A needle in a haystack of needles

In Myles na gCopaleen’s wonderful parody of Gaeltacht autobiography, An Beál Bocht (The Poor Mouth), the narrator, Gaeilgeoir Bonaparte O’Coonassa, describes his first day at school.

The teacher demands, in English: “Phwat is yer nam?” The response, in Irish, begins: “Bonaparte, son of Michelangelo, son of Peter, son of Owen, son of Thomas’s Sarah, grand-daughter of John’s Mary, grand-daughter of James, son of Dermot.” Whereupon the teacher calls him to the front of the class, hits him over the head with an oar and screams: “Yer nam is Jams O’Donnell!”

An oar

When he regains consciousness, Bonaparte discovers that every other child in the class is also officially Jams O’Donnell.

In some parts of Ireland genealogical research involves distinguishing one Jams O’Donnell from another. For Byrnes in Wicklow, Sullivans in south Kerry, Dohertys in Donegal, or Bradys in Cavan, the problem is not finding a needle in a haystack. It’s finding the right needle in a haystack of needles.

A plethora of Bradies in Cavan

When people with ancestors like Jams O’Donnell ask a genealogist for advice, we rarely do the honest thing and tell them to find a new hobby. Instead, they’ll hear a long description of the process of reconstructing and comparing families, getting the right children in the right birth order, painstakingly accumulating circumstantial evidence that just might, eventually, with luck, identify the right people.

I was recently hoist with my own petard, trying to find one particular Ryan family in Caher parish in south Tipperary with only the children’s names as a guide: John, Michael, Mary, Margaret, James and Catherine, God help me.  I identified all 53 Ryan families in the parish baptising a child with at least one of these names between 1828 and 1838, then retrieved all other children baptised outside those years to the same couple and then reconstructed all the families. It was a long and painful process. And there was not a trace of the family I wanted. Serves me right.

I had myself a bawl

I’ve often been publicly sceptical about some of the claims of genetic genealogy. “Ethnicity estimates”, in particular, seem to me about as scientific as the old apartheid test that marked a child as “nie blanke”. Does a pencil fall through their (straight European) hair or catch in their (kinky non-European) hair? University College London’s Department of Bio-sciences calls this stuff “Genetic Astrology“.

So I settled down to watch the BBC’s “DNA Family Secrets” with beady eye and curled lip at the ready. And ended up in floods of tears.

There’s nothing innovative about the format or the production: each show takes three individuals or families who want to use DNA testing to answer a particular question, usually to clarify a missing family member. The questions are teased out, the telegenic scientist tells them how hard it’s going to be, they come back to find out the results and have their big reveal. Very little technical detail is included, but occasional glimpses do emerge of the vast amount of research done.

For example, one Liverpool man with no idea of his father’s identity discovers he’s alive, in Ireland, with a fleet of children all delighted to discover the link.

The telegenic scientist, Dr. Turi King

But confirming that link needed a huge amount of work: first identifying a fourth cousin in the US via DNA; then locating the common ancestral family in nineteenth-century Ireland through documentary research; then working forward to uncover a range of possible living descendants/relatives; then persuading some of them to take their own DNA tests. The research work probably took more than a year, but only the end results are shown, taking about five minutes airtime. The BBC have deep pockets, and they use them well.

With the mystery solved and the new family revealed, though, the effect is extraordinary, and wonderfully touching. On every table between presenter and individual sits a large and necessary box of tissues. Deep pockets, used well.

Two general points in the end, I think.

First, DNA research can be astonishingly powerful. With work and care, it can fill in seemingly impossible gaps in family knowledge.  But the same power can also throw up unexpected (non-televised) results that might easily damage existing families. So use with caution.

And second, the emotional impact of seeing fractured families heal is enormous, and makes terrific TV. Either that or I’m a big crybaby.

