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 He had been replaced by a woman, probably a widow, called Mary Daly.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


  1. What interesting documents! You have arrived at a very sad theory, but it sounds plausible.

    1. The National Archives have promised the House and Field books will be published any time now. Looking forward to checking them out further.

  2. It's really neat how much you can learn from these books. And, it's interesting to see the different records which were kept in Ireland vs. the United States.

    1. I love reading about how genealogists abroad use their surviving records, Dana - it often provides an insight into how to better use the ones in Ireland.

  3. What a sad ending! It truly is amazing how much you can find where you least expect it. Good detective work!

    1. Thanks Michelle. Yes, poor Cahill, the Famine hit some parts of Ireland very badly.

  4. I have included your blog in this week’s Interesting Blogs on Friday Fossicking at

    Thank you, Chris

    1. Thanks Chris, much appreciated.

    2. Hi Dara,

      I've enjoyed reading your webpage.

      My John O'Keeffe (Keeffe) also lived in Coolmoyne (Fennel) during the 1850 Griffith's Valuation. Perhaps nieghbors of David Carroll? John Keeffe was listed on the GVT Map as House #1 on the Cashel Road, and one can still view the house on the current OS Map.
      The O'Keeffes immigrated in Nov 1851 after losing two children in the Famine, and another dau Margaret when arriving in NY.
      Keep up the good work on your family history, and thank yor allowing others to view your page.

      John O'Keefe
      Wisconsin, USA

    3. Thank you for your message, John. Chances are our ancestors knew each other over 150 years ago - how cool is that? They certainly came from a beautiful part of country, but the Famine probably hit them quite hard. Your family may have been among the luckier ones - having had the money to emigrate.


I look forward to reading your comments, even more especially if you're related to someone mentioned in this post.

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