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Preacher’s books form part of the collection of Church of Ireland parish records lodged in the Representative Church Body Library in Churchtown, Dublin. A preacher’s book can be quite a dry and sparse document, but nevertheless sometimes informative. It is a record of the date of and time of the church service, the name of the reader and preacher and the text used in the sermon, the number of the congregation and the number taking communion and the amount of the collection. The last column in the book is reserved for remarks or observations and it is here where the genealogist might find valuable information, such as references to baptisms, marriages or burials. Considering the great loss of Church of Ireland parish registers in the 1922 Public Records Office fire, any source that might contain references to vital events in a parish can prove extremely valuable to anyone researching their Irish family history.
The Woods Family of BallymacwardFor example, the Woods came from the parish of Ballymacward, the Church of Ireland parish registers for which were destroyed in 1922. The Woods family lived in the townland of Balymacward, a townland in the civil parish of Ballymacward, Co. Galway. The family appear in the 1901 census, with the head of the household, Thomas Woods, described as a 41 year old married farmer who was born in Co. Galway and who belonged to the Church of Ireland. Thomas was residing with his wife Elizabeth, also 41 years of age, and their children; Mary Jane, George H., Annie E., Richard, Gerty, Catherine and Robert.
Ballymacward is located in the Registration District of Ballinasloe, Co. Galway. A search of the civil birth index found birth registrations for some but not all of the Woods children. The birth registrations for Mary Jane, Richard and Gerty identified their mother as Elizabeth Mason and confirmed the family address as Ballymacward through the mid-1880s up to 1901. The birth of Annie E. Woods in ca. 1888/1889 was not registered with the civil authorities.
The baptismal record for Annie E. Woods did not survive because the Church of Ireland parish register for Ballymacward dating from 1819 to 1889 was destroyed in the 1922 Public Records Office fire. This means that there was no record of Annie E. Woods birth or baptism.
Ballymacward Preacher’s BookA search was made of the preacher’s book for the Church of Ireland parish of Ballymacward (RCBL P.968.8.1), which commences in 1885. On the page for Easter 1889 a note referring to the baptism of Annie E. Woods was found in the ‘Remarks’ column.
Bapt. Annie Elizabeth Woods
This entry in the preacher’s book is evidence that Annie Elizabeth Woods was baptised in the Church of Ireland parish of Ballymacward on 17th March 1889 by Rev. E.E. Rush.
Ballymacward Preacher’s Book Right Hand Page RCB Library P.986.8.1
Other comments in the preacher’s book tell us more about the parish and parishioners. The minister frequently makes a note of bad weather, possibly explaining a fall in the number of the attending congregation. Another entry in the ‘Remarks’ column stated the following:
[weather] fine – some of the children have whooping cough, read with Mrs. McCullagh
Mrs. McCullagh died a couple of weeks later and her death is also recorded in the ‘Remarks’ column. There are references to donations to the Temperance Society as well as to a Miss Parker taking the Woods [children] for S[unday] School.
What appears to be a rather dry document, on closer inspection has started to build a picture of the life of the parishioners, including some vital records that are a substitute for the loss of the original parish register.
Preacher’s Books at the RCBLPreacher’s books are listed in the extensive RCBL Catalogue for Church of Ireland parish registers. The parish register list can be accessed online at the RCBL website The name of each parish is a link to the RCBL Catalogue pages for that parish. Each catalogue page lists not just the baptismal, marriage and burial registers, but also the vestry minute books, account books and preacher’s books, among others. This should tell you whether there are surviving preacher’s books and the dates for which they survive.
The preacher’s books are not available for research online. If you identify preacher’s books that survive for a particular parish you can commission us to search the item for relevant references to your family, although there is no guarantee that all events that took place in a parish will be recorded in the preacher’s book.
A collection of the Genealogical Office volumes of Betham’s Will Abstracts have been published online by the National Library of Ireland. Betham’s Will Abstracts are abstracts of wills proved in the Prerogative Court, records which were largely destroyed in 1922.
Before the establishment of the Probate Court in 1857, the Church of Ireland Consistorial Courts in each diocese in Ireland were responsible for making grants of probate and issuing letters of administration. For estates with property valued in excess of £5 in more than one diocese probate and administration was granted by the Prerogative Court of Armagh. The records of the Prerogative Court are a record of the landed families of Ireland with property in more than one diocese. Although the majority of these records were destroyed in the 1922 Public Records Office fire, work on this collection, carried out by Sir William Betham, Ulster King of Arms, in the 19th century, survives in the National Archives and the Genealogical Office.
