A Royal Irish Constabulary service record was just the first piece of a puzzle Mike Pearson encountered when tracing his Tipperary roots. Jon Bauckham learns more
How Mike Pearson traced his Tipperary roots
Traditionally, Ireland has presented a stumbling block for researchers. Following the loss of crucial records during the Irish War of Independence, those more comfortable with sources elsewhere in the British Isles have tended to shy away.
However, if you know where to look, there’s a treasure trove of valuable documents waiting both online and in the archives, which when used in conjunction can take your research in surprising – and productive – new directions.
After reading the article on Irish research in our Summer 2018 issue, Mike Pearson got in touch to reveal how he tackled his own Irish brick wall.
My Brick Wall
I started tracing my family history in the late 1980s, but took an extended break when I pursued academic work and spent some time on my brother-in-law’s ancestry instead.
I resumed my research in 2006, deciding to focus on six particular lines in my tree. I got on quite well when it came to tracing my English roots, but one of my Irish great grandfathers – John Glennane – presented a dead end.
John didn’t appear to have any other living descendants who could be consulted, and there were no records surviving in the family archives either. I knew from his gravestone that he had died in 1911 and that his wife’s name was Hannah, but I wasn’t sure where else to look.
According to my mother he had also served in the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC), but that was the extent of my knowledge.
My Eureka Moment
I thought that the RIC connection might be the best route to explore. No material was available online, but I was able to get a printout of his service record thanks to the Garda Museum and Archives ( bit.ly/RICarchives).
To my surprise, I found that John’s roots were not in Ulster as I had anticipated, but in Tipperary. His record also revealed that he had enlisted in 1853 when he was 21, and had previously worked as a labourer.
To learn more about his early life, I went over to Dublin in 2007 to search for his baptism at the National Library of Ireland, where the Catholic parish registers were available on microfilm (and not yet digitised and available for free online at registers.nli.ie, as they are now).
The surname wasn’t very common, but I found that there was a concentration of Glennanes (with various spellings) in the parish of Galbally and Aherlow. A John ‘Glinnane’ had been baptised there on 18 December 1831, and the record revealed
that the names of his parents were John and Bridget.
Then I used Griffith’s Valuation ( askaboutireland.ie/griffith-valuation) to locate a matching couple who occupied two plots in the townland of Longford, in the civil parish of Clonbeg.
A year or two later, I decided to go and see what that part of Tipperary looked like. While driving through the countryside, it suddenly struck me that John would have been a teenager there during the Great Famine.
I was quite shaken to realise that, through him, I had a link to that cataclysmic event. It made me want to know more about his later life.
I pressed on and traced John’s marriage to Hannah Lynch in Donegal, along with newspaper references to his work. He was stationed in Carrigans, a quiet village near the River Foyle.
In 1880 John was promoted to head constable in Magherafelt, Co. Derry, before retiring and becoming an auctioneer. He and his wife lost a number of children, and the surname died with him.
I managed to trace two of his cousins to Australia and made contact with their descendants, but I really wanted to find out exactly where the family’s field in Tipperary had been located.
Returning to Griffith’s Valuation, I located the field on an accompanying map. Using earth.google.com, I zoomed in on the same location and there it was. I was confident it was the right place, because of a circle of trees and bushes that had also been present in the 19th century.
Then, in 2016, I walked down a track and into the field myself, and discovered the ruins of the same cottage that my ancestors had lived in 180 years previously.
I felt proud and moved to be standing where they had endured, but survived, the Famine. An elderly local even remembered it being known in his lifetime as ‘Glinnane’s Field’.
same ‘I discovered the ruins of the in’ cottage my ancestors had lived
MIKE PEARSON has been working at his family history on and off for 30 years. He currently lives in Buckinghamshire John Glennane’s service record includes the date he was pensioned off, and how much money he received
Mike found the exact property where his family lived through the Great Famine