Circling around Irish parish records online

The latest Ancestry.com newsletter featured a great article by Juliana Smith on their new collection of Irish Catholic parish registers, which are said to be digitized versions of holdings at the National Library of Ireland. I am pleased to have these records as an integrated database and have already located a great-grandfather in them, but the fact is that I had already found the identical record at the Irish government’s free Irish Genealogy site.

I would love to see a clarification of the relationship between these two sets of records, both apparently emerging in digital format under the aegis of a government initiative. Are they the same collection? Or do they just overlap? I thought the Irish Genealogy site was stalled in its digitization project due to the economic problems in Ireland. The site says it anticipates adding more records on October 4th, which is almost as exciting to me as the new iPhone release :)

In a related point of interest, the Irish Times reports that the National Library of Ireland is making legal inquiries into the release of these Irish records on the UK branch of Ancestry.com, with concerns that there are copyright violations. The report says that a private company digitized the records on behalf of the library. Is this private company by any chance the company Irish Genealogy Ltd. that is mentioned on the government’s Irish Genealogy site? Because that would imply that these are the same set of digitized records, wouldn’t it?

I don’t know if these are good questions or stupid questions, because I feel like I am just beginning to learn how to research Irish ancestors. Smith’s article links to the Irish Ancestors site sponsored by the Irish Times newspaper. She was linking specifically because the site reflects John Grenham’s work on civil parishes versus Catholic parishes. But the site also features a surname search, with links to surname histories, bibliographies, and link lists.

Naturally I typed my surnames Hegarty and Costigan into the little search box. Imagine my surprise when I found the Irish Times site linking to me! And not even to this site but to my now defunct Earthlink site. I was so disheartened; it is like when Ancestry.com tells you there are new hints but the hints are only people who have linked back to you. I don’t know whether to email the Irish Times and give them my new URL or not. I don’t feel I am an expert, but apparently no one else is researching these names — or if they are, they’re not doing it online. (N.B.: There is another Costigan researcher listed — she is my 3rd cousin with whom I traveled to Newfoundland. The other Hegarty researcher is working on the Donegal branch, not only not mine, but a whole different region.)

An unrelated linkage note: Now that Google+ is open to everyone, I am there. There are a lot of genealogists networking on Google+, though I also use it for academic stuff. Feel free to follow me!

Hegarty update: details, details, details

1. You may recall that in March someone complained about Hegarty inaccuracies, specifically that Hanora Hegarty (b. 1878, Cork City) had not married but had instead perished in the Titanic disaster. However, that unfortunate Nora is a different person who was born in 1894 and lived in Whitechurch, not Cork City. So that’s one question settled.

2. A new question arises about Ellen Cronin (b. 1852) who married Michael Hegarty. I have very solid evidence for her place in my tree: family narratives, her marriage registration, and baptism records for her children. However, someone on Ancestry.com has contacted me to inquire because they have the same woman married to an Ahearn in the same parish, complete with marriage record and baptism records for the subsequent Ahearn kids. It’s not a second marriage because my Ellen Cronin is still having little Hegartys after the Ahearn/Cronin marriage date. So, it seems that there were two Ellen Cronins with fathers named Cornelius living in the same parish at the same time. Right now I don’t have enough information to resolve the question so I am just placing a big question mark here for now.

question mark3. Also in the Hegarty tree is Julia Foster (1898-1977) who married William Libby. They are listed in the 1930 census in Dedham, Massachusetts, but I didn’t know anything more about William Libby. Well, the “hints” function on Ancestry.com pointed me at the 1920 census too, where they are listed as the family of William Lebowitz. William shows up with his Hungarian parents in the 1900 census in Utica, NY as Wolf Leborvitch. So that’s why there weren’t any Libbys showing up; “melting pot” name changes.

Two Dead Christs

I’ve been cleaning up some sloppy citations I made to the records of St. Finbar’s South Church in Cork, Ireland. St. Finbar’s South, dating back to 1766,  claims to be the oldest Catholic church in Cork which is still in use. The church is famous for a marble sculpture by John Hogan of Dead Christ, which is installed under the altar.

St. Finbar's South (Wikimedia Commons)

This was Hogan’s most famous statue, and he made three versions of it. There was the one above in Cork, another one in Dublin, and the last one is in, of all places, St. John’s Basilica in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Basilica of St. John the Baptist, St. John's, Newfoundland (Wikimedia Commons)

I have records of both churches in my files, and I like that they’re also linked by this sculpture.

From my scant Wikipedia reading, it seems that these sculptures were highly valued during a 19th-century boom in church building following the upheaval of Catholic emancipation.

Why I am stuck where I am stuck with the Hegartys

If you look at my Hegarty Ancestors page, you see it starts off with John Hegarty. This blog entry is just to record the reasons why I am stuck there. It might help me if not anyone else.