Sir William Betham
Betham created an index of testators up to 1800, which was later edited and published by Sir Arthur Vicars in 1897 as the Index to the Prerogative Wills of Ireland. Vicar’s publication can be searched online at Findmypast. Betham also made abstracts of the genealogical information found in the Prerogative Wills in a series of notebooks in the National Archives of Ireland. On the basis of these abstracts Betham created a series of sketch pedigrees, now held in the Genealogical Office. The Genealogical Office also hold 32 volumes of Betham’s Will Abstracts, some of which have been published online by the National Library of Ireland.
Betham’s Will AbstractsThis collection of Betham’s will abstracts (NLI GO Mss 223-254) are divided into two parts, the Old Series, comprising 4 volumes of wills up to 1700 (NLI GO Mss 223-226) and the New Series, 28 volumes from 1700 to 1800 (NLI GO Mss 227-254). These notebooks contain abstracts taken from wills proved in the Prerogative Court but also include individuals whose estates were not proved in the Prerogative Court.
The New Series of Wills Abstracts have been partly digitised and published online by the National Library of Ireland. However, navigating this collection can be tricky, with several indexes worth consulting. A search of Vicar’s Index to the Prerogative Wills of Ireland will determine whether a will was proved in the Prerogative Court and if a relevant name is located, the Will Abstracts and Sketch Pedigrees should be checked for more details.
Betham himself indexed each of his volumes in the Old and New Series’ and these indexes have been consolidated by Virgina Wade McAnliss in her Consolidated Index to the Records of the Genealogical Office, which are available to download from the National Library of Ireland website. Under each surname in the Consolidated Index you are most likely to find the reference: GO MS 223-54 Betham Will Abstracts, followed by a volume and page number. For example, under the surname Atherton in the Consolidated Index, is a reference GO MS 223-54 Betham Will Abstracts 3/116, 14/112, referring to volume 3 page 116 and volume 14 page 112.
Betham’s Will Abstracts New Series Online
The volumes that have been published online by the National Library of Ireland are numbers; 14 (h-J), 16 (L-S), 18 (Ma-Mo), 22 (Pr-Rob), 24 (Sa-Sm), 25 (Sm-St), 26 (St-Sw), 27 (Sw-Ti), 28 (Ti-Ty), 29 (V-W), 30 (Wa), 31 (We-Wi) and 32 (W-Z).
The volumes are arranged alphabetically by the surname of the testator, but Betham and McAnliss’s indexes include the surnames of anyone else mentioned in the abstract. The reference to Atherton in Volume 14, page 112 of the New Series of Will Abstracts relates to the will of Thomas Hunter of Birr in the Kings County whose will was dated 3 November 1769, which was proved on 14th October 1771. According to the sketch pedigree using details extracted from the will, Thomas Hunter was the grandson of _______ Hunter and Elizabeth Atherton. Elizabeth was the daughter of Oliver (possibly crossed out) Atherton and had a brother, Godfrey Atherton. Elizabeth married ______ Hunter and the couple had at least one son, _______ Hunter, who married and had a son, Thomas. Thomas Hunter married Katherine, sister of Anthony and James Hutchins and the couple had children; Thomas, Elizabeth, Rachel Calham, Richard and Joshua Hunter.
While the will itself did not relate to the Atherton family, there were Athertons mentioned as ancestors of the deceased, quite possibly because the property of Thomas Hunter came to him through the Atherton line of his family.
Inspecting McAnliss’ Consolidated Index can often lead to a long list of entries for a particular surname in the Betham Will Abstracts (GO Mss 223-254). It should be possible to determine by the volume number whether the entry relates to a testator of the relevant surname or someone who might have been cited as a family member. The volumes themselves also contain an index at the back for all surnames that appear in that volume.
The digitised volumes can be found in the National Library of Ireland Main Catalogue by searching for “Wills, New Series” under the author “Ireland, Genealogical Office”. You can then browse the digitised books directly through the Catalogue. For notebooks that have not yet been digitised, you can order copies of pages from the original Betham’s Will Abstracts using the Timeline Genealogy Clerk Service.
O’Byrne, Eileen, Betham and Lodge, published in Aspects of Irish Genealogy II Ed. M.D. Evans
Grenham, John, https://www.johngrenham.com/browse/retrieve_text.php?text_contentid=70 (3/1/18)
The Irish Government website www.irishgenealogy.ie has expanded the images of birth, marriage and death registrations being made available online. Researchers can now search the index of marriages (1864-1941) and view the original marriage registration entries from 1870 to 1941. The index of deaths (1864-1966) now links to images of death registrations from 1878 to 1966. The images of birth registrations has been extended to 1916. User submitted corrections up to July of 2017 have also been added. The earliest marriage and death registration images are expected to go online later in 2018.