Online estate maps

A few weeks back, someone (Hi Donna) contacted me to tell me about some wonderful estate maps they’d found online. Here they are, and if your ancestors were from Kildrumsherdan in Cavan, congratulations.

And then I started thinking about where online the records are. The National Library of Ireland web catalogue has always been more than just an online finding aid for NLI holdings. It includes almost 70,000 historic Irish photographs, lots of weird and wonderful eye-candy and of course my pets, the Betham prerogative will abstracts.

Weird and wonderful eye-candy

But I’d always thought of the digital parts of the catalogue as fautes-de-mieux, visually interesting bits and pieces shoehorned online via the catalogue for want of a better alternative. No no no.

It’s now  a major route for NLI digitisation, with a huge selection of manuscripts and images, as well as a  plethora of criteria to play with. You can slice and dice by era, topic, format, author, region … And suddenly  it’s 5 am.

Still weird, less wonderful

The real question, at least for genealogists,  is how items are chosen for digitisation (and why more estate rent rolls and tenants’ lists aren’t there). NLI’s need to  play its part in historic commemorations is one clear criterion. For the decade of the revolution that created the Irish state, there is a magnificent online manuscript collection,  a trove of letters, trial records, posters, handbills, even an envelope containing “One of the bullets that killed one of the leaders in the Sinn Fein Rebellion, Ireland 1916”.

The envelope, and the bullet

As far as I can make out (by educated guesswork), the main other criterion for digitisation and inclusion in the catalogue is that an item is in need of conservation. This is how the Betham collection got online, and why only the half that needed conservation is there.

Maps are the single class of manuscript most liable to damage by handling, thus earmarked for conserving, thus finding their way online. So a digital search for “estate” in the catalogue returns almost 60% maps.  And what maps.  Tenants with acreages, boundaries, records of disputes, rents due … Add a county name to the search and see what pops up. There are wonderful records here, for periods when nothing else survives.

And some oddities:

Near this lies buried one of the Kings of Leinster who was killed by the son of Bryan Boru King of Munster (Parish of Castletownarra).

It’s hard to argue that the most vulnerable manuscripts shouldn’t be first in the queue for digitising. But the few rentals that have made it online (by being bound with maps) give a tantalising glimpse of what could be. What will be.

A hands-on video of me playing with the catalogue and happy as a pig in the proverbial is here.



The Bould Thady Quill

My father’s party piece used to be a lusty tongue-in-cheek rendition of “The Bould Thady Quill”. For those who don’t know it, the song is a wonderful mock-heroic come-all-ye that depicts the ultimate Cork superhero:

” For rambling, for roving, for football or courtin’
For drinking black porter as fast as you’d fill
In all your days rovin’ you’d find none so jovial
As the Muskerry sportsman the bould Thady Quill”

I went off to check the lyrics recently (my own version is rusty, not lusty) and immediately found myself down several rabbit holes. First, Wikipedia told me that he was a real person, a landless farm labourer employed by a local Muskerry farmer, Johnny Tom Gleeson, who was also a balladeer, and who paid for Thady’s services with the song instead of his wages, “which pleased Thady no end”.  The picture painted is of a bashful man – “he died a bachelor” – tickled pink to be painted in a ballad as a Corkonian Popeye.

A Corkonian Popeye

And there he was in the 1901 census, a live-in labourer in an O’Sullivan household.  But not in the 1911. Hmmm. Why not? A question that set a hundred threads a-pulling.

An image-search turned up a picture of his gravestone.  It revealed his given name as Timothy, gave an address and a date of death. Three fine threads there. With the address, I got his baptism in Aghinagh parish in 1860, to parents Patrick Quill and Catherine Kelliher in Carrigiulla townland.



A check of 1932 death records in Macroom district uncovered a Timothy the right age and occupation:

But he was a widower. Maybe the real Thady wasn’t so bashful after all.  Away with me to the marriage records. There, in 1906, is the marriage of a Timothy Quill to a Julia McCarthy.

