Exploring the History, Culture and Environment of Ireland
The role and practice of genealogy in Irish history and
Wedesday 18 May 2016
Genealogy and local history (micro-history), like all aspects of
history, culture, folklore, heritage and tradition, are created,
nurtured, transformed, contested and transmitted
through space and time.
Oral, written and digital transmission
Genealogy is about
- Oral history and tradition was passed on at regular social
- church, especially weddings and funerals
- Oral genealogies were written down by
- Dubhaltach Mac Fhirbhisigh (Leabhar na nGenealach)
- John O'Hart (Irish
- Nollaig Ó Muraíle
- Burke (Peerage,
Landed Gentry of
- More general folklore is being preserved by
- The tradition includes:
- local and general history
- superstitions, e.g. holy wells
- farming practices
- boat-building techniques
- etc., etc.
- Digital technologies are allowing the tradition to be
researched and interpreted in innovative and more efficient ways.
- The 1901 and 1911 census website is
the most used Irish genealogy website.
- The addition of Civil
Registration indexes of births, marriages and deaths has been
- DNA analysis, like the oral tradition, can go back before
the written record to circumvent brick walls
- statistical analysis of DNA is still primitive
- commercialization may be premature
- Ireland adopted surnames before almost anywhere else.
- Most of them are patronymics.
- Further patronymics and nicknames were required where one
surname became predominant (e.g. Ryan, O'Sullivan, Durkan).
- O'Brien: descendant of Brian Ború (d.1014).
- Y-DNA always follows the male line; surnames and grants of
always follow the male line.
- Mitochondrial DNA follows the female line; surnames almost
always change in every generation in the female line.
- Names in Ireland were spoken and written in three languages
- in Irish by the ordinary people;
- in Latin by the church authorities;
- in English by the civil authorities.
- M', Mc, Mac, O' prefixes indicate Gaelic surnames.
- de and Fitz prefixes indicate Norman surnames.
- Spelling variations in Christian names (first names) and
surnames (last names) are inevitable due to:
- evolution of language
- poor handwriting
- present-day transcribers from foreign cultures
- two continents separated by a common language: Mahoney,
Costello, Doherty, etc.
- the Ellis Island myth
- Middle names did not exist in ordinary Catholic Ireland;
to the U.S. frequently turned a patronymic into a middle name to
- Naming patterns: first two sons and first two daughters
generally named after their grandparents.
- Witnesses at marriages and sponsors/godparents/gossips at
baptisms are generally relatives or neighbours.
- Marriages took place in the bride's parish, and often the
and baptism of the first child also did, often with the maternal
grandmother as baptismal sponsor.
- Older siblings (after confirmation) were often sponsors for
- Infant mortality was high and names were recycled.
- Ages didn't matter until 1909 when the Old
Age Pension was introduced.
- Birthdays didn't matter until Hallmark Cards was founded the
- The dark 18th century
- Penal Laws
- Catholic Emancipation 1829
- Devotional Revolution
- Stories of the Great Famine of c.1845-52 are scarce in
- The Illustrated
London News sketches of Kilrush Poor Law Union
during the famine illustrate every published work on the subject.
- The National Famine Commemoration has
held annually since 2008,
rotating between the provinces.
- It was held in Kilrush Poor Law Union in 2013: facebook
- The logo was the ILN sketch of Elizabeth Henrietta
(1842-1925), later 4th Countess of Clanwilliam, distributing clothing
- The heroic role of her father, Captain Arthur Edward
Kennedy (1810-1883), had been forgotten until he was rediscovered by
local history students in the 1970s.
- The 1740 famine (caused by Arctic winter weather) was
proportionally more severe than the 1845 famine (caused by potato
- Kilcasheen Grave Yard "was a
deserted burying place in the year 1739 ... in the ensuing year ...
famine and pestilence raged through the country and dead human bodies
were to be met with by the roads and ditches".
- Today's Irish are the descendants of survivors of the
- Many victims of the Great Famine have no living
- The victims' surnames are still our surnames.
- The revolutionary period 1913-1923
- Ulster Volunteers and Irish Volunteers founded 1913
- Irish Volunteers split in 1914 over WWI into pro-war
National Volunteers and anti-war so-called Sinn Féin volunteers
- 1916 Easter rising was the high point
- 16 leaders executed by firing squad, including Con
- Public Record Office destroyed in 1922 at the start of
the Civil War
- hostility to government remained and remains
- Ordnance Survey of Ireland
- Historic maps are available online.
- Townlands, parishes, etc.
- Ireland XO
- family farms
- ambition to keep the farm in the family name often realised
for six or more generations
- Thomas Lynch Booking
- inheritance, subdivision, primogeniture and emigration
- Land Acts 1870-1903: tenant purchase
- Land War 1879-82: Fair Rent, Fixity of Tenure and Free Sale
- Land Commission 1881
- turnover - 0.3%/300 years
- smallholdings consolidated
- a stick in a gap in a bog
- attachment to parish and county - Gaelic Athletic
Association (GAA, est. 1884)
- attachment to farm, home, property, ownership, tenancy,
Celtic Tiger, property bubble
- a grave or family burial ground in a nearby cemetery
generally went with a farm
- Kilcasheen later became one of countless cillíní.
- Unbaptised infants, strangers, bodies washed ashore, and
those who committed suicide were denied
Christian burial in consecrated ground.
- Historic Graves is one of many
projects recording old graveyards using new digital technologies.
- Flesh on the bones
- Reading between the lines
- Go sideways in order to go backwards
- Don't believe everything you are told
- Verify the family legends
- marriage prohibitions, forbidden degrees of kindred,
recessive genes, dispensations
- Monsignor Dooley
- An tAthair Peadar
- Catholic v. Anglican
- marriage within social class and religious group
- mixed marriages - ne temere (Easter 1908)
- relatives, relations, friends, Arensberg & Kimball
- degrees of consanguinity
- third cousins
- five-a-kin from col cúigear
- implications of large families and limited travel
- 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 greatgrandparents, ..., 2n ancestors on generation n, 1024 ancestors on generation 10
- Do you know your 1st cousins, 2nd cousins, 3rd cousins, 4th
cousins, 5th cousins?
- Do you know how many 1st cousins, 2nd cousins, 3rd
cousins, 4th cousins, 5th cousins, you have?
- I have documented 40 relatives out to 1st cousins
and their descendants), 668 greatgrandparents + descendants, 2463
GGgrandparents + descendants, 6496 GGGgrandparents + descendants, 8790
GGGGgrandparents + descendants.
- We share autosomal DNA with most of these.
- Autosomal DNA is still being used disproportionately by
and descendants of adoptees in search of their biological relatives.
- We all descend from Brian Ború.
- So we all have royal descents.
- Probability of relationship: I estimate that there is a 95%
chance that any two people of Irish ancestry are 12th cousins or closer.
- The second in line to the English throne has fifth cousins
living in county Clare, where
their common GGGGgrandmother died on 21 January 1862.
- If a slightly questionable family tree is correct, then the
present monarch is my 11th cousin.