Part 7: Searching the Irish Records and Conclusion


  • Introduction

  • The concept of applying project management to genealogy research.

  • Step 1: Definition, Setting the objectives.

  • Step 2: Initiation.

  • Step 3: Planning.

  • Step 4: Execution (also known as the actual research).

  • Step 5: Monitoring and Control. Loop back to Step 3 (planning) for as long as necessary to continue research.

  • Step 6: Closure and Conclusion.



Type in a name and see where it takes you!  Oh, if it was only so simple, we would all have our family history research finished and written up long ago.  

For the occasional ancestor this works just fine as a method.  Your grandparents wrote down when and where their grandparents were born, where they lived, who they married, who all their aunts and uncles were, when everybody died.  OK, they left a few details out, some of the dates are extrapolated from ages and a few are “about” but you have sufficient information to recognise an answer when you see it and to exclude the majority of records that “almost match”.

If or when you have sufficient information about an ancestor, or an event about an ancestor, open your favourite site and type in their name.  This might be all you need to do to find the answer.  It does work, on occasion.  Your ancestor’s record, may well have been recorded, digitised and uploaded on any number of our favourite research sites.  You might just even be lucky enough to find your ancestor already entered in someone else’s well documented family tree.  

Even as a professional genealogist I give this method a go as a first step because it sometimes does work.  

However, if this is not successful quickly, or what I am looking for is not on the first page, or I don’t have sufficient proven information to whittle down the results with onsite filters or sufficient evidence to be able to identify the correct record with absolute certainty as in Pam’s tree then it is back to the Drawing Board to work out my plans.

Research Plans, Planning, Pre-Research Research, Exploratory Hypotheses, Project Management are just a few of the titles you can use for this stage of any research.

When it comes down to the “nitty gritty” of Pam’s tree I have that feeling that with so little to go on in the way of good documentary evidence I’m going to need “every trick in the book” and possibly then a few to find evidence of Pam’s great great grandmother Anna (or Annie) Maria Laughlin here in Ireland for that reason and the fact that I know many members are in exactly the same position as Pam, I’m going to go with the more in-depth and rigorous version of Project Management.

I think the detail here will be more helpful to anyone in the Green Room who is struggling with their individual connections back to and within Irish Research.   


The Concept of applying Project Management to Genealogy Research.

Fancy Title – But what does it actually mean and more to the point what has it got to do with genealogy or family history?

Genealogical Project Management does not replace the requirements of the Genealogical Proof Standard, rather the opposite is true – a good Project Management System enhances GPS by assisting us to focus on all of the five elements of GPS at the correct time and place in each stage of the process.

Regardless of whether we are seasoned genealogists or family historians with a list of client expectations to be met) or hobbyists just starting on our journey of discovery, incorporating a Project Management System into our research routine will, without doubt, be one of the most advantageous steps and can save a surprising amount of time as well.  

Before anyone panics – the back of a small envelope and a pen may well be all you need.  Realistically speaking, a simple trip to our local archives to review a microfiche or a quick search for a baptism record on our favourite online site does not need detailed micro-planning but a large research project may need detailed plans which include financial tolerances set for potential additional costs such as certificates, photocopying or travel. 

I’m going to go through the steps in more detail and show how we apply these steps as we work through the records for the search for Pam’s great great grandmother.  When it comes to incorporating Project Management into the 5 steps of the Genealogical Proof Standard the most important thing to keep in mind is REALITY – it’s not there to make our lives difficult – but to help us work more effectively and efficiently!

Family History Project Management can be extensive or minimal; rigorous or lightweight; complex or simple. There is no one, single project management methodology that should be applied to all research or writing projects all of the time. A good project management methodology will reflect the size, duration and complexity of your individual project.  It can be as small as one sheet of paper or a virtual book if a team of researchers are involved in a large complex project.

And again in English!  The purpose of Project Management is to help us work out what we need to do, decide how to break down big tasks into little manageable chunks that will fit with our individual life styles, and help us keep track of where we are as we go along and that we finish, record and save our work. 

Project Management should never be bigger than it needs to be!

Generally there are six stages within Project Management:

1. Definition.

This sets the goals, objectives, benefits, deliverables, exclusions, assumptions, responsibilities, estimated costs, and timescale.  For a large research project this may be a complex document or a simple one line statement.

