A few kilometres down the road from Castleisland, on the way to Killarney, is Dysert Burial Ground. It is here where my great great great grandfather Michael O’Rourke, father of Bartholomew O’Rourke, is buried, along with other members of the O’Rourke family. An O’Rourke cousin in Australia told me about it, and how to find it, so last May I went off in search of it.
The family tomb is located just inside the gate, to the right.
The inscriptions are almost illegible. Thankfully, another cousin had visited the site in the early 1990s and deciphered the main one as:
+ sons JOHN, DARBY & MICHAEL ROURKE
This tomb was erected by the above.
This appears to be Michael with his two brothers John and Jeremiah (Darby is a common nickname), and their father Michael.
An earlier transcription, from Albert Casey1:
Daniel Rourke, sons John and Darby and Ml. This tomb was erected by the above.
Michael and Daniel would look very similar on a weathered tombstone. Daniel is not a name that has been handed down in the family, so I’m tending to side against Casey on this one (for now!).
An inscription on the headstone reads:
The last person to be buried in the tomb was Jeremiah O’Rourke (1916-1976), my second cousin twice removed.
Tombstone Tuesday is an ongoing series at GeneaBloggers.
As part of the Brosnan Clan Gathering last month, a Ceann Fine or “clan chieftain” was inaugurated at the Festival Banquet. There were great cheers from the Kiwi contingent when Seán Brosnahan’s name was announced. (Not sure the ash stick will make it through NZ customs, though.)
Seán is the author of The Kerrytown Brosnahans, a book about his East Kerry ancestors who emigrated to New Zealand in the mid 19th century, and lived in the area of South Canterbury known as “Kerrytown”. Sean describes his initial journey to Ireland to find his ancestral roots, details his and the many other Brosnahan families that settled in New Zealand, and includes an extensive listing of the descendents of those first Brosnahan settlers. Seán is Curator at the Toitū Otago Settlers Museum in Dunedin, New Zealand.
Under Brehon Law the leaders of Irish clans were acclaimed by their kinsmen as custodians of the clan. This clan system formed the basis of society in Ireland up to the 17th century. The Ceann Fine was responsible for maintaining and protecting the clan and its property. This often meant leading his clan in battle on land and sea. In the old ages he was the military and political chief of his clan and the go-to person if someone wished to petition their regional king.
The Ceann Fine would also have held all sorts of social responsibilities to his clan members, including the fertility of the land and for protecting his clan against the blight and plague of any sort.
In the modern age he would provide an equally important role, that of unity and family identity, bearing importance on familial relations and establishing a deep seated sense of cultural pride. He will be often at times the only link one disparate sept of a clan shares with the larger sept, creating a sense of security and unity.
– Brosnan Clan Gathering, Facebook page
The East Kerry Roots Festival & Brosnan Clan Gathering was held in Castleisland, Co Kerry, over four days last weekend. I am still trying to recover!
It was a fabulous event, well-organised and offering a whole range of walks, talks and everything in between. By a stroke of pure luck, I ended up in the same bed & breakfast establishment as a (previously unmet) third cousin and his wife from New Zealand, as well as two lovely women travelling on their own like me.
There didn’t seem to be any time to rest at all over the four days – the festival programme was jam-packed with events and you didn’t want to miss out on anything. For me the highlights were:
- hearing one of my favourite poems read in the original Irish at the poetry reading session
- Seán Brosnahan’s illuminating talk on Irish emigration to New Zealand in the 19th century
- learning to play the bodhrán, bones and spoons
- story-telling and songs at the rambling house in Farranfore on Friday night
- the polka and sean nós dancing workshop
And, of course, not forgetting the bus trips to traditional villages and graveyards in the area, Saturday night’s festival banquet, Mass on Sunday morning at Currow, and the bog walk in Kilcummin. Top of the list has to be meeting so many wonderful people, both local and from further afield. There were over 20 Brosnahans from New Zealand alone! (Pokarekare Ana was sung many times over the course of the weekend.)
There were opportunities to chat to local genealogy experts, but I spent most of my time enjoying the cultural activities and exploring the area my ancestors left a century and a half ago.
Unfortunately I had to leave on Sunday afternoon to catch my flight home from Cork, so missed out on the farewell concert, but I heard it was fantastic!
My only suggestion would be to have a larger pub/venue for the some of the evening events. For instance, the Poet’s Inn is a lovely wee pub in Castleisland, but couldn’t fit us all in on the Thursday evening.
