Module 5: Let’s Search the Irish Census and Civil Records

In this module we start to execute our Irish record search strategy by examining the Irish census records and looking for evidence of the Dolphin family. If we find a Dolphin family in Ballydavid in 1901 we will jump back further in time for that family by searching through relevant Irish Civil, Land and Church records. If we do not find them in the census records – then we need to adopt a different search strategy.


Table of Contents for this module:

  • Introduction.
  • Reminder: Strategy for Searching the Irish record sets to answer our research questions.
  • Finding our Bearings: Does “Ballydavid” exist and where is it?
  • Searching the Irish Census Records: What we discovered.
  • Searching the Irish Civil Records: What we discovered.
  • Summary of findings.
  • Conclusion.
  • Try for Yourself.
  • What’s Next?

Introduction.

In the last module we looked at:

  • Which Irish record sets are available and where to find them. We paid special attention to the record sets that are easily available online.
  • We spent extra time on Irish church records availability and location.  These records are the most distributed and fragmented so we introduced a tool to make it easier for you to figure out which Irish church records are available and where you can search them.
  • We then shared our strategy for searching the Irish record sets for our case-study individual – Patrick Dolphin. This sets us up for this and subsequent modules as we search each of the Irish record sets in turn for an answer to our research questions and record our findings.

In this module we will :

  • Gather what we have so far regarding Patrick Dolphin and his family.
  • Start a search of the Irish records outlined in the record search strategy from the last module (don’t worry – we’ll remind you of this information before we proceed).
  • Record what we discover and then decide on further steps.
  • Finally, we will encourage you to replicate our findings using the same approach and the same Irish record sets.

Before we search the Irish Records – Let’s Gather the information we have so far.

Let’s gather together all the key information we have on Patrick Dolphin and family. They are:

  • The timeline of known facts about Patrick Dolphin and family that we assembled – from Module 2.
  • The “Discovery questions” we chose to help us focus in our record search – from Module 2.
  • The Land Division Research Table we compiled for Ballydavid townland – from Module 3.
  • Our planned Irish Record Search strategy – from Module 4.

Here is each one in turn:


The Timeline of known facts about Patrick Dolphin and family:

  • 1855: Patrick Dolphin was born in County Galway, Ireland. Maybe a place called “Ballydavid”? His parents were Michael Dolphin and Margaret Dolphin.
  • 1881 (or before): Patrick married his first wife in Ireland. We don’t know her name.
  • 1881: Michael Dolphin (son of Patrick and first wife) is born in Ireland.
  • 1881: Patrick Dolphin arrives in Boston, USA.
  • 1886: Patrick Dolphin is naturalised as a US citizen. He is living in Manchester, New Hampshire at this time.
  • 1890: Michael immigrates to join his father in the USA.
  • 1894: Patrick Dolphin remarries – to Mary Cunniffe.
  • 1896: Margaret (child) is born.
  • 1928: Patrick dies in Manchester, New Hampshire, USA.

The “Discovery questions” we chose to help us focus in our record search.

I have formatted the discovery questions in a table so that we can easily add answers and notes as we progress:

Discovery QuestionAnswer/Notes
Where was Patrick Dolphin born in Galway?
Is Ballydavid in County Galway?
Was there a Dolphin family living there in 1855?
What was Patrick Dolphin’s first wife’s name?
Where was she from?
When and where did they marry?
Where and when was Michael Dolphin junior born?
When did Patrick’s first wife die?
Case-Study Discovery Questions and Answers Worksheet.

The Land Division Research Worksheet we compiled for Ballydavid townland.

Once we discovered that Patrick Dolphin came from Ballydavid in County Galway, we compiled a “Land Division Research Worksheet” to gather all the Irish land division types and names associated with that townland. Having this information on hand will make it easier when it comes to searching the Irish record sets:

Land Division TypeNameWhere land division type is used.Notes
TownlandBallydavidAll civil, land, census and some church records.Information we started with
CountyGalwayAll civil, land, census and church records.Information we started with
Civil ParishKilcoolyAll civil and land records.Obtained from Johngrenham.com
RC Church ParishLeitrim and KilcoolyAll church records – Baptisms, Marriages and Burials/Deaths.Obtained from SWilson.info
RC Church DiocesesClonfertAll church records – Baptisms, Marriages and Burials/Deaths.Obtained from SWilson.info
Superintendent Registrar’s District (SRD). Same boundaries as earlier Poor Law union (PLU).LoughreaCivil vital records – Births, Marriages and Deaths.Obtained from Johngrenham.com
Registrar’s District (RD) Subdivision of SRDs.BullaunCivil vital records – Births, Marriages and Deaths.Obtained from Johngrenham.com
District Electoral Division (DED – sometimes just ED).KilmeenCensus records.Obtained from townlands.ie
Local Market TownLoughreaNone – but useful to get your bearings for a townland.Obtained from SWilson.info
Land Division Research Worksheet.