2. Initiation

When I am dealing with a client this will set the terms of reference within which the research will be run. If this is not done well, the research will have a high probability of failure and or a possible tendency to deviate from what the client expects to receive at the end of the research. The initiation stage is where the business case is declared (if appropriate), scope of the research decided and customer expectations set.  Treating yourself as your own client is a tactic that can help you think about what you want and how you are going to go about attempting to achieve it before you start.

3.  Planning.

Creating a research plan is the first task we should do when undertaking any research. Often research planning is ignored in favour of getting on with the work. However, many people fail to realise the value of a research plan in saving time, money and for avoiding many other problems.

This translates our aspirations into achievable goals (outputs).  It sets out the resources we are likely to need (this may be as simple as a notebook and pencil or membership of an on-line genealogy database).  It defines the amount of time we will need, and defines expected costs – a dollar for a notebook – several hundred dollars for a membership – bus tickets to the archives, photocopying costs, lunch with our mates, or just to estimate how much time we need to search one collection and record what we might find before bed time.   

Good Planning helps define “what is a reasonably exhaustive search” 

Still in use, one hundred-years from their creation, Gantt charts ((created by Henry Gantt (1861-1919)) are one of the project managers’ most valuable tools for ensuring that a project runs on time, in focus, and within budget.  These are fantastic if you really do need to be time and output focused or are working with a group of distant cousins or you simply enjoy working with charts and spreadsheets, but for most personal searches can be rather over the top.  (I’m sure some of our engineers will be familiar with these and how they work.) 

4.   Execution

This is where we undertake the work.  For a research project this will be the first three steps of GPS:- 

  1. A reasonably exhaustive research.
  2. Each statement of fact has a complete and accurate source citation.
  3. The evidence is reliable, and has been skilfully correlated and interpreted.

5.   Monitoring & Control

What was it we wanted to find?  By referring back to our original plan we continually concentrate our focus on what exactly is required. The monitoring and controlling process involves managing and tracking our work, and incorporates an evaluation of the first three steps of the GPS so potential problems can be identified quickly and corrective action taken. This can be even more useful when researching personally for ourselves and we tend to get side-tracked by other interests, or life – it makes it much easier to come back to a project and easily pick up where we left off before life intervened.  

It identifies and addresses step 4 of GPS – Is there any contradictory evidence?  Has this been resolved?

This is a very important on-going process in larger, more complex searches, especially those that have identified a range of required outputs.  However it is equally important in helping us recognise, or question the individual record that fits but might just not belong!

Once the review(s) have been completed, and any issues addressed it is time to move forward to step 5 of GPS, your Conclusions.  In more complex searches one final review after you have written your conclusions is advisable.

6.   Closure

Often neglected, it is important to make sure any project or search is closed properly. Many projects do not have a clear end-point because there is no formal sign-off. When I am working on behalf of a client it is important to get the customers’ agreement that the project has ended, and no more work will be carried out (unless the client commissions further research). Once closed, we should review the project and record the good and bad points, so that in the future, successes can be repeated, and failures avoided.  In a simple self-search this may be no more than ensuring our research is saved, entered on our family tree if appropriate, backed-up and our log is ticked off.


Step 1 – Definition, Setting the Objectives

Before we even attempt to define what our objectives are we need to begin with what facts we have and relook at what Pam wants to know.  

In a previous part of the Workshop we looked at the information we had for “Annie” and we will update that in light of what little information we have located.

It is important to keep on doing this – how is up to you – Notes in your iPad, a word document (add in review and tracking options for continual assessment if this helps you), to an extent Ancestry’s Profile Fact Sheet will give you the details, a file page where you use coloured pens to change and update information, before technology I used to use Index Cards.  Then I updated to Microsoft Works Database (dinosaur stuff). The only system that is correct is the one you will use and update!