This website is entirely free to use and you can now check the original entries for nearly the entire 19th and early 20th century records of civil registration for Ireland. Being able to view the original record is vital for research. Transcripts of marriage records on sites like Ancestry often only include the names of the bride and groom and the names of their fathers. However, the original registration will include addresses and occupations as well as the denomination of the church in which the marriage took place and the names of the witnesses, who can often be siblings of the bride and groom. A birth registration does not just record the name and date of birth of the child, but also the names of the parents and in some small cases, the location of the father if he is not at home at the time of the birth. This includes the father working or serving overseas or being deceased at the time of death, vital information for family history research.
The latest release of Military Service Pension Applications on 24th October 2017 adds almost 5,000 new scanned files to the collection, bringing the number of files online up to about 20,000, relating to 6,564 individuals. The files are available to search at the website of the Irish Military Archives. The Pension Applications have also been indexed on Ancestry.
The Military Service Pension Applications are one of the best ways of building a picture of the activities of someone who was active in the Revolutionary period, IF they or one of their dependents applied for a pension. To find out more about the history of this collection see our blog post on the Military Service Pensions Collection. An example of how one pension application can build the story of not just one individual, but an entire family who were active in the Revolutionary period can be found by looking at the Military Service Pension Application of Charles Bevan.
Charles Bevan’s Military Service Pension ApplicationCharles Stewart Bevan applied for a Pension for his Pre-Truce service. In his application he stated that he joined the Irish Volunteers in December 1913, shortly after they were formed and served until 15th June 1922. He was active with the “C” Co. 1st Batt., Dublin Brigade from 23rd April to 29th April 1916 in North West Dublin under Captain Francis Fahy and was active in the occupation and defence of the Four Courts during that week. He was imprisoned in Richmond Barracks, Kilmainham, Mountjoy, Portland, Lewes, Parkhurst and Pentonville Prisons between 30th April 1916 and February 1918. Between April 1920 and March 1921 he was involved in an abortive attempt to rescue Kevin Barry and also removed Matt Brady from Richmond Hospital. Attached to his application was a personal statement from Matt Brady about this incident:
“Towards the end of the month of October 1920 I was a patient in the Richmond Hospital Dublin. One day when I was standing with the aid of two crutches at a window I saw the Military and Police drive up in lorries and surround the building. A few minutes later a nurse came into the ward where I was and told me that the Hall Porter had sent her up to tell me that the Military were looking for me. I was taken from that ward by some of the hospital students and hidden in a linen press while the search went on in the hospital for me, and later when it was over was removed to the hospital telephone exchange. It was there that Charles Beven found me when he came to take me away. He had a cab and helped me to get into it. It was taken to his house in Geraldine St. and remained there for some time. Later I was moved to the house of John O’Reilly in the same street where I remained until I was sent to the Mater Hospital.”
According to Bevan, in a statement attached to his application, his home “No. 9 Geraldine Street, Dublin, was classified as a ‘safe house; for all purposes for the District, and was used as a ‘dump’ for arms and ammunition of ‘B’ Co., 2nd Battalion, Dublin Brigade, from about January 1921, till after the Truce. Our house was also in readiness as a First Aid Station on several occasions.” Bevan was active with the Irish Volunteers until June 15th 1922 when he ‘was summoned to attend a parade at Fowler Hall, Parnell Square. Capt. Sean Prendergast questioned me as to my attitude in the event of hostilities. Being unable and unwilling to take part in a Civil War, I resigned from the Company.”
Bevan’s Military Service Pension Application identified many of the men he served with and served under, who acted as references to his application: Captain Frank Fahy, Mark Wilson, D. J. Musgrave, Fionan Lynch, George Irvine, Ed Dolan, Sean Prendergast, Frank Carberry, Frank McNally, Sean Nathan, Sean Flood, Matt Brady, James O’Keeffe, Stephen J. Murphy, Thomas J. Clarke. Letters, including from Thomas Clarke, confirm Bevan’s activities and there is also a transcript of an interview with Bevan made on 15th January 1937.
