A needle in a haystack of needles

In Myles na gCopaleen’s great parody of Gaeltacht autobiography, An Beál Bocht (The Poor Mouth), the narrator, Gaeilgeoir Bonaparte O’Coonassa, describes his first day at college.

The trainer calls for, in English: “Phwat is yer nam?” The response, in Irish, begins: “Bonaparte, son of Michelangelo, son of Peter, son of Owen, son of Thomas’s Sarah, grand-daughter of John’s Mary, grand-daughter of James, son of Dermot.” Whereupon the trainer calls him to the entrance of the category, hits him over the pinnacle with an oar and screams: “Yer nam is Jams O’Donnell!”

An oar

When he regains consciousness, Bonaparte discovers that each different baby within the class can also be formally Jams O’Donnell.

In some elements of Eire genealogical analysis includes distinguishing one Jams O’Donnell from one other. For Byrnes in Wicklow, Sullivans in south Kerry, Dohertys in Donegal, or Bradys in Cavan, the issue just isn’t discovering a needle in a haystack. It’s discovering the appropriate needle in a haystack of needles.

A plethora of Bradies in Cavan

When folks with ancestors like Jams O’Donnell ask a genealogist for recommendation, we not often do the sincere factor and inform them to discover a new passion. As a substitute, they’ll hear a protracted description of the method of reconstructing and evaluating households, getting the appropriate youngsters in the appropriate delivery order, painstakingly accumulating circumstantial proof that simply may, ultimately, with luck, establish the appropriate folks.

I used to be not too long ago hoist with my very own petard, looking for one explicit Ryan household in Caher parish in south Tipperary with solely the youngsters’s names as a information: John, Michael, Mary, Margaret, James and Catherine, God assist me.  I recognized all 53 Ryan households within the parish baptising a baby with a minimum of one among these names between 1828 and 1838, then retrieved all different youngsters baptised exterior these years to the identical couple after which reconstructed all of the households. It was a protracted and painful course of. And there was not a hint of the household I needed. Serves me proper.

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