A quick review of Annie’s early data provides us with the following starting information (or our Working Hypothesises) 

Working Hypothesises

  • Annie (or Anna) Maria Laughlin born around 1840 in Ireland (estimation from analysis of US Census Records)  Most likely Anna Maria – but cannot be confirmed at this stage
  • Annie married Peter Daily probably before 1859 (estimated from 1860 US census)
  • Annie probably married in or near to Peoria, Illinois, USA (based on 1850 & 1860 Census for Peter Daily) possibility – could she have married in St Louis, Missouri?
  • The 1860 Census (1 June) identifies Peter & “Mariah” in Ward 1 of Peoria City along with their daughter Catherine who is aged one.
  • Joseph Daily (Peter’s father) is identified as owning real estate (1860 US Census)
  • Catherine Daily’s birth date can be estimated as between 2 June 1858 and 1 June 1859 (1860 Census) No baptism record found by Archives of RC Diocese of Peoria 
  • The 1870 (recorded as 5 July) Census shows the Daily family living in Ward 6 of Peoria with 4 children Peoria Diocese baptisms records for other children located

  • Catherine  age 11                            
  • Susan age 8
  • Ellen age 3 (looks more like a 5)
  • Francis age 7 months
  • There is no evidence of Annie in the 1850 Census in Peoria
  • Annie’s father MAY be called Michael Laughlin (unconfirmed Ancestry Trees)
  • Annie MAY have siblings/half-siblings (unconfirmed Ancestry Trees)
    • James Michael Francis Laughlin (1831 Ireland – 1859 St Louis, Missouri)
    • Helen Laughlin (1839 Ireland – u/k) 
    • Daniel J Laughlin (1853 Missouri – 1915 St Louis City, Missouri)
  • Wildcard Census record for 1860 from Missouri identifies the following family as potential for further follow up:
    • Michael Laughlin Age 60, Wife Margaret Age 40, children John age 16, Elisa age 9 all born Ireland, and Ellen age 5 born Missouri  –  Red Herring or Lead?
  • Evidence of Annie’s emigration from Ireland to USA has not been located

In Part 1 we had asked Pam what she hoped to achieve with this exercise:

When we look at what Pam hopes to get out of the exercise it is a list of aspirations rather than research goals.  Pam is trying to understand why the information passed down through the family does not in many ways match the facts she has found in American research.  If “Annie” had come from a wealthy family why might she travel alone, not be able to write, or might these “facts” be untrue and “Annie” have arrived in America as an indentured servant – why didn’t she leave more clues?

These are all perfectly valid questions but they are not research objectives.

A research objective will focus our efforts, on step at a time on a single task (such as a name, event date, event place, relationship, etc)

If we look at Pam’s first two questions both refer to “Annie” as potentially coming from a wealthy family – but as yet we don’t know when or where she was born or baptised, we have no definitive parents, or definitive siblings (apart from a potential generational DNA match).  We don’t know what Annie’s father did for a living, was he a wealthy landed farmer or a poor labourer, or somewhere in-between? We don’t have “Annie” appearing on any definitive shipping list.

This is the information we need to find before we could begin to answer Pam’s first 2 or 3 questions in anything other than general terms.

Our initial research list may then look something like this:

If we break down Pam’s aspirations into a list of smaller questions that we might be able to answer from Irish records we begin the process of gathering facts that will hopefully help determine Pam’s queries.

One of the toughest challenges can be formulating what questions to ask.  Sometimes in our desire to access more information about our ancestors it can be very tempting to ask questions for which there may not be an answer or questions that we do not have the current ability to recognise the answer.

We need sometimes to take a step backwards and look carefully at what we want to find out, are our questions realistic in our example above we are asking “When was Annie born?” We have surmised from Census records that Annie was born around 1840, but as this is before commencement of Civil Registration of Births in Ireland which commenced in 1864 we can recognise that we won’t be able to find a birth certificate for Annie.  However by changing this question to “When was Annie baptised?” we may have a more realistic chance of finding out that answer.  (If we can find her baptism date, we may be lucky in that the church baptismal register might have recorded her date of birth, if not the best we will be able to do is extrapolate when she may have been born from the type of baptism register.

At this point it is a good idea to see if this information is easily found.  We will take 15 to 20 minutes and trot along to Roots Ireland and take a quick look and see if we can find a baptism record for “Annie” or any of the potential siblings.  As Pam has an Ancestry Account she will have looked there and what I want to concentrate on are techniques that every member can transfer to your own trees and searches. 

Roots Ireland Baptismal records for County Down – here is what I have entered: (Note the bottom box on the right hand side allows us to change between first name variants and first name begins with – I’ve picked variants.

And the results are:  A big fat zero!

As we have no documentary evidence that “Annie’s” father is called Michael, we will remove his forename and repeat the search.  The results this time show 4 potential results:

The next thing to do is to look at these a little more closely

Ann Loughlin 1840

Ann McLaughlin 1843

Ann McLaughlin 1843

And Ann Mcloughlan 1843

We can now immediately see that the last three records are repeats and variations of one record all for an Ann baptised in Newry on 17 April 1843. 