IRA Nominal Rolls and BMH Witness StatementsBevan’s Military Service Pension Application opens the door to further research of the man and his involvement in the Revolutionary Period. A search of the IRA Nominal Rolls for the C Company, 1st Battalion, Dublin Brigade found not just Charles Bevan, but also Joseph, Thomas and another unnamed Bevan, who all served in the Four Courts during the 1916 Rising. These four men were most likely related. A search of the Bureau of Military History Witness Statements did not find any reference to Charles, but did find a statement by a Seamus Bevan, who turned out to be the youngest brother of Charles. In his statement Seamus recounted seeing the new Irish flag flying about the GPO on Easter Week 1916. The BMH Witness Statement of Sean Prendergast referred to Joe Bevan as the father of three boys and two girls “all of whom were serving in the Republican forces – the girls in Cumann na mBan”. The three boys were Charles, Thomas and Seamus. According to Prendergast, Joe Bevan was a man of humorous character “at a time when the wearing of the Volunteer uniforms were banned Joe, for a wager, walked from his home in Geraldine St. to Hoban’s shop in Parnell St. and returned to his home in the uniform he had worn in Easter Week.”
The Bevan FamilyThe 1911 census for the Bevan family confirmed that Charles was the son of Joseph Bevan, a printer compositor and his wife Margaret. Charles had siblings; Thomas, Catherine, James [Seamus] and Mary and according to Sean Prendergast, all of the Bevan children were active during the Revolutionary period along with their father, Joseph. The family home on Geraldine Street was a safe house, arms dump and first aid station. the death of Joseph Bevan, who was recorded as deceased on the IRA Nominal Rolls, compiled in the 1930s, was found at www.irishgenealogy.ie. He died on 13th December 1919 of Pulmonary Tuberculosis at the Allan Ryan Hospital, a 51 year old married compositor residing at Geraldine Street. The Allan Ryan Hospital was a TB sanatorium set up in the isolation hospital out by the Pigeon House.
Using the Pension Applications to identify the company and battalion that your ancestor served with can lead to other sources that document the actions and Volunteers of that company and help to build a picture of your ancestor and his fellow Volunteers during the Revolutionary period.
The Tithe Applotment Books are a nationwide survey of property undertaken between 1823 and 1838 for the purpose of assessing the rate of the Tithe, a religious tax that was levied for the upkeep of the established church, the Church of Ireland. The Tithe was levied on certain types of agricultural land and as such the survey is certainly not as comprehensive as the later Griffith’s Valuation. However, the Tithe Applotment Books act as a valuable census substitute for the early 19th century.
Courtesy of the National Library of Ireland
Surprises in the Tithe Applotment BooksThe books themselves can be quite dry, recording the name of the occupier and the size and value of the titheable land. However, unlike Griffith’s Valuation, the format of the books is not consistent and inspecting the original books can sometimes reveal some surprising information.
Parish of Drumlease Co. LeitrimThe Tithe Applotment Books for the civil parish of Drumlease, Co. Leitrim illustrate one little gem that can be found in this collection. When this particular book was compiled the valuator very kindly included a detailed map of each townland with the name of the occupier written across his lot of land. This is demonstrated in the adjacent image of the townland of Carrickacroghery. Each lot is numbered and named and the opposite page in the book lists the occupiers, the size of their holding in both Irish and English measure, the lot number as marked on the map, the rate per acre and the total applotment.
These maps for this parish are particularly valuable. The Tithe Applotment Books can be used to identify an earlier generation of a family, found in Griffith’s Valuation, on the same land holding in the 1820s or 1830s. In some cases this can be quite straight forward, the same surname appears only once in the townland at the time of the Tithes and Griffith’s Valuation. Often the size of their land holding is similar (although rarely exactly the same). However, in many instances, it can be impossible to match a holding recorded in the late 1820s in the Tithe Applotment Books, with a holding recorded in the 1850s in Griffith’s Valuation. The detailed maps for the parish of Drumlease published with the Tithe Applotment Books have made it very easy to identify the occupier of a single lot in the townland in the 1820s and the occupier of the same lot in Griffith’s Valuation in the 1850s. The Drumlease Tithe Applotment Book is also interesting because it demonstrates the difference between the Irish and English measure of land, a term also common used in the records of the Registry of Deeds.
Tithe Applotment Books OnlineThe Tithe Applotment Books are ‘sort of’ online. Microfilm copies of the books have been transcribed by volunteers with the Church of the Latter Day Saints and this database of transcripts was given to the National Archives of Ireland, who published the Tithe Applotment Books on their website: www.genealogy.nationalarchives.ie . Unfortunately, this collection is incomplete and missing parishes, including the parish of Drumlease, Co. Leitrim. The quality of the transcriptions are also problematic, with many personal names and townland names incorrectly transcribed and in some cases parishes assigned to the wrong county. However, if you cannot make it to a repository that holds the microfilm copies of the Tithe Applotment Books, the National Archives website is the best place to conduct your search. The best approach to this collection is to simply browse the collection. Select the county, parish and townland that you are interested in and review the images of the original books yourself, rather than rely on the database.
