Saturday, 21 November 2015

Seeking my Ancestors in the Irish Catholic Parish Registers

No doubt, you’ve all heard our National Library recently published the historic ‘Catholic Parish Registers’ online, for all the world to view. Well, like other genealogists, I too have been enjoying the fruits of their labour.

Granted, transcriptions of most of these registers have long been available on the web-site. And, as I live near Dublin, it has always been reasonably easy to validate these transcripts against copies of the registers held at the Library. Now though, not only can I do this from home, but I'm finding records seemingly missed or completely mis-transcribed, by

And, one such record was the long-sought marriage of my fourth great-grandparents, Peter Radcliffe and Anne Sarsfield, from Malahide, Co. Dublin. We already know quite a lot about Peter. He was a plasterer-cum-painter, who worked for Lord Talbot at Malahide Castle, and lived to the ripe-old age of about ninety years. But, until the copy registers became available, the earliest record relating to this family was dated May 1826, when their son Peter was baptised.

Then, I found, on 3 July 1825, exactly when and where expected, Peter Ratty (a common nickname for Radcliffe) married Anne Sarsfield, in Swords Roman Catholic church. Their witnesses were Thomas Tully and Catherine Ratty.

Swords, Co. Dublin, 1825, Marriage of Peter Ratty & Anne Sarsfield

Unfortunately however, as was customary in the parish at that time, their parents’ names were not recorded. 

So, we’ll probably never find anything to directly link this Peter to the baptism of Peter Ratty in the neighbouring parish of Baldoyle, in November 1798.  Hence, there is likely no surviving document to confirm his parents were Thomas Ratty and Mary Cullen.  

Yet, I strongly suspect these were his parents, and not only because the surname was fairly uncommon in Dublin, or because of their proximity to Malahide, but also because our Peter named his third son Thomas and his only daughter Mary. But, that's not quite 'proof'.

Thomas and Mary’s marriage was likewise discovered in the newly released registers. They married in Baldoyle, on 29 June 1790, making this the very earliest record ever found for one of my ancestors (if indeed, Thomas and Mary were Peter’s parents). The witnesses to the marriage were Barney Cullen, Barney Barrett and Rose Doyle.

Baldoyle, Co. Dublin, 1790, Marriage of Thomas Ratty & Mary Cullen

The Baldoyle parish registers also reveal the names of Thomas and Mary’s children - John, born in 1791, Thomas in 1792, another John in 1794, Mark in 1797, Peter in 1798, Ellen in 1806 and finally, Margaret, who was born in 1809. A gap in the records between December 1800 and August 1806 probably conceals the names of some more, one of whom might have been Catherine, the witness to Peter and Anne’s marriage.

Nearly everything I know about Thomas and Mary, my would-be fifth great-grandparents, is here, in the baptisms of their children. So, this is where I’ll concentrate the search to ‘prove’ our relationship.

And, it was their daughter Ellen who I found first. Named as Ellenor Radcliffe, she married Michael Harford in Baldoyle, in June 1835. This was ten years after Peter had established himself, five miles up the coast, at Malahide. Michael and Ellen had five children baptised in Baldoyle before 1844, and then their names ceased to appear in the church registers.

Sadly, nothing was found to link Ellen’s family back to our Peter and Anne. The only known family connection I recognised was Mark Radcliffe, Ellen’s elder brother. He sponsored the baptism of Mary, their second child, thus, confirming he survived childhood, and opening up another avenue for research.

Sources: Parishes of Swords and Baldoyle, Catholic Parish Registers, National Library or Ireland; Church records,

© 2015 Black Raven Genealogy


  1. I would mark them as probable.

    1. Thanks Claudia, that’s good to know; I’m starting to get attached to them.

  2. A good reminder to always check the records for yourself when possible. This gives me hope I may yet find 2nd great-grandfather James White.

    1. I hope you find James soon, Ellie.


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