Monday, May 29, 2017

Using Google Maps: Where is Spink, Co. Mayo, Ireland?

I've always been a fan of using Google maps for genealogy, but recently found another way they could help my research. My O'Hora family lived in Co. Mayo in the second half of the 1800s, and they were typically recorded as living in either Spink (children's baptismal records, Petty Session court records) or Tawnyshane (Griffith's Valuation, 1901/1911 Census). I assumed that they were two words referring to the same area, or that one was a smaller subdivision of the other.

Tawnyshane is easy to find on Google maps, very near Crumlin and the Crimlin National School that the O'Horas attended.

Spink is not.

I e-mailed the always-helpful Mayo County Library in Castlebar, and they sent me an image of an 1814 map that identified Spink as an elevated place near the modern town of Shanvalley. That's about 6 miles away from Tawnyshane, which seemed far, to be referring to the same place. Could the O'Horas have lived in one place and farmed in another? Could they have moved back and forth over the years? Or was I conflating two O'Hora families?

I decided to ask a local about Spink, and sent a message to my cousin Mary, who grew up in nearby Tawnykinaffe. She's been a huge help to my Gillan family research, but luckily my O'Horas lived in the same area, so I could draw on her expertise.

I created a Google map of the area, dropping a pin on the area labeled "Spink" on the 1814 map (blue, near the top), and another one on the area of Tawnyshane where the O'Horas had held land, according to Griffith's Valuation (yellow). She identified the yellow marker near Tawnyshane as the Spink she was familiar with, and was able to put me in touch with other locals from the Spink/Tawnyshane area for some additional context and local color.

I've used Google maps, frequenty, to look up places that Google recognizes; I've used it to create maps to plot places that my ancestors would have lived or interacted with, or to figure out where to look for records. But I had never realized how useful it could be to create personalized maps for asking questions of people who know an area better than I do, when we're in different countries and can't sit around the dining room table poring over maps together.

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