The first record is a pretty good match for date, but shows a father called Edward, however as far as location is concerned it is reasonably close to where Pam’s grandmother was told that “Annie” came from near Newcastle in County Down

We can see the location here at

Something to keep in mind though as we search further.

Quickly trying “Annie’s” potential siblings including the wild cards from the St Louis Census

  • James Michael Francis Laughlin 1831
  • Helen Laughlin 1839
  • John Laughlin 1844
  • Elisa Laughlin 1851

The results are:

Zero return on a James born 1831 +/- 5 years with a father named Michael

No results for Helen baptised 1839 +/- 5 years with a father called Michael

No results for John baptised 1844 +/- 5 years with a father called Michael

No results for Elisa baptised 1851 +/- 5 years with a father called Michael

So no quick leads or answers.  We have got 2 records (one of which has been triplicated with slightly different spellings) each of which are only partial matches to add to our Quarantine Files but no definitive records that match all of the information.

We can go back to Roots Ireland and go over to the top right hand to online sources we can see what records in general are transcribed. 

This however comes with a word of caution – Like the majority of transcription sites I have encountered Roots Ireland shows the first and last date of records transcribed from each source.  There is no list of gaps in records and no indication of whether any records were impossible to read, except where this is remarked upon on an individual record.

Theoretically we could repeat this exercise on all of the membership sites we have but there is a point where this becomes somewhat counterproductive in time especially where there may be a considerable number of returns on a broad search and zero returns for searches with a narrow focus.

Therefore at this stage I am going to move on to Step 2.


Step 2 – Initiation 

This is where as a Professional Genealogist I need to calculate just how far my client’s budget is likely to stretch in terms of my time, whether my client’s aspirations can be adjusted to achievable goals, how likely is it that those goals can be met within budget, whether I’m likely to find answers within online records or whether I will need to travel to archives, grave yards, newspaper offices, libraries etc, how much time travelling and travelling costs could eat into the budget, how likely it is that expensive certificates may need to be purchased and how much time it will take to prepare a detailed report all need to be considered before I prepare a Research Proposal.

Some of these factors may be much less important when searching for yourself.  If you are searching from your home computer in the evenings after work or you are retired then time is not necessarily a major issue.  However the costs of paying for yet another membership site, a potentially large number of certificates can be a huge factor.  If you are working all day and the Archives where the records are held are only open when you are working meaning that you would have to use a day’s annual leave even for your local archives, or perhaps several weeks’ leave to plan a visit to Ireland for a research holiday then getting your initial stages of planning correct are likely to be crucial.  

If you plan to use a professional genealogist because some of the collections are inaccessible from your location utilising these tactics can also help reduce your budget – if your genealogist has to spend time converting your aspirations into research questions then it is going to take time and time when it comes to a professional genealogist costs money.

As we have completed a quick 2 cents tour of Roots Ireland and not found any definitive information we will need to build in an exploratory exercise to see what records actually survive for the Newcastle area where Annie was alleged to have been born.  

It is critical that we keep in mind that not all the records have survived and of those that do only a tiny portion are currently available on the internet.  (five or six years ago estimates were quoted that only around 5 – 10% of records were available online – despite the massive amount of indexing and increase of records there have been no major announcements of a big jump in this figure).

Keeping this in mind, and checking what survives is the best method of avoiding the old cliché of “it’s the only record there that fits so it must be correct”


Step 3 – Planning 

The first thing we need to address is where can we find out what baptism records survive for the Newcastle area in County Down around 1840 and are there other records that may help our research or replace potential missing baptism registers.

To do this we need to find out what sort of a land division is Newcastle – is it a townland, village, Civil or Catholic Parish?

This is particularly important for Irish research as many of the record collections you are likely to encounter were either created, or can be found split between a mix of Geographical, Ecclesiastical or Civil land divisions.  If you want to refresh your memory on what these are check out this post  

Today Newcastle is a reasonably well known seaside town located in County Down, Northern Ireland.

These are nice modern day Google maps.  However back around the time “Annie” was born Newcastle was not quite so big.  We can see this by using historical maps for around the correct historical time period.

Northern Ireland historical maps can be located on the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI)’s web site.  This clip is from the First Edition Map (1832 – 1846)

Although slightly more difficult to see on the thumbnail smaller scale map of the same edition it is also possible to see that the surrounding area does not have much in the way of any large settlements.