If the Tithe Applotment Books for the parish that you are interested in are not available online you can contact us to commission a search and copies of the books for a particular townland or parish.
There are times when finding Irish birth records can be challenging. Here are a few tips for searching Irish birth records online.
Registration of Births in IrelandIt was compulsory to register all births in Ireland from 1864, however, as many of you will know, not all births were registered with the civil authorities. There are many reasons why a birth was not registered, not least human error. In some cases it may have been beyond the family’s means to pay to have a birth registered. If a birth was registered late, the family were fined, so they may have chosen not to register the birth at all. In some cases when the family missed the three month window in which to have their child’s birth registered, they simply changed the date of birth of the child so that it fell within the legitimate time period. This means that you may find Irish birth records for a child who was baptised in October of one year, but whose date of birth on their birth certificate is March of the following year.
Births were registered in the local Registrar’s District, usually at the local dispensary. The books of registrations were then sent to Dublin where they were copied and the originals were returned to the Registrar. In some cases, an entry may not have been copied correctly, or may have been entirely missed. The local registers are the most accurate record of Irish births, rather than the copies held in Dublin. However, the registers that are now available online are the Dublin copies and in many cases the local registers have been stored away, beyond access.
If a child was born in an institution, such as a maternity hospital or workhouse, their birth may have been registered with only their surname. This can make them difficult to locate. A child registered without a first name usually appears as unnamed male or female in the index.
Finding Irish Birth Records OnlineThere are now plenty of resources for locating Irish birth records online. The civil birth indexes were initially digitised by volunteers with the Church of the Latter Day Saints and these indexes, which cover the period from 1864 to 1958 only are freely available online at Familysearch.org
This is the same collection that is also available on Ancestry and Findmypast and the same errors and omissions appear on all three sites. All three sites have also amalgamated collections of baptismal records and the records of civil registration. It is important to try and distinguish between the two when searching these sites.
The search function on the familysearch.org site is quite good and takes into account lots of different variant spellings of a surname, so this is the index that I will most frequently use.
However, the Irish government have also published their own index of Irish births, marriages and deaths online at civilrecords.irishgenealogy.ie. The birth index on this website dates from 1864 to 1916 and each birth index entry is linked to an image of the original registration.
The original registration recorded the date and place of birth of the child, the name, occupation and address of the father and the name and maiden name of the mother as well as the name and address of the person who registered the birth. These images are free to view and download.
In 1900 and then from 1903 the Irish Civil Birth Index Books recorded the maiden name of the mother and the given date of birth of the child. This information is not included in the familysearch.org dataset until 1928. This means that if you are searching for a child with a common name, but you know the maiden name of the child’s mother, you will not find a relevant reference on this website prior to 1928.
The civilrecords.irishgenealogy.ie website has included the date of birth of the child and mother’s maiden name for entries from 1900 to 1916. If the child you are searching for was born between 1916 and 1928 and you know the mother’s maiden name or you would like to identify the siblings of that child you will have to visit the research room of the General Register Office on Werburgh Street in Dublin or you can commission us to search the index books on your behalf.
If you find an entry in the civil birth index that is not currently available to download and view, you can order copies of the original records from us using our Genealogy Clerk service.
If the birth of your ancestor was not recorded in the civil register, it is possible that the birth of their siblings were recorded. If the mother’s maiden name is known and the children were born after 1903, a search can be carried out to identify the siblings of your ancestor. Their birth certificates should provide you with an address for the family at the time that the child was born.
If you have the chance to visit the Valuation Office in Dublin to consult the Valuation Office Revision Books you will have discovered that a large part of their collection has now been digitised and can be accessed using the computer terminals in the public research room. Original copies of the books that have been digitised will not now be produced for researchers unless there are problems with the digital images. This a great step forward for the records in the Valuation Office, which should eventually make their way online.
The digitised Revision Books are arranged by county and then by District Electoral Division (DED), which can pose a problem for anyone who has identified the location of their townland by civil parish. Of course the staff in the Valuation Office will look up your townland and supply you with the DED, but they are often busy. You will also find the Index of Townlands in the public research room and you can look up the townland and corresponding DED.
However, the Index of Townlands may not always be to hand. Another quick way of determining the DED before you even depart for the Valuation Office is to look up the townland in the 1901 and 1911 census. The census is the only other source in which the townlands are arranged by DED. The DED is the place name given after the townland on the census webpage.
