Have you been looking in the wrong place?
Updated: Jun 17
Maybe you haven’t found your family in Ireland, because the right records haven’t survived. Or maybe you haven’t found them because you have been looking in the wrong place. Understanding location, and getting it right is key to Irish research. Getting it wrong means wasting time and resources looking for something that was never there in the first place. Here is a story from my own research, showing just how easily this happens.
Like many people, when I began my family tree research back in 2004, I inherited a stack of papers, books and conclusions. The Conroy family’s place of origin was believed to be Ballyclough, County Cork. I didn’t question this conclusion for several years- I was busy working on other lines that hadn’t been as well-researched. It wasn’t until much later that I began to uncover conflicting information on where my immigrant ancestor David Conry came from.
David Conry was born about 1791 in Ireland, and immigrated to Canada in 1825 as a Peter Robinson settler, with his wife, Catherine and four children. Where in Ireland did they originate from?
I inherited a book entitled Peter Robinson Settlers which had researched each family that was part of the Peter Robinson settlement scheme. This was a government assisted-immigration project circa 1825 where poor families from Southwest Ireland were selected to be settled in Ontario, Canada. In the book, the Conroy’s origin was said to be Ballyclough, County Cork.
However, multiple ship’s lists and immigrant lists associated with the project gave their origin as Ballylough, County Cork. Some lists noted David’s was a farmer.
To add to the confusion, the Peter Robinson settlers were surveyed in 1828. David, it turns out, was literate, and filled out his own survey. He reported his former occupation as Schoolmaster, and that he emigrated from the Parish of Mitchelstown in County Cork.
How can we learn more about locations in Ireland? Usually our first stop is a Townland Index. There are several versions online, the one I’m using here is my favourite Placename Search.
When I look up Ballylough or Ballylogh I find no places in County Cork using that name.
When I look up Ballyclough, I find only one townland in County Derry, so that can’t be it either.
When I look up Ballyclogh in County Cork, I find one civil parish and three different townlands using the name.
But if the Conrys were from Ballyclogh, which Ballyclogh was it?
And what about Mitchelstown? Recall that David himself said he emigrated from the parish of Mitchelstown. There is no civil parish in Cork named Mitchelstown, but there is a Catholic parish of that name. Catholic and civil parishes have different boundaries. Since the Conrys were Catholic, that is probably the type of parish David was referring to.
Knowing that David was a schoolmaster, recently digitized records were located showing that he taught in 1824 in Marshalstown townland, Marshalstown parish, County Cork.
Marshalstown is within the boundaries of the Mitchelstown Catholic parish, so that matches up.
The Conry’s last child to be born in Ireland, was baptized in Mitchelstown parish.
No baptisms for the older children were located, nor the marriage for David in any Irish Catholic parish records. Since these records are now digitized and indexed, the search is much easier than it was for earlier family historians.
Map it out
Recall there were three different Cork townlands named Ballyclogh- one in the civil parish of Ballyclogh, one if the civil parish of Glanworth, and one in the civil parish of Mogeely. Those locations are (roughly) mapped out here to give you a general sense of where they were located and their proximity to Marshalstown.
Townland indexes don’t always tell the full story
Although townland indexes don’t show a place called Ballylough in Cork, a modern google map search does. Further searching explained why. Ballylough was the unofficial name of the civil parish of Ballydeloughy, Co. Cork. A book written in the early 1900’s by James Grove White, an excerpt of which is shown below, shows that even by 1906, Ballydeloughy was known by no other name than Ballylough, and a “traveller thither may find himself belated if he inquired for Ballydeloughy”.
So… Ballylough, Cork does exist after all! But usually it is called by its official name on maps and in genealogical indexes, so its existence is hidden. Unfortunately, their earliest church records date from after my Conrys had already immigrated.
Map it out
When we add the location of Ballylough to our map, we see that it is the nearest location to Marshalstown of the four.
Emigrants accepted into the Peter Robinson project needed a recommendation. Landlords provided most of the recommendations, although some were provided by clergy and other officials. The Earl of Kingston was noted on the Conry’s papers, indicating that he was the one who recommended the family, strongly suggesting he was their landlord.
For the locations of interest we’ve identified, here were the relevant landlords:
Ballyclogh townland, in Ballyclogh parish: the Purdon/Coote family
Ballyclogh townland, in Glanworth parish: the Barry family
Ballyclogh townland, in Mogeely parish: The Duke of Devonshire or maybe the Earl of Shannon
Ballydeloughy parish: The Earl of Kingston
Marshalstown: The Earl of Kingston
How do we reconcile the conflicts we’ve uncovered?
