Friday, October 14, 2011

reading the online church records

I get the feeling that a few people are frustrated searching the online church records so I thought I would point out a few things.

1) You can search with wildcard character in the first name field, within limits.

e.g., Cat* will match on Catherine Cathe Cate etc.

2) The first name field also accepts large boolean expressions. For example to search for an ancestor named Kate I would enter in the field:

(Cathe or Cath or Cats or Catha or Cathn or Cathne or Cate or Cat or Catherine or Catharine or Catherina or Catharina or Kath or Katherine or Kate or Katy or Katty or Kitty or Cotturim or Catharinam)

This might turn up a few more possibilities for you.

3) At first I thought the union of two wildcards would not work, but I just now got it to work:

(Hum* or Um*) will search for first name Humphrey.

My list of boolean expressions is growing steadily so I will post it up on my website. You can copy and paste these expressions into first name fields.

4) Some of the indexing is atrocious and causes more problems. Think about how your ancestor's name might have been misindexed. For example, I found some confusion between Humphry/Morty. I then thought Humphry could have been misindexed as Murphy and thus found more men named Humphry.  Last night I found a Humphrey indexed as "Helen."  I am not joking.  Remember, these records were indexed by people who did not necessarily know the families in the locality you are searching.

Other pairs that cause confusion: L- versus S-  e.g., Louney versus Souney, Lantry versus Santry.  L---y could be Leary or Loony.   P- and B- can be confused.

It almost goes without saying that if your name is Regan or Reagan you must check Ryan and vice versa.

5) Surnames are not as automatically cross-referenced as I would like. I cannot get boolean expressions to match for surnames but wildcards seem to work.  Col* will turn up Collins, Coleman, etc.

6) Some townland names are hardly recognizable any more or grossly misspelled/misunderstood. I hope you are equipped with a good gazetteer or atlas or map.  Once you crack a few mistranscribed townlands, the records will get easier to read. and are good for looking up locations.

7) I repeat, look at the images. Get your eyes acclimated to the syntax of the church records. Look at lots of records.

My husband joked that there were a lot of women named "Hillary" in Ireland when what we were looking at was a phrase starting with  "& Mary " .

Here's another example:
[child's Christian name] of [father's name] & [mother's name]
The "of" gets mistaken as a final "h" on the child's name - then the child's name may be transcribed incorrectly as Jeremiah or Johannah or something that ends with h.

Similarly, the abbreviation Pr (presence of) has been misread as the initial R.

8) Some questions have been raised about missing records.  For gaps in records, drill down to the individual RC parish information at the Irish times website.  

9) Some parishes have records that start relatively late and some information remains forever lost.  There are multiple Skibbereen parish entities. From my earlier post - according to Skibbereen Heritage, Skibbereen & Rath were one parish until 1851. What is listed as Creagh & Sullon are the baptism records of this combined parish and then Skibbereen after 1851. Baptism and marriage records of Rath post 1851 are under Rath & Islands. Skibbereen & Rath start listing marriages in 1837.

10) If you think a record ought to be there and it isn't, make sure you review your assumptions about where your ancestors were at a given point in time and you have some other proof or basis for assuming they were in a specific location.

11) Priests transposed names into the wrong fields, and indexers may have picked up names off what is immediately preceding a record.  There are all sorts of ways errors can be made.

12) The date in the index can be off.  Check the entire page for the record, not just under the date the record is indexed by.

I have gotten a few date transpose errors from what I have obtained from other means.

13) Watch out for records that have been erroneously overwritten by a well-meaning transcriber from times past.  An overwritten record in my Grandmom's family has been a major cause of confusion in my family for literally decades; there is something screwy about the way it is indexed at Skibbereen Heritage; and it has even caused confusion for other researchers outside the family.  Daniel was overwritten with Denis.  As a result, some in my family weren't sure what the first name of Grandmom's grandfather was.


I'm still working on finding everything online that Skibbereen Heritage has found for me and I haven't come close to finding everything yet.

