What’s in a (place)name?

November 19, 2010 § 2 Comments

An interesting phenomenon that has occurred in my research has involved the discovery of the actual townland that the Conroy family hailed from. When my research first started out all I knew was the County they were from, and at some point along the way that was narrowed to the town of Mountmellick from information gained from Sarah Conroy’s immigration record. This would be collaborated later with similar information from her Brother James’ ship record, as well.

In the process of researching Ellen Conroy’s marriage license in Newton, Mass., I learned that her birthplace was listed as Rosenallis, also in County Laois. At first this concerned me. Had I discovered an error? Was the information from earlier records false, or did I perhaps even have incorrect individuals? A quick search on Google Maps would assuage these fears as I would see that Rosenallis was located not far from Mountmellick, and I would also learn that Rosenallis is a Civil Parish located within the Poor Law Union of Mountmellick itself. The Roman Catholic parish for the area is split between Rosenallis and Mountmellick as well.

When I first began to search through the 1901 Irish census I was unsuccessful in finding the Conroy family in either Mountmellick or Rosenallis. This was frustrating because I felt that I had the correct information and I rarely have had too much trouble in locating individuals for too long in census returns. But when I broadened my search to other districts I made the discovery that the townland of Capard is located within Rosenallis, and within that again is the townland of Cones. Looking at Google Maps again I could see that this was true; Capard itself is an even shorter distance from Rosenallis than the latter from Mountmellick. Cones is then a short ways down a small country lane from there. In fact I can’t even remember where I found that because Cones is so small and remote that it doesn’t even show up on Google.

Making this discovery was very exciting. I felt that I had made a journey not only through the geography of a place but also through time. I then reflected on how the Conroy’s had continued to list Mountmellick as their place of origin on later documents, including marriage and death records. I realized this is a bit like living near Boston, or any other major urban area. If you actually come from a smaller town thirty or forty minutes away, when you meet a stranger who asks you were you are from, in most cases you will simply say the name of the city, since that is what most people are familiar with. Only with people who may have a more specific knowledge of the area might you be more accurate in saying your true home town. I think this same principle must have applied for the Conroys, and perhaps most immigrants.

Later on while searching the Catholic parish registers I would find Ellen Conroy’s baptism recorded and the place would be listed as ‘Coen’. I thought this was curious so I contacted the Irish Midlands Ancestry Heritage Centre in Co. Offaly regarding the spelling. I was very happy when I received a swift reply confirming my suspicions that the two spellings were most likely the same place, and that Irish history is filled with similar examples of name changes over the centuries. I have also since seen the name spelled one or more different ways, even on documents of other members of the Conroy family.

A baptismal record showing Cones listed as "Coen" - far right.


‘God Save the LDS’, or, ‘Not About LSD.’

November 18, 2010 § Leave a comment

Civil registration of vital records and of events, such as births, marriages, and deaths, began nationwide in Ireland in 1864. Since then, all events have been registered through the government and are collected in one central office, the General Register Office (An tSeirbhís um Chlárú Sibhialta) in Co. Roscommon. These records are available to genealogists and family researchers, but access is only gained initially by finding the sought after records listed in indices made available to the public. Finding an ancestor or life event can be difficult if the surname is widespread or if the county in which the event took place is not known. For the most part, if there was any doubt, a researcher would have to make their best guess.

In addition to only having initial access to the indices the other challenge to researchers is that, until recently, the only way to see the indices was to go, in person, to the research room available in Dublin city. If a researcher had a good idea of when and where who they were looking for might be, then they could write to the ofice instead, but at the risk of getting the wrong indiviual or paying extra research and location fees.

Then, along came the Mormons. The Church of Latter-Day Saints has scanned and copied to microfilm a ridiculous number of records, not just state records but church records as well. Among these are the indices for vital records. A researcher can now visit their local Family Learning Center, locate the appropriate film, and view the index desired. One still has to know something of who and what they are looking for to be successful. In addition to this, the LDS have also scanned many of the actual records and documents themselves, so one can see Granpa Paddy’s birth record without making a trip or writing to Dublin. I should mention at this point that county research centres also hold many of these same records within Ireland, but the same challanges hold true, not to mention that they also seem to charge much higher fees. Searching these databases is possible through FamilySearch.org (see the video link below).

Also available to researchers are the records held by the Roman Catholic church and Church of Ireland, many of which have also been filmed by the LDS. These, too, are available to order, and in some cases can provide information for dates earlier than those events registered in the Civil Records. I found it not uncommon to have trouble finding an individual in one type of record only to find them in the other.

1874 Rosenallis RC Registers Ellen Conroy

I recently ordered a roll of film from the LDS and visited my local Family Learning Center, located at the St Louis County Library headquarters, to view it. The film contained the registers of baptisms, marriages, and deaths recorded in the civil district of Rosenallis, within which lies the village of Capard and the townland of Cones where the Conroy’s hail from. I was very excited to find the baptismal record for Ellen Conroy fairly quickly, and discovered an interesting variation in the spelling of Cones. It the document it was written as “Coen,” and I have also seen this elsewhere. On a side note this has raised some confusion regarding Ellen’s true birth year, as some documents list her at 1874 and others at 1877. It is true that this is still an acceptable variation in range, but it would be worthwhile trying to be a little more certain.

Detail 1874 Ellen Conroy Baptism - Ellen is about three-quarters of the way down under the July 19 heading.

I have since spent many hours working through the LDS databases and have many records relevant to my research. Some have had a digital image of the actual record available online, while others have simply provided the call number to be used when ordering the film. I foresee many future visits to the St Louis County Library.

PS A good introduction to understanding how to search the Latter Day Saints databases is available here. It is focused on Irish Civil Registration, but the basics of how to navigate the websites I think can apply to any type of research.

James Joseph Conroy

November 9, 2010 § 5 Comments

James Joseph Conroy was born 23 Feb 1882 in County Laois to James Conroy and Catherine Heffernan, parents of about twelve children who included siblings Ellen and Sarah, who have been discussed previously (see Meet the Conroy’s). While the evidence of an existing birth record is slim, later documents do confirm his tie with the family.

Immigration record for James Joseph Conroy, showing that he was met by his sister Ellen, who was living in Newton, Massachusetts.

James was not present in the Conroy household for the 1901 Irish census (neither was his father, if the returns are accurate; he was also listed elsewhere) but he immigrated in May of 1904 into Boston where he was met by his sister Ellen who had paid for his passage. He lived with Ellen and her husband, Thomas Harney, in Newton, Massachusetts for a short period, and then appears to bounce between Newton, Natick, and Waltham for the next several years. In 1911 he is married to Delia Connelly of Carraroe, Co. Galway and they start a family.

Massachusetts marriage record for James and Delia Conroy, 1911.

J J Conroy Naturalization Record


Sometime between 1925 and 1928, while living in Waltham, James apparently has a change in wives, even though he is still living at the same address. I do not know if there was a divorce or what may have happened, nor do I know the fate of Delia, although if an online tree is to be believed then according to the Social Security Death Index she eventually moves to and dies in Holliston, Massachusetts.

James is then married to a woman named Annie M Sullivan, whom I believe has at least one child from a previous marriage herself.  After 1931, however, the trail goes cold since Natick does not have any city directories past that time available online. The quest to fill in the gaps, of course, will continue.

1931 Natick City Directory

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