Thursday, September 23, 2010

The family tree of General Michael Collins (1890-1922)

No, I am not going to publish it here, but I often see questions about it out on genealogy forums so I will post on how to obtain a copy of it, as it is copyrighted material.

You can send a message to copy-orders at (replace at with a @) and inquire about the family tree compiled by Michael Collins-Powell.  It is document #40,430/17.  There is a small fee for copying and sending it back to you by regular mail.

By the way, never take somebody's word for it over the Internet what his, or anybody's family history is.  Check on sources yourself.

Update: If you are looking for information on General Michael Collins, post your questions on public genealogy forums. You'll find a list of forums on this page. You can also use Google to find such forums.  Thank you.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Miss Marple's guide to genealogy

One of my favorite Agatha Christie novels was a Miss Marple story called "A Murder is Announced."  The second victim of the murderer was killed because she knew something about where the murderer was supposed to be at the moment when the first victim was killed, only the murderer wasn't where she *should* have been.  Victim #2 exclaimed to her roommate, "She wasn't THERE!" 

Miss Marple asked witnesses, "HOW did she say it?  Did she say, 'Well, SHE wasn't there.' or did she say, 'She wasn't THERE!' "  In the first place, the stress is on SHE, as if the speaker was enumerating the people who were at the party (the scene of the first murder), saying A was there but B wasn't there but C was there.  Whereas in the second case, the stress on THERE suggests the speaker thinks a person was supposed to be in a specific place, and was surprised to find that the person was NOT.

Now what on earth has all this to with family history?

After 17 months of doing genealogical research, I have concluded that good research has as much to do with establishing who your ancestors were NOT as who they were. I have done most of the "easy" research and am now starting to grope in the dark researching ancestral lines my family knows nothing about. One of these lines is Driscoll. 

Ellen Driscoll married Michael Collins of Lower Lissane 28-Feb-1854 in the Roman Catholic Parish of Caheragh.  So clue #1 is that Ellen was from the Caheragh RC parish area, as the groom typically went to the bride's parish for the wedding.  Given the number of Driscolls in the area, that's not much to go on, regrettably.

James Driscoll was a baptismal sponsor of the oldest girl Johanna (1856); Johanna Driscoll sponsored Catherine (1860); Dan Driscoll and Mary Driscoll sponsored John (1862); Margaret Driscoll sponsored Michael (1867); and James sponsored Ellen (1875).  So clue #2 is that perhaps Ellen had brothers named James and Daniel, maybe sisters named Margaret, Mary, and Johanna.  Knowing that Margaret was often abbreviated to look like Mary, I am also keeping in mind that Margaret and Mary could have been one person.

The oldest girl was named Johanna, and Ellen may have had a sister named Johanna.  Could Ellen's mother been named Johanna?  That is clue #3.  If we stretch the traditional Irish naming pattern a bit further, the second son was named John.  Could Ellen's father have been named John?

There is one John Driscoll in the tithe applotment of the civil parish of Caheragh.  He was in Coarliss (spelled Corless in the tithe applotment), well within the boundaries of the Roman Catholic Parish.  I am filing this piece of information in the back of my brain.

Admittedly these are all thin clues.  Although some could exist, I have not seen baptismal records state the relationship of sponsors to the family.  And the Irish naming pattern was not law.

There is only ONE solid clue in my records.  It is in the 1901 census.  Michael Collins and Ellen Driscoll Collins were then 80 and 70 years old respectively, living in Lower Lissane.  It so happened that Ellen had a niece Noria Driscoll, age 10, staying with them at the time of the census.

If Noria was a niece, she would have been a daughter of one of Ellen's brothers.  Perhaps given the age difference, she was a grand niece.  But the important thing is there was another Driscoll body in the household, and it's recorded on paper.  (It is a possibility that one of Ellen's sisters or sister's daughters could have married a Driscoll and Noria could have acquired the same surname another way.  Even worse, the relationship could have been through a sister of Michael, who could have married a Driscoll.  I will keep these possibilities in mind in case my hunt is not successful.)

So the next task became to look for Noria's birth record.  That is not as easy as it sounds. My searches for Honora, Nora, or Noria born in 1891 in the FHL PILOT program. turned up Nora b. 1886 in Coronea (father's name Daniel); Norah b. 1888 in Ballingowan in the Whitechurch district of Dungarvan in Co Waterford (father Patrick); Norah b. 1889 Lackarour in Clonakilty (father's name Dan); and Norah b. 1892 in Bantry (father Timothy).  None of these sounded right.

I set aside the task of finding Noria for a while, then tried searching PILOT again.  Only THEN did I realize that Hanora (with an A) is not indexed to Honora (with an O).  So I turned up some additional matches:  Hanora b. 1890 in Skeagh (father Patrick); and Hanora b. 1890 in Currabeg (father Michael).  These sounded better.

My next task was to match all these birth records to families in the 1901 census and to make sure that all Noras were with their families, in other words, that all Noras were where I EXPECTED THEM TO BE, much like how the second victim in the story I mentioned expected a person to be in a particular place at a particular time.

Present and accounted for in the 1901 census:
Nora, in Coronea, is age 15,
Norah, in Whitechurch, is Norah, age 13,
Norah, in Lackarour, is Hanora, age 11,
Norah, in Bantry, is Nora, age 8,
Hanora, in Skeagh, is Nora, age 11,

But Hanora, Currabeg, wasn't THERE.  Just like in the story. 
Her sisters are listed, her father Michael was a widower, but Hanora was missing.

By no means does this prove that Noria Driscoll staying in Lower Lissane was the daughter of Michael Driscoll of Currabeg, but this is the ONLY lead I have that makes sense.