The Problem With Irish Civil Records
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. He also 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.
Family Tree Constructed Using Family Stories
Below is Ambrose Brennan's orginal Barry family tree he constructed in the 1970s using interviews with older family members. (I'll explain the red arrows a bit.)
Irish Church Records
Fast forward to the present day and some Irish church records have been digitized and are available at various websites. These church records can be used in the absense of the civil records destroyed in the 1922 fire. This example shows how to use church records to verify or improve upon family stories and perhaps discover something new. Using Ancestry.com, I was able to find Margaret, Mary, and Samuel in the Irish Catholic Birth and Baptism Registers for the Chappawhite Parish in the Cashel and Emly Diocese in County Tipparary. Margaret, Mary, and Samuel are identified with the red arrows in Ambrose's tree above. The parents in all three records were listed as Samuel Barry and Bridget Meehan. This is the first deviation from the 1970s family tree. Ambrose was correctly told the mother was a Meehan, but was told it was Mary Meehan instead of the correct Bridget Meehan. Ambrose was also incorrectly told the father's name was Philip Barry. It was Samuel Barry.
Verifying Other Family Members
I was not able to find church records for John Barry in Ambrose's tree. Nevertheless, John Barry is my second-great grandfather and I have a church record verifying his marriage to Margaret Clemens. They were married November 1840 based on the Baptisms and Marriages from St. Patrick's Church, Hogansburg, New York that I found on Ancestry.com. Ambrose was also not told about another son named Philip. I did not find a church record for him either, but I did find a newspaper article from 1933 about Samuel. It mentions brothers Philip and John and that John was married to Margaret Clemens. Since this is a letter written by Samuel, it is pretty safe to accept that Samuel, John, and Philip were brothers.
Confusion When People Have the Same Last Name, But Not Related
Michael and Thomas Barry in Ambrose's tree are not related to my Barry family. They are in-laws. Michael Barry's Biography is shown below. It further verifies that church records from Chappwhite Parish are the correct source. The biography of Michael Barry (who married Samuel Barry and Bridget Meehan's daughter Mary) describes Mary as being from Chappaghwhite Parish in County Timpperary. See the portion underlined in red below. Obviously, family members providing the information to Ambrose were consfused by Michael having the same last name as my Barry family.
Confusion When People Have the Same Last Name—Continued
Here is the death record for Margaret Barry. It lists Samuel as her father and Bridget as her mother. It also shows Thomas Barry as her husband. Yes, two daughters of Samuel Barry and Bridget Meehan (Mary and Margaret) married men with the last name of Barry. Those men were also brothers whose parents names were Garrett Barry and Bridgett Lynch. (It took some time to sort this out.)
More Family Documentation
Recently, another researcher posted information about the youngest son, Samuel J. Barry. Below is an 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 excerpt below says Samuel's parents (Samuel Barry and Bridget Meehan) had three boys and two girls. I believe the boys were John, Philip, and Samuel. The girls were Mary and Margaret.
An Additional Family Member Found Using Church Records
Recall that I found Irish Parish Records for Margaret, Mary, and Samuel and they all showed Samuel Barry and Bridget Meehan as parents. Well, I found one other person in those church records who had the same parents. Her name was Kitty and she was born in 1822. This is the only reference I have for Kitty. She did not appear to have come to Canada with the rest of Samuel's and Bridgit's children. She might have died in Ireland. I do not know. Nevertheless, the church records showed there was one more family member.
Updated Samuel Barry Family Group
Below is my updated Ancestry.com record for my third great-grandparents, Samuel Barry and Bridget Meehan, based on the church records and other documentation described above. It adds Philip and Kitty to the family and removes Michael and Thomas. It also removes Henry Barry. I could not figure out where that name may have come from. It may be some family confusion about the Henry Barry who was the son of John Barry in this family group. It is hard to guess. This family gromp also retains the three unnamed Barry brothers whom Ambrose was told had moved to Australia. I have not been able to find anything on those three brothers. 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.
Additional Resources Related to Church Records
Not Sure, Try Our Free Online Genealogy Search Advisor
If you are not sure that searching for a church record is the next best option for your research, consider using the advice feature of this site. This will help you pick your next best steps in your research. Go to the Free Online Genealogy Search Advisor.
Church Records Search Guide Context
- Home » Genealogy Search Guides » Using Church Records for Researching Your Ancestry » Church Records Search Example for Ancestor Research
Other Genealogy Search Guides
- Using Birth Records for Researching Your Ancestry
- Using Marriage Records for Researching Your Ancestry
- Using Death Records for Researching Your Ancestry
- Using Ship Manifests for Researching Your Ancestry
- Using Obituaries for Researching Your Ancestry
- Using Census Records for Researching Your Ancestry
- Using Naturalization Records for Researching Your Ancestry
- Using Historical Societies for Researching Your Ancestry
- Using Family Trees for Researching Your Ancestry
- Record Keeping for Researching Your Ancestry