21. Any Information on Family CircumstancesAdditionally, their circumstances at the time of or prior to emigration from Ireland would be worth knowing. Were they tenant farmers just like about 90% of Irish emigrants who left after the Great Irish Famine (1845-48)? Had they a trade? Were they descended from people of means? If so you may be able to trace back a bit further.
22. Surname Variants
By the 19th century, Ireland was in a bad way economically, socially and educationally. Due to centuries of neglect and oppression (Penal Laws etc), poverty and illiteracy were common.
Added to that many people, particularly in the west of Ireland, had only recently begun to speak English in place of their native Irish or Gaelic. As a result many people were illiterate and could not spell their names.
This resulted in the appearance of variant surnames particularly amongst those who emigrated. Consequently, you can expect numerous different spellings of the same name to turn up in your research. It is also essential when searching through records or databases to try a few variants of the surname. Example: O'Dochartaigh (Irish), O'Doherty, Doherty, Dogherty, Docherty, Dougherty, Dority, Daugherty etc. This is mainly a County Donegal name.
Usually the misspelling originated with the person who first recorded the Irish person's birth, baptism, marriage or death. So, don't focus your search just on the spelling that now exists. Check all variants including dropping or adding the O', the Mc. or the Mac., and search on the broadest range possible.
Irish surnames were among the earliest surnames used in the world. The old Gaelic (native) names all generally had O' (grandson of) or Mac (son of) as a prefix. In many cases the prefixes were dropped between the 17th and 18th centuries due to anglicization and the Penal Laws. The Gaelic League movement promoted the restoration of Irish names and language at the end of the 19th century, so we see many people using the O' again in the 20th century.
But it is quite common to find various forms and spellings of the surname being used by one family line at different stages of the family tree.
When the Bug Has Bitten
In following the above advice you will be sure of greater success in researching the genealogical records and resources in Ireland. The genealogical bug will have bitten, and a rewarding and magical new interest will be yours forever.
In addition, the biggest bonus will be bridging the oceans or continents and hopefully making a historic return journey to the place that your ancestors left all those years ago.
At the very least, the future generations of your family will be grateful for the heritage that you have rediscovered for them.
Irishgen Ltd. 2002
|Guide to Tracing Your Roots
|Steps 1 to 3
|Steps 4 to 10
|Steps 11 to 17
|Steps 18 to 20
|Steps 21 to 22