Saturday, 16 July 2016

Succession rights

In nineteenth-century Ireland, many people rented their property on a week-by-week basis. They had limited tenancy rights and faced eviction at any time, on the whim of their landlord. Despite this, or maybe because of it, Irish people formed a unique attachment to the land. It often passed from one generation to the next and remained in the same family for centuries.

As they had no legal rights to the property, this ‘inheritance’ was rarely subject to a written will. So, probate records, much used by genealogists abroad, are often of limited use in Ireland.

But, there is another way to trace the occupiers of a property over time – the Cancelled Books. These books record changes in landlord and occupier, as well as in the size and value of their holding. When the number of amendments made a book difficult to read, it was cancelled, and a new one opened. Hence the name. Unfortunately, the books covering the Republic of Ireland are not available online. A recent visit to the Valuation Office provided an insight into the fortunes of my paternal Byrne family from Co. Kildare.

Griffith published his Primary Valuation for Co. Kildare in 1853. It showed my third great-grandfather, Andrew Byrne, at his rented property in Athgarvan. At the time, Andrew had a cottage with an annual valuation of just ten shillings - as shown at plot 2e on the below map. His garden measured only fifteen perches in size. Bear in mind there were 160 perches in a single acre of land – this was a tiny garden for a man who worked as a gardener.

Excerpt Griffith’s Valuation, Athgarvan, Co. Kildare, 1853

The earliest Cancelled Book for Athgarvan began a few years after 1853. In that short time, Andrew Byrne had already replaced Patrick Clynch as the occupier of the property at 2a. His new holding included a cottage and sheds, with a combined value of fifteen shillings a year. It's unlikely the house was any better than his previous one, but the new garden was over an acre in size. It was valued at an extra fifteen shillings a year. Andrew finally had a decent garden to call his own.

Andrew remained at this property and likely cultivated his garden for many years. Then, the Cancelled Books show Edward Byrne replaced him as the occupier of 2a. This revision was dated 1877, five years after Andrew had passed away. Andrew died of bronchitis on 26 October 1872, at the age of sixty-eight years, leaving his wife, Anne, behind.

Edward Byrne was Andrew’s son, born in Athgarvan, in 1850. He was the second youngest son - the youngest, Andrew, was still a minor in 1872. In June 1878, Edward married Margaret Mullins. If his mother was still alive, she probably continued to live with them. But, within ten years, Edward’s name was also removed as the occupier of 2a. The change dates to 1887 and suggests he passed away at a young age.

Owen Doran, Edward’s brother-in-law, replaced him as the ratepayer on record. Owen had married Edward’s sister Mary Byrne in May 1878. The Dorans had seven children, all baptised in the parish. They lived in Rosetown, the townland adjoining Athgarvan, before moving into the Byrne cottage. Then, in 1891, the family moved to New York. The cottage passed to a William Dowling, and most likely out of my family for good.

Looking back to the mid-1850s when Andrew Byrne replaced Patrick Clynch at 2a. Andrew's wife was born Anne Clynch. Chances are she was related to Patrick, especially now we know she moved into his home. But, it might take some work to figure out their precise relationship.

© Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Moving on

What makes someone up sticks and move to a different location?

In nineteenth-century Ireland, more often than not, the answer was hunger. But, in the case of my third great-grandfather, David Carroll, he stuck it out in Co. Tipperary for the whole duration of the Great Famine (1845 to about 1850). Then, in its immediate aftermath, he up and left the county.

That much I knew already. Griffith’s Valuation showed David Carroll in the townland of Coolmoyne, Co. Tipperary, in 1850. His son placed him in Co. Limerick by 1859. Now, it's time to carry out a more thorough search of the property tax records, to see what else can be discovered. 

First, I checked the House and Field Books.[1] Griffith’s team used these notebooks in the years before the published Valuation. They start about 1844 for southern counties and record the names of those paying the property rates. The House Books were the most interesting for my purpose.

The book for Coolmoyne was ‘copied’ on 21 May 1847. And, although I already knew David lived there from at least 1841, this book provided a description of his home. He lived in a house, 31.6 feet long, 15.6 feet wide, with ceilings 8 feet high. It sounds like a two-roomed cottage to me, especially as both other houses on the page were only 15 feet long.

David Carroll, House Book, Coolmoyne (v. 1641 - v. 1692)

It was even more interesting to learn that a man named Richard Carroll had property in Coolmoyne too. Richard leased a forge of some kind. He was not mentioned in the Field Book, meaning he had no garden.  And, nearly everyone in rural Ireland had a garden then. It was necessary to grow the potatoes, the staple diet for much of the population. So, perhaps Richard resided elsewhere, maybe even with my Carroll family. According to Griffith’s Valuation, he no longer leased the property in 1850. I do wonder who he was and if or how he was related to David Carroll. More food for thought!

Richard Carroll, House Book, Coolmoyne (v. 1641 - v. 1692)

Next, I visited the Valuation Office in Dublin and inspected their original Cancelled Land Books. These books record changes in holdings, post Griffith’s. The earliest book for Coolmoyne was dated 1860, ten years after the Valuation. All it confirms is, by then, David Carroll no longer leased the house in Coolmoyne. He had been replaced by a woman, probably a widow, called Mary Daly. David's absence supports his son’s assertion he was in ‘Co. Limerick’ by February 1859. It would have been nice to learn the year he left. Still, this increases the likelihood I have located the right David Carroll. 

The book also shows David’s immediate landlord, Thomas Cahill, left Coolmoyne by 1860 too. Thomas Cahill was a farmer, leasing seven acres of land from John Maunsell in Coolmoyne. He also leased thirty-nine acres from George Fennell at Coolmoyne (Fennell), where he lived. I decided to find out what happened to Thomas Cahill, hoping it would shed light on why David left Coolmoyne. It was not a happy story.

By October 1859, Cahill was struggling to make ends meet. He was ten pounds short when he went to the fair in Killenaule to pay the annual rent. His landlord was not at all impressed and refused to accept the amount offered. And you know what that meant. Eviction!

The next morning Cahill got up early and told his wife he was going to check on his animals. He left all his money on the table beside his bed and went out. That was the last time she saw him alive. They later found his body in a pond near his home.[2] Presumably, poor Cahill could not face such an uncertain future.

Perhaps, Cahill, in his attempts to survive, had increased David's rent beyond sustainable levels. David had probably already left Coolmoyne when Cahill died. But, his landlord's financial struggles, coupled with an unsympathetic landowner, was probably enough to have prompted anyone to move on.

[1] The original House and Field Book manuscripts are held at the National Archives of Ireland, Dublin. FamilySearch had copies freely available online until recently, but unfortunately, they have since been taken down.
[2] Cork Examiner, 19 October 1859, p.4.

© Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday, 2 July 2016


If I'd any lingering doubts that Michael Byrne was a nephew of Mary Power, here it is confirmed it in writing.

Mary Power, 1919, Death certificate, General Register Office

Michael Byrne – nephew - registered Mary Power’s death in 1919.


You may be wondering why this is significant. Well, until recently, my great-grandfather Michael Byrne was my longest standing genealogy brick wall. The search for him has been an ongoing saga here at Black Raven. And, discovering his relationship with Mary (Leahy) Power was crucial to uncovering his past.  You can catch up on how this brick wall finally collapsed, by reading:  

© Black Raven Genealogy