Taking a little bit of time in the Planning Stages to look at this broad background can help us ensure that our Plans are neither too wide in terms of geographical spread or so narrow that we may be in danger of missing records from village hinterlands, especially if we are starting without a precise location.

In terms of geographical area therefore it is likely that we will need to look beyond the village of Newcastle and include the hinterland areas within our search.

There are two main places we can find out more about what records survive:

If we know the Parish, we can consult PRONI’s Guide to Church Records (most of the Church records held at PRONI are for records pertaining to Northern Ireland but there are some churches from Ireland including churches as far south as Skibbereen) and online e-Catalogue, if we don’t, the best place to start is with John Grenham’s excellent Irish Ancestors (we do have the luxury of free membership with the Green Room so we will start here)

The benefit of starting with JohnGrenham is that we can also look at the surname of Laughlin, where it can be found mid-1800s and at variations in how the name is spelt.

We can see straight away that the surname Laughlin has a number of variant spellings which we will need to consider in our plans.

As it happens this is a perfect example of why using maps at the planning stage can save a lot of time and heartache in your research. 

We have already found the village of Newcastle in the south east of County Down but look what happens when we search in John Grenham under place names for Newcastle.

Going back to our Google map we can see that Newcastle and Downpatrick are not that far apart, until we look at JohnGrenham again and locate the Civil Parish of Slanes on his map.

Here is Slanes Civil Parish at #64 sitting to the South East of the Ards Peninsula (still County Down).  So has JohnGrenham made a mistake?

No – this is correct! There is a townland called Newcastle located in Slanes Civil Parish, County Down.

Take a look at  and you will find a long list of 2 baronies, 6 Civil Parishes, 10 Electoral Divisions and 32 Townlands in Ireland and not one of these correlates to the well-known sea-side village of Newcastle found on Google Maps.

That is because the sea-side village of Newcastle is located in the townland of Ballaghbeg, Kilcoo Civil Parish, but over time spread through the townlands of Murlough Upper, Maghera Civil Parish, and more latterly to the townland of Tollymore, also Maghera Civil Parish. (For anyone familiar with this area this townland is immediately east of the townland of Tollymore Park (where Tollymore Forest Park is located)

While the sea-side resort turns up as New Castle in many early records as far back as the Annals of the Four Masters in 1433 it was the late 1800s before it really began to establish itself as anything other than a small fishing port.  

When we look at A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland by Samuel Lewis 1837 for Kilcoo Civil Parish we can see that as far as the Roman Catholic divisions:

When we look at the adjacent Civil Parish of Maghera in 1837 there is no mention of Newcastle. The information for the RC divisions

As Pam’s grandmother suggested that “Annie” may have come from Newcastle in County Down but did not specify whether this was the name of a village or a townland and as both are located on the coast we will have to include the Civil Parish of Slanes on the Ards Peninsula as a possibility

By taking even a few minutes to look at the historic details of an area, even on a fairly cursory level, like that provided in Wikipedia,_County_Down can provide essential background information before we begin our search.  In the case of Newcastle there was a well-documented fishing disaster that happened in 1843 when 46 men from Newcastle and 27 from Annalong died in a storm.

This was extensively reported in the Newspapers of the day including lists of all the men who died.

At this point we now want to go back to JohnGrenham and see what Roman Catholic Parish baptism and marriage registers survive for these areas.   We can see these more clearly on the RC Parish Map for Co Down

The parishes we need to explore initially are:

  • Bryansford & Newcastle
  • Kilcoo
  • Ardkeen

Here is where a certain amount of local knowledge can help (but Google and historical mapping with a little extra time can fill in these same gaps).  The three RC churches are:

  • St Mary’s of the Assumption Catholic Church (Ballaghbeg townland) main Street Newcastle
  • St Patrick’s Catholic Church located in Bryansford village (townland of Ballyhafry)
  • St Malacy’s Catholic Church located in Kilcoo Village (Ballymoney townland) (between Rathfriland and Downpatrick)

The fine building of St Mary’s was not built until 1845, previously mass was held in a temporary building in King Street, there do not appear to be any surviving records for this earlier period.  It is also important to note that the population in Newcastle in 1831 was only 987 people. 

It appears that only one set of parish records survive for the Catholic Parish of Bryansford and Newcastle.

