Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Grand-aunt Ellen

NLI Catholic Parish Registers Home Page
Click any image for a larger version

Full marks to The National Library of Ireland (NLI) for digitising their microfilm collection of Roman Catholic parish records. This will make a priceless resource available to a wider audience and all in the comfort of their own homes. And the service is still for free.

I would also like to compliment NLI on an earlier stand they took, in the face of possible hellfire and legal challenge, to release the records of those dioceses where the bishops, and one in particular, sought to limit or deny access to the filmed version of their records. I have recorded my own adventures in this saga elsewhere.

A tiny word of warning: while virtually all the parishes in the country appear on film there are a few exceptions. I don't know the reason for these. Perhaps the PP had a liver on the day. Don't despair, though, the chances are you can approach the parish office directly and you never know, it might turn out to be a well worthwhile visit. Mine did.

Exploring Murroe parish in East Limerick

Now that we have access to the digitised versions, don't think it will be all plain sailing. The clergy of the day were not uniform in the way they kept their records. In some churches, such as the pro-cathedral in Dublin, the information was entered into pre-printed templates in a ledger, and this is relatively easy to navigate. In other cases the registers are more like a child's scrawls in a copybook and it needs a very intensive effort to decode them. You may need to keep the aspirin or the panadol handy, particularly if you are searching for entries where you don't know the precise dates you're looking for.

Where you do know the date, the NLI have incorporated a very useful slider to zone in on it and they have also indicated, in a side box, the range of dates covered by the page on the screen. They have also included buttons to allow you to vary the brightness and contrast and so forth and you will very quickly see why these are a godsend.

Part of the two page spread per frame

It is important to remember that these records are not digitally searchable for names. The images have been digitised by the NLI but not transcribed.

The diocesan authorities have had transcriptions done (by FÁS and possibly for free) but these are retained by the diocesan heritage centres who charge a whack for pushing a search button and there is no guarantee that such searches are comprehensive. There are also some other providers who have compiled searchable data bases.

Even where you have the information from such transcriptions you may need to consult the originals, as I did, and this is where the great value of the images comes into play.

You will get an idea of what faces you from the image of part of a two page spread above (click on the image to enlarge).

Entry for Ellen, daughter of William Dwyer & Mary Maly/Haly

This is the bit of the page I was particularly interested in. It relates to 11 December 1844 and records the birth of Ellen Dwyer. Her parents are recorded in the diocesan transcription as William Dwyer and Mary Maly. However, the family I was trying to assemble had as their parents a William Dwyer and a Mary Haly (modern Healy). The Dwyer bit was straightforward: this is East Limerick on the borders of Tipperary which is Dwyer country. To the west of Murroe and deep into Limerick we have Maly (modern Malley) country. So the transcription was quite feasible and the transcriber was likely on his umpteenth Maly of the hour.

As above, cleaned up a bit

However, I wanted this woman for my family. Other than her mother's transcribed name she was a perfect fit for a missing piece from my family jigsaw. So I looked very carefully at the M in Maly. Could it have been a H. It certainly looked quite different from the M in what was clearly Mary. So what to do next?

Houlihan to the rescue

Well, I decided to see if I could find that shape elsewhere in a context where it might be clearly identified as a H. One small problem was to find sufficient other entries by the same flamboyant priest who entered the original. Finally I found it. H as in Houlihan. No question. She was mine. Grand-aunt Ellen.

And she's the one who, thirty-one years later, married James Meehan and their descendants are today living on the old homestead in Cappanahanagh.

So thank you National Library of Ireland, and, Bishop Clifford, may you choke on your porridge.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for making me laugh this morning o the VFC Blog Polo.

If ever there was a part of cyber space where we have a small number of people who write fictional rubbish about historic child abuse its over here. But don't take my word for it, just examine where they have got with these Blogs in the years to date because even Syvret hasn't officially exposed anything of credibility that's got anywhere despite his blog which he claims 'they tried to ban' being online all the time.

This VFC blogger spends his life trying to get the attention of the BBC and other bodies on Twitter when they wrote him off as mad years ago. Rico recently copied in his latest post to CTV whose Karen Rankine he insulted online the other Month and they call him brave do they? He's another online bully of women ffs.

Blogs are dead because the stories are dead and the desperate re-runs of old stories confirms that every time.