My grandfather was Michael Hegarty (1898-1970) of Cambridge/Somerville, Massachusetts. I knew him personally and have great certainty about his information. His father was John J. Hegarty (1867-1947) of Cork, Ireland who emigrated to Massachusetts in 1888. He was personally known to my father and I have general certainty about his information. I am still seeking details about his military service, but overall, his profile is in good shape.

When I started dabbing in genealogy over a decade ago, my father remembered that his cousin had done a family history years before. He phoned her and she sent me an envelope with various family papers. Included in that package were copies of Irish birth certificates for John J. Hegarty and his wife. Additionally, there were photocopied pages of a notebook in which John J. Hegarty’s daughter Helen had written a profile of each of her parents, listing their parents and siblings. These papers say that John J. Hegarty was the son of Michael and Ellen (Cronin) Hegarty of Cork.

As I went about clumsily researching this, another Hegarty researcher kindly sent me a photocopy of a microfilmed Cork City marriage registration for Michael Hegarty and Ellen Cronin. On that 1866 marriage registration, Michael Hegarty gives his father’s name as John Hegarty. It also says Michael lived on Penrose Lane in Cork.

Over the past few months, I’ve been searching the Cork parish registries that have recently been put online. And so my confusion begins: Michael Hegarty and Ellen Cronin are there in the online parish records, having babies at regular intervals. Now, my great-aunt Helen’s notebook had claimed that Michael and Ellen had 15 children, of whom only about 6 survived into adulthood. However, there are not fifteen baptisms in the parish records. I cannot just dismiss the ones that were said in the notebook to have “died young,” because some of their baptisms were recorded. Also, Helen would have been writing about her own aunts and uncles, even if she had never met them. She would have been getting information from her father, I presume. But others of the “died young” siblings are just absent. But surely if the child survived long enough to be named, he or she would have been baptized? As near as I can tell, they were baptizing babies within a week of having them. But then where did Helen get the extra names?

I searched in the online parish records for Michael Hegarty’s baptism, hoping to find his parents listed and his mother named. And I did find a Michael Hegarty, born in 1842, to a John Hegarty, the only Michael Hegarty born to John Hegarty of all the Hegartys in there. But this John Hegarty (and his wife Elizabeth Kelliher) were not in Cork City proper: they were in Tiraveen, a whole different parish (Kilmurry, I think).

OK,  it was the Great Famine; people were displaced. Maybe they moved into the city seeking food. But here is a thing that’s bothering me: Griffith’s Valuation lists a Michael Hegarty as a tenant in Penrose Lane in 1852. But that can’t possibly be my Michael Hegarty because a ten year old boy would not have been able to rent property, would he? Could that have been another relative with whom he was staying?

Also, the Tiraveen parish records show that Michael had a brother or uncle (I forget at the moment, but it was clear in the records) named Jeremiah Hegarty who emigrated to Cambridge much earlier. I looked up Massachusetts Vital Records and found this Jeremiah in Cambridge. His death record included his parents’ names and everything. But if this is true, why did my family not know they had ancestors in Cambridge fifty years before my great-grandfather arrived? Or is that in fact why my great-grandfather chose Cambridge, Mass. over all other places he could have settled when he finished his soldiering?

Finally, there is the online version of the Irish census for 1901 and 1911. I can’t find any members of my great-grandfather’s family in that 1901 Irish census. I suppose it’s possible that both of his parents died between when he emigrated in 1885 and when the census was taken in 1901. Several of his brothers and sisters also emigrated. But I can’t find anyone left there. No married sisters, no single brothers lodging with someone. No one. Nor can I find the missing people in the US records, so they didn’t just follow him over. Could they really all have just died?

Well, there was one family in the Irish census that looked like it might be his parents and siblings: Michael and Ellen Hegarty and their grown-up younger children. I was all excited because all the children’s names were the same and everything was age appropriate EXCEPT. Except that one of the children was Julia Hegarty, and she was about 24 and working as a tailor in 1901. But my great-grandfather’s sister Julia was in the 1900 US Federal Census where she was 30, divorced with two young children and working as a laundress. And the date of the divorce and the names of the children match up with my great-aunt Helen’s notebook. And a laundress raising two children alone doesn’t have money to go home to Ireland for a visit, right? Nor can she become younger. So that Irish census family can’t be mine?

I want the census family to be mine, because Michael Hegarty was a harness-maker. And the Cork City directory for 1875 lists only one Michael Hegarty, who was a saddler. And if he’s the only one listed, he has to be mine, right? I want to say that people didn’t really know their right ages. I want to make it work but I feel like I am jamming pieces in where they don’t quite fit.

I feel like I am reaching the point where I need to talk to a professional genealogist. From my poking around the internet, it seems like the uploading of County Cork parish registers is not yet finished, so perhaps I should wait for that process to complete and search again to see if I can find any more clues. I wish that I had more evidence for the Tiraveen location than one record in an online database (albeit an official Irish government database). I need an expert to tell me if this puzzle is even solvable.

So that’s why I’m stuck on my Hegarty research at the moment.