Once you have the DED, you can very quickly navigate your way to the relevant Valuation Office Revision Books. The images of the index for each book are stored in a folder titled, obviously, Index. The page numbers in the index should match the image numbers in the folder.
A3 and A4 colour copies of the digitsed revision books can be printed on site at a cost of €1 per page, but even a photograph of the computer screen can be a sufficient copy of a relevant record. If you are planning a visit to the Valuation Office, armed with your list of townlands and DEDs, please check our guide to the Valuation Office.
A selection of Irish Birth, Marriage and Death registrations have been made freely available online at the Irish Government website www.irishgenealogy.ie. Previously, this website was home to one of the online indexes for Irish civil registration, where it was possible to search for the reference information for a birth, marriage or death registration. Now, the index entries are linked to an image of the original registration.
Irish Civil Registration Civil registration in Ireland commenced in 1864, when it became compulsory to register all births, deaths and marriages. Non-Catholic marriages were registered with the civil authorities from 1845. The birth, marriage or death was registered with the local registrar, usually the relieving officer of the local Poor Law Union. The registers were then sent to Dublin where they were copied, with the original register returned to the Registration District. The Dublin copies have now been digitised and are freely available to view and download at www.irishgenealogy.ie
Information found on Irish Civil Registration RecordsA civil birth registration records the date, place of birth, name of the child, names of the parents (including the maiden name of the mother) as well as the address and occupation of the father.
A civil marriage registration records the names, ages, occupations and addresses of the bride and groom, the name and occupation of their fathers and the names of the witnesses, it also identifies the church in which the couple were married. This can be helpful if you are unsure of the religious denomination of the couple.
A death registration will record the name, age, marital status and occupation of the deceased, as well as the cause of death and place of death. Importantly, the informant on a death certificate can sometimes be a family member, such as widow, son or daughter-in-law.
What Irish Civil Registration Records Are Available OnlineThese records are generally far more informative than church baptismal and marriage registers and could previously only be obtained in person by attending the General Register Office Research Room in Werburgh Street or ordering a copy from one of the county registration offices. At the moment the following original registrations are available:
If you require a registration that falls outside of this period, you can use the Timeline Genealogy Clerk service to order a copy online.
This is a wonderful release of records that will certainly help anyone who has been searching for ancestors with a common surname, who simply couldn’t afford to purchase every birth certificate for a Mary Byrne born in Dublin between 1882 and 1885 or a Patrick Smith born in Cavan in the 1870s.
The civil birth registration for Michael Collins, registered at Clonakilty in 1890
However, the same caution must be applied here as with any online index of records. There may be index entries that are missing or incorrectly transcribed. I know that I have certainly had problems locating marriage registrations in this collection, which have magically appeared when the original indexes have been searched in the General Register Office Research Room. Unusual spellings of surnames, which can be observed when searching the index books, can be hard to locate on this website, which has quite a rigid search facility.
Despite the drawbacks, this release of records should certainly progress the research of anyone with an ancestor who was born in Ireland after 1864, who married after 1882 or who died after 1891.
A search through the catalogues in PRONI for records relating to the estate of the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers in the Limavady area found the following extract from the Journal of Tour to Ireland 17th March-23rd May 1820 written by John Towgood. Towgood may have been an agent of the Fishmongers, his tour included many meetings with Barré Beresford of Walworth Manor, the primary tenant of the Fishmonger’s estate, where they discussed rentals and the condition of tenants. On his tour Towgood made notes about the living conditions of some of the poorest inhabitants of the area:
“Saturday 1st April. We proceeded after breakfast on a further view of the estate….in the course of the day we entered …many very wretched hovels, called cabins….On entering the cabin, by a door through which smoke is perhaps issuing at the time, you observe a bog peat fire, around which is a group of boys and girls as ragged as possible and all without shoes or stockings, sometimes a large pig crosses the cabin without ceremony, or a small one is lying by the fire with its nose close to the toes of the children; perhaps an old man is seen or woman, the grandfather or grandmother of the family with a baby in her lap, two of three stout girls spinning flax, the spinning wheels making a whirring noise, like the humming of bees; a dog lying at his length in the chimney corner perhaps a goose hatching eggs under the dresser and all this in a small cabin full of smoke, an earth floor, a heap of potatoes in one corner and a heap of peat turf in another, sometimes a cow and sometimes a horse occupy the corner. In an inner room there are two or more wretched beds and yet the poor inhabitants of these miserable hovels appear in general to be contented.”
Towgood’s account is an insightful look at how the poorest of the population were living in the Limavady area in 1820 and these living conditions were likely to be replicated across the country.