Happy hunting.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Too many Humphreys

So the big bombshell coming out of the release of additional Cork church records is that in my Granddad's side of the family there were multiple Humphreys in the Skibbereen area in the 1820's - 1840's. The majority of Humphrey Collins occurrences are out of Caheragh RC parish.

This really shouldn't be a surprise given that my uncle Humpsey had three similarly-named cousins of the same generation in school with him at the same time.

Before I get into searching for Humphrey Collinses in Caheragh, I thought I would mention this tip about searching the church records. The first name field can take a large boolean expression or a wild card - within limits.

If you want to search for John, enter: (Jn or Jno or John or Jon or Johannes or Joannes or Joannim or Johannam)

If you want to search for men named Morty, you can enter Mor*.

As far as I can tell, the first name field does not take a union of two wild card results. For example, if I want to search Hum* or Um* as a boolean expression, it doesn't work that way; however (Hum* or Ump*), with a minimum of three letters, may work.

Now the problem with Humphrey is that name - really any name - can be mistranscribed. I suspect a Morty Collins is really a Humphrey, and I also found a few occurrences of Murphy Collinses who are Humphreys.

When Skibbereen Heritage originally looked for my gg-grandfather Michael Collins, born about 1822, they were unable to locate a baptism record for a Michael son of Humphrey Collins and Johanna Barnane. And they probably searched Drimoleague & Drinagh as well. Humphrey and Johanna were married in early 1820 - though that marriage record has its problems - and the first child Catherine was born in December of that year - and that birth record has a few problems too. Then nothing until son John was born 1824.

So there is certainly a convenient slot for my gg-grandfather, whose birth year I estimated from the 1901 census. If he and his wife Ellen Driscoll were "old school" in the way they named their children, their first daughter might have been named after the paternal grandmother. That also fits, as daughter Johanna was born 1856. Ellen's mother was Margaret Loony.

Then the additional church records came online and I took a shot at searching for a baptism record for Michael and found one - born to a Humphry Collins and Ellen Sweeny in September 1822, and it looks like they were staying in Blue Hill (Knockgorm) at the time.

I went to Skibb Heritage and was told their records had that indexed as Morty. So I went on a fishing expedition and collected several handwriting samples and compared them. In the image below, the entry labeled 1822 in the left column was indexed as Morty at Skibb Heritage and Umpy on the church record site. The rest in the left column are indexed at the church record site as Humphry, Umpy, or Umphry or similar. The entries in the right-hand side are from Morty Hourihanes in Caheragh about the same time (so presumably handwritten by the same priests).

I think Morty is Umpy. And I can't dismiss this as some fluke or mistake. There is no other Michael born to a Humphry Collins. A Catherine Sweeny showed up at the wedding of Michael Collins and Ellen Driscoll in 1854. In fact, that Catherine Sweeny may have married just five days before to a Hourihane from Tooreen. Could Catherine Sweeny have been a cousin or aunt to Michael?

And then there's my DNA. I have a decent Family Finder match to somebody with Sweeny in his list of names. So far I haven't heard anything in response to my inquiries.

The online records have just opened up a whole new set of questions. There are no more records for Ellen Sweeny with this Morty/Umpy Collins. However, there is an Ellen Sweeny with a Denis Collins in Knockgorm shortly after, and they had several children.

The imagination can run wild here. I have not seen church records state whether parents are dead or alive. Could Morty/Umpy have been deceased and could Ellen Sweeny have remarried?

To get a better handle on the Humphrey Collinses running around, I decided to construct a timeline of sorts:

Where's Humphrey Collins?