Our planned Irish Record Search strategy.

Here is our initial record search strategy (which we may alter as we move forward):

  • We will start with the 1901 Irish census records. There we will look for evidence of Dolphin families in a place called Ballydavid in County Galway – starting with the Ballydavid in the Civil Parish of Kilcooly.
  • If we find evidence that Patrick Dolphins family/relatives are in the 1901 census in the area, we will then figure out if there is any tie between those Dolphins and our Patrick Dolphin by working our way back in time through the Irish Civil, church and land record sets to help answer our research questions.
  • If we find no evidence, then we need to adopt a different record search strategy. However, the benefit of the approach I outline above is that it can be carried out fairly quickly and then either used or discarded.

Right, that’s all our information lined up – now, let’s proceed with our Irish record search for evidence of Patrick Dolphin and his family.


Searching the Irish Census Records: What we Discovered.

Our first step is to go to the Irish census records (available to search for free here). We start with the 1901 census records (remember, the only two intact sets of Irish census records are the ones from 1901 and 1911).

We select:

  • 1901
  • The Surname Dolphin
  • County Galway

as follows:

Clicking on the search button, the following screen is returned:

Remember the Land Division Research Worksheet we filled out earlier for Ballydavid townland? If you review that table you will see that a “DED” (District Electoral Division) is a Land Division used in the 1901 and 1911 Irish census. We noted in the worksheet that the townland of Ballydavid (in the Civil Parish of Kilcooly) was in the DED of Kilmeen.

As a result, we now know that the “Ballydavid” shown above in the results is the Ballydavid townland in which we were hoping to find a Dolphin family. And….it it looks like there are Dolphin family members in this Ballydavid!

Next, click on one of the Dolphins individuals shown above in Ballydavid to generate the following screen. This screen shows us all the members of a large Dolphin household in Ballydavid in 1901:

Before going any further, let’s see if there are any more Dolphin households in this Ballydavid townland by clicking on “Ballydavid” at the top of the screen above. This returns the following screen. It shows us eleven unique households in Ballydavid, but only one with the Dolphin surname:

This confirms that there is only one family of Dolphins for us to research in Ballydavid townland.

Next, let’s click on “Occupants” for the Dolphin household above – this will bring us back to the screen that we saw earlier:

Here are some of my observations/questions looking at the listing for the Dolphin household above:

  • Is the Martin Dolphin shown above a brother, or maybe a cousin, of our Patrick Dolphin? He was born about 1861, so it is possible.
  • I see that the eldest son listed is a Michael. Using Irish naming patterns, the eldest son is often named after the paternal grandfather. Patrick Dolphin’s father was named Michael. That looks promising.

Our next step is to jump back in time to search the Irish Civil records for the marriage of Martin Dolphin and Hanoria (both shown above in the 1901 census for Ballydavid). Such Civil marriage records (post 1864) normally contain the names of the groom’s father. If the Martin shown above has a father called Michael – which is the same name as Patrick Dolphin’s father – then we can continue to search further for more connections.

If not, we need to take a different research tack.


Searching the Irish Civil Records: What we Discovered.

Presuming that the Margaret Dolphin shown in the 1901 census was the eldest child in the household, then Martin and Hanoria Dolphin of Ballydavid were most likely married sometime before 1886. So, let’s search the Irish civil records at Irishgenealogy.ie for their marriage record.

When the site appears – we select “Civil Records” on the menu, wait for the following screen and then enter “First Name” as Martin, “Last Name” as Dolphin, year range 1880-1890 (keep the search range wider than you think necessary), tick “Marriage” and click the “Search” button:

Two entries are returned – the more obvious one being Martin Dolphin and Honoria Loughnane as the SRD (Superintendant Registrars District) is Loughrea – the correct one from our Land Division Research Table for civil records:

However, the year looks all wrong! If they were married in 1889 as shown above, how could it be that their daughter is 15 years old by the 1901 census? This example shows you how you need to be careful with transcription information – always examine the information contained in the underlying record if available.