His father is Patrick, his occupation is correct and his address is Kilmartin, one of the areas of Cork omitted from the online 1911. Aha! says I.

On to the newspapers, to flesh things out. The Southern Star of 1932 has a piece:

This was written on November 5, a few days after the burial. But my Timothy’s death was recorded in January 1932. Not possible. Back to the death records. And there, registered in January 1933, and so listed in the index under 1933, is the real bould Thady:

A bachelor after all. But maybe not the retiring flower Wikipedia implies. The Dictionary of Irish Biography has him requesting the ballad be written, not being fobbed off with it. And his prison records suggest someone in no need of assertiveness training:

Cork prison 1884
Cork prison 1884 No. 2
Cork prison 1903

The moral of the story? It’s almost impossible not to construct stories that connect partial records. Beware of them.




2.9 cheers for IrishGenealogy.ie

As anyone with an interest in Irish genealogy will know, IrishGenealogy.ie is the greatest thing since sliced bread. After decades playing Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Donkey with the printed General Register Office indexes of births, marriages and deaths, the online release of the entire collection of historic GRO records was (and is) an extraordinary liberation.

Are you the right Patrick Murphy?

But like every other wonderful thing in the universe, it’s not perfect. Its quirks are legion and not always obvious. So let me list the most bothersome.

Many stem from a 1980s digitisation project that set out to give GRO staff easier access to records needed for public administration identity proof. It only went back to 1899, because its focus was on the living. If you use the post-1899 indexes in the GRO search room, you’re handling dot-matrix printouts from that project. These post-1899 birth indexes included mothers’ maiden names, very handy for reconstructing families. When IrishGenealogy began to make the indexes available online, they very sensibly used these ones. Hurray!

Except … to search using the mother’s name, you have to use the site’s “More search options” feature. Which gives no indication that if you enter a mother’s name for a birth before 1899, you’ll find no births at all.  See Kelly with mother’s name Walsh 1864-1880. Be warned.

Another problem from these post-1899 indexes is their treatment of prefixes, especially those with apostrophes, a recurring nuisance for early coding languages. So O’Brien became “OBrien”, O’Reilly became “OReilly” and so on.  IrishGenealogy tried to make allowances by having them as variants of each other, but that hasn’t quite worked. Total BMDs for O’Brien 1900-1921 are 122,200 but there are  124,565 for OBrien and for Brien 123,148. Small differences, but not if they include your ancestors. The same problem occurs with the prefixes Mc, Mac and M’. So be very wary searching for any O or Mc surnames (or any surnames that have O or Mc variants) after 1899.

A related oddity is the way the site uses surname variants in the “More search options” area. Search for a Grenham/Duignan marriage here and you’ll find precisely one match. But try Duignan/Grenham and you’ll get two. The reason is that the site searches surname variants for the first surname entered, but not for the second.  The moral: Always search for marriages with surnames both ways. Something similar happens with the mother’s surname search after 1899. Only variants of the birth name are searched, with no variants of the mother’s.

But most peculiar of all is not a bug but a feature. By default, the site searches all name fields for every surname you enter. I think this is intended to be helpful, by spreading the search as wide as possible. But the effect can be very strange. Search for a man with surname Loughlin marrying a Gertrude John and you get 1526 results, including every Loughlin (and variant) marrying a man with first name John, every John Loughlin (and variant), every Gertrude McLoughlin and, wonderfully, in an early example of New Age sologamy, John McLaughlin marrying John McLaughlin in Belfast in 1913.

This is really only a problem with marriages and with births after 1899, where there multiple surnames in each index record. But it can be bewildering. And there’s no way to turn it off.

For a hands-on video demonstrating all this, see https://youtu.be/1mAzghwXI1I



An antidote to Paddywhackery

Some years ago, I was approached by a family in the US to do research on ancestors of theirs who had left Ireland in the 1850s. In the course of finding out what they already knew, it emerged that this research was only the latest stage in a multi-generational quest that started immediately after emigration.

