How This Overlooked Resource can help your Family History Search

I would like to share a little-used Irish record source that we frequently use with our Green Room members - illustrated with the story of one Irish family who left a small town in County Tipperary in the late 1800's.

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How This Overlooked Resource can help your Family History Search

This week I would like to share a little-used Irish record source that we frequently use with our Green Room members. We will illustrate using the story of one Irish family who left a small town in County Tipperary in the late 1800’s – bound for the gold-fields in a country far away.

So, let’s now join Julianne as she shares the story of her Tipperary ancestors and I’ll have a conversation as we go along.

Julianne is one of our Green Room members from Australia. In the following exchange, she shares more on her Irish ancestors who arrived from County Tipperary – and we look at some Irish record resources that will help her to discover more. Over to you Julianne:

Julianne: My name is Julianne Fletcher née Cotter and I live in Melbourne, Australia. I am so keen on trying to piece together my paternal family tree, both sides of which are from Ireland.

Mike: Very nice to meet you Julianne. My own great-grandmother was also a Cotter from County Cork – there could be a bit of shared blood between us!

Julianne: The Irish ancestors I am interested in are James Chadwick and Catherine Morris, a married couple who are my paternal great, great grandparents.

Mike: Chadwick is a very interesting surname. It came from England originally, but the largest presence is to be found in north Tipperary to this day.

Julianne: I believe James and Catherine are both from Tipperary – my Nana always said that her mother was from Borrisoleigh in Tipperary.

Mike: Indeed, the Chadwicks were always a big presence in Borrisoleigh – so that does make sense.

Julianne: I think James was baptised in 1826 and Catherine in 1839 in the parish of Loughmore in Tipperary. They married in 1858 in Loughmore and emigrated to Australia.

Mike: In Ireland, the tradition is that a couple marries in the parish of the bride. In this case it is most likely that Catherine came from the Roman Catholic parish of Loughmore BUT James came from the RC parish of Borrisoleigh. I did some searching and uncovered a James Chadwick baptised to James Chadwick and Honora Talbot in 1828 in Borrisoleigh. Does this make him YOUR James? Maybe not, but it is a strong possibility.

Julianne: They had 12 children and only ten survived I believe.

Mike: That is a lot of children but so typical of the time. In some ways, the mortality rate is quite low for this particular family.

Julianne: I have found a record of emigration in 1891 for the mother Kate and three daughters but nothing for the father and remaining children earlier than 1891. Apparently James was a hotelkeeper and the pub he owned in Borrisoleigh burned down so they lost their home and income and moved to a small house in Pallas St. I wonder if that was the impetus for emigration? It followed the famine years too, so not sure how Borrisoleigh fared then either…

Mike: Right, this is where we are going to slow things down – and look at widening your knowledge of the life and times of the extended Chadwick family in the town of Borrisoleigh. When you are interested in discovering the life and times of an ancestor in Ireland, it can be quite useful to dig a little further into the records for the family BEFORE they emigrated. This can give a very rounded view of the life of that family and more clues for future searches following immigration.

One of my favourite places to start is with the old commercial directories for a town. They often provide names and occupations of people who share the same surname in a town – all conveniently timestamped. In this case, we will look at Slater’s Commercial Directory for 1846 – Borrisoleigh.

In this entry we find out a little more about the town and notice:

  • Michael Chadwick was postmaster and grocer.
  • Honoria Chadwick was an Inn-keeper and publican.
  • Bartholomew Chadwick was a grocer.
  • Richard Chadwick was a draper and spirit-keeper.

It is possible that all of the above Chadwicks were related (and maybe also on speaking terms!). It is also possible that the above Honoria Chadwick was the widowed mother (or Aunt?) of your James – who took over the Inn in later years. This, of course, can be further investigated by you with the help of our Green Room genealogists.

Now, let’s stay with the Commercial Directories – but jump forward to a later time. Here we have a different “flavour of directory” – Basset’s County Directory for the 1880s. In this listing, we find:

  • Bartholmew Chadwick – Grocer and spirits.
  • John Chadwick – emigration agent and petty session clerk.
  • Ada Chadwick – resident in Castleview.

When we start to cross-check the content of commercial directories with known BMD records and more – we start to develop a very interesting picture of just one family’s presence in a town over many decades.

I do recommend that you expand this search of the Irish side of your ancestry in the Green Room with our Ireland based genealogist. This will allow you to get a better picture of the life and motivations of your James Chadwick and family in Ireland prior to their emigration.

Julianne: Thank you and kind regards from Oz.

We hope you enjoyed Julianne’s letter in search of her Chadwick and Morris ancestors. I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to move outside the usual Birth/Marriage/Death/Land records to other sources such as commercial directories, if your ancestors lived in a city, town or village. These directories provide a very useful snapshot of the network of prominent businesses and families in a town at a given period of time and also help to fill in some of the gaps you have with the standard BMD records.

That’s it for this week. As always, feel free to share the Irish surnames in your family tree – and we are always interested in hearing more of your family stories!

Slán for now,

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