The team at Timeline carried out some of the research for the Joe Duffy documentary, Children of the Revolution, which aired on RTE on Easter Sunday 2016. The documentary looks at the circumstances in which children were killed during the 1916 Rising.
One child who died during the Rising was a young man named O’Toole (no first name given). On 24th April 1916 O’Toole’s body was brought into the Adelaide Hospital, close to the Jacob’s Biscuit Factory, the cause of death was gunshot wounds to the chest and head. He was described as 14 years of age with his surname given as O’Toole. This was the only information recorded on his death certificate, his age, surname and cause of death.
The Adelaide Hospital
David Mitchell’s book A ‘Peculiar’ Place; The Adelaide Hospital, Dublin Its Times, Places and Personalities 1839 to 1989 cited the annual report for the Adelaide Hospital for 1916 which stated:
“Messrs Jacob’s factory, which is separated from the Hospital only by a narrow street, was occupied by a strong force of Sinn Feiners, and there was a good deal of fighting in the immediate neighbourhood. Many wounded, some dead, soldiers, civilians and Sinn Feiners were brought in, and to approach or leave was a matter of difficulty and danger…Dr. Peacocke and Mr. Gunn …. lived in the Hospital during the fighting and assisted the Resident Staff…No one in the hospital was injured and the damage to the buildings was not serious.”
The annual report recorded that four soldiers and one civilian were brought into the Adelaide Hospital already deceased. The civilian was most likely O’Toole. The question is, who was the young man named O’Toole?
His name must have been known to the person who brought him into the hospital, unless his name was recorded on his clothing or on something in his possession. His age was also given when his death was registered, this information may also have been known to the person who brought him in as anyone in a position of authority was unlikely to have just guessed his age and recorded it on an official document.
According to the Sinn Fein Rebellion Handbook, which reported on the burial of casualties following the Rising (which included some of the 1916 children), no bodies were interred from the Adelaide Hospital. This means that private arrangements may have been made for the burial of O’Toole.
The 1911 Census
According to his death certificate O’Toole was born ca.1902, which would make him aged between about 7 and 11 years at the time of the 1911 census. We set about trying to identify this young man who was fatally shot near the Adelaide Hospital on 24th April 1916.
Firstly, a search was made of the 1911 census to identify all male O’Toole (and variants) children residing in Dublin City who were born between 1900 and 1904, as each one of these children could potentially have been the child brought into the Adelaide Hospital. As Dublin City families were quite mobile and could have changed address between 1911 and 1916, we accounted for children in all parts of the city, even though it was most likely that O’Toole was living in the vicinity of the Adelaide Hospital. Although the city streets were their playgrounds, most children did not tend to stray very far from their home.
The search identified 13 male children with the surname O’Toole who were in Dublin City in 1911. Using the Dublin City Electoral Rolls and Thoms Dublin Directory, each household was traced forward to try and confirm where the family was residing by 1915, just before the Rising.
Finally, a search was made of the records of civil registration in the General Register Office, for a marriage or death certificate for each of these children. Evidence of their deaths were also sought in family burial plots in the records for Glasnevin Cemetery and in one case, a reference to the child was found in the will of his father, held at the National Archives of Ireland. Using these various sources, it was possible to prove that 12 of the 13 identified children lived beyond 1916.
Joseph O’Toole was born ca. 1904 the son of Michael O’Toole and in 1911 was residing at 12.1 Newmarket Street, Merchant’s Quay Ward in the house of his grandfather, William. Joseph O’Toole of 11 Newmarket Street married Elizabeth Loftus on 13th August 1931.
Henry V. O’Toole
Henry Vincent O’Toole was born ca. 1903 the son of Christopher O’Toole, a railway auditor and Katherine. In 1911 this O’Toole family were residing at Richmond Avenue, Drumcondra. Christopher O’Toole died in 1950 and was buried at Glasnevin. His will, written and witnessed on 29th April 1946, named his son, Henry Vincent O’Toole as one of his beneficiaries.
Leo O’Toole was born ca. 1902 the son of John O’Toole and Elizabeth. In 1911 he was residing at Chamber’s Street, Merchant’s Quay Ward. Leo O’Toole married Katherine Watkins on 3rd December 1928. He died in 1944 and was buried at Glasnevin.
Michael and John O’Toole
Michael O’Toole was born ca. 1902 and John O’Toole was born ca. 1900, the sons of Michael O’Toole and Elizabeth. In 1911 they were residing at 34.4. Merchant’s Quay, Merchant’s Quay Ward. The boys had a younger brother, Benedict Lawrence O’Toole who married and settled in Dublin. The descendants of Benedict were located and confirmed that Michael and his brother John both survived the 1916 Rising.
