Monday, December 1, 2014

Same Name, Same Place
Different Person?

Have you ever been so focused on your task for so long that something snaps and suddenly, every bunny trail is shouting out your name? Even right there in the library?

That was me, at the end of a very long research week in Dublin. My brain was fried on uncooperative microfilm reading machines—can you blame me? It was halfway through Friday, when I remembered that the National Library of Ireland had another room with computers linked not only to their own catalog system, but to other genealogically-enticing subscription websites as well. Like

What more could a microfilm-crazed refugee want?

So I found a machine with all the right connections and began tapping in surnames. You know, just a look-see. Didn’t expect anything serious. All I really needed was a respite from a dismally hopeless foray into illegible nineteenth century ecclesiastical handwriting.

Besides, I was looking for any sign of what had become of our Kelly family in County Kerry—with a name as common as that, a hopeless quest, I might add. So, I switched to Falvey—after all, John Kelly’s wife, some time before 1860, was once known as Johanna Falvey. Maybe I could find some shred of evidence pointing to her existence.

I eventually wandered through the search results to a set of transcriptions of the Irish Petty Sessions Court Register 1828-1912. Even if that didn’t yield any information on my Johanna Falvey, it should prove to be interesting reading, eh?

While I didn’t, at first, locate a Johanna Falvey, I did find an entry for an Anne Falvey, dated 22 February, 1853. Anne was listed as the complainant at the Killarney court, and her residence was given as “Knockancore.” The defendant was one James Fleming of an illegible townland name that started with G-l-a. The charge? Refusing to pay the balance of yet another unreadable word, plus hire and wages. On the column of the register labeled, “Particulars of Order or Dismissal” where the amount to be paid would be noted, the only entry was the word, “Nil.”

Interestingly, there was an Anne Falvey living in the same neighborhood as the Mary Kelly I suspect might have been our John Kelly’s mother. Taking another look at the Griffith’s Valuation drawn up about the same time as this legal complaint, I also happened to notice the name of one James Fleming living in the same townland. Same James as the one withholding Anne’s wages?

An earlier entry in the same court records also proved interesting. On 16 December, 1851, a farmer—whose unreadable name I won’t even attempt to transcribe—brought his case against an entire family. The defendants were listed as Derby Falvey, Mary his wife, Darby Falvey junior, Johanna Falvey and Mary Falvey junior. The charge? “For abusing and threatening complainant on 11th of December 1851 at Ministe - -.” The judgment? “Both parties ordered to find bail to keep the peace.”

Kinda makes you wonder what the original threat was all about.

Possible connection to our Johanna Falvey? Hard to say. For one thing, I couldn’t find a Derby—or Darby—Falvey in the Griffith’s Valuation. Not, at least, anywhere in County Kerry.

However, remembering that Darby could also be a variant for Jeremiah, I checked for entries in Griffith’s Valuation for a Jeremiah Falvey, and found several—though none in the vicinity of our Anne Falvey.

There were other Falvey records in the court reports, as well—though for none could I ascertain that they were our Falvey people. I chalked it up to the frustration of trying to conduct genealogical research in a country which had lost almost all of what we would normally consider to be the usual resources for such a search.

Still, it was an eye opener to see what charges were customarily brought, in that time period, and how they were resolved by the court system of the day. For some of the cases, they were, indeed, “petty.” For others—such as a complaint of assault lodged by one Johanna Falvey against a man who subsequently neglected to pay his five shilling fine and found himself spending a fortnight in “gaol”—I wonder if this, indeed, was part of the specific back story leading to some of our ancestors’ decision to abandon their homeland for a new life across the sea.    


  1. I cannot help but think about the movie Far and Away, it began in Ireland. It is one of my favorite movies:)

    1. I always wonder how accurate portrayals of these historic periods might have been. But reading dispositions of the court cases just seems to invite people to read all sorts of things in between the lines.

  2. The impression I get (right or wrong) was that the Ireland of 1840-1930 was rough and tumble - with lots of mob agitation (much of it understandable) and some petty squabbling "against" the "overlords."

    Of course being hard worked, poorly paid, and often hungry could leave one cranky!

    1. There's always (at least) two sides to the story. And perhaps the difficulties varied, from region to region. Makes me want to delve into the history of it all much more--although, of course, you have to keep an eye on which viewpoint the author was holding. Seems like Ireland has been a land of contradictory opinions through much of its history.


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