We can now see that if “Annie” was born in the fishing village of Newcastle or at Bryansford Village then the records of her baptism will not have survived.  There is a chance of potentially finding a baptism in the registers of St Malacy’s in Kilcoo Village.

We can now begin to compile our research list or rather we can begin to compile 2 research lists.  Because of the disparity in potential locations in the long run it will be easier to split our research into two parts on a geographical basis.

There are basically 2 options of approach. Planning and Researching in Stages, or detailed advance planning followed by a larger research.  Often the former is easier if you are researching in your spare time and has the advantage of planning each next stage of research based on what you find or do not find as you go along rather than attempting to set your terms of reference all at once.  However if you are planning a research holiday then you will need to continue the planning stage by exploring as far as reasonably practicable what other records exist and build a research hierarchy (order of importance) before you travel.

Planning and background research can appear to be (and sometimes is) more detailed than the actual search for direct records, but these are the details about our ancestors, and about the local areas in which they lived, or may have lived that can help us calculate how likely it is to find one type of record but not another, to look at the potential lives of the individuals who lived in an area and compare this information against that of our known ancestors and spot close parallels or distinct differences.   

Just by undertaking something as simple as looking on JohnGrenham at the variety of spellings of our ancestors’ surnames and where these appear at the time of the Primary (aka Griffiths) Valuation (even if this is after our ancestors left Ireland) can help us spot which variation(s) of spellings appear in which parish.  A twist of a couple of vowels or a slight change in spelling can, especially when looking online, mean that searching under one spelling may not locate all the other potential variant spellings of that name.  As such combining tactics of searching transcriptions and browsing the original records where possible can often be a more thorough approach. 

If we do this for “Annie” but just concentrate for now on which spellings occur in and around the area of the fishing port of Newcastle (Kilcoo Civil Parish) what we find is that by 1863/4 only Loughlin and McLoughlin are present in Kilcoo Civil Parish, slightly further away Laughlin appears in Donaghcloney Civil Parish, Loughlan in Donaghmore, Loughlin in Maghera, and Kilmegan and McLoughlin in Loughinisland.

We do need to keep in mind that this is a rough indication of what we might find where 20 – 25 years earlier, but nonetheless it can be very useful for deciding which spelling variations to start with at the top of our research pile.


Step 4 – Execution (aka the actual research).

Now that we have some background information about the area and we know what we might be able and won’t be able to find in baptismal records we can begin a much more focused search for “Annie” and other potential members of her family.

We’ll begin with the records for Kilcoo Roman Catholic Parish as the baptism records survive from October 1832

Looking at we can see that between 22 October 1832 and 11 December 1880 there are only 198 images.

By using the “local” spellings in Roots Ireland we can ascertain if there is much of a difference with the results we get.

We can begin by taking a quick look to see how many returns there are for each of the surname variants when narrowed to Kilcoo Roman Catholic Church.

There are 46 results returned for this register using the Standard Surname Index.  As this is a reasonable number I am going to explore these all, one by one to see if there is any evidence of “Annie” or other potential family members based on our Working Hypothesis.  I’m not going to show each of the 46 results here, just a quick analysis purely for the amount of space this would take up.

There is no indication of an Anna, Annie, Ann, Maria Lauglin (or variation in surname) being born in this set of parish records anywhere around the calculated time of “Annie’s” birth.  The forename Ann or any variation of this forename is completely absent as is the forename Michael.

To be certain I’m not dealing with potential miss-transcripts I am searching both via Roots Ireland and manually in the digitised parish records.

There appears to be a gap of Laughlin (including variant spellings) for the approximate 10 year period 1853 to 1863.  As there is not a corresponding gap in the registers, which continue for this period we can assume that this may either be a generational gap or that families may have been moving out of the area.

However we can state that as there is no sign of “Annie” or potential family members it is unlikely that she was baptised in Kilcoo Parish.

While we will not find a corresponding entry in the Bryansford & Newcastle registers it is still worth looking at this register as it may be possible to see if there is potential for family members or even a potential hint of family names.

However when we look here there are no Laughlin (or variant baptisms) prior to the 1890s. 

However we cannot exclude the possibility that “Annie” and any siblings could have all been born before commencement of the surviving registers and therefore are simply not included in this set of records.  

