Eureka Mo­ment

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

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - CONTENTS -

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 (

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 reg­is­, 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 ( ask­aboutire­­fith-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.

My Break­through

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, 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

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