My special thanks has to go to Joan, one of the festival organisers, who was so helpful before the weekend, putting me in touch with a relation from the area. I think this is what made the gathering so special – we were all made to feel very welcome, even before we’d set foot in Ireland, by the locals and organisers alike. Thanks also to Maggie, our terrific guide on many of the tours.
I was in Dublin visiting friends over the weekend, and because of the Bank Holiday in the UK, had decided to stay until the Monday and grab some precious research time – and my first foray into records there.
I had an early start, as I was driving into Dublin from Co Wicklow, but traffic was definitely not as bad as it was a few years ago. First task was parking the car, and I’d chosen the parking building off Trinity Street, despite it being horrendously expensive, as it was near to my last stop of the day.
And so, onto Lombard Street and Joyce House, where I hoped to pick up the marriage certificate of Mary Jane Clark and her first husband. After a short wait, I was told at the counter that they only dealt with certificates for marriages after 1920, and directed me to Navan (where the marriage took place) and the GRO in Roscommon. Neither place was on my itinerary for that day! I hurried over the river to the Irish Life Centre in Lower Abbey Street and the GRO Research facility there, where I filled out the appropriate form, paid €4 and waited. I was warned it would take approximately 20 minutes, and I was thinking I should have brought a book with me, but in the end it was probably only ten minutes and then I was on my way.
Just across the courtyard, in Block 2 of the Irish Life Centre, is the Valuation Office. It was very quiet in there, no waiting at all, and after giving a staff member the name of the townland I was interested in, relevant Revision books (or ‘Cancelled Land Books’) then came out. After Griffith’s Valuation, the revision books show the change in ownership and occupancy, as well as size and value, of a piece of land over the years. Changes were recorded in different coloured ink, depending on the year, which makes it more useful to view the original books in colour, rather than in black and white on microfilm at an LDS centre. The books themselves go from around 1859, essentially a copy of the Valuation, up until 1977. (Thanks to Donna Moughty and her blog post that alerted me to this valuable resource!) Self-service full-colour A3 copying is available, at a cost of €1 a sheet, and it took almost no time to copy the fifteen pages I wanted.
Next stop: the National Library in Kildare Street. I stowed my bag and coat in a free locker, and set off upstairs to the Main Reading Room to get a reader’s card. To view the church records I wanted, it didn’t look like I needed one, but they’re valid for three years, so it was good to get it for later research. I had brought along some passport-size photos, but they weren’t required as they take your photo there. Once I’d been issued with my card, I headed back downstairs to the Genealogical Service room with a helpful staff member, who showed me where the church records on microfilm were kept and set me up with a microfilm reader in a separate room. Once I found a record, I had to take the film back to the Genealogical Service room to wait for a reader connected to a scanner. I also had to buy a printer card (€1) from the shop to pay for any copies I wanted. Unfortunately, when I came to print the first record I had found, the scanner machine failed to work. Which meant a 20 minute wait for the only other machine in the room. (I felt sorry for the main staff member in the room – very overworked, and running around doing an amazing job trying to help everyone as quickly as she could.) After finally being able to print the record, my time was up – I had just enough time to grab a very quick cuppa with a friend before heading off to the airport.
I always knew I had Irish ancestors, but was never quite sure who they were and exactly where they were from.
In the 1990s I spent several years living in Ireland. Oh, when I think of all the research I could have done! But, I was busy studying and working and having fun. Back then, it seemed like every day was St Patrick’s Day, full of craic and lots of Guinness.
I took my family to Ireland for a two week holiday in the summer of 2009. You’d think after living in the place I would have remembered that you don’t go to Ireland for the weather, especially in the summer. The lovely lady at the holiday home company assured me that a heatwave was forecast that year. (Ah, the optimism!) It rained. Well, mostly. Occasionally we saw the sun. One place we visited during a sunny spell was Muckross House, near Killarney in Co. Kerry – with three young kids we declined the 45 minute guided tour around the grand house, and opted to see the Traditional Farms instead, with “three separate working farms (small , medium and large), each complete with animals, poultry and horse drawn farm machinery” as they would have been back in the 1930s and 1940, “a period before the widespread use of electricity”.
Since that trip, I’ve not only discovered the names of my Irish forebears and the counties they hailed from, I’ve also recently found a great great great grandfather’s farm in Co. Kerry. Perhaps it was a little like the one we saw at Muckross?
To the Gaffaneys, the O’Rourkes, the Burkes, the Brosnahans, the Burtons, the Powers, and the McGonnells, to you who journeyed across the seas to make new homes in New Zealand, I raise my glass on this day, and thank you for your pioneering spirit and courage.