Looking at the townland of Newcastle in the Roman Catholic Parish of Ardkeen we face another gap in the records between Nov 1828 and June 1852 however I cannot locate any variants of the name Laughlin in the surviving records up to the mid-1860s.  (These records have not been transcribed by Roots Ireland).  The gap in record occurs over the period where “Annie” and potential siblings would have been born.


Step 5 – Monitoring and Control

By continually returning to our Monitoring and Control phase of our research we can begin to write up each phase of research as we go along.  This does not have to be a complex process, a simple research log with a few additional notes if necessary is generally adequate to keep a track of what you are planning, researching, finding or not finding.

Here is an example of an easy to use table that can equally be copied in a spreadsheet programme such as Excel.

  • Annie (or Anna) Maria Laughlin born around 1840 in Ireland (estimation from analysis of US Census Records)  Most likely Anna Maria – but cannot be confirmed at this stage
  • Annie married Peter Daily probably before 1859 (estimated from 1860 US census)
  • Annie probably married in or near to Peoria, Illinois, USA (based on 1850 & 1860 Census for Peter Daily) possibility – could she have married in St Louis, Missouri?
  • The 1860 Census (1 June) identifies Peter & “Mariah” in Ward 1 of Peoria City along with their daughter Catherine who is aged one.
  • Joseph Daily (Peter’s father) is identified as owning real estate (1860 US Census)
  • Catherine Daily’s birth date can be estimated as between 2 June 1858 and 1 June 1859 (1860 Census) No baptism record found by Archives of RC Diocese of Peoria 
  • The 1870 (recorded as 5 July) Census shows the Daily family living in Ward 6 of Peoria with 4 children Peoria Diocese baptisms records for other children located



I have provided the source citation for the collection, rather than for individual records.

This example is a fairly simple example, but adequate to see not just what site you searched but which collection of records, what type of records these are, what you were looking for, what you found or did not find, when you undertook the search and where you have stored/filed/saved any documents you did find.

When searching online it is useful to include the date you searched as some collections do get updated from time to time with additional records, if you have the date of your search it is relatively easy if you go back to these records at later date to quickly see if they have been updated since you last searched.

As the research currently stands we can state that “Annie” was not baptised in Kilcoo RC Parish Co Down but we cannot state the same for either Bryansford & Newcastle Parish or Ardkeen RC Parish as there are no records.  The best we can do for these two parishes is note that there are gaps and that there is no evidence of Laughlin families at this time period within this narrow band of records.

Loop Back to Planning Stage (Step 3) for as long as necessary (“rinse and repeat”).

This is where we then return to the Planning Stage to work out what we can do next.

There are two main options for the next phase.

  • Option One – Extend our search of RC Parish Record to the adjacent parishes 
  • Option Two – Look for alternative records that may provide an answer.

Every search will have different reasons as to why one, or other or both options will be the most appropriate.  In “Annie’s” case we are severely lacking in definitive, documented evidence for looking in the Newcastle (port/village) area.  (Remember the information has come from a possibility that this is where Pam’s grandmother thought her grandmother may have originated – but Pam has been unable to provide us with any evidence or reasoning as to why her grandmother arrived at this conclusion.  Again we are severely limited by the lack of definitive confirmation regarding “Annie’s parents or siblings). 

Generally where there are this few ancestor identifiers I would recommend extending the research to adjacent Parishes to look for potential baptism records for “Annie” and any patterns of repeated known and surmised family names.

In a research project like this utilising the traditional Irish Naming patterns can help us identify potential sets of records and individual records that we can then tag as having more potential for further research and to tag other locations, and record collections as being of potentially less likely to contain relevant information. 

If we look again at the names of “Annie’s” children, remembering that we have Catherine before Susanna this totals 8 children.  However the 1910 Census showed she had reportedly given birth to 10 children, ergo 2 children are still missing.

As we are reliant on what information was provided to Pam from the Peoria Diocese Office, we can’t even double check the records to see if we can potentially see if the 2 missing baptisms are there or whether it is more likely that 2 infants died at or close to birth before baptism and before they were given names.

As such we do have to be even more careful of relying on the Irish Naming Pattern – in “Annie’s” case this may simply not work, or we may be unable to define the pattern correctly because of missing information.

Occasionally within a search there is one name or an occupation that stands out as being unusual, and this can provide a third research option – The Wild Card

We have one of these Wild Cards in “Annie’s” son Ulysses born 20 July 1864.  As he appears to be the eldest son, based on the information we can see, theoretically he would be named for his paternal grandfather.  However we have confirmation that Peter Daily’s father was named Joseph.

