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All posts by Jim Ryan


Tracing Your Leitrim Ancestors: the authors view

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By Tom Coughlan,  Author:       Research always seems to throw up the unexpected. Before starting to write Tracing Your Leitrim Ancestors (Flyleaf Press 2018),  I believed that Leitrim had always been the least populated county in Ireland – as it is today. However, this is not the case.  In 1841 Leitrim had 155,000 residents, making it only the 6th  smallest county in terms of population. It dropped to 112,000 in 1851, and continued to drop in every subsequent census.  Other economic factors during the 20th century continued the decline to a low of around 25,000 in 1996.  Since then it has risen to about 32,000. The decline of 28% between 1841 and 1851 can be attributed to the Great Famine of 1845-1849, and its aftermath of emigration and disease. The scale and duration of the impact makes Leitrim one of the most significantly affected. Perhaps the simplest explanation for this can be found in McPartlan’s Statistical Survey of the County Leitrim, 1802, which jokes that land in Leitrim was sold by the gallon and not by the acre. Like many other words written in jest, there is a large element of truth in this.  Much of Leitrim is covered in water, and much of the rest is either mountain or bog. It is not a county offering a great living to a farmer, and neither does it support much industry.

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Papers of Commissioners of Education in Irl re Raphoe Royal School and estate at Townavilly, Co. Donegal;  Boys and girls at Tawnavilly School 1849 NLI Ms 17960 (3)

Register of Tawnawully School, Co. Donegal 1849

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Small Sources 34.  This is a list of 59 boys and 21 girls attending Townavilly (alias Tawnawully or Tawnawilly) tenantry school in 1st May 1849.  The lists are among the papers of the Commissioners of Education in Ireland, which are in the National Library of Ireland  – Ms 17,960 (3).  The Commissioners were set up in 1813 to manage ‘endowed’ schools, i.e. those that were funded by means of rent from lands they owned. A small number of schools owned such estates, either as a result of charitable donations, or ancient land-grants from the crown.  One such was Raphoe Royal School, originally established in Donegal town in 1618, but moved to Raphoe in the 1680s.  It still exists as the Royal & Prior Comprehensive School. This blog concerns a separate ‘tenantry school’ established by the Commissioners for the children of tenants on their land. These lands were in Townavilly or Tawnawully, which is a District Electoral Division situated Northwest of Donegal Town and containing 14  townlands.  During the 1840s, which was the decade of the Great Famine, the relatively poor land was non-productive and  little income was received from the estate.  There were around 200 households on the estate at this time. The Annual Report of the Commissioners for 1848-49 notes that they had “… expended large sums in giving employment to tenantry, in squaring the farms, in building and establishing a school for them”.  However, they also reported that “ …we regret to be obliged to  report that the lawless spirit which so long prevailed in this mountainous district .. has again exhibited itself ….. we have determined to put at the disposal (of the agent) a sum of money by which he may assist in enabling such of the tenantry to emigrate as it is desirable to be removed from the estate”.  Their 1849-50 report further states that “… we have felt ourselves coerced, by the peculiarities of the estate and the tenantry resident thereon, to … assist several families in emigrating to America…. And we have further to state that a large number of children continue to receive gratuitous instruction at a school established for us for their benefit”.  Their report of 1853/4 seems to suggest that their efforts were successful as they note that the estate ‘.… long in an almost hopeless condition, appears now to hold out a prospect of improvement’.  It is not clear which of the children and their families emigrated as a result of the above inducements.  A search of the 1901 census found 13 men with the same names still living in the area.  These are listed below with their townland of residence and their age in 1901.  It is a reasonable presumption that at least the younger of these are the same people.  Based on their ages in 1901, they would have been aged between 9 and 19 when attending the school in 1849. Read More


‘Tracing your Leitrim Ancestors’ published by Flyleaf Press

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Flyleaf Press have published ‘Tracing your Leitrim  Ancestors’  by Tom Coughlan.  It is a comprehensive guide to research on the families of county Leitrim, Ireland. It sets out the records available, where they can be accessed both on-line and in archives, and how the available records can be used to best effect in genealogical or family history research.  It is fully indexed, richly illustrated with examples of the records available, and contains links to a wide range of on-line resources.     It can by purchased from here.

Tom Coughlan is a professional genealogist with a Diploma in Genealogy and Family History from University College Dublin and significant experience in conducting family history research for international clients. Although he has conducted research in almost every Irish county, his primary interest is Co.  Leitrim where his own family roots lie, and where he now lives.  In addition to research, Tom has presented genealogy courses and lectures; published articles on family history; and is a member of the expert team which provides genealogy advice to visitors to the National Library of Ireland.  He is also engaged in a long-term, wide-ranging study of aspects of Leitrim’s genealogical story. Read More

Rentals of the estate of Sir Edward O'Brien in Newmarket, Co. Clare, 1738

Rental of O’Brien estate in Newmarket, Co. Clare, 1738

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Small Sources 33:  This is a small rental of the O’Brien estate  in Newmarket Town and surrounding townlands in County Clare in 1738.     The original is a small soft-cover rental document in the Inchiquin Papers which are in the National Library of Ireland  (NLI Ms 14,431). The rental lists tenant’s name; denomination (i.e. the property rented); the rent for half-year ending November 1738; receipts; and allowances.  As is not uncommon in rentals, some receipts are made up of  several payments,  and some of these are credits for payments made by the tenant for work or supplies.  Although only 17 properties are listed, the document refers to 27 persons. The additional people are those referenced in the payments made by the tenants which are credited as part-payment of the rent.  Presumably these payments were due to be made by the landlord (Sir Edward O’Brien) but were made by the tenant on his behalf.  The denomination or property is indicated in brackets below.  Tenement in this context is another word for ‘holding’ and does not have the modern meaning. Read More


Our blogs list almost 3,500 new records of individuals

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Just a reminder that we have posted over 30 blogs with original records not otherwise available on-line.  These are in our ‘Small Sources’ series which lists almost 3,400 individuals from 12 counties.  These lists are items we have found among manuscript sources during our research.  Most are too small to be included in the big data-sets being put on-line by the major companies, but must nevertheless be useful to some of you out there.  Read More

Tenants of Prittie Estate, Tipperary & Offaly 1826

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Small Sources 17:   This document lists 71 tenants on 57 holdings on the estates of Hon. Francis Prittie (Lord Dunalley)  during March and May 1826. Note that some are in joint tenancies. It indicates the townland, rent and arrears for each  (only the rent amount is shown here). The list is in the ”Dunalley Papers, of the Prittie family Lords Dunalley, 1665-1937” in the National Library of Ireland; NLI Ms 29,808 (2).   Read More

Franciscan Library. Wexford Marriages book 1800-1807

Marriages in Killanerin and Gorey, Wexford 1800-1807

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Small Sources 31: The Catholic records of Wexford in the early 1800s are particularly poor, mainly due to the destruction of Catholic churches by militia that followed the rebellion of 1798.  However, records of 144 Catholic marriages from 1800-1807 in the Parish of Kilanerin have survived in a notebook in the Franciscan Library, Killiney, Co.Dublin (Ms.C104 – Marriages). Although a monastic order, the Franciscans were the parish clergy in this county (and therefore maintained the Birth and Marriage records) until the 1840s. For more information on this archive see www.franciscans.ie/friaries/killiney. Read More

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