Church Records: Search Example

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In the 1970s, my great-aunt put me in touch with Ambrose Brennan, a second-cousin, once removed. Ambrose was documenting the Irish families that settled in upstate New York. The Barry family was one of those families. Ambrose was able to interview older members of the families and documented family stories and constructed family trees from the stories and the records he could find. He tried to obtain Irish records to verify the family stories, but was largely unsuccessful. This was in part because Ambrose was working before the digitization of many records and the advent of the internet. Also, many civil records were destroyed during the Irish Civil War in June 1922 as a reult of a fire in the building that housed the records.

Fast forward to the present day and some Irish church records are available. They can be used in the absense of the civil records destroyed in the 1922 fire.

This exmaple shows how to use church records to verify family stores and perhaps discover something new.

Below is Ancestry.com record for family of my third great-grandparents, Samuel Barry and Bridget Meehan. I originally recorded this family based on Ambrose Brennan's research. I have been able to use Irish church records to improve upon Ambroses work.

Samuel Barry Family Profile

Below is Ambrose Brennan's orginal tree that I will use to discuss how I was able to improve upon his research. (I'll explain the red arrows a bit.)

Samuel Barry Family Profile

Notice that I have different parents than Phillip Barry and Mary Meehan that Ambrose shows. I believe these names are only from family stories. More recently, another researcher posted information about the youngest son, Samuel J. Barry. Below is an excerpt.

Samuel Barry Biography Excerpt

This shows his father as Samuel Barry, born in Tipperary. I believe Samuel's (the son) place of birth is wrong. He was born in County Tipperary. The family story is that he was quite young when he left Ireland and was likely raised by his older brother John in upstate New York after their father Samuel died when Samuel J. Barry was two years old.

The following newspaper article from the Massena Observer in 1933 ties this Samuel J. Barry to both his brothers John and Philip.

Massena Observer 1933

Also, here is the death record for Samuel's sister Margaret. It also lists Samuel as her father and shows Bridget Meehan as her mother. As a side note. Samuel's sisters Margaret and Mary married brothers Michael and Thomas whose last names were also "Barry." They were from County Cork and appear to be unrelated. Nevertheless, it adds considerable confusion to the genealogical research. This can be seen in Ambrose's tree above. He was mistakenly told my familty members that Michael and Thomas were brothers of John and Samuel.

Margaret Barry Death Record

I tried to find Phillip Barry and Mary Meehan as parents of any of the children listed in Ambrose's tree. I could not find any records. Of course, records could be missing. Nevertheless, when I searched using Samuel Barry and Bridget Meehan, I found church records for the children marked with the red arrows. They are all from the Chappawhite Parish in the Cashel and Emly Diocese in County Tipparary. The baptism dates for these childen lined up with other dates from later records in the United States. I did not find a record for John Barry, my direct ancestor. Those baptism records were only available starting 1815, after he was born. The fact that the church records for three children of Samuel Barry and Bridget Meehan lined up with other dates from later records in the United States convinced me that Samuel Barry and Bridget Barry are the parents in this part of my family and not Philip Barry and Mary Meehan.

To further verify that church records from Chappwhite Parish are the correct source, the following biography of Michael Barry (who married Samuel Barry and Bridget Meehan's daughter Mary) describes Mary is being from Chappaghwhite Parish in County Timpperary. See the portioned underlined in red below.

Margaret Barry Death Record

Going back the the biography of Samuel J. Barry. It said his family had three boys and two girls. I believe the boys were John, Philip, and Samuel. The girls were Mary and Margaret. So who is Kitty shown in the first image at the top of this page? I found her church record along with the others who had Samuel Barry and Bridget Meehan as parents. My guess is that Kitty may have died before the family left Ireland. Or, she may have chosen to stay in Ireland. I have not found any records for Kitty in the United States. And, finally, I have not found a church record for Philip's baptism. Yet, Samuel's letter above describes Philip as a brother. So, I am leaving him in the family I have posted on Ancestry.com.

Should you want to see more of the documentation mentioned above and the church records, see the Ancestry.com record for the family of Samuel Barry and Bridget Meehan.

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