My blog on Kerry Births and Marriage Records is the blog most clicked on over the years. One of the biggest frustrations that my readers report is the ‘brick wall’ one hits when you just cannot find any details of a baptism or marriage of your ancestor. He/she just appears to not exist at all. We can definitely assume that every Catholic born in Kerry in the 19th century was baptised and if Church of Ireland, was christened. This also applies to marriages. They may not have been registered with the civil authorities (post 1864 for Catholics and 1845 for Church of Ireland) but they were definitely baptised or christened so a record should exist.
I had listed on this Kerry Births and Marriage Records blog, when I compiled it a couple of years ago, the ‘missing’ records that I was aware of until that time. Since then, in my own research I have come across some more [listed below].
Also from my own research work over the years, I am convinced that in all parishes (of Kerry*) there are gaps and mis-transcription from the original Latin record to Irish Genealogy This should not be a surprise to any of us. Human errors and mistakes would be normal It was not an easy task for the transcribers to copy accurately from old, in many cases, faded records written originally in Latin. So your individual record that you cannot find may be just the one that slipped off the radar, may have been illegible or the incorrect details transcribed. A forename incorrectly spelled, a date recorded inaccurately, sponsors names used instead of parents – it is possible to find all of these.
So what to do if you cannot find the baptism/marriage of your Kerry ancestor. The first thing to do is to see if the event has been recorded on microfilm records. Start with the free NLI site. Now you will understand the difficulties that the transcribers found. As there is not an index facility, you will need to know approximately what year you are looking for and whether it is a baptism or marriage and then get yourself a cup of tea or coffee and be prepared to to put some time in. Alternatively you can do the same on the paid site FindMyPast.ie (Ireland Roman Catholic Parish or Marriage) where there is an index option allowing you to insert the details for your search.
Still a brick wall? Well now, is the time to question the details you have. Are they correct? Could you have the year/date wrong? Could there be another spelling for the forename or surname? Have you tried variants? If you think there are records missing from an individual parish, you can contact me to check it out for you.
2019 ‘Missing’ Church records:
- Abbeydorney 1859-1880
- Knocknagoshel 1881-1887
- Listowel 1834-1835, 1838-1840
- Milltown 1861-1887
- Moyvane 1830-1855
* Baptisms and Marriages in Kerry and parts of Cork (Diocese of Cork & Ross) and Dublin are recorded on Irish Genealogy. For baptisms and marriages outside these counties, the place to look is on RootsIreland. The majority of parishes in all counties of Ireland are included in the NLI microfilm site,
I don’t believe the errors are due to mostly human error. I have come across at least full parish with forenames surnames completely haywire and the scanner seems to be the problem
there. Try this link Shortened link for messed up marriages on Irishgenealogy.ie https://bit.ly/2SD2tU0
Joe, you are correct – Killorglin and earlier Beaufort/Tuogh are particularly bad. That marriage on 18 January 1850 (on your Shortened link) actually doesn’t appear at all on the original parish register for Beaufort. There are only marriages in February and then July 1850 etc.
When an entry is difficult to decipher, for example baptisms following a marriage, an ability to exclude dates which cannot be possible, or knowledge of the complete family structure from other baptism entries, a field for comments or corrections can narrow down the options to derive the most likely information, which can improve accuracy, or exclude obviously wrong interpretations.
Some websites seem not to allow soundex options for names to show in searches.
Kay, another column that is spot on. The RC church records for the Ballylongford parish in North Kerry have many gaps. Additionally, every page that has been preserved has many records, especially at the top and bottom of the page, that are unreadable. Be that as it may, I am still slogging my way, page by page, through the records. It is what you have to do on occasion.