Like so many, the emigrant ancestors were fleeing the aftermath of the Famine and were forced into the cheapest and most desperate route. They traveled to Liverpool as deck passengers on a cattle transport from Cove, with all the filth and misery that entailed, in order to get access to a cheap ticket to New York. In Liverpool, they spent weeks, husband, wife and four children, living in the unimaginably overcrowded squalor of the city’s Irish ghetto as they waited for their passage. Then, when they were finally on the quayside and about to embark, they discovered that the youngest child,  four-year-old John, was missing. Despite frantic searches he could not be found, and they were faced with the choice of staying, with the loss of their passage-money and the knowledge of what awaited them in Liverpool, or leaving without the child. They left.

Embarking from Liverpool

Immediately after arriving in the US, the mother began to write to Liverpool police stations, orphanages, charities, anyone who could conceivably have come into contact with her child, and continued to write for the rest of her life. She never discovered what happened to him. Her other children had to promise to continue the search after her death, and then her children’s children and then their children in turn. Over a century and a half, the agony of that loss became embedded in the family’s story of itself, generation after generation, each one taking up and pursuing the lost child again.

Hundreds of thousands of stories like this are what lie behind Irish-America. When we’re tempted to jeer at the Paddywhackery of St. Patrick’s Day, we should think of them.

A fuller account of the family and their journey is at https://youtu.be/KQu9DrUsl4M

Why you can’t mass produce genealogical research

The main reason, of course, is that our ancestors are too cursedly various to be mass-researched.  So we’re doomed/blessed by our raw material to remain a cottage industry.

But there are other reasons as well. Here’s a cautionary tale. A few years back, an Irish professional genealogical research outfit (Who Shall Remain Nameless) wanted to expand their market by carrying out research on their customer base. This was before the plague of online customer-satisfaction surveys.

To gauge the level of satisfaction with their services, and come up with ways of improving them, they commissioned an analysis of recent US customers. The survey was to be carried out by a third party, without the customers knowing who had commissioned it. The first stage of the process was the simple question “Have you ever paid for someone to research your ancestors?” Without exception, every single respondent, all of whom, remember, were recent clients of this research group, answered “No.” The survey had to be abandoned.

Both the survey company and the Irish researchers were perplexed. But this was not large-scale forgetfulness or dishonesty. The reason for the outcome was, I think, a basic mismatch between the perceptions of the professional researchers and their customers. In the researchers’ minds, they were providing a professional service researching people’s ancestors, analogous to an accountant doing someone’s accounts or an architect designing someone’s home. The customers, on the other hand, thought of themselves as researching their own ancestors, with help purchased only whenever necessary. Nobody was doing it for them.

In the context of Irish officialdom’s recently-acquired enthusiasm for genealogy (with one eye on the immense economic potential for the country of those with Irish ancestry), it is important to keep this in mind. God knows the growing official support for Irish genealogy in all its guises is more than welcome. But people research their own ancestors. All professionals (or tourism bodies, or repositories, or research websites) can do is help them.

Or at least not get in the way.

How to look a gift-horse in the mouth

After the announcement last week of “Plans to digitise historic Land Commission records”, a few people contacted me asking if I was going to blog about it. I resisted for a whole 48 hours.

First a little background. The Irish Land Commission was founded in 1881, initially to establish fair rents and then to subsidise tenants to buy out their holdings on the large estates that made up most of rural Ireland. In the thirty-five years before 1920, it oversaw the transfer of more than 13,500,000 acres. In the Free State it was reconstituted in 1923 and went on to acquire and distribute an additional 800,000 acres before it ceased acquiring land in 1983. To give some idea of the sheer scale of the work, that constitutes almost 70% of the entire area of the island of Ireland. In Northern Ireland the Commission ceased new operations in 1925 and was abolished as part of the local government reforms of 1935.