Well, everyone’s a little older! And there’s a couple of grandkids thrown into the mix.1
|Bridget Rourke||Head of Family||63||Farmer||Widow|
|Michael Rourke||Son||37||Farmer’s Son||Single|
|John Rourke||Son||35||Farmer’s Son||Single|
|Julia Rourke||Daughter||25||Farmer’s Daughter||Single|
Timothy has left, but the other two sons Michael and John, along with daughter Julia, are still at home with their mammy. Hannah and Jeremiah are probably the children of Bridget’s daughter Catherine, who married a Hogan, according to the family tree I have. Catherine’s death date on the tree is given as 1912 – I wonder if it might have been earlier, and the children and are now permanently living with their grandmother?
The house has been upgraded a bit since the last census – its roof is now “Slate, Iron, or Tiles”, there are five rooms instead of three, and five windows at the front of the house (up from three). In the outbuildings stakes, not much change, down 1 cow house and up 1 fowl house. Hopefully the house improvements are a sign the farm is doing well.
I want to follow the Rourke family (roll on the 1926 census!) and also find out where the other family members went to, see if I can verify all the information on this family tree I have. My knowledge of Irish genealogical sources is a bit lacking at the moment, and I need to spend some time finding out what’s available and where it is.
And I’d love to do more research on the way of life in 19th century Ireland, and into the early 20th century. Would be fascinating to compare the O’Rourke farm in Ballymacdonnell, and the Gaffaney farm in Arowhenua, New Zealand.
Following up from yesterday’s post about my great great great grandfather Michael Rourke’s farm in Ballymacdonnell, I’m now looking at the Rourkes who are living there at the time of the 1901 Irish census.
These are the family members listed on the census return1:
|Bridget Rourke||Head of Family||53||Farmer||Widow|
|Michael Rourke||Son||27||Farmer’s Son||Not Married|
|John Rourke||Son||24||Farmer’s Son||Not Married|
|Timothy Rourke||Son||18||Farmer’s Son||Not Married|
|Julia Rourke||Daughter||16||Farmer’s Daughter||Not Married|
Trying to read the scan of the family tree I have, I can make out a Jeremiah, brother of my Bartholomew, both of whom were Michael Rourke’s sons. Jeremiah married Bridget O’Loughlin, and their children were:
- Michael b.1873
- John (Jack) b. 1874
- Timothy b. 1876
- Bartholomew b. 1878
- Catherine b. 1884
- Julia b.1886
Going back to the baptism records2, I found the following children listed for Jeremiah Rourke and Bridget Loughlin (with their approximate age in 1901, given a birth date a month or two previous to baptism):
- Michael – 29 Oct 1873 (27) – mother: Margaret Loughlin
- John – 31 Dec 1875 (25)
- Bartholomew – 16 Jan 1878 (23)
- Catherine – 30 May 1880 (20) – mother: Bridget Loughten
- Timothy – 28 Sep 1882 (18)
- Julia – 15 Jun 1885 (15)
- Jeremiah – 23 Jan 1888 (13)
Hurrah! This looks like the same family. Not sure where Bartholomew is on census night, and Catherine may be married by this time. Doesn’t look good for poor young Jeremiah – hopefully he’s having a sleepover at a friend’s place. But he’s also missing on the family tree…
So, were they living in the same house? It’s hard to be certain, without visiting Ballymacdonnell and asking the locals (which I’d love to do at some point!). In 1901 there were three houses inhabited in Ballymacdonnell, and from the census return (Form B1 – House and Building return), all three look to be similar in size and state, being classed as “2nd class”, with Bridget’s being perhaps a little smaller.
What was the house like that Bridget and her family were in? The walls were “stone, brick or concrete”, the roof was “thatch, wood or perishable material”, and there were three windows at the front of the house. The family of five were living in three rooms. Also on their property were eight outbuildings, detailed in Form B2 – Return of Out-Offices and Farm-Steadings: 1 stable, 2 cow houses, 1 calf house, 1 dairy, 1 piggery, 1 barn, and 1 shed.
When I came to recheck the map of Ballymacdonnell from Griffith’s Valuation today, I discovered something I had completely missed before! It is laid over the modern map, and using a slider widget at the top right hand side, you can switch between the old and modern maps. How cool is that!!??
There are still buildings there, maybe even the original house. Next task is to check the household in the 1911 census.
