Monday, June 22, 2020

Stabs in the Genealogical Darkness

We may say we are taking a stab in the dark when we are making a wild guess about something, but when the search for Irish ancestors leaves us little other choice, we may as well build strategies to evaluate those wild lunges into the dearth of records.

As it turns out for my father-in-law's Irish brick wall Kelly and Falvey ancestors in County Kerry, it might turn out that we will have plenty of material to stab at: the parish where I found their daughter Mary baptised has records still in existence dating back well before the 1850s. Talk about an unexpected gift. I had been manually searching, page by page, from the date of the earlier Mary Kelly's baptism in 1864 to see if I could find any entries in which her parents, John and Johanna, had served as sponsors for a relative's baptism—and the records kept going and going.

Back through the years I kept paging, with no results for that search last week. And then another strategy occurred to me. Why not just search for potential marriages or baptisms in County Kerry linking the surnames of Mary Kelly's sponsors with either Kelly or Falvey?

The difficulty in trying to locate our target parents' names in the entries for sponsors, as I had been trying last week, is that digitized records will assist in locating a child's name or the parents' names, but there is no search option to locate the sponsors' names. Of course, according to Irish traditions, it could generally be assumed that the sponsors for a baptism were either siblings or in-laws to the parents—but what if that tradition didn't hold true in our case? Such assumptions could certainly lead toward incorrect conclusions.

Despite that, on the chance that our couple were just average common people after all, I tried seeing what other records could be found, combining the names of Mary's parents with the surname of each sponsor, in turn. I started out with the Fleming surname—that surname which showed up in one form or another for both of the baptisms found for a Mary, daughter of John Kelly and Johanna Falvey. Because I wanted to avoid as many false leads as possible, I chose to start first with combining that Fleming sponsor surname with Johanna's maiden name, using the record search at

That was when I discovered two things. First was that the records for the Falvey family were more plentiful in a neighboring parish to Killeentierna called Kilcummin, the same place where—if I have the right couple—John Kelly and Johanna Falvey were married. Second was that those records reached back to at least the 1830s.

Of course, there is no guarantee that I'm on the right track. But since I really have no other streamlined, sure-fire options, I may as well stay the course with this new experiment. At the very least, I can create a database of all the marriage and baptismal connections I can find between the Fleming, Falvey, and Kelly families in that earlier time frame. Combining that sort of stab in the dark with another tried approach—using the naming traditions adhered to in those earlier years in Ireland—may yield some promising possibilities.

Perhaps. Or otherwise, I'll just have a rather complete listing of all the Flemings and Falveys who once lived in a small cranny of western Ireland.


  1. Jacqi, RootsIreland allows searching by Sponsor's name in their county search. I just happen to have a subscription ;-) ;-)

    1. Dara, I've had a subscription in the past, so maybe it's time to revisit that website. Thanks so much for the reminder!

  2. Sounds like a good plan. at least worth a try:)

    1. So far, so least as long as my bleary eyes hold out!


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