Ulysses is not a high frequency forename in Ireland (there are 3 individuals with this first name in the 1901 Census, all with the surname Fitzmaurice).

Following up on a Wild Card does not conform with the traditional genealogical research tradition of always working from the known towards the unknown but quite frankly for any researcher working from “half a deck of cards” as far as confirmable information is concerned and little in the way of documentary direction then this option may well be worth a gamble.

In this case we will take a quick look and see if it is possible to spot anything quickly that might provide an additional lead before we continue with the planning stage.

In this case by searching on Findmypast within Ireland, Roman Catholic Baptism Records we have located 7 returns for children baptised with the forename Ulysses, none of which have a surname named Laughlin or any variation thereof.

No obvious leads.  At this stage I am not going to follow this any further forward unless one of those surnames crops up within subsequent related research.

Five minute detour over, we will return to Options One and Two.

While Option One, extending the geographical area into adjacent Parishes, on balance is the more sensible option in this case both for the port and townland of Newcastle, doing this is a matter of rinse and repeat of what we have just undertaken. However if Annie was from Newcastle (either the port or townland) we have no way of recognising that fact through baptism records. Although this is a very big MAY, we will for now continue to concentrate on this area and look at what else we might be able to find by the way of records both on and offline that could help us navigate around the brick wall of lack of baptism records.

Option Two – Look for alternative records that may provide an answer.

I find one of the easiest ways of working out where to look is to begin with a generic list of records and record types, a mix of my target information (broadly what I will want to try and find within the collection) and pertinent remarks, and then begin to explore and expand the initial list into more definitive collections which can then be sorted into a combination order of which are the most likely and which can be accessed. 

This format also works well when estimations of time and or costs per collection may require to be added and or some of the collections may not be accessible from our current location and access to these collections may require longer term planning and or additional associated costs such as a holiday or hiring a genealogist.  

We need to consistently keep in mind what our initial target questions – where, and when was “Annie” born and who were her family?

Once our Generic Search List of the types of information is completed we can extend our Planning Phase into more depth for each of these sets of record collections.

Some of these areas of research will be fairly quick and easy to access online, others are much more complex and can take considerable time just within the pre-research planning phase,  Again it is possible to choose whether to plan then research each phase or plan all of the phases before undertaking any research. 

For now I want to concentrate on two specific areas of research that are often underutilised or ignored simply because the end information is not available online.  School Registers and Landed Estate Records.

One of the most useful sets of records for finding a birth date of a child born before Civil Registration can be School Registers.  The National School System was set up Ireland in 1831 with schools being set up in various locations throughout the whole of Ireland over the next few decades.  

While very few registers survive from the 1830s or 1840s it is still worth while checking what survives for what area.

Records for Ireland (the South) have been digitised by Findmypast, however the vast majority for Northern Ireland are held offline in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI).

To access which Registers survive for which dates in PRONI there is a 2-part process – initially we need to inspect PRONI’s Index to School Collections.  This is free to download at   The index will provide us with an alphabetical list of all schools and the main catalogue index for each school listed by Civil Parish.  Here is a snapshot of Kilcoo Civil Parish

All school registers begin with the prefix SCH.  For information there is a second set of school records beginning with the prefix ED these consist of Correspondence Registers, building and grant applications.

We then need to go to PRONI’s e-catalogue 

Using the Search Function on the e-Catalogue will not allow us to access the register dates so we need to switch to the “Browse” function.  This is located at the top right hand of the screen.


Now when we enter the reference number we can bring up a full hierarchy list

By clicking on the bold SCH reference we can move through the catalogue layers

Until we reach the final layer

Once we reach the final layer we can then see the full catalogue description.

Unfortunately these dates are too late to provide any information as to whether “Annie” may have attended Ardaghy National School.

We can then repeat the process for all of the schools in the Civil Parish.  Unfortunately closer inspection of all the school registers for this parish revealed that all the dates are also too late with the earliest registers surviving from 1862.  In this instance, this means that for the Port of Newcastle, Kilcoo Parish our research stalls at the Planning Stage.

Landed Estate Records can contain a wealth and very broad variety of records.  The Annesley Papers have surviving documents from 1650 to 1939, and comprise of about 225 volumes and approximately 1,275 documents, divided between two principle sets