In the course of establishing title to the estates it was acquiring, the Commission collected an extraordinary cornucopia of material – wills, marriage settlements, title deeds, rentals, maps, pedigrees and more, often detailing families, their holdings and their tenants back to the seventeenth century. More detail here. And rant here.

In Northern Ireland its records are all sensibly conserved, archived and publicly available in PRONI.  See their information leaflet.

And in the South?  Nothing. The entire collection, now the property of the Dept of Agriculture, sits in a warehouse in Portlaoise under lock and key, harder to get at than the vaults of Fort Knox.

If you read through the longer part of the announcement, which promises only to digitise the internal finding aids,you’re given the impression that the main obstacle to access is the lack of digitised versions of the 12 million records. Nonsense. The problem never was the lack of digital copies (wonderful though they would be). The problem was and is the lack of research access of any description, physical, spiritual, or digital.

I suspect what happened is that the Dept of Agriculture custodians of the records found their own research tools disintegrating, so decided to get them digitised. As part of the trade-off for funding they let the Minister have some nice PR attention by promising to put the finding aids online. Perhaps they also thought some movement on that front might deflect the pressure to allow research access. Boy, are they wrong on that one. If researchers can see precisely what it is they’re not being allowed to get at, a great howl of frustrated desire will arise across the land. At least I hope so.

But  if you listen carefully to the video of the very decent official in charge, he says (at around 1’10”) – “We’re hoping to create a searchable database, ultimately to be able to put it online”.  “Ultimately” being a technical civil-service term for “Never”.

Arses, Elbows and FOMARR

One of the easiest and most dreaded research mistakes is to miss a record you didn’t know about. This isn’t helped by some sites discouraging inmates from peeking over their garden wall (I’m looking at you, Ancestry). But there are now multiple online transcripts of many record-sets, done at different times and (sometimes) using different copies. Each has its own flaws and holes and if you don’t keep an eye out, you can easily fall down the gap. I know. I’ve done it.

The three major collections of online Catholic register transcripts are the local heritage centres’ pricey transcripts at Rootsireland, Ancestry and FindMyPast’s  transcripts of the National Library of Ireland microfilms, free to view after registration, and an entirely separate collection on Ancestry only, of which more below.

Driven as ever by Fear of Missing a Relevant Record (henceforth “FOMARR”), years ago I started listing discrepancies between Rootsireland and the NLI. The table at the bottom of this post tries to give an overview of all the differences. Doubtless there are errors and omissions. Please let me know.

The third collection is not possible to include, because it’s just a pile of (wonderfully clear) images of (bits of) 76 Catholic parish registers, some coming right up into the 20th century.  A full list is here. The images really are exceptional – compare the first page of Bantry register on NLI and this Ancestry collection:

Ancestry collection 6068










But Ancestry just piles ’em high and lets researchers sort ’em out.  It’s hard not to conclude that they don’t know their arse from their elbow. The problem is that Ancestry has so many arses and so many elbows.