Let’s click on the “Marriage of MARTIN DOLPHIN….” link above and see what happens next.

The following transcribed information is resturned. However, see the “Image” link the end of the transcription? Click on that to see the underlying record.

This provides us with the following original hand-written marriage record.

Now, this is interesting! You can see that the marriage actually took place in February 1885 but was only formally registered in 1889 (see left side of record). This later date was picked up for the transcription. I reported this transcription error (see option in screen shot above) – so it should be corrected eventually.

So, the information shown above tells us that:

  • Martin Dolphin was living in Ballydavid, SRD of Loughrea at the time of his marriage to Hanoria in 1885.
  • Most tellingly, his father’s name was Michael – the same name as that of Patrick Dolphin’s father. Is Martin the brother of Patrick? It’s possible – but we do not know for sure yet.

So, where do we go next?

My preference is to keep working backwards in time. As a result, my next step would be to go back to the RC baptismal records and see if I can find the baptism of either Martin or Patrick Dolphin.

But, before we do that…

While we are here in the Civil records – remember I mentioned that Patrick Dolphin had a son that was probably born in Galway about 1881 to himself and an unknown mother? I think I will search for that birth record – and if successful I can search for the marriage record for Patrick and unknown wife.

Back to Irishgenalogy.ie. This time, we look for a birth of a Michael Dolphin (Patrick Dolphin’s son) sometime between 1878 and 1883 – and hit the “Search” button:

This results in the following entries – showing two possibilities in the SRD of Loughrea:

Working through each of those two possibilities in turn, I find that the 1881 birth for a Michael Dolphin returns the following underlying record image:

This shows that a Michael Dolphin was born to Patrick Dolphin (resident of the town of Loughrea) and a Mary Costilo (also resident of the town of Loughrea) in May of 1881. Looking back to our “Irish Land Division Worksheet”, we noted that Loughrea was the nearest market town for the townland of Ballydavid.

Although we are making some progress, we need further information to answer any of our discovery questions. My next step is to continue back in time in the Civil records – and search for the marriage of Patrick Dolphin and Mary Costilo shown above. This should show us if we have the right person as the marriage record will give name of the father of Patrick Dolphin and a place of residence at the time of marriage.

This time we search the following Irish civil records for the marriage of Patrick Dolphin, starting with a range of 1875 and 1881:

Hit “Search” and the following single possibility is returned – clearly showing the correct location and name of the spouse:

We click on the single entry returned to eventually find this original record for their marriage:

This looks promising. We see that a Patrick Dolphin married a Mary Costillo in January, 1881. At the time, Patrick lived in Ballydavid and his father’s name was Michael who was a farmer. He was 26 at the time of marriage which puts his birth date at about 1855.

Mary was living in Loughrea (probably the town) at the time of their marriage. Her father’s name was also Michael and he worked as a “herd” (probably a herdsman). You often see a note “dead” beside the name of a father if he is dead by the time of the wedding – but this is not always the case.

I notice that nobody by the name of Dolphin or Costillo is named as a witness at the bottom right of the record.

One small additional point. You can see from the previous birth record for Michael Dolphin that he was born on May 3rd, 1881 while his parents were married only four months earlier on January 18th, 1881. This may be an error somewhere in the record-taking – or it may mean that Mary Costillo is pregnant for a number of months by the time she marries – which may have caused issues both at the time and further down the line!

Before proceeding, let’s review the Discovery Questions we have while we are still searching the Irish Civil records:

Discovery QuestionAnswer/Notes
Where was Patrick Dolphin born in Galway?
Is Ballydavid in County Galway?
Was there a Dolphin family living there in 1855?
What was Patrick Dolphin’s first wife’s name?
Where was she from?
When and where did they marry?
Where and when was Michael Dolphin junior born?
When did Patrick’s first wife die?
Case-Study Discovery Questions and Answers Worksheet.

Looking at the questions above – I see it may be worth trying to answer the question: When did Patrick’s first wife die? while we are still here in the Civil records (at least if she died in Ireland between 1881 and Patrick’s next marriage in 1894 in the USA).

Let’s quickly review the Civil records for possible death records for a Mary Dolphin:

We hit the “Search” button to find the following. As you can see, there are no Mary Dolphins who died in that period that fit the likely age of our Mary Dolphin:

Note: Given that there are only 2 records returned above for Loughrea SRD, I would often examine the underlying original record for each just in case there was an error in transcription.