Kevin O’Toole was born ca. 1902. In 1911 he was residing at York Road, Rathmines & Rathgar ED. Kevin died on 31st October 1918 at 22 York Road, a 17 year old bachelor, who died of influenza.
Edward O’Toole was born ca. 1902 to Joseph O’Toole and Mary. By 1911 Edward O’Toole was residing in the house of his widowed mother, Mary at 4.1 Sarsfield Quay, where Mary O’Toole was a 47 year old draper. Edward O’Toole was buried in Glasnevin in the same plot as his mother. He died on 11th June 1957, a commercial traveler and widower.
John and Anthony O’Toole
John (b. ca. 1902) and Anthony O'Toole (b. ca. 1900) were brothers born to James O’Toole, a corn porter and Mary. At the time of the 1911 Census they were residing at 33 Wellington Street, Upper Inns Quay. Anthony O’Toole married Jane McClean on 1st October 1928. In 1943/4 John O’Toole appeared as a registered voter in the Dublin City Electoral Rolls in the house of his mother at 33 Wellington Street. He died on 10th March 1948, a widower residing at 33 Upper Wellington Street.
William O’Toole was born ca. 1900 the son of Arthur O’Toole and Sarah, he had a brother, Arthur Edward O’Toole. At the time of the 1911 census he was residing at King’s Inns Street, Rotunda Ward. William O’Toole was present as a witness to the marriage of his brother, Arthur, on 20th April 1920.
Stephen O’Tool was born ca. 1900 the son of Joseph O’Tool and Magey McNally. In 1911 he was residing at Francis Street, Wood Quay Ward, but his family moved to Wall Lane by 1913. Stephen O’Tool married Brigid Freer on 26th December 1932.
Gerard O’Toole was born ca. 1900 in Dublin City. In 1911 he was residing at 4 Townsend Street with his widowed mother, Bridget (nee Russell). Gerard O’Toole died on 6th October 1928 aged 27 years and was buried in Glasnevin with his mother and infant siblings.
The only child that was located in the 1911 census, but was unaccounted for after 1916 was Christopher O’Toole, who appeared as C. O’Toole in the North Dublin Union Auxiliary Workhouse in Cabragh, Castleknock in 1911, aged 10 years. C. O’Toole was born ca. 1900.
Christopher O’Toole was born ca. 1900 in Dublin. His mother was Catherine or Kate. He had a brother, Patrick (b. ca. 1898) and a sister, Alice (b. ca. 1901). On 9th March 1906 Catherine O’Toole entered the North Dublin Union Workhouse with her three children. On entry she gave the surname McBride, but in the admission register this name was crossed out and the family were recorded as O’Toole.
Catherine O’Toole was described as a 30 year old married woman residing at Bishop’s Court in 1906.
According to the admission and discharge register, Catherine O’Toole and her daughter, Alice, were discharged the following day to find accommodation. Catherine’s sons, Patrick and Christopher remained within the workhouse system. Patrick O’Toole was admitted to the Mater Hospital in 1910.
On 12th September 1910 Kate McBride (O’Toole), who was residing at 2 Henrietta Street, wrote to the North Dublin Union Board of Guardians requesting custody of her son, Christy O’Toole, who was residing in Cabra.
Christy O’Toole was not released to his mother and after this request, seven months later, at the time of the 1911 census, C. O’Toole was residing in the North Dublin Union Auxiliary Workhouse in Cabragh, Castleknock.
On 2nd October 1912, the Master’s Report to the Board of Guardians notes that ‘old clothes’ were granted to Chr. O’Toole (age 12). According to the discharge register, Christopher O’Toole was discharged to his mother on 24th September 1912.
We have not been able to establish what happened to Christopher O’Toole following his discharge from the workhouse. He is the only child for whom a marriage, death or burial record has not been found and neither has any evidence been found of his siblings or his mother.
Although it is possible that the young man who died outside the Adelaide Hospital in 1916 came from outside of Dublin City after 1911, or was not enumerated correctly in the 1911 census, it is also possible that he was Christopher O’Toole. Christopher had been institutionalised since 1906 and may have had his name written on his clothes, which might explain how his name was recorded on his death certificate. His family appear to have been in difficult circumstances and by 1916 he may have separated from his mother and been looking after himself. This may explain why his disappearance was never reported following the Rising.
We cannot state with any certainty that Christopher O’Toole was the child who was brought deceased into the Adelaide Hospital on 24th April 1916. But we can say that he was the only young man of the correct age who appeared in Dublin City in the 1911 census, who has not been accounted for after 1916.