Walsh Families of County Mayo, Ireland

The records provided here result from my efforts to trace the 19th century roots of my Irish ancestors. I faced a common problem in such research, the family tradition of attributing an origin of the immigrant ancestor to a particular county in Ireland, but no information about the exact location. Despite the sound advice of guidebooks to determine a more precise location before trying to lookup Irish records, it often happens that no more specific information may be uncovered, even by extended searching. Many of the immigrants were trying to forget their unhappy experiences in Ireland, and thus relevant family records were never created, or were lost due to indifference or accident. American public records almost never list any more helpful information than the county of origin in Ireland, if that.

In a situation where specific information about prior residence is lacking and unlikely to be found, a blind search of records in the county may be the only alternative. One formulates a search strategy and examines records until the ancestor is found or the search records are exhausted. In my own case, I did not find my ancestors in the records by this strategy, which is fortunate for others as my continuing failure led to the compilation of the many records summarized here. These data may better serve other searchers with similar goals.

Nature of the Original Records

A few observations on the Irish records are cautionary about the records of the Walsh families provided here. The summarized data come from Parish Records of the Catholic Church. The dates of the original records used are between about 1830 to 1857, with a few earlier or later. Not all the records available in this interval were examined. These are some of the earliest Catholic Parish records available in county Mayo.

Records are the mainstay for recovering the histories of families lost to personal memory. The British colonizer produced excellent documents, tax roles, censuses, and other records in their own interests. Unfortunately, many of these and other records were destroyed in the Four Courts fire of 1922. The records of the Irish show a different side. The physical condition of the original parish records is generally rotted, mildewed, torn, worn, stained, faded, with bleeding and smeared ink and disbound, unpaginated, out-of-sequence pages. Interspersed with marriage and baptismal events are the entries for an account ledger, a confessional by priests, and general notepad. Since these records were usually not very legibly written or organized to begin with, they present difficulties in reading that I have only rarely encountered in contemporaneous parish records from the United States, France, and Germany. Almost all the records are in English, not Latin, perhaps because of inadequate training.

I believe this excessively poor condition of records is partly due to the destructive effect of the colonizer on the records of the colonized in Ireland. From ruthless efforts to destroy Irish culture, as with the Penal Laws, to a new and devastating abuse, the neglect that led directly to the starvation and depopulation of Ireland in the mid-19th century, the British imposed a brutal, humiliating dominion upon their neighboring island. The Catholic church in Ireland was almost stomped into nothing by the end of the 18th century, when the most onerous laws were relaxed. Its clergy was perhaps not up to the task of creating and maintaining good records for some time after being beaten down to a submissive and humiliated posture. The Irish priests of this era are sloppy, forget to make entries, don't know their parishioners, and have poor penmanship. Of course, there are exceptions where the record is neat and clear.

Another factor contributing to the deterioration seems to be the Irish themselves. For a long time through Irish history, the preservation of family memories and genealogical history was of primary importance. This tradition was one of many that seems to have been crushed by the colonizer. Even those who came to Ireland as colonialists later were effaced from history by the lapse of institutional memory. In the case of parish records, we may ask, do they not represent the records and history of the living Church itself, the flock in communion with God? Yet, the records of the Irish Church seem to be a matter of indifference on the part of the Church itself, and are not even available from some dioceses. No effort seems to have been made by the Irish to improve the condition or availability of their old parish records. Perhaps the effects of their subjugation have not yet passed from the Irish who stayed in Ireland.

The point is that any transcription and summary of records in such poor condition is likely to contain mistakes. If you find information in the files on this website that seems relevant to your situation, you should examine the original record yourself.

About the Summaries Presented Here

The data available here are a summary of the original records, not a transcript. Entries from the original records were transcribed with pen and paper, then abstracted into a computer format. These abstracted data are what is presented on line here. Those who want transcripts of the original records should obtain them from the originals.

My objective is to list the couples in Mayo involving a spouse with the surname Walsh. Both baptismal and marital records were used to identify couples. When a marriage was found, a marriage date appears in the tables here. When a baptism was found, a baptismal date appears in the tables here. Whenever possible, original records for the same couple are combined into one record in the tables here. If the names (first and last) of the spouses (or parents) are the same and in the same parish, the records are combined into one in the tables. It is possible that some of the very common names might be shared by two different couples, but if the births and marriage records are consistent and biologically possible, they are combined into one record. In virtually all cases, these combinations are made confidently, but the possibility that different individuals are erroneously combined remains. When records with different spellings of names are combined, the most common and standard spelling is retained.

The parish of Aughagower has records that typically do not contain the maiden name of the mother or bride. In this case, the townland of their residence was considered when making combinations, and the same names in the same townland are combined. Records that contain no maiden name of the wife/mother, makes impossible the inclusion of maternal Walsh families.