So, we still don’t know what happened to Mary Costillo – first wife of Patrick Dolphin and mother of Michael Dolphin between the time of the birth of Michael and the time of Patrick’s second marriage.

Let’s now move forward with a summary of our findings to date.


Summary of Findings.

Let’s review our findings so far using the “Discovery Questions and Answers Worksheet”. New answers/notes shown below in red. I have also added a section at the end to include any further discoveries we make along the way:

Discovery QuestionAnswer/Notes
Where was Patrick Dolphin born in Galway??
Is Ballydavid in County Galway?Yes. Ballydavid is in:
Civil Parish: Kilcooly
SRD: Loughrea
RD: Bullaun
DED:Kilmeen
Near Market Town: Loughrea
RC Church Parish: Leitrim and Kilcooly.

RC Dioceses: Clonfert.

Source: All sources shown in “Land Division Research Worksheet”
Was there a Dolphin family living there in 1855??
What was Patrick Dolphin’s first wife’s name?Looks like she was Mary Costillo. Father was Michael Costillo and she was born around 1857.

Source: Irish Civil Marriage Record.
Where was she from?Loughrea, County Galway.

Source: Irish Civil Marriage Record.
When and where did they marry?Married in the RC chapel of Loughrea, County Galway. January 18, 1881.

Source: Irish Civil Marriage Record.
Where and when was Michael Dolphin junior born?Michael Dolphin was born in Loughrea, County Galway on May 3rd, 1881. It looks as if he was born less than four months after his parents marriage.

Source: Irish Civil Birth Record.
When did Patrick’s first wife die?We searched the Civil Death records for the period 1881 to 1895 but did not discover any relevant records.
Other discoveries:Found Dolphin family living in Ballydavid in 1901 census – head of family (Martin Dolphin) appears to be the brother of our Patrick Dolphin as they were both living in Ballydavid when married and share the same fathers name.
Case-Study Discovery Questions and Answers Worksheet.

Conclusion.

In this module we started searching the Irish Record sets for evidence of the origins of Patrick Dolphin and his family. We had a number of “discovery questions” in mind to help us focus.

We adapted a strategy of starting with the 1901 Irish census records as we could “zoom” immediately into Ballydavid townland in County Galway for evidence of any Dolphin families in the area at that time. I find that this “wider” approach often yields richer results compared to going straight back to the RC Baptismal records from e.g. 1853 to 1860 and hoping that we will find a relevant baptismal record for Patrick Dolphin.

Note: Going straight back to the RC church records of the 1850s and looking for a baptismal record for a rare surname like Dolphin may have worked – but too many possibilities may have been presented if your ancestor had a higher-frequency surname like Murphy.

Our census-first approach paid off as we found one Dolphin family living in Ballydavid in 1901. A Martin Dolphin was head of this household so we went back further in time using the Irish civil records to examine marriage records. We discovered that both Martin Dolphin and Patrick Dolphin were living in Ballydavid at the time of their respective marriages and both had a father called Michael. This seems to suggest that they are most likely brothers – but that remains to be seen.

We stayed with the Irish civil records to search for the birth of Patrick’s son, Michael, about 1880. We found both his birth record and the marriage record for Patrick Dolphin and Mary Costillo – who appears to be Patrick’s first wife and the mother of Michael. We were unable to find any evidence of Mary Costillo Dolphin’s death – so we still do not know what happened to her before Patrick’s second marriage in the USA.

Our next step is to go back further in time in the records to continue our search for the origins of Patrick Dolphin. As the Irish Civil records start in 1864 and Patrick was born about 1855 – we will continue our search in the next module using the Irish RC church records.


Try for Yourself.

I suggest that you:

  • Replicate our 1901 Irish census findings for the occupants of Ballydavid townland in County Galway.
  • Replicate our Irish Civil Record findings:
    • Find the marriage record for Martin Dolphin and Hanoria Dolphin. Note all the information we mention above from that record.
    • Find the birth record for Michael Dolphin – son of Patrick Dolphin and his first wife. Note all the information we mention above from that record.
    • Find the marriage record for Patrick Dolphin and his first wife. Note all the information we mention above from that record.
    • Search for a possible death record for the first wife of Patrick Dolphin.
  • Optional: Visit the various Irish Civil and Census links I share above. Pay special attention to the “about” or “FAQ” page on each page visited.

What’s next?

In the next module we continue with our Irish record search strategy by examining the Irish RC Church records – looking for further evidence of the origins of Patrick Dolphin and his family family.


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