You may remember that finding this application for a marriage license was a major breakthrough for me. It has led me to Andrew's roots in Macroom, Cork, Ireland. I didn't have as much instant success with Catharine, however. I was pretty sure she was also from Cork. I also had a sneaking suspicion that Andrew and Catharine were cousins of some sort. There are a LOT of Desmonds on the parish registers for Macroom and some other Fitzgeralds. A straight up search, however, for Robert Fitzgerald and Ellen Desmond didn't give me much to work with. This is where the Ancestry message boards come in. I posted a brief message with the tiny bit I knew. Very soon, I got back a query from Frank Thompson. Why was my information so sparse? Where are my dates? Well, other than the American dates and this license, I have almost nothing on Catharine Fitzgerald.
Bless his heart, Frank went to work. Frank prefers to use the Irish Genealogy site to Ancestry or some of the other sites. We went back and forth for a few emails because Catharine didn't show up, although Robert and Ellen did. Frank, being much more organized than I am, came up with a very involved spreadsheet. Here is the portion showing Robert and Ellen and their children:
The first entry would be their marriage, followed by the birth of five children: Julia, Ellen, Mary, John and Margaret. The number 12 indicates the Douglas-Killingly-Ballygarven parish registers. These can also be found at the Irish National Library site. You can see on the right the various places the family lived.
This quote comes from Alexander Irvine, from his book The Chimney Corner Revisted.
"My mother kept a mental record of the twelve births. None of us ever knew, or cared to know, when we were born. When I heard of anybody in the more fortunate class celebrating a birthday I considered it a foolish imitation of the Queen’s birthday, which rankled in our little minds with 25th December or 12th July. In manhood there were times when I had to prove I was born somewhere, somewhen, and then it was that I discovered that I also had a birthday. The clerk of the parish informed me"
I wonder if Mary, born in July 1831 wasn't actually Mary Catharine. Parish registers didn't include middle names, but I know my Cook relatives all had middle names. So Mary Catharine seems completely possible. Also, I suspect that Catharine's first job in America was as a house servant. One too many Irish Marys in the house would give you an instant renaming.
I did ask Frank about the gap between Mary and the later two children. He gave me a couple of ideas that might explain it. First, either Robert may have actually been Protestant or a former Protestant. Sometimes those families christened some of the family in one faith and some in another. (and sadly many of the Protestant records were the ones that burned) Barring that, there could have been a separation: dad went to where there was work and sent money home. Or there could have been numerous miscarriages, illness and other issues. I may never know if this is actually MY Catharine, but it seems likely. I did do a broader search of Ireland using Robert and Ellen. Cork is the only place they turned up together...at least from what's available online.
Frank did a very detailed analysis of the "sponsor" names and found numerous connections between the Bennetts, the Buttimores and the Fitzgeralds and Desmonds. Almost certainly these are relatives. He said those names show up on the Macroom parish registers as well. So there's a future project.
Finally, St. Finbar's South in Cork seems to have been the "home church". It was the place that this couple were married and the scene of two of the christenings. So I took a look and found this:
I like this very rustic stone church. Seems right to go with what I know about the the family. With some help from a new online friend, I've possibly unlocked a little more of the mystery of my Irish family.