Saturday 19 March 2016

Genealogy brickwall busting with Catholic parish registers

Last July, the National Library published copy images of Catholic parish registers from all across Ireland. More recently, commercial genealogy companies built an index to these registers, thus allowing the whole country, or at least all the parishes in the collection, to be searched at once.  So, if you know your ancestors’ names, even if you don’t know where exactly they came from, you might still be able to find them.

That was my plan this week anyway.

I already ‘knew’ quite a bit about Maurice Carroll, my great-great-grandfather. I traced his life in Dublin from 1857, when his first son was baptised, until 1906 when he died. He said he was born in Co. Tipperary about 1838, though I've never been able to 'prove' this.[1] 

I did know the family’s association with Tipperary was strong. Maurice’s son Robert, born to his first wife Mary Anne Frazer, also claimed Tipperary as his birthplace.[2] Yet, he was baptised in Donabate, Co. Dublin and likely born nearby at Balheary, where Maurice worked as a coachman.[3]  Mary Anne’s parents lived in Clonmel, the largest town in Tipperary, so it’s feasible Maurice originated somewhere near there.
At some stage, presumably after Maurice Carroll’s formative years, his parents moved to Co. Limerick. They lived there in 1859 when Maurice married Maryanne Frazer. At the time of his marriage, Maurice named his parents as David Carroll and Catherine Cummins, but they have remained elusive. Limerick was a big place.[4]

Excerpt, Marriage of Maurice Carroll & Mary Anne Frazer, 1859, St Nicholas

Sadly, there is still no sign of Maurice's baptism in the newly indexed Catholic parish registers, so I had to keep digging.

Mary Anne died young and Maurice married my great-great-grandmother, Anne Radcliffe, on 22 August 1869. This marriage helpfully narrowed down his parent’s address to Castleconnell, Co. Limerick.[5]

Excerpt, Marriage of Maurice Carroll & Anne Radclife, 1869, Swords Parish

In February 1852, a taxation survey found five men named David Carroll in Co. Limerick. Two of these were in Castleconnell. What are the chances? One leased a fairly sizable ‘house, office and garden’ on Castle Street and sublet four adjacent properties to tenants. Another, or perhaps the same man, leased over seven acres of land nearby. Our David Carroll was a carpenter and probably not quite so ‘well-to-do.’ Plus, a carpenter would hardly have needed so much land. Still, they were worthy of further investigation.[6]

Castleconnell Castle, Co. Limerick, 1833.

Tithe (taxation) records dating to the 1820s and 1830s show David Carroll had property in Castleconnell village, as well as in the wider townland, as far back as then. So, the man, or men, I’ve found in Castleconnell probably lived there before Maurice Carroll was even born and likely earlier than our family arrived in the area.[7]

Yet another doubt crept in when an 1846 trade directory, covering the town of Castleconnell, revealed the David Carroll in Castle Street was a baker. The daily car to Limerick picked up passengers outside his shop each morning at nine, and returned there each evening at six. My third great-grandfather was not a baker. He worked as a carpenter, supposedly.[8]

And, I ruled out the second candidate too. According to the town's Protestant church registers, a lady named Mary Carroll married Stephen Hall, in 1852. Her father was David Carroll of Castleconnell. Theirs was presumably a mixed marriage as they baptised their first son in the Roman Catholic faith. However, her father turned out to have been a farmer, and maybe the man leasing the seven acres.[9]

So, it seems our David Carroll arrived in Castleconnell after 1852 and did not appear in the Limerick taxation survey.

I'm not finished yet though. Thanks to the newly released index of Catholic parish records, I may have just found our man, and in Co. Tipperary too. Seeking all Carroll baptisms, with Catherine Cummins as the named mother, two entries caught my attention. On 21 November 1841, Mary Carroll from the townland of Coolmoyne was christened in Fethard parish, in South Tipperary. Mary’s parents, David Carroll and Cath Cummins, shared the same names as my third great-grandparents. Mary had a little brother named David, baptised in Fethard, five years later. 

Chances are this was my family. Maurice is still AWOL, but I’m off to see what else I can find out.[10]

[1] Census of Ireland, 1901, Maurice Carroll, Mountjoy, Dublin, National Archives.
[2] Census of Ireland, 1901, Robert Carroll, Royal Exchange, Dublin, same.
[3] Robert Carroll, baptism, 1860, Swords parish register, National Library.
[4] Carroll-Frazer marriage, 1859, St Nicholas parish register,
[5] Carroll-Radcliffe marriage, 1869, Swords parish register, National Library.
[6] David Carroll, Limerick, Griffith's Valuation, Ask about Ireland.
[7] David Carroll, Limerick, Tithe Applotment Books, National Archives.
[8] David Carroll, Munster, Slater's Commercial Directory of Ireland, 1846, Failte Romhat.
[9] Hall-Carroll marriage, 1852, Stradbally parish register, (subscription site); Copy marriage register, General Register Office.
[10] Ireland Roman Catholic Parish Baptisms, Fethard parish, FindMyPast, courtesy of the National Library. 

Image credits: Except from marriage registers courtesy of the National Library of Ireland; Castleconnell Castle, The Irish Penny Magazine, no. 24, v. 1, 15 June 1833, p. 1, JSTOR.

© Black Raven Genealogy


  1. If you can find my family, you can certainly find yours ;-)
    I have 2 pretty good blogs coming up the next 2 Mondays, so stop by if you can.

  2. Looking forward to them, Wendy :-)

  3. Good luck Dara, I know you'll find him if anyone can!


I'd love to hear your thoughts on this!