts of baptisms between 1860 and 1870 and have not found Ellen. She may have been from an outlying parish and would have said she was from ‘Tralee’ or indeed some of the records are ‘missing’ from the Tralee registers. I would advise that you look for her baptism under ‘Kerry’ with these parents in http://www.IrishGenealogy.ie Church Records. There are also digitised versions of the original records on Registers.NLI.ie but these are not indexed. The father’s occupation (blacksmith) will not be given on any of these records.

  4. Joanne Joanne
    January 15, 2016    

    Hi, Kay – Happy New Year. I wonder if the John Walshe from Tullamore that you listed above is possibly my g-g-grandfather. If you remember, you found him and wife Jane Murphy living in Knocknagoshel at the time (1873) my g-grandmother Ellen Walshe married Michael Lynch (Schoolmaster from Rathea) in the chapel in Duagh. Joanne

    • Kay Caball Kay Caball
      January 16, 2016    

      Joanne, nice to hear from you. I can’t say with any certainty that your John Walsh was or indeed was not, from the Tullamore area. I would think it is most unlikely as his association seemed to be in the Duagh /Knocknagoshel side of the country. The reason we can’t say for certain is because his birth date would have been c. 1816 and Ballybunion (where Tullamore would be recorded) records do not start until 1831. Sorry about tht.

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