Researching Kerry Births, Marriages and Deaths can be problematic. The most frustrating queries I get both personally on MyKerryAncestors.com and at my work on the Genealogy Advisory Service at the National Library are the sincere and sometimes emotion-laden requests to trace ancestors with little or no information on dates or even locations. To find your ancestors in Kerry or any other part of Ireland, you need to have at least two pieces of information as a basic foundation stone.
Those two pieces are the name of your ancestor, a location in Ireland that he/she was born in and of course the assumed date of his/her birth. To try and trace an ancestors’ family without these building blocks is frustrating for the genealogist but even more so for the descendant when they receive negative results.
So how to get these elusive facts? In my view, it can be a double-pronged approach. The earlier that an ancestor left Ireland, the less chance there is of finding any information from Irish/Kerry records. The reason for this is that Parish records in the main do not start until after 1840 (with the exception of the main towns, Tralee, Killarney & Listowel). Neither do passenger lists exist for shipping records before this time. So where to start for any period in the nineteenth century? Back ‘home’ in the U.S./Canada/Australia/New Zealand/England or where ever the ancestor first immigrated to, is the answer. You should:
- Obtain civil and religious copy certificates, marriage/death of the family and children’s births from the location the ancestor first settled.
- Go through all local Census records – taken every ten years, from the time you think the ancestor arrived.
- Locate any Military records if applicable. Search newspapers for any events that might have involved your ancestor – obituaries, court cases, local news items. These are all searchable online now. Also FamilySearch.org
- Check-in local libraries for any local history that may not have been published.
The second part of the prong is to get to know as much as possible about Kerry, its history, geography, customs. Focus on the locality as well as on the names and dates. You will need to understand what life was like in each of the Civil parishes of Kerry at the time that your ancestor left there for his/her new life. Who might have paid for the fare? What was the nearest port? How did they travel there? Get a picture of Kerry in the nineteenth century
See my list of local books here and also a small number of books that MyKerryAncestors are now selling online.
I would like to do a family tree on my family and was wondering do you do them or can you recommend someone. If so what is the cost of the same? How far does one go back? Looking forward to hearing from you.
Bridie Mc Hale
Bridie, yes this is the type of work I do and have completed hundreds of consultations with a Kerry base. I will email you directly with a Query Form to get more information. I can then (without obligation of any kind) suggest your best way forward – a full consultation, a half hour phone coaching or a catch up with Finding Your Ancestors in Kerry and the associated costs of each.
Thank you for the information.
Thank for the detailed history, , Kay. Maybe this will explain some of our difficulties. Also, what we should keep in mind is that maybe 2/3 of the immigrants could neither read nor write in their native language. Family history documents left in Bibles, etc. was not a part of my immigrant ancestors’ lives. Oral history passed on by descendants is often incorrect.
Carol, yes you are correct – a family bible was not familar to Kerry families in the 1800s so we are missing that type of information. You are also correct in saying that oral history passed on was often incorrect. We find that there is a probably a fair bit of exaggeration both positive and negative but there is also usually some solid information.
Here’s my problem. My ancestors (Conway) come from Clashmelcon Killury parish and were all baptized in Causeway. They are the children of Patrick (Paddy) Conway who had two wives Mary Joy and Margaret McNamara. I have information that tells me Patrick emigrated to The US in 1848-49 but cannot verify with passenger lists. I cannot find information regarding Mary Joy although I see her name baptismals from 1824-1837 afterwhich I find Margaret whom i found married Patrick in Ballybunion 1838. Is there any way to find Patricks information prior to 1838 such as marriage to Mary Joy or his birth as his emigration date. I believe he was born around 1803
Michael, I would need to have some more information so I will send you separately a Query Form which has targeted questions.
I remember I emailed you about my ancestors and you did get back to me , anyway My 3rd Grt Grandfather John McCrohan born around 1808 in Cahirciveen Kerry , was married to Dorenda O’Connell 1816. they left kerry and went to live in Leominster , Herefordshire , where he became Chief Superintendent of police in midlands , there are 1851, 1861 census records but can’t find anything for them so far in Ireland ? Father and Mother maybe Eugene McCrohan and Margarita Sheehy , do you have any advice where to look next , I use Ancestry.co.uk , my heritage and Irish Genealogy?
I am trying to trace Michael OBrien from Co.Kerry. I am not sure of the townland area. Michael moved to the Uk in the mid 60’s to train and register as a male nurse ad Westpark Hospital in Epsom, Surrey.
I’d imagine he’d be in his 70’s at this stage. I’m not sure if he is still living but would love to her from anyone that knows him or his family.
Bernie, I think this might be the original ‘needle in a haystack’. You would really need a bit more information – probably a townland or parents names. Also there is an extra problem with this search as Michael would appear to be born around 1843. Due to to Data Protection you will not find any births listed online after 1917 (one hundred years ago). Our last census which is available is 1911 and there were 70 men called Michael O’Brien listed in Kerry at that date but that of course is years before this Michael was born.
Hello. I just found your site – very interesting and informative.
I do understand that civil registration of deaths did not begin until after my ancestors left the Abbeydorney / Aulane area.
But, if I had an ancestor who died there between 1850 and 1860, would there be any parish record of the burial, or perhaps an index of cemetery records that someone has compiled?
Specifically, I’m looking for records for Elizabeth Healy (née Shanahan), wife of John Healy. I have found baptism records online for 3 of their 7 children who survived to adulthood – including their son John, my GG grandfather (baptized in Abbeydorney, lived in Aulane).
Thank you very much for any help you can provide. Best regards.
Mike, no death records were kept until after Civil Regisration became compulsory in 1864. No burial records were kept until the first half of the 20th century and what is available is listed on Kerry County Council burial records.
Kay, thanks much for your prompt reply.
I will need to do more research re: burial practices / locations for those of the Catholic faith in Kerry who died in the 1850-60 timeframe; any recommendations?
There is no ‘one size fits all’ here for 1850-1860. You had the Great Famine up to 1852 with people dying and being buried in local graveyards or in ‘pauper’ plots in Workhouse vicinities. Otherwise people were buried in the nearest burial ground, maybe a stone put on the ground overhead to mark the place. If you can find the nearest burial ground to where your ancestor lived well that is normally where/he she is buried but you will not find a written record or monument/memorial there with name on it at that time.
Kay, thank you again for replying so quickly.
We hope to visit Kerry in June, and I’ll check for local to Abbeydorney/Aulane cemeteries before we arrive.