More in the YouTube video

Catholic Registers with discrepant transcripts

County Parish Comment
ANTRIM Ahoghill Rootsireland lists baptisms from 1844 but they actually start in 1864. Elsewhere baptisms are recorded from 1833.
Ballymoney Rootsireland has eight years of marriages not found elsewhere.
ARMAGH Ballymacnab Rootsireland has 25 years of early baptisms missed by NLI
Derrynoose Rootsireland has 17 years of early baptisms missed by NLI
CAVAN Moybologue The earliest NLI baptismal register is 40 years before the Rootsireland transcript
CORK Aghada Rootsireland has an 18th-century baptismal register missed by NLI
Glounthane The local parish has records almost 50 years earlier than NLI
Newmarket NLI has 13 years of early baptisms missing from Rootsireland
Shandrum Rootsireland has two 18th-century registers missed by NLI
Cork city: St. Mary’s The only transcripts are by Ancestry and FindMyPast from NLI microfilm
DONEGAL Kilbarron NLI has 5 years of early baptisms missed by the LDS and Rootsireland
DUBLIN Artane, Coolock, Clontarf, Santry No NLI microfilm. Rootsireland from 1777
Ballybrack No NLI microfilm. Rootsireland baptisms from 1841
Bohernabreena No NLI microfilm. IrishGenealogy baptisms from 1868
Dublin city: St. Michael and John’s Earlier baptism register on IrishGenealogy
Naul No NLI microfilm. Rootsireland records from 1832
Sandyford Earlier baptismal register on IrishGenealogy
GALWAY Cappataggle Rootsireland has an 18th-century baptismal register missed by NLI
St. Nicholas (Galway city) NLI has 17th and 18th-century fragments missed by Roostireland
Killascobe Rootsireland  (and the LDS) have a very early fragmentary register missed by NLI
Loughrea Rootsireland has an early baptismal register missed by NLI
Moycullen NLI has 4 early baptismal and marriage registers missed by Rootsireland
Rahoon Rootsireland has an early baptismal register missed by NLI
KERRY Killorglin No NLI microfilm. Transcribed from 1798 on IrishGenealogy.
Dingle Baptisms 1828-1837 missing from IrishGenealogy, covered by NLI
Moyvane 25 years of early baptism and marriage records on IrishGenealogy, missing from NLI
Sneem Early baptism and marriage records on IrishGenealogy, missing from NLI
KILDARE Athy Rootsireland has an 18th-century baptismal register missed by NLI
Ballymore Eustace NLI has an earlier baptismal register
Clane (Rathcoffey) NLI has several earlier registers than Rootsireland
Kill Several early registers on Rootsireland (and Ancestry) not covered by NLI
KILKENNY Ballycallan Earlier baptismal and marriage registers on Rootsireland
Graignamanagh Earlier baptismal register on Rootsireland
Kilkenny city: St. John’s Earlier baptismal and marriage registers on Rootsireland
Kilmacow Earlier baptismal register on Rootsireland
Mullinavat Earlier baptismal register on Rootsireland
Galmoy Earlier baptismal register on NLI
LAOIS (QUEEN’S) Mayo and Doonane Earlier baptismal and marriage registers on Rootsireland
LEITRIM Bornacoola Earlier baptismal register on Rootsireland
Kiltoghart Rootsireland include records of Kiltoghart-Murhan missing from NLI
Oughteragh Earlier baptismal register on Rootsireland
LIMERICK Bruff, Grange and Gilnogra Rootsireland has an 18th-century baptismal register missed by NLI
Feenagh Earlier baptismal register on Rootsireland
Limerick city: St. Patrick’s Earlier baptismal and marriage registers on Rootsireland
Monagea Earlier baptismal register on Rootsireland
LONDONDERRY Ballinascreen (Draperstown) NLI has 2 early baptism and marriage registers missed by PRONI and Rootsireland
Tamlaghtard Rootsireland has an early baptismal register missed by NLI
LOUTH Dunleer Much earlier baptismal registers on Rootsireland
Togher Rootsireland includes baptisms and marriages 1829-1868 missing from NLI
MAYO Backs Several early registers on Rootsireland (and Ancestry) not covered by NLI
Ballycastle Earlier baptismal register on Rootsireland
Burrishoole Earlier baptismal register on Rootsireland
Crossboyne and Taugheen Earlier baptismal and marriage registers on Rootsireland
Kilbeagh Earlier baptismal register on Rootsireland
Kilcommon Erris No NLI microfilm. Transcribed from 1860 on Rootsireland
Kilvine No NLI microfilm. Transcribed from 1870 on Rootsireland
Tourmakeady Earlier baptismal and marriage registers on Rootsireland
MEATH Donymore (Curraha) Earlier baptismal register on NLI
Kildalkey No NLI microfilm. Transcribed from 1782 on Rootsireland
MONAGHAN Donaghmoyne Earlier baptismal and marriage registers on Rootsireland
Killanny Earlier baptismal register on NLI
OFFALY Aghancon Much earlier baptismal and marriage registers on Rootsireland
Lusmagh Earlier baptismal fragment on NLI
Tullamore Earlier baptismal fragment on NLI
ROSCOMMON Oran No NLI microfilm. Rootsireland from 1865
Roscommon and Kilteevan Earlier baptismal register on Rootsireland
SLIGO Castleconnor Earlier baptismal and marriage registers on Rootsireland
Geevagh Earlier baptismal register on Rootsireland
Sligo: St. John’s Earlier baptismal, marriage and burial registers on Rootsireland
TYRONE Dungannon Rootsireland has an early baptismal register missed by NLI
WATERFORD Aglish Earlier baptismal register on Rootsireland
Ardmore Earlier baptismal register on Rootsireland
Clonmel: Ss Peter and Paul NLI has earlier marriage registers
Killea Earlier baptismal register on Rootsireland
Modeligo Earlier baptismal and marriage registers on Rootsireland
Stradbally Earlier baptismal register on Rootsireland
Waterford city: Ballybricken Earlier marriage register on Rootsireland
Waterford city: St. John’s Earlier baptismal and marriage registers on NLI
Waterford city: St. Patrick’s and St. Olaf’s Earlier baptismal and marriage registers on Rootsireland
WESTMEATH Nougheval No NLI microfilm. Rootsireland from 1857
WICKLOW Arklow Earlier baptismal fragment on NLI
Blessington Earlier baptismal and marriage registers at Rootsireland
Roundwood Earlier baptismal register on Rootsireland. Earlier marriage register on NLI