DateRC ParishEventDescriptionSpouse/companion
1820-Feb-15D & DmarriageHumphrey Collins & "Mary" Bernard(1)
1820-Jul-12CaheraghbaptismAnne Barrettsponsor Humphry Collins
1820-Dec-02CaheraghbaptismCatherine Collinsparents Humphry Collins(2) Johanna Bernard
1820-Dec-17CaheraghbaptismCornelius KeohaneHumphry Collins sponsor
1822-Sep-08CaheraghbaptismMichael Collinsparents Humphrey Collins(3), Ellen Sweeny
1824-May-18CaheraghbaptismJohn Collinsparents Humphry Collins, Johanna Barnane
1826-Feb-04CaheraghmarriageCharles Brien & Mary CollinsHumphry Collins & Mary Brien witness
1827-Sep-02CaheraghbaptismMary Collinsparents Humphry Collins, Johanna Barnane
1828-Sep-20D & DbaptismJoan Manganmother Mary Collins, Humphry Collins sponsor
1829-Dec-13CaheraghbaptismNory Collinsparents Humphry Collins, Johanna Barnane
1830-Mar-19CaheraghbaptismPat CrimeenHumphry Collins sponsor
1830-Oct-01CaheraghbaptismCatherine MinihaneHumphry Collins sponsor
1831-Aug-01CaheraghbaptismHumphrey Collinsparents Michael Collins & Mary Donovan
1831-Aug-24CaheraghbaptismDenis CarthyHumphry Collins sponsor
1832-Jan-20CaheraghbaptismBridget BaryUmphy Collins sponsor
1833-Feb-19CaheraghmarriageJohn Casey & Catherine BurkeHumphry & Michael Collins witness
1833-Feb-19D & DmarriageCornelius Hourihan & Honora CaseyHumphry Collins witness
1833-Aug-07CaheraghbaptismJames Collinsparents Humphry Collins, Johanna Barnane
1833-Oct-24CaheraghbaptismJerry CoakleyHumphry Collins sponsor
1835-Dec-07CaheraghbaptismJohanna Collinsparents Humphry Collins, Johanna Barnane
1836-Dec-27SkibbereenbaptismJohn Collinsparents Humphry Collins, Mary Galvin
1838-Sep-16SkibbereenbaptismMargaret Collinsparents Humphry Collins, Mary Galvin
1839-Feb-05Skibb & RathmarriageJohn Collins & Margaret DonovanHumphry Collins witness
1839-Mar-14CaheraghbaptismPat Collinsparents Humphry Collins, Ja(o)ne Barrett(4)
1840-Mar-25CaheraghbaptismPat CoaklyHumphrey Collins sponsor
1841-Jan-19SkibbereenbaptismMary Collinsparents Humphry Collins, Mary Brien
1843-Apr-02SkibbereenbaptismJohanna Collinsparents Humphry Collins, Mary Brien
1845-Oct-23SkibbereenbaptismJerry Collinsparents Humphry Collins, Mary Collins
1846-JanCaheraghbaptismPat Cadigansponsors Humphry Collins, Johanna Bernard(5)
1851-Mar-01CaheraghmarriageCatherine Collins & Denis DonovanHumphry Collins & Honora Collins witness
1854-Feb-28CaheraghmarriageMichael Collins & Ellen DriscollHumphrey Collins, Catherine Sweeny witness
1858-Jan-23CaheraghmarriageJohn Collins & Ellen McCarthyHumphry Collins witness
1858-Jan-29CaheraghbaptismHumphry CollinsHumphry Collins sponsor; Michael Collins & Ellen Driscoll parents
1858-Nov-19CaheraghbaptismHumphry(7) CollinsJohn Collins & Ellen McCarthy parents
1861-Aug-24CaheraghbaptismHumphrey(8) CollinsDenis Collins & Margaret Mahony parents
1862-Mar-04Skib & RathmarriageJames Collins & Catherine DriscollHumphry Collins witness
1863-Apr-22KilmacabeabaptismHumphry Collinsson of a Jerry?
1873-Apr-17CaheraghdeathHumphrey Collins, age 88Humphrey Collins present at death (left mark)
1873-May-28CaheraghbaptismTimothy CollinsHumphry Collins sponsor
1875-Nov-07D&DbaptismHumphry Collins(6)parents Patrick Collins,Catherine Collins
1879-May-14SkibbereenbaptismDenis CollinsHumphrey Collins, sponsor

