Monday, August 24, 2015

Trust, but verify; or There goes 1/16 of my family tree

(Protip: Just jump straight to "verify." We can "trust but verify" on Cold War relations and Iranian nuclear deals, but not genealogy!)

I received the death certificate of my 2x great-grandmother, Mary King O'Hara, a couple weeks ago. I had wanted it for years, but had always put off jumping through the Department of Health's hoops. Big mistake.

A relative interested in genealogy had sent me Mary's presumptive birth record years ago, and I took it at face value. It was, of course, a real birth record, for a real person named Mary King, but it no longer seems likely that she was the correct Mary King. There goes 1/16 of my family tree!

Lesson learned. Always verify the research of those who have gone before you. (I always knew that I should check this particular piece of information, but took it as a "starting point" until I could do the research myself. Nothing lost but time, I suppose.) (Also, don't take online trees as gospel, either, because mine is out there and it's (at least) 6.25% wrong.)

I had for years operated under the assumption that Mary King's parents were Michael King and Bridget Hopkins, and that she was born in Claremorris, Co. Mayo, Ireland, but her death certificate puts her parents as Patrick King and Bridget Fadden. I'd like to confirm that with a birth certificate that matches, of course, but right now, I don't know where to look. I've contacted the relative who sent the first birth record to see why he thought that that Mary King was our Mary King. If it was, for example, because Mary (whom he knew as a child) had talked about her childhood in Claremorris, then at least that's a place to start. If it was just because the dates matched on an index search, then I have all of Ireland to search. I'm waiting to hear back from him.

I have Mary's death notice, and it does not include a place of birth.

Mary was born in the 1870s (3 December 1875, according to her death certificate), and the civil registration indexes available for free online in this time period do not include mother's maiden name. Otherwise, this could be a pretty easy search. Other than browsing the registers of every Catholic parish in Ireland at the National Library, I'm not sure how to find Mary's actual birth place and birth record and confirm her parents. I might have to stoop so low as to subscribe to RootsIreland, despite my serious misgivings about the service they offer.

What are your best suggestions for locating an Irish town of origin? 


Jana Last said...


I'd like to let you know that your blog post is listed in my Fab Finds post at

Have a great weekend!

Kat said...

Have you checked death or marriage records, obits or naturalizations of any known siblings?

Kathleen Scarlett O'Hara Naylor said...

Kat - great suggestions! Of her two presumed siblings, I have completely lost track of Martin. I was able to follow John through several censuses, and so have a 10-year window when he could have died. A lot of John Kings died in New York City in those 10 years! Combining index searches with newspaper searches, I haven't been able to find death notices for ANY of them, so I haven't been able to narrow down which death records to order (although I've never seen a NYC death record be more specific than the country when giving a foreign birthplace). I don't think I've ever seen his marriage record, but that might be the best place to look now, as I do have an idea of when he married. Thanks for reminding me!

Haz said...

Check griffiths Valuation for a combination of people named King and Fadden and check if you can find them in the same parish.Then look for all the King children in the parish.