1. Prioritize evidence from original sources providing primary evidence
In an original document, David himself reported he emigrated from Mitchelstown parish. I believe this statement to be true. We have corroborating evidence that he worked there, and that his last child was baptized there. But “Where did you emigrate from?” is quite a different question from “Where are you from?”
2. Assemble evidence to produce an argument that answers our Research Question
After considering all the evidence, I believe that David and family originally came from the civil parish of Ballydeloughy, otherwise known as Ballylough. Unfortunately, church records there don't survive early enough to have captured them. Prior to emigration, they lived for a short time in the Catholic parish of Mitchelstown, probably near Marshalstown townland where David worked.
The origin location on the Peter Robinson documents was the location where the applicant was living at the time they applied, not necessarily where they were living when they actually emigrated. David’s origin was given as Ballylough on two original documents, and in one transcription. No original document located thus far has stated Ballyclogh as the place of origin.
The Earl of Kingston was noted on the Conry’s emigration project documents- this indicates that he was the one who recommended them. The Earl of Kingston was the landlord at Ballydeloughy, but not the landlord of any of the Ballyclogh locations. The Earl would have been highly unlikely to recommend someone else’s tenants.
The Earl of Kinston stopped renewing leases on some very small landholdings, in order to combine them into larger, viable farms. David was farming at Ballylough when he applied to emigrate, but he may have lost his lease, and then moved to Marshalstown to work as a schoolmaster. Thus, these two locations and occupations for David don’t necessarily conflict- they were consecutive, not concurrent.
Peter Robinson was looking for farmers with nowhere to farm. It was believed they would have some of the required skills to farm in Canada, if they could just be given enough land and help getting started in order to be successful. In 1825, of the 306 heads of family who were accepted into the project, 125 were farmers who had been recently dispossessed of land. David's recent loss of the farm would have helped his family gain one of the sought-after spots on the ship.
If no original documents state the Conry’s origin was Ballyclogh, then where did that conclusion come from in the book, and in my family papers? I can’t say for sure- maybe there is an original document out there that I haven't found yet that says "Ballyclough"- but my suspicion is that when researchers didn't find Ballylough on a map or in an index, they looked around the general area where the Peter Robinson immigrants were recruited from, and found one of the Ballycloghs. The attempt to “make it fit” is understandable- often we find documents giving a unique spelling for a location in Ireland, and need to think creatively to match it to a likely place.
Our online research gives us a lot of new tools and digitized records, that researchers in former years did not have access to. Have you also inherited conclusions that haven't been re-evaluated recently? Map it, write it up, question your assumptions, and revisit your conclusions regularly, assessing them against new tools and new records as they become available.
Footnotes  Although today our family goes by Conroy, David signed his own name Conry, and that is the spelling used in most of the documents discussed here.
 Carol Bennett, Peter Robinson’s Settlers, (Renfrew, Ontario: Juniper Books Limited, 1987), 56-59.
 “Amity-Ship’s List, 13th May 1825,” database and digital images, Peannairi, (http://peannairi.com/amity-ships-list-13th-may-1825/ : accessed 6 July 2013), entry for David Conry (1825); citing Library and Archives Canada? [doesn’t actually specify where originals are], Peter Robinson Papers. This website is no longer online. Also, “Irish Settlers under Peter Robinson,” immigrant lists; microfilm MS 693 Reels 156, 157, Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa. Also, “Peter Robinson Settlers from Cork to Canada 1823 & 1825,” transcription only, The Ship’s List (https://www.theshipslist.com/ships/passengerlists/amity1825.shtml : accessed 3 Feb 2021); citing MG 24 B 74, 1-4 and 1-5, microfilm reel M-141 see also M-140, Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa. A copy of the original document should be ordered from Library & Archives Canada when they reopen.
 “Survey of 1828,” database and digital images, Peannairi, (http://peannairi.com/category/projects/survey-of-irish-settlers/ : accessed 6 July 2013), database and digital images, entry for David Conry (1828); citing Library and Archives Canada microfilm A-632, Sir Robert Wilmot Horton fonds. This website is now offline.
 “Ireland, School masters and mistresses, 1826,” digital images, Ancestry (www.ancestry.ca : accessed 17 November 2019), David Conry, school master from Marshalstown from1824 survey; citing “Appendix to Second Report from the Commissioners of Irish Education Inquiry,” Education in Ireland: Reports from Commissioners 1801-1826, Vol 121, pg. 996 & 997, digital image 1005 and 1006 of 1348.