These combinations produce a table of spouses with their children and/or marriage date. No doubt, some of the listed couples are redundant because their records could not be combined under my rules summarized above or the couple married in one parish and had children in another, or in some other way caused records from their union to be produced in more than one parish. When examining the records, it may seem very likely that two slightly different names are actually the same person because of an error in the name or use of an alternate Christian name, but since such inferences cannot be certain, the records are not combined. Records from different parishes are also not combined under the rules outlined above. Even with this data reduction, there are about 2000 non-redundant couples identified in the search period.

Some of the original records contain spouses listed in the form "Pat Walsh & Mary Walsh." This record appears in the tables here as a husband and wife having the same surname.  Although Walsh is sometimes the actual surname of both bride and groom (or mother and father), it is possible that in some of these cases, Walsh is not the woman's actual maiden name, but was given by default as the priest did not know the true facts. These cases, however, cannot be distinguished in this summary. When the names given were of the form "Pat & Mary Walsh" it was assumed that the maiden name was unknown and the wife was listed without a surname in the records here, just as if the original were "Pat Walsh & Mary ---," another form sometimes encountered.

All the data here derive from Catholic parish records. Typewritten transcripts of many of the records of the Church of Ireland are available for this period, and many of these were searched, but no Walshs were found among them, suggesting that not many Walshs in Mayo were Protestant at that time. Other evidence suggests that there were some Protestant Walshs in county Mayo in the selected period, but without family specifics. The proportion of people who were Protestant in county Mayo at that time was small (<3%). Civil records of vital statistics were never created for the selected time period, and other public records of Walsh families no longer exist, other than tax lists of selected householders.

The original records come from the period 1830 to 1857, but not all the records in this period were needed for my purposes. For the precise dates that were searched in each parish, see the table of parishes.

Using the Tables of Mayo Walsh Couples and Families

The tables are especially useful for identifying where in Mayo, Ireland, to search for records of your Walsh ancestors. Since the tables include spouses of Walshs, you may find ancestors with other surnames. In addition, the tables include non-Walsh couples that were collected for my own purposes or because they were easily incorporated. Be sure to search surnames with and without the O' and Mc and Mac prefixes, and search different possible spellings, keeping in mind that such letter pairs as C and K are usually interchangeable.

If you find a couple that matches the names of your ancestors, can you be sure the people mentioned are actually your ancestors? Unfortunately, probably not merely from the records here. Many of the names are too common to conclude with confidence that their appearance is an instance of your ancestors. However, the combination of a Redmond Walsh and Barbara McEllen would be much rarer and less likely duplicated at another place or time than Patrick Walsh and Mary Murphy. The time frame (about 1830-1857) may also help to narrow your search to relevant couples.

You must examine the original records themselves, which are available on film from the LDS Family History Library in the United States, to determine the relevance of the summaries here to your quest. You will need to consider the descendants of the couples listed here, examine their records, and consider other information available in the records. Since not all the records in the selected time period were included in my search, there may be other relevant original records to discover.

What other information, besides that contained here, is available in the original records? Usually, the Mayo parish records list the townland of the couple or spouse, or a hometown if one is a non-resident. (How else would one be able tell all the Walshs apart?) The priest performing the sacrament may also be identified and sometimes the specific chapel. The marriage records almost always have witnesses, which are parents, friends, relatives, etc., but the parents of the spouses are never recorded, as in many Catholic parish records of other countries. Sometimes, a dispensation is indicated, an alias of the bride, military affiliation of the husband, or other circumstance. The baptismal records contain the sponsors (godparents), usually young relatives of the child, but not the date of birth, as is usual. Marginal notations sometimes appear, giving a death, noting illegitimacy, or other remarkable circumstance.

What if you do not find the ancestors you expected to find in county Mayo? For reasons discussed above, failing to find your ancestors' records in the tables here does not mean your ancestors were not in Mayo. Look at the table of parishes for the records actually searched. Records of your ancestors may be in periods not included here, they may have lived in parishes that made no records for this period, or their record may have been lost or destroyed. The possibility that this compiler erred or overlooked records also exists. If you are trying to find ancestors in county Mayo before 1850, the records of Griffith's Valuation and the Tithe Applotment should be searched. Heritage Centers in Mayo, Ireland, may have their own access and indexes to the parish records extracted here, so contact them for further information. There is a fee for such searches.

The records use some unusual nicknames that might obscure the real Christian name of an ancestor. The priests also extensively used abbreviations of given names, but these should be easy to understand. The point to keep in mind is that you should look at alternate forms and spellings of the name you are searching for in the tables, and at the bottom of the table for wives who are missing a surname. A table of nicknames is below:
Ally Alice
Biddy or Bidy Bridget
Kitty or Citty or City Catherine
Nappy or Napy Penelope
Nelly Ellen, Helen, or Eileen
Ned Edward or Edmund
Sabina or Sarah
Sabina or Sibina
Winny or Winy

Dates in the tables are in the American style: Mo/Dy/Year. Dates are an item most likely to be incomplete or erroneous. The sort orders in the files differ, as described below, but the column positions in the tables do not change.

Select Sort Order of Records to View

copyright © 2005 by Joseph C. Hager

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