Wednesday, October 19, 2016
Whatever Can Be Found —
Now That We Can Find It
Can a hint served up by Ancestry—the kind that says only that it comes from "Select Births and Baptisms" with no other source given—really be reliable? After all, I'm finding some tempting notes about the Irish-born son of Cornelius and Johanna Danehy Sweeney; I'd like to know whether they are reliable.
All these "collections" of previously assembled transcriptions may have been helpful trailblazers in the past, but now that Irish records are being digitized and coming online at a dizzying pace—Irish genealogist John Grenham characterized the resultant euphoria over this development as becoming "Punch Drunk"—it may be possible to go straight to the source to verify those older reports.
So when I saw several shaky leaf hints insisting that my guy—in this case, Phillip Sweeney, born in Ireland in 1868—was listed in this or that "collection," I took the high road to find out just where I could lay eyes on the original document.
Grenham does provide several links for those archived records coming online at such a dizzying pace. One recent addition I already knew, thanks to the international buzz over its arrival, was that of the Irish Civil Registrations. Despite his family's being Catholic, because of Philip Sweeney's arrival in 1868, I knew his registration was sure to be included in the records—somewhere in Cork, where all indicators seemed to be pointing for his family's origin.
True, one of the "collections" I had found had already mentioned a location in County Cork: a place called Millstreet. The record transcription provided by Ancestry, however, was so sparse as to be nearly useless. It confirmed the name of the child and his year of birth, which matched what I had gleaned from elsewhere. But knowing the Irish, this search was sure to be filled with the treachery of spelling variations and incorrectly-recalled dates. Besides, the record didn't even confirm the names of the parents. Clearly, I needed something more than this.
Because now we can, I headed to the Irish website which now contains those images, clicked on "Civil Records," and entered my search query. Sure enough, a result came up for a Philip "Sweeny" born in County Cork in 1868. Clicking below the transcription on the hyperlinked term, "image," in no time, I was staring at the very entry made in the register for the son of Cornelius Sweeney and Johanna "Denahy."
It was indeed for a birth registered in the District of Millstreet. I learned that Philip was born on December 1, 1868, in a place called Rathcool, Dromtariffe. I could see, further, that Cornelius—the reporting party—left his mark, for he couldn't sign his own name, and that he did so in the district office on the sixth of that same month.
If this was the right Philip—and my, oh my, how many chances there are to get an identity wrong in such a case—then I was just gifted with the location of the Sweeney residence almost twelve years before they left for America. If the family stayed in one place for long, it might also mean this was the place where Cornelius and Johanna were married, too. Perhaps this location would also show me the records for some others in this extended family—at least on the Danehy side, where so many documents had already woven this family together and identified them as former residents of County Cork.
Could that mean they were all residents of this same area, Millstreet?
Above: Excerpt from the Irish Civil Registration for the district of Millstreet in County Cork, showing the December 1, 1868, birth of Philip, son of Cornelius Sweeney and his wife, Johanna Danehy.