Transcription errors, especially in regard to translations of Latin entries. Even when the initial records were written very clearly, there is a chance that the transcriber read the information incorrectly and then entered it in incorrectly in the text portion of the record that is the basis of the indexes. I ran into that yesterday while searching for my Breen ancestors in the parish of Killeentierna, County Kerry. The original parish baptismal record page was clearly written but the transcription contained one major flaw, the father’s surname is listed as the same as the mother’s surname. I think that this transcription error is repeated with every record on this page and possibly throughout this parish’s baptismal record. I’ll try to attach a link below but my record is as follows: Baptism 14 Dec 1834, Name: Jeremiah Breen, Domicile: Ardcrone, Parents: Dennis & Kate Casey, Sponsors: John Leahy Kate Moriarty. The transcription lists the parents’ names as Dennis Casey and Kate Casey. Of course, the real name of the father was Dennis Breen. It appears that it was the convention of the parish priest to not include the father’s surname in the limited space that was provided in the registry. Point is, I did get to this record by way of the child’s name but would not have gotten to the same page using the father’s name while searching on findmypast.ie. https://search.findmypast.com/record?id=IRE%2FPRS%2FMICROFILM04272-02%2F0041&parentid=IRE%2FPRS%2FBAP%2F3999849
For those searching through various genealogical records in the United States, many of Kay’s points also apply. There are many, many, many gaps in the records. Some of the gaps are due to fire, flood and other typical calamities. Other records were destroyed on purpose. As was the case in Ireland, we lost many records during our Civil War. Both Union and Confederate Armies were guilty of burning down court houses and post offices throughout various states. Most of my U.S. “Brick Walls” were erected as a result of our Civil War.
For those searching for the Constitutionally mandated U.S. Federal Census for 1890, you are pretty much out of luck. A fire in Washington, D.C. burned about a third of the census returns. Our census is the basis for re-apportioning our House of Delegates. We currently have 435 members of our Congress that are assigned to the various states based on the population gauged on the Federal Census taken once every ten years. The 2020 Federal Census will cause some states to gain further members of Congress and consequently, some states will lose members of Congress. The loss of one third of the 1890 Federal Census was a major Constitutional crisis. One would hope that Congress would vote to allocate the funds for a “do-over” but that was not to be the case. In their infinite wisdom, Congress voted to destroy the other two-thirds of the 1890 Federal Census records.
Last point on U.S. records, especially in regard to transcribing the Federal Censuses. During our Great Depression, job programs were created to put people to work under such programs as the WPA (Work Progress Administration) to build national parks, highways, and other infrastructure projects. During this same time period, the Census Bureau undertook a project to microfilm 34 million records from the 1900 Federal Census (other years followed). They also decided on a means of indexing these same records using a new and somewhat controversial system…SOUNDEX. Given the huge range of ethnic names in the American melting pot, it was quite an undertaking. It involved a substantial number of persons who were both newly hired and newly trained. In the end, it did create jobs, put money in circulation, food on the table and gave librarians, historians and genealogists a new tool to store and retrieve valuable records.
J.P., thank you for this. You have really valuable hints and help here. I am particularly interested myself in Killeentierna as I am currently researching for a client there. Also would it be ok with you if I published your entire piece on genealogical records in the United States? I would like to give it a full blog and would credit it as yours of course. I think it would be very helpful to a lot of my readers.
Kay – thanks a million for this. It has inspired me to look at my two families, Galivan/Galvin/etc, and O’Leary with renewed vigor in the new year.
Speaking of that, Happy New Year!
Douglas…let’s talk. I am also researching the Kerry O’Leary/Learys and would love to compare notes.
