Researching my Irish ancestry has always been much more slow going than that of my English side. I think it’s mainly due to the lack of records available; the fact that only the 1901 and 1911 censuses still survive makes going back any more than a couple of generations difficult. To give you an idea of how little I have uncovered, at the time of writing my paternal line tree has 481 people, whilst my maternal line has 2,324 people. Most of what I have already discovered has come from my aunt, who is a gold mine of information on the family. I wouldn’t have even been able to go back much beyond my grandparents without her help.
We had previously been unable to track down a marriage record for my great-grandparents — my paternal grandmother’s parents, Michael Moylan and Margaret Kearney — which was hard to believe because my ancestors’ families stuck to the same handful of parishes their entire lives. Eventually a cousin of ours in Ireland tracked it down at St Anne’s Church in Shanaglish, County Galway, just a couple of miles from the family home in Curtaun, Beagh, Galway. The reason for the difficulty in finding the marriage was that Margaret’s surname had been recorded as “Carney”, something we had not thought to look for before, yet something not all that uncommon in Irish records. They married on the 22nd January 1910. The certificate is a written copy by the priest from the original parish records, not a civil registration marriage certificate.
The marriage record didn’t really confirm much that we didn’t already know, other than the location and date of the marriage, but the witnesses to the marriage opened up some more questions. The two witnesses were Malachy Moylan and Mary Curley. I had seen the name Mary Curley before; she was living with Margaret Kearney and her parents in 1901, so she was evidently a family friend (she may have also later married into the family). The name Malachy Moylan was helpful as it was an uncommon name. I immediately assumed he must be a relative of Michael and after some research soon after, I thought I had struck gold. More on that shortly.
In the 1911 census, Michael and Margaret are living together with their young son James (my great uncle Jimmie). They are also living with Michael’s parents John and Catherine Moylan, both listed as 74 years old. This would mean they both were born in 1837, before the famine which they both lived through. The census record also states that John and Catherine had been married for 55 years and had a total of 12 children, only 5 of whom were still living. If the dates are accurate (which I doubt they are), it would mean they married after the famine. However the aftermath of the famine could have resulted in the deaths of so many of their children. I am yet to track down the names of all of their children, or any of the other living children in the censuses; some may have even emmigrated.
Back to Malachy Moylan. A quick search of the 1901 census found him living aged 19 in Rathwilladoon, Beagh, Galway (just a mile from Curtaun), with his parents John and Kate Moylan. Excellent, I thought, he must be Michael’s brother. Then I realised that Michael wasn’t living with this family, and then remembered that a few months previously I had already found Michael and his parents John and Catherine (Kate) in the 1901 census. Michael’s John and Catherine were listed as unable to read or write in 1911, and Malachy’s John and Catherine could. This fact matched on both censuses, so this sadly confirmed that Malachy’s parents were obviously not the same as Michael’s — there just happened to be two John and Catherine Moylans living a mile apart.
However, evidently Malachy and Michael knew each other as Malachy was a witness at Michael’s wedding. There are also no other Malachy Moylan’s in the area, so it must be the same person. Perhaps they were related, but cousins rather than brothers. The two John Moylans could have been cousins themselves, perhaps named after the same grandparent. That would make Michael and Malachy second cousins. I’m purely speculating here, but it could be something I may be able to prove one day. My aforementioned cousin in Ireland knew of Malachy Moylan — he apparently lived near Gort railway station in Galway. He was born around 1882 so could have lived into the 1960s and 1970s.
I made some searches on FamilySearch in the Irish baptism collections for any baptisms of children born to a John Moylan and a Catherine/Kate, in either Gort, Curtaun, Rathwilladoon or Tubber. A few combinations came up, firstly a John Moylan and Catherine Fogarty. I eventually realised Catherine Fogarty was the mother to Malachy Moylan (frustratingly, a member on Ancestry had a photograph of Catherine Fogarty, the wrong Catherine for me!). The other possibility was a Catherine Forde; the children she had with John Moylan included a James, John, Honor, Catherine and a Margaret — all but John are names of Michael and Margaret’s children. About the same time, my aunt informed me she had received the birth certificate for Michael (her grandfather) from our cousin in Ireland. This confirmed that he was born in Gort on 5th May 1873, to John Moylan and Catherine Forde.
These are the first advancements I have made with my Irish ancestry for a while. Next on the list is to try and track down John Moylan and Catherine Forde’s marriage certificate. This could be in 1856 if the 1911 census is to be believed, but their recorded ages in the 1901 census would mean they married at the ages of 17 and 15, respectively; something I think which is unlikely. I am guessing they probably married sometime in the 1860s. The earliest baptism for one of their children (Michael’s brother James) was in 1865. Again, it’s likely only to be in Gort of Shangalish as these are the only churches in the area.
We have also managed to track down at St Anne’s Church the baptisms for 7 of Michael and Margaret’s 8 childen — my grandmother included. We’re unsure why one of the children’s baptism is not the same church, considering both older and younger children were baptised there. Another mystery to solve. Some of the witnesses to these baptisms included Martin Kearney (who I have confirmed as Margaret’s brother), and Martin and John Moylan. These Moylans may turn out to be relatives of Michael; John may be his brother I mentioned earlier. I need to go through all the witnesses with my aunt as I am pretty sure she knew some of them as they were friends of the family (or relatives themselves).