Saturday, October 18, 2014

Race to Finish

Today is the last day I'll be able to do any genealogical research in Ireland. We leave here Monday morning.

When that thought sank in yesterday, I was torn between completing two tasks: finish slogging through the microfilm of Tully family possibilities in County Tipperary, or try my hand again at property records.

If you think looking at property records for genealogical research hints at the possibility of landed gentry for our family, think again. It took passage of legislation before any possible other descendants of our Irish ancestors were able to buy a chip off the old block of estate property. It is, however, one way to detour ye olde brick wall and discover possible distant cousins in the process.

The drawback to this alternate research plan entailed a long walk through the rain to the Valuation Office. Again. I had done this very process the other day—that time, seeking Flanagans in County Limerick—but I thought it might be worth my while to attempt the same technique on my Kelly and Falvey families in County Kerry.

Of all our eight lines of Irish ancestors, the County Kerry couple had been the last to leave Ireland, so I hoped there might be more recent records with additional detail to help push back another generation. The trouble was, as everyone realizes, Kelly is a common surname in Ireland, making differentiations a challenge. Plus, the few birth records I've been able to find hint at either a family that moved from place to place—or couples with the exact same names.

The marriage record I had found showed John Kelly to be from Knockauncore, a townland in the parish of Kilcummin—one of the microfilms still awaiting my return to the National Library. Checking Griffith's Valuation, I noticed there happened to be two women renting property in the 1850s who might be of interest: Anne Falvey and Mary Kelly. What would be the chances that they were related to our soon-to-be-married Johanna Falvey and John Kelly from that very same townland?

The virtue of checking the subsequent valuation records is that a researcher may then trace the changing of hands from one renter to another, pinpointed to within at least two years range. The changes are marked directly into the valuation records, color coded as to year in which the change was noted. Our research guide, Donna Moughty, explained this in her blog the other day.

In my case the other day, I (hopefully) found our family's renegade William Flanagan in the primary valuation in 1853. At the Valuation Office the other day, I had continued the chase with the book that began in 1855. The same property number—7f in the townland of Cappananty—now showed under the name Catherine Flanagan. William was gone, presumably either serving his sentence in a jail in Ireland, or on his way to Australia.

Catherine Flanagan continued as the entry at that 7f property designation for a number of years, but eventually, her name was lined out in red ink in the book dated 1866. Above her name was inserted the name James Flanagan, and in the right margin in the same corresponding red ink, the date was noted as "68."

Presumably, at that point, either Catherine died, or was no longer able to maintain her position as the responsible taxpayer for the property. Again—we can only presume here—James Flanagan could have been a relative of hers, taking over responsibility for the property of his mother or sister.

I followed the books through the years of cancellations—each volume containing multiple color-coded revisions until anywhere from two to several years later, a new volume was issued—to trace tenancy of that same "7f" property.

I witnessed the stamp in 1906 indicating that James Flanagan was finally able to purchase the land upon which he had lived all these years. And I noted the green entry dated 1939 which indicated the property was in probate—James had likely died. A final entry in red ink in 1941 noted, "in ruins," and the valuation adjusted to reflect the value of property only.

Encouraged by those findings, yesterday I had hoped to do the same for my Kelly and Falvey families in County Kerry. Genealogical lightning, however, seldom strikes twice. While Anne Falvey and Mary Kelly remained neighbors only a few doors down from each other—well, at least until Mary's name is replaced by Catherine Ryan, and then Timothy Connor in quick succession in 1863 and 1864—there was precious little about the succession of property tenants to reveal any possible relatives' names. The only change—a brief one—lined out Anne Falvey in 1899, and replaced her with the name Mary Falvey. Mary's name was removed, lined out in blue ink with a comment inserted, "1907 ruin."

Could Mary Falvey be related to Anne Falvey? Could Anne from County Kerry be part of our Falvey line? What about the property in County Limerick that passed from William to Catherine to James Flanagan?

I have so many pages of notes compiled from this week's work. When I get home, I'll need to sort through it all and see if there are any trends—or at least possibilities—hiding within these records. For now, though, I have only this morning between 9:30 and 12:45 to wrap up my work in the National Library. How quickly that time will disappear!


  1. Replies
    1. No matter how much I'd like to say "I wish I could," three weeks is a long time to be away from home. Never thought I'd get to the point where I'd say "I can't wait to get home to do the laundry," but I'm almost there. Not to mention, both of us miss our dog. And at least I miss my senior editor ;)

  2. So sad to hear of these properties "in ruins". I'm happy to hear that you found some pieces to at least one side of your family's puzzle through these primary valuation records. Good work!

    1. Thanks, Lisa! Once I learned my way around this system, it was a relatively straightforward process, thankfully. Nice to have this additional technique in my repertoire now.

      Oh, those ruins...if I had had more time, it would have been interesting to take a drive back to the townlands and see if the crumbling stone walls we found corresponded to the property valuation notes of ruins. Even though they were in ruins, it would be neat to know a specific wall was that of a house of our ancestors.

    2. Now *that* pile of stone would be a meaningful one!
      ...and to just stand there and reflect on what your ancestor went through at that very spot -- it would have been a truly spiritual moment.


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