Griffith’s Valuation material (digital images and index) is Copyright of (c)2003 OMS Services Ltd, Eneclann Ltd and the National Library of Ireland
- Census of Ireland 1901, Kerry, Kilfelim, Ballymacdonnell, House no 3, Bridget Rourke; digital image, The National Archives of Ireland, Census of Ireland 1901/1911 (http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie/ : accessed 05 Mar 2011).
- Dept of Tourism, Culture & Sport. “Search Church Records”. Database of transcriptions, church records for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kerry. Irish Genealogy. (http://www.irishgenealogy.ie/ : accessed 05 Mar 2011).
- Griffith, Richard. General Valuation of Rateable Property in Ireland… County of Kerry (Dublin: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1861), for Michael Rourke, occupier, Lot 3, Ballymacdonnell (townland), Killeentierna (parish), Trughanacmy (barony); “Griffith’s Valuation,” digital images, Ask About Ireland (http://www.askaboutireland.ie/griffith-valuation/index.xml : accessed 06 Mar 2011).
- Google Maps, Ballymacdonnell, satellite image; digital image, Ask About Ireland (http://www.askaboutireland.ie/griffith-valuation/index.xml : accessed 06 Mar 2011).
After I found the baptism records of all those Rourkes, I wanted to find the place where the family was living. I had the name of the parish and the townland, so thought I’d have a good chance of finding them in Griffith’s Valuation.
From the Ask About Ireland website:
The Primary Valuation was the first full-scale valuation of property in Ireland. It was overseen by Richard Griffith and was published between 1847 and 1864. It is one of the most important surviving 19th century genealogical sources.1
I know that my family was definitely in the area around this time because of the baptism dates, so I did a search by name on “Rourke” within the parish of Killeentierna. No result. So I tried a place name search on the townland “Ballymacdonnell” instead – result! A Michael Roarke [sic] occupied property lot number 3 – I hadn’t found him initially because of the (transcribed) spelling of his name.
The Valuation lists the main occupier of the property, not necessarily ‘head of household’ like the census reports. In the report above, Michael’s holding of “House, office, and land” is 37 acres, 2 roods and 21 perches in size. An “office” is a term used to describe “factories, mills and farm outbuildings such as a stable, turf shed, cow barn, corn shed, or piggery.”3 Michael had one office apparently – I wonder what it was?
The taxable value of the property is an estimate of the income the property could generate in a year. The state of the buildings on the property, and the quality and location of the land were all taken into account. The value of Michael’s property, land and buildings combined, was £28 15s. which equates to the spending power of today’s £1,682.74. 4 That doesn’t sound a lot!
The other thing I noted from the report is that in neighbouring lots were two Callaghans – Jeremiah and Michael. Could they be Michael’s brothers-in-law?
At this time in Ballymacdonnell there are four lots: two with one house (lots 2 & 3), one with no house (lot 4), and one with two houses (lot 1). From the notation in the far left column, John Griffin occupies 1a, the farmer’s house on lot 1, and Mortimer Flynn occupies 1b, a labourer’s or cottager’s house. As John Griffin is listed in the “Immediate Lessers” column beside lot 1b, it is likely that Griffin was subletting the “House and garden” to Flynn.
I’m interested in the houses because there’s a Rourke family living in Ballymacdonnell in the 1901 census. Are they on the same farm, and in the same house? Are they “my” Rourkes?
Tune in tomorrow!
1 acre = 4 roods = 40 square perches
Griffith’s Valuation material (digital images and index) is Copyright of (c)2003 OMS Services Ltd, Eneclann Ltd and the National Library of Ireland
- Ask About Ireland, Griffith’s Valuation (http://www.askaboutireland.ie/griffith-valuation/index.xml : accessed 12 Nov 2010).
- Griffith, Richard. General Valuation of Rateable Property in Ireland… County of Kerry (Dublin: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1861), for Michael Rourke, occupier, Lot 3, Ballymacdonnell (townland), Killeentierna (parish), Trughanacmy (barony); “Griffith’s Valuation,” digital images, Ask About Ireland (http://www.askaboutireland.ie/griffith-valuation/index.xml : accessed 12 Nov 2010).
- Ask About Ireland, Griffith’s Valuation – Understanding the Valuation and Maps (http://www.askaboutireland.ie/reading-room/history-heritage/irish-genealogy/understanding-the-valuati/ : accessed 05 Mar 2011).
- The National Archives, Currency converter (http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/currency/default0.asp#mid : accessed 05 Mar 2011).
- Griffith, General Valuation of Rateable Property in Ireland… County of Kerry.