Quick and dirty are my middle names

Anyone who’s had to deal with my coding knows, the top priority is to get the damn software to do something, not to code it properly or securely or intelligibly (sorry Eoin). As Dr Johnson said about a dog walking on its hind legs, the wonder is not that it’s done well, but that it’s done at all.

Not wonderful, just creepy

As with software, so with research. I detest traveling hopefully. Just get me there as fast as possible. Here are a few of my FamilySearch and IrishGenealogy quick and dirty shortcuts.

No two transcripts are identical and there are some wonderfully  fruitful differences are between IrishGenealogy and FamilySearch.  Yes, IrishGenealogy has a name index by Registration District, but try finding John son of John Murphy and Mary Ford, born in Co. Cork 1864-1874. There are almost 1000 John Murphys listed in the 14 Cork Districts and the only way to find the one with Mary Ford as mother is to go through each of them one by one. No no no, that way lies madness and death. FamilySearch has a (partial, flawed) transcript of the same birth registers from 1864 to the second quarter of 1881, which, Hallelujah, you can search using the mother’s maiden name. And there he is, in Blarney in Cork city registration district, allowing you to zero in on the IrishGenealogy original and get all the luverly luverly detail omitted in the LDS transcript.

FamilySearch also has transcribed copies of the original printed birth, marriage and death indexes. So they have duplicates of what’s on IrishGenealogy? Not at all. The IrishGenealogy indexes leave out all middle names. If you’re searching for a John Francis Murphy born 1890-1900 in Co. Cork, IrishGenealogy gives you zero results, leaving you to wade through another endless morass of John Murphys. FamilySearch gives you ten.

Many John Murphys

My favourite hack is between death indexes and full death records. Because the original gives age at death, on FamilySearch, it’s possible to specify both a birth range and death range to zero in on possible matches. So if you’re looking for a John Murphy who was born between 1890 and 1900 and died in Carlow between 1948 and 1958, IG gives you 17 to grind through, FS gives you three. Quick and dirty.

I’ve always liked the definition of elegance as “economy of effort”, which I take to mean laziness.  I’m just sooo elegant.

Sooo elegant