Irish census conundrum

I thought I had found my great-great-grandmother Ellen Cronin Hegarty in the 1911 census, living with her widower son-in-law Michael Phipps. Her age was mistranscribed, but I opened the image of the page and she was 67. She is listed as single with no children, and her role in the family is scrawled unclearly, but what other elderly Ellen Hegarty would be living with this man who wasn’t his mother-in-law?

However, I found that census entry by searching through the images at Ireland’s National Archives site. Since then, the 1911 Irish census has been indexed at Ancestry.com. Ancestry’s search turned up another 1911 census image for an Ellen Hegarty who is a 67-year-old widow sharing a house with someone, still working as a housekeeper, and the mother of 15 children of whom 5 survive. That sounds like it fits my actual ancestor much better. She is also living on the same street as someone who might be her son.

But if this new independent housekeeper person is my great-great-grandmother, then who is the Ellen Hegarty living with the Phipps? Could it possibly be Michael Phipps’s late wife’s maiden aunt, and that scrawl is for “Aunt”?  What did widows and maiden aunts tend to do in 1911 in Cork?

And why is Ancestry’s index finding things that I didn’t find in my fairly methodical searching?

It needs more looking into but it’s late at night so I will wait until I am fresh.

I am mostly posting this so I will remember what my thinking was when I return to this problem.

One brick wall down; new brick wall installed

You win some, you lose some. I’m in the process of writing up what I know of the Hegarty family history in Register style. I’m finding the process really helpful in establishing what I do and don’t know, what I do and don’t have sources for. Already I have made some changes. When I have my new Hegarty outline done I’ll post it up in place of the now outdated history that’s up there on the sidebar, and then start on the other lines.

I think I was wrong about the link to the Fitzgeralds. In reality, I don’t know where John Hegarty was born and I don’t feel comfortable narrowing it any further than County Cork in general, so I really can’t seek him in a particular parish marriage record. During this time period people were moving into Cork City in large numbers due to the famine, and just because someone was married or baptized a child in a Cork City parish doesn’t mean they were born in that parish as well.

This same new understanding expanded my search for Cronins. I found Ellen Cronin mis-transcribed in the 1911 census of Ireland, and the census provided her age. I calculated back to her birthdate and did a search of baptismal records for Ellen Cronins born in 1844 with a father named Cornelius, and there was only one! Married to a Foley — so I have a new ancestor. I’m not guaranteeing I have everything right yet, but I feel like I have made headway by working the census alongside the baptismal records.

In other research news, I tried out the new FamilySearch family tree wiki but I don’t like it. Too much clicking! It throws up potential matches from other people or records, but the majority of the matches are not actually matches and each requires two clicks to dismiss. When one record had 99 matches, I decided I didn’t want to work that hard for FamilySearch.

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.