 “Ireland Roman Catholic Parish Baptisms,” digital image, FindmyPast (www.findmypast.ie : accessed 24 August 2016), Catherine Connory baptism, 1823, Mitchelstown Parish records, Diocese of Cloyne, County Cork; citing microfilm 04992/03, Baptisms 11 Sept 1814 to Aug 1833 and Marriages 7 Jan 1822 to 27 Nov 1845, National Library of Ireland, Dublin.
 James Grove White, Historical and Topographical Notes etc. on Buttevant, Castletownroch, Doneraile, Mallow and places in their vicinity (Cork, Ireland: Guy and Co., 1906-1915), 150-159; digital images, Cork Past and Present (http://www.corkpastandpresent.ie/places/northcork/grovewhitenotes/ballyandrewtoballygriggan/ballydeloughy.pdf: accessed 30 May 2014).
 James Grove White, Historical and Topographical Notes etc. on Buttevant, Castletownroch, Doneraile, Mallow and places in their vicinity (Cork, Ireland: Guy and Co., 1906-1915), 128; digital images, Cork Past and Present (http://www.corkpastandpresent.ie/places/northcork/grovewhitenotes/ballyandrewtoballygriggan/ballyclogh.pdf: accessed 30 May 2014). Descendants of the Purdon/Coote family were landlords in Ballyclogh parish. Also, “Griffiths Valuation,” AskaboutIreland (www.askaboutireland.ie : accessed 26 May 2021) > Griffiths Places > County Cork > Ballyclogh Parish > Ballyclogh. The Coote family were still the landlords when Griffiths Valuation was conducted in the 1850s.
 “Estate: Barry (Ballyclogh/Ballyclough), NUI Galway (http://landedestates.nuigalway.ie/LandedEstates/jsp/property-show.jsp?id=3263 : accessed 22 April 2021).The Barry family were the landlords in the area. Also, “Griffiths Valuation,” AskaboutIreland (www.askaboutireland.ie : accessed 26 May 2021) > Griffiths Places > County Cork > Glanworth Parish > Ballyclogh. James Barry was still the landlord when Griffiths Valuation was conducted in the 1850s.
 “Griffiths Valuation,” AskaboutIreland (www.askaboutireland.ie : accessed 26 May 2021) > Griffiths Places > County Cork > Mogeely Parish > Ballyclogh. The Duke of Devonshire was the landlord when Griffiths valuation was conducted in the 1850s. However, estate maps of the Mogeely area show that the Earl of Shannon held property in the area as well. “Landed Estate database: maps,” NUI Galway (http://landedestates.nuigalway.ie/LandedEstates/jsp/map.jsp : accessed 22 April 2021), search around Mogeely civil parish. No indication of the Earl of Kingston having any interest in the area.
 James Grove White, Historical and Topographical Notes etc. on Buttevant, Castletownroch, Doneraile, Mallow and places in their vicinity (Cork, Ireland: Guy and Co., 1906-1915), 151; digital images, Cork Past and Present (http://www.corkpastandpresent.ie/places/northcork/grovewhitenotes/ballyandrewtoballygriggan/ballydeloughy.pdf: accessed 30 May 2014). The Earl of Kingston was the landlord in Ballydeloughy. Also, “Griffiths Valuation,” AskaboutIreland (www.askaboutireland.ie : accessed 26 May 2021) > Griffiths Places > County Cork > Ballydeloughy Parish > Ballydeloughy townland. The Earl of Kingston was still the landlord when the Griffiths Valuation was conducted in the 1850s.
 “Estate: King (Kingston/Lorton), NUI Galway (http://landedestates.nuigalway.ie/LandedEstates/jsp/estate-show.jsp?id=238 : accessed 22 April 2021). The Earl of Kingston was also the landlord in Marshalstown.
 The exact townland is uncertain. There are five townlands in Ballydeloughy parish- one is also named Ballydeloughy. It is unclear if David would have given his place of origin at the parish or the townland level. Responses of the other passengers were considered, and there was some variation, so the prudent decision was to limit conclusions to the larger land division.
 Carol Bennett, Peter Robinson’s Settlers, (Renfrew, Ontario: Juniper Books Limited, 1987), 25.
 Wendy Cameron, “Selecting Peter Robinson’s Irish Emigrants," Histoire Sociale Social History Vol IX, No. 17 (May 1976) (https://hssh.journals.yorku.ca/index.php/hssh/article/view/40853/37037 : accessed 2 Feb 2021). p. 43.
 Wendy Cameron, “Selecting Peter Robinson’s Irish Emigrants," p. 39.
 Wendy Cameron, “Selecting Peter Robinson’s Irish Emigrants," p. 45.