Kay, a very interesting piece, as usual. To add to the confusion caused by transcription, your readers should note that many existing RC church records are themselves transcriptions. The custom in Catholic parishes until the 1850s was that baptisms (and some marriages) took place in the home. The priest would travel the parish on horse-back and take note of the details of baptisms performed in a notebook (or perhaps just commit them to memory) and transcribe the information into the register when back at the parish church. This can be seen very clearly in some parish registers where a series of records by one priest is followed by another series of records by another priest. In some cases these records by different priests are out of date sequence. It was not until after the Synod of Thurles in 1850 that church baptism became mandatory. The practicalities of Catholic records compilation are described in ‘Irish Church Records’ (www.ancestornetwork.ie/product/irish-church-records/) for those interested. As further evidence of the existence of these notebooks, in recent research in the Franciscan Library in Dublin, I found a priest’s notebook with records for 5 years (1807-11) of baptisms and marriages in Rathangan parish in Wexford. None of the 230 baptisms and 46 marriages recorded found their way into the main register for some reason. The notebook also contains records of anointings, which are almost never (to my knowledge) recorded in registers. We at Ancestor Network are transcribing these and will publish them in our blog series (www.ancestornetwork.ie/blog-standard/) in due course.
Jim, thank you for this invaluable information. With your approval I will re-publish as a separate blog. I have found numerous instances in Kerry records also of ‘new’ pages which do not appear to be the original records on registers.nli.ie and then transcribed to IrishGenealogy.ie I can include images of examples.
I am relieved to read this. I recently requested my grandmother’s birth certificate and her birth day and year do not match her death record however the person helping me in Ireland felt based on the exact location and her parents,brothers and sisters, it indeed was her. It will be interesting when I apply for my Irish citizenship if this will become a problem. My grandmother, Margaret Duggan was from what is known as ” The City” near Rathmore/Shrone. She came to Boston at a young age and met my grandfather, Michael Raftery and settled in his home town of Brookline, Massachusetts. Her cousin Timothy Scannel was also from Ireland and was the person who donated the funds to build the church in Shrone. I visited this area an it is lovely. I plan to return to Ireland in June. I love your country and the people are really kind.
Maye, best of luck with your application for Irish citizenship. I don’t think you should worry about an incorrect date on the death certificate. Very few Irish people knew their exact year/date of birth in the 19th century so you can be certain that the person (usually a relative) who supplied the age of the deceased didn’t know it either!
For over 30 years I’ve been doing research in Ireland. Re: church records. I found that the Killorglin Catholic Church is now on line; however, the Glenbeigh is not. This is sad as my husband & I had access to the Glenbeigh records book one time back in 1985. Found quite of few of family baptismal certificates; however, the old books were being destroyed by mice eating the pages. When I heard that college students were spending months putting church info in a file on line, I was hoping that the Glenbeigh Church, I believe it’s St. Stephans, would be included. Your column is certainly giving some good clues as to how to get info. Thank you
Jan, thank you for your comments. In fact Glenbeigh/Glencar are on http://www.irishgeneology.ie now. You are absolutely correct when you mention the Church records and the mice! I had a similar experience there three or four years ago. The Church registers were kept in a cardboard box on the floor of the presbytery and sure enough they were all ‘frittered’ around the edges and both mice and damp had gotten to them. I was horrified. When I questioned the storage method I was told by the then priest that they were in that condition on his arrival and that they were hoping to get a safe to store them in. Lets hope that happened.
Thank you so much for this site, your blog and all the valuable information you provide. My uncle is 90 and has recently been talking about his Irish roots. I am trying to give him that gift of knowledge- he is battling cancer. His father immigrated to the US when he was 20 and sadly, never spoke about his family. My search has been successful on irishgeneology.com with the information I did have. However, I have already hit that frustrating “brick wall”. His grandfather Patrick Lynch birth date would be around 1830-1840- Listowel/Kilmeany/Moyvane. Thanks to you, I now know the records are missing. I was able to locate all 8 of Patrick’ s children: baptism records and births. His father (based on Patricks marriage certificate was William Lynch) b. around 1809. I have not been able to locate him either. On my way into either the NLI or Findmypast sites with a pot or two of coffee. Appreciate your work greatly and I’m looking forward to receiving your book that I just ordered today. Kind regards.
Diane, you are going about it the correct way anyhow so I hope that you have some success. But it can be very frustrating with some records just ‘missing’ from parishes – in some cases without any explanation. If you go into http://www.registers.nli.ie to Moyvane you will see what IS available and what is not.