Sunday, November 2, 2014

Impenetrable Dates and Missing Pages

Though our family was fortunate to walk the same village paths our Irish ancestors once traveled, that is not necessarily a requirement for accessing the old documents in which their names may—hopefully—be found. Between what I found online at the National Library of Ireland and through digitizing projects at places such as and, I was also able to re-locate documents mentioning my husband’s ancestors, back to the 1820s—but no further. That seems to be the outer edge of possibility in finding church records on marriages and baptisms in many Catholic parishes in Ireland—and a fairly firm date for availability of records from County Tipperary. If the earlier generation's names don't appear in records from the 1820s, then that becomes the end of the line for our family research. Period.

Still, now that I take another look at the records I found while on our trip, I realize I missed some detail that might have given me a clearer picture, at least of the generation of Tullys in County Tipperary in those mid 1820s. I wish I had had enough time, while still in Ireland, to review and reflect upon all the details I had garnered in my search. Now that I’m back home—nearly six thousand miles away—I’m finding frustrating details such as missing pages in the documents I’m again consulting from online records. Questions do have that irritating habit of popping into mind, well after the opportunity to easily resolve the dilemma has passed.

Up to this point, I’ve been sharing some details on our travels in pursuit of our Flanagan and Malloy lines in Ballyagran in County Limerick. I’d like to switch tracks for the next few posts, share photographs and recap our findings for another couplet of family surnames: the Tully and Flannery lines in northern County Tipperary.

Thanks to the hoarding habits of this family’s descendants, they have benefited me with old letters, news clippings, and even baptismal records from as early as 1842. Unlike others who are attempting such family research, I was the fortunate recipient of the specific details which, when missing, slam research projects into Ye Olde Proverbial Brick Wall.

For instance, thanks to a letter verifying the baptism of my husband’s great-grandfather John Tully, among other details, I learned that the family came from a Catholic parish known as Ballina and Boher. Once I narrowed things down to the right Ballina—there are actually two in Ireland, a not uncommon dilemma researchers face with place names in that country—I was able to locate other documents with John Tully’s father’s name, Denis Tully.

Two documents in which Denis Tully’s name were easily located were the Primary Valuation—a property survey collected in Ireland initially through the 1850s by Sir Richard John Griffith—and the previous generation’s Tithe Applotment Books.

While it may seem far-fetched to glean genealogical material from property tax rolls, you must remember that this is a substitutionary method. With the dearth, for various reasons, of census records in Ireland through much of the nineteenth century, records like Griffith’s Primary Valuation confirm, at the very least, the names of heads of household and their residence location, during the time in which the surveys were conducted in each county.

Likewise, for the 1820s and 1830s, the Tithe Applotment Books—records of heads of households owing tithes to the State church—provided similar details.

Though I knew I would find it—after all, I already had records indicating Denis Tully’s residence near the village of Ballina—there was no less a genealogical thrill to set my own eyes on the records showing him in the very place where I had expected him to be.

For the Primary Valuation, Denis Tully received his one line of genealogical fame under the townland of “Fountinna” in the Templeachally parish of the “North Riding” circuit of County Tipperary. A subsequent Valuation indicated his property was to be folded into another tenant’s holdings—not surprising, considering by that point Denis and his entire family had left for Canada.

Working with maps of that area, I discovered several details about the Tully residence. First, of course, was material setting the record straight about the name of the townland: Tountinna, not Fountinna. Then, it was easy to see the property was some distance from the village of Ballina.

Not as obvious—well, not until we actually got there and drove to the property—was the fact that it was situated toward the top of a high hill. It was the Tithe Applotment records—this time, showing the townland name as “Thoumthinna”—which gave a hint as to what occupational challenges faced peasant Tully as he went about his daily routine. A note at the end of the Tithe record for the joint property indicated:

Middling Tillage Do [Ditto] Pasture

As wonderful as it was to locate these records—right above the line for Dennis Tully was an entry for a Darby Tully, the only sign I’ve found of any possible Tully relatives in the area—I found something that made me wish I could instantly be transported back to the National Library. Since family, during those times, often lived near each other, I thought I’d wander through the previous page in search of more Tullys besides this mystery Darby Tully. After all, the entry at the top of the page indicated it was brought forward from the previous page.

“Simple,” you might be thinking. “Just click the back arrow to access the previous page.”

That, unfortunately, is my dilemma. The “previous” page ends with the line number 354. My Tully townland picks up with Darby Tully at line number 380.

What happened to the other page? More importantly, were there any Tullys on that page?

My mind is imagining a page filled entirely with a Tully family constellation—a gold mine for me, indeed—which, but for a microfilmer’s fluke, would have answered every last one of my genealogical questions. That, however, is not to be.

Someday, perhaps, I’ll take up my case with the missing page of the Tithe Applotment books. For now, however, I’ve got plenty of other notes and photographs to organize into their rightful places in my own records. That should keep me busy for a long time to come.      


  1. Curses!

    Not long ago I searched for an ancestor on Ancestry. He was listed as a child of some stranger I had never heard of. When I clicked on the census image, my ancestor was at the top of the page and listed as "son." So I clicked back one and sure enough there was a set of parents with a different surname. But I discovered the problem: the page numbers were not consecutive. Clicking and clicking and clicking back, I found the right page. Why the pages are out of order on Ancestry, I have no idea. I sent Ancestry a note. Fortunately I was able to solve my problem pretty easily. Can your daughter find a few minutes (ha ha - nothing in genealogy takes a few minutes) to check on that missing page?

    1. Now that you mentioned your experience with Ancestry, Wendy, it brings to mind similar examples I've had. The problem is, I don't think everyone is as careful as you were to check out why things don't check out. The end result is twisted family charts that are replicated in family tree after family tree.

      As for those missing pages? Who knows what happened to them. Good thinking on your part, to keep paging backwards to see if they'd show up.

  2. Jacqui have you read John Grenham's Blog on this issue in the Irishwomen's Times on October 27? He addresses this issue and I heard him speak on it at the Celtic Connections conference in August

    1. Kat, I was wondering about that Irishwomen's Times ;)

      Yes, John Grenham has a way of putting it, doesn't he?! In reading several of his columns--the one most recently posted comes to mind--I've often thought I would love to hear him present at a conference.

    2. He will almost definitely be at the Celtic Connections conference in Minnesota, August 2016

  3. I would bet one thing -

    Your tenacity will lead you to find the missing page - if it still exists somewhere... eventually!

    1. Thanks for your vote of confidence, Iggy, but I'm afraid that is an item more likely to fit on my bucket list than my to-do list. Some day...

  4. A missing page..darn...I wonder was it filled with Tully's?? :)


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