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Irish Case Study: Irish Records

Follow one researcher's continuing quest for his great-great grandmother's maiden name, this time in Irish records.


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This is the second of a three-part series on Irish research, suggesting avenues and resources for others researching their Irish ancestry, beginning with U.S. resources, followed by research in Irish records, finally, reviewing facts and putting it all together.

Searching the Irish Censuses

Having done a thorough search in U.S. records and after being sidelined in my quest for Irish records by an uncooperative Irish priest, I set about exploring Irish records on my own and ordered from the Salt Lake City Family History Library (FHL), the 1901 Irish Census on microfilm, in which I found my ancestral family, the Goodwins, listed, as follows:

Patrick Goodwin, 50; his widowed brother, Bernard, 40; their sisters, Ann, 52 and Sarah, 48; and their nephew, John, 13, farmed at Tullanafoile. This information agreed with family tradition and the 1888 wedding certificate. I assumed that their parents both died before the 1901 Irish Census, as they were not listed. One new revelation was that Bernard had been married -- I had expected to find only single adults.

In a second try, I wrote again to Ireland, this time to the chapel adjacent to Clogher and received a friendlier response. The pastor there was able to provide me with Bernard's marriage record from 1891. His parents were Patrick and Catherine Goodwin. The record gave no maiden name, but now I had learned her first name. Unfortunately, the pastor did not have the records for this chapel before 1889.

The 1911 Irish Census found the same Goodwins at Tullanafoile. They were enumerated as McGuigan; Patrick 52; Bernard 45; John, 22; Anne 60; Sally, 56; and Cassie 12.

Comparing the ages between their 1901 and 1911 enumerations demonstrated that they did not age ten years. Sarah/Sally was younger than Patrick in 1901 but became older than him in 1911. (The Cassie McGuigan, age 12, in the 1911 Irish Census most probably was Kathleen Goodwin, the niece that was sent over to Ireland after she was orphaned. She was apparently named after her paternal grandmother and my grandmother was named after their aunt.)

Old Age Pension Applications

Unfortunately, most of the 19th-century Irish censuses do not exist today. Therefore, one must examine a few census substitutes to glean information about a family's past. Three such records are the Old Age Pension Applications from 1908-1922; Griffith's Primary Valuation from 1848-1864; and the Tithe Applotments in the 1820s and 30s.

The baptismal records for Clogher did not commence until 1856. I suspected that a few, if not all, of the aunts and uncles at Tullanfoile lived past 1920. Therefore, they were eligible to collect an old age pension after 1907, when they turned 70. As birth certificates did not exist before 1864 and many baptismal registers did not begin until 1850, applicants were allowed to have the 1841 or 1851 Irish Census checked to verify that they were old enough to collect the pension. After the destruction of most of the 1841 and 1851 Irish Censuses, these abstracted entries for old age pensions are very helpful indeed, if one can find a family member making an application.

I ordered this roll of film from the FHL and found that applications for Ann Goodwin and Patrick Goodwin were both initially denied. The government could not find them in the 1851 Irish census. The application identified Ann as the daughter of Patrick and Catherine McGuigan or Goodwin of Tullanafoile. Patrick was identified as the grandson of Owen and Ann McGuigan or Goodwin. This was the first indication names for the John Goodwin Sr. grandparents. When their sister, Sarah applied, she supplied the same parents' names and also mentioned the adjacent townland of Kilnaheery. When the census was checked a third time in 1921, the families were found and the pension payments began. Ann was age 5 in 1851, and Sarah was age 1. Patrick died the same month as the 1921 application and his details were not listed. Unfortunately, the entire entry was not abstracted so details were not provided for anyone else in the household. According to the notations, Ann and Owen married in 1813 and Patrick and Catherine married in 1833.

Griffith's Valuation and Cancelled Books

Since most of the Irish censuses before 1901 were destroyed, Griffith's Primary Valuation is a census substitute by default. Griffith's Primary Valuation determined who a landholder was and what the value was for the support of the poor. This was done for Clogher, County Tyrone in 1860. Later follow-up visits were taken and preserved. These extra details led me to hire a researcher to check the canceled books. In the initial valuation in 1860, Owen McGuigan was the occupier. In the first follow-up in 1863 Owen was still listed as occupier. In the 1872 update, the tenancy was changed from Owen McGuiggan to Patrick McGuiggan. A check of the Irish Death Indexes from 1864-1872 found an Owen Goodwin, 80, Clogher, who died in 1869. In 1881, Patrick McGuigan was listed as occupier. In 1895, there was a change recorded from one Patrick McGuiggan to another Patrick McGuiggan. A second check of the Irish Death Indexes between 1888-1895 found a Patrick Goodwin, 81, Clogher, who died in 1893. These canceled books had showed when Owen and Patrick likely died.

The Civil Registration Indexes and the actual death certificates provided me assurances that I had the right people. Both Owen and Patrick died widowers. Ann McGuiggan, 87 was married when she died in 1864. Owen McGuiggan, Tulnafoil was present at her death. Catherine McGuiggan, 49, died a married woman in 1867. Patrick McGuiggan, Tulnafoil, was present at her death. Owen Goodwin died in 1869 with Patrick Goodwin, Tulnafoil, present at his death. Patrick Goodwin died in 1893 with daughter Sarah Goodwin present at his death. Obtaining their death records from Dublin filled in some gaps but did not reveal Catherine's maiden name. Sadly, Irish death certificates did not list parent names of the deceased.

In 1825 Owen McGuigan of Tullanafoile was recorded in the Tithe Applotment Books. This book listed all those paying a tithe to the Church of Ireland. It did not provide a wealth of information but was consistent with the other findings that Owen McGuigan was married by 1813 and dwelled at Tullanafoile in 1825, 1851 and 1860.

The family used both surnames, McGuig(g)and/or Goodwin, interchangeably in the nineteenth century, between church and civil records. I had to be diligent to check for both forms of the family name.

Irish Heritage Centers

The records of genealogical value in Ireland have been indexed and sometimes computerized. These resources are kept locally at various Irish Heritage Centers.

I hired the Heritage Center for County Tyrone to find the baptismal entry for John McGuigan/Goodwin. They wrote back that they could not find it. I turned to other known sources to get a better grasp of John's age. His 1888 wedding record stated that he was 22, suggesting a birth of 1866. However, his birth record did not show up on the LDS International Genealogical Index {IGI}, and his mother's death certificate in 1867 made it clear that she would have been too old to bear children in 1864 and later. (This index includes Irish birth records from 1864 when civil registration of births started through the early 1870s.)

The baptismal entry for the wife of John Sr. was found, and she was born 1 Jan 1860. John Sr. was always listed as younger than Catherine in the records. I expected, therefore, to find his baptism sometime between 1860-1863. I contacted the Heritage Center again. For an additional $30 the search was repeated and this time successfully completed. John Goodwin Sr. was born 10 Dec 1860 and baptized the next day. Yet again, his mother's maiden name was not found. While Catholic baptismal records required the maiden name of mother, the records from Clogher were in such poor condition, the Heritage Center researcher stated that I was lucky to have what little information was found. No baptismal record was found for any of John's siblings between 1856-1860.

Netting My Collateral Cousins

I tried to make contact with any relations still living in the Clogher area. I hoped that they might have preserved the oral tradition well enough to know Catherine McGuigan/Goodwin's maiden name.

I found a pub online and e-mailed the owner. I asked him to check his phone book and send me any McGuigan or McGinn entries in Clogher. He kindly sent three McGinns and I wrote each one. I heard back from the town pharmacist who had been given one of my letters from a McGinn. He said he knew Tullanafoile and had spoken with old Bridget McMaugh, who remembered my grandmother's brother and their cousin. He said he would check in on her again and get back to me. After waiting a year, I decided that if old Miss McMaugh was too old I might lose her. I had the townland address so I wrote her myself and she put me in touch with my second cousins. These cousins were unaware of the American branch of the family. They sent me photos of their father and the farm. Unfortunately, they had not preserved the maiden name of Catherine McGuigan/Goodwin. 1892-1924

Millions of Americans began their journey in America by arriving at Ellis Island. While family tradition held that the Goodwins had come through Castle Garden before Ellis Island had opened, it is still worth searching the online ship's list database.

When the ships lists went online at, I was able to find John Goodwin Jr. emigrating to New York City. The tradition was that he immigrated at 16. His appearance in the 1905 New York State Census fit well with this family tradition. However, after failing to find such a person in the passenger lists, I persisted. Aboard the Furnessia, from Londonderry, on 7 Sep 1909 was a John Goodwin, 22. He was going to his mother Mrs. Goodwin at 594 Eleventh Avenue. His last permanent residence was listed as Omagh and his nearest relative in Ireland was his uncle Patrick Goodwin, Tullnafoile, Eskra. If he only stayed six months, he would have left by the 1910 Census. Clearly, there was some work yet to do in putting all the pieces together.

Other articles in this series:

Irish Case Study: U.S. Resources

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2008.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

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