  • 1 - Skibb Heritage was of the opinion the priest made an error and this should have been Johanna.
  • 2 - Another error - father is recorded as John and baptism sponsor Humphry.
  • 3 - Probably my direct ancestral line.
  • 4 - There is no confusion between Barrett and Barnane. The handwriting of Barrett is clear, and there were Barretts in Lissane. However, I haven't dug up a marriage record for a Humphrey Collins and a Jane/Joan Barrett, which makes me wonder if the priest was hard of hearing or what!
  • 5 - Johanna Barnane was alive as late as 1846, which means that her husband couldn't have been married to Mary Galvin or Brien at the same time - therefore there was at least one other Humphry!
  • 6 - Indexed as Helen!
  • 7 - Whoever indexed this entry gave up entirely on the first name and just left it blank.
  • 8 - The father Denis *could* have been the son of Michael Collins and Mary Donovan of Lissane Lower. This couple had a son named Humphrey in 1831. But there is no baptism record of Denis.

I can't figure out what was going on in 1833. Humphry went to two different Casey weddings on the same day?!? In fact his calendar was so full in 1833 it makes me wonder if he had time to farm.

Caheragh records start in mid-1818; Drimoleague & Drinagh mid-1817. Now, what about Skibbereen records? There are multiple Skibbereen parish entities. According to Skibbereen Heritage, Skibbereen & Rath were one parish until 1851. What is listed as Creagh & Sullon are the baptism records of this combined parish and then Skibbereen after 1851. Baptism and marriage records of Rath post 1851 are under Rath & Islands. Skibbereen & Rath start listing marriages in 1837.

Given that Mary Galvin and Mary Brien were baptizing their children in Skibbereen and not Caheragh, this information leads me to conclude that their marriage records fall out of range, so that information is forever lost.

I am curious about the names Galvin and Mangane. There are a few Galvins here and there. Mangane is rather uncommon. I get the feeling these names could be agnomens for another name. Brien, perhaps?

Ultimately, I am going to have to view every single image to decide for myself if the transcriptions are correct and if my assumptions are correct.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Some bingos and a bombshell

Today the government of Ireland released the remainder of what it had intended to release of the south Cork church records. Thanks to this effort I have new insights on my Grandmom's Collinses, I believe I have a more conclusive link to the Mahonys in Bredagh, and I have discovered a bombshell in the Humphrey Collinses of Lissane, which really is just another insight.

First, some words about these church records. I can now better understand the delay for releasing them. The illegibility of some of these records made indexing and computerization very difficult, and no doubt there are substantial errors. In my own family I have discovered a number of errors already.  Therefore, I encourage anybody reading this to take the time to browse the records, and to be very flexible with your searches. When new information becomes available one has to be ready to throw out some old assumptions. 

Second, here's a little trick when searching for Christian names in the church records. You can build a search string as a large boolean expression. For example, to search for a woman named Catherine Neil, enter the following string into the name field:

(Cathe or Cath or Catherine or Catharine or Kath or Katherine or Kate or Kattie or Katy or Katty) Neil

The software engine is normally pretty good at cross-indexing surname variants. But not always. Again, I highly recommend browsing. And take a good look at the images, because there could be errors in the index. One day while browsing Skibbereen I noticed somebody with the surname Neil with something like Sheehy appended to it, as if Sheehy were a local nickname. That wasn't in the text index.  You just never know what you'll find.

If you are researching south Cork like I am, read Nora Hickey's article,  "What's in a Name?"  Unfortunately, the website originally hosting this article has taken it offline, and you will be directed to the Internet archive.  When you get to the archive, make a backup copy of it on your own computer to reference. 

The article talks about some of the odd south Cork locality-specific secondary names you may be struggling with while researching your ancestry.

Thank God these records are finally online.  It is better to have these illegible records with their dark smudgy illegible handwriting and indexing errors than to not have them at all.