Alan Crosby's blog: My Irish ancestor's elusive origins

By Jon Bauckham, 10 March 2016 - 5:34pm

Despite the recent release of millions of Irish Catholic parish registers online, Alan is still unable to find anything out about his great great grandmother's early life. Should he admit defeat?

Dr Alan Crosby is the editor of the Local Historian and a columnist for WDYTYA? MagazineThursday 10 March 2016
Alan Crosby
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The Irish Roman Catholic parish registers collection is available on both Findmypast and Ancestry. Unindexed scans of the same records were first released on registers.nli.ie in 2015

I’ve recently been exploring Findmypast’s new Irish Roman Catholic parish registers collection, hoping to find a baptism record for my great great grandmother. I’ve been searching for more information about her for many years and – like so many Irish people in the past – she’s proved elusive.

I know that my ancestor’s name was Catherine Arnold and that she married in Manchester in 1850. I also know that her father was John, an ostler.

The successive censuses and her marriage certificate give inconsistent ages, so Catherine could have been born anytime between 1833 and 1836 – although I think it’s probably 1835, and one census gives her birthplace as Dublin.

I was hoping for a breakthrough with the new baptism material, but sadly there’s nothing that looks plausible and I don’t think it will get me any further. Having said that, it’s a fantastic resource and I am sure that many people will be able to make some great discoveries.

I was surprised by how many baptisms there are for the surname ‘Arnold’. It’s not one that I’ve thought of as being very common, as to me it never sounded particularly Irish.

However, there are hundreds of entries, many of them from “Oh, if only, places”, by which I mean the ones where I thought, “If only Catherine came from there!” – villages in County Cork, remote places in Donegal and Avoca in the beautiful Wicklow Mountains.

I may just have to accept that this Irish brick wall is unlikely to be broken through, and that the rather vague conclusion “she was born in Dublin in the mid-1830s” is the furthest I will ever progress with that particular line.

It’s just one of those things – but it’s great to have a decent drop of Irish blood all the same!
 

Alan Crosby lives in Lancashire and is editor of The Local Historian. He is an honorary research fellow at Lancashire and Liverpool universities.

 

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