Although we lack most census records for the Irish population in the 1800’s we can make very significant progress, if we think about the records we can access, as we study and cross reference the family names we are researching and we can do it for FREE with the 10 Steps below
Take John Doe for instance who married Jane in the mid/late 1870’s
1. We have the Irish Census 1901 & 1911 to check for children
2. We have FamilySearch & Irish Genealogy to check for ‘Civil Records’ – BMD. Records from approx 1880 on Irish Genealogy, now link to images of the original register entries with lots of extra information
3. We are gathering names of ‘Registration Districts‘ with civil records:
4. Now let’s look at the NLI Catholic Parish Registers or search Baptisms, Marriages, Burials or Congregational Records. We have names and emerging naming patterns from both census, we have BMD from #2 and we may have partially bridged the gap between the 1901 Census and the most recent Parish Registry entries online, approx 1880
5. Referencing maps at this point is useful to establish a geographic distribution of the names we’ve discovered in #1 & #2
The Irish population (in general) remained in the same place, married within a very small radius of where they lived and worked. There was little means of travel available to the ordinary Irish person and this clustering can work in our favour as researchers of our family history.
6. Stay with the maps! Check Griffith’s Valuation – it has a very powerful search of family names and placenames. Compare it with census records in #1, civil records #2 and church records #4
Keeping in mind #3 and #5, look at the names in the area. Many are very probably related by marriage – check witnesses to marriage and sponsors at baptisms in #4, they are possibly relatives and almost certainly live close by.
Only those who could afford the passage emigrated before the ‘Great Hunger’, for the most part they were non-catholic. Emigration peaked for catholics in the mid 1800’s and continued for another century. Chain emigration was the norm except where groups were offered ‘Assisted Emigration’ by landlords.
Tens of thousands were displaced and died during the late 1840’s to mid 1850’s – this is one of the few reasons why people migrated within the island, often to larger towns and sadly, some eventually to the workhouse
7. Irish people married within their own social class review Griffith’s Valuation for an impression of their standing – the amount of land leased and value of payments. Check against #1 – type and amount of property recorded in 1901 (Out-Offices and Farm-Steadings Return: Form 2B)
8. This process also highlights by default, those who are not listed in GV – they possibly worked as servants and labourers and may live in, on or close to the estate where they worked
9. We are by now familiar with family names and recurring firstnames, we can place them on a map, we have associated names from the neighbourhood. We can see non-family in records on the 1901 census. GV may suggest this is a ‘big house’, the boarders/lodgers may be actually employees, especially if they’re not leasing property of their own
10. At this point, we’ve established the social class of John & Jane Doe, we can continue to research their ancestors back through the parish registers, civil and emigration records. Ireland was almost exclusively agrarian in the 1800’s and no matter how meagre their holdings, we can check if they paid taxes in the Tithe Applotments.
If they occupied any property during the period when data was collected for Griffith’s Valuation they will be found in the Field Books, House Books, Quarto Books, Rent Books, Survey Books or Tenure Books. Background information of the area can be found in the Ordnance Survey Letters are the surveyors’ field notes, commentaries and correspondence known as O’Donovan’s Ordnance Survey Letters.
If they paid Tithes between 1823 and 1837 or ‘Defaulted’ in 1833 they were probably over 30 yrs old at the time, giving a DoB of the late 1700’s
When we have names, established families from the census and placed them on the map in GV, the last few steps outlined above allow us to ‘flesh out’ our ancestors, we now have a better understanding of their circumstances and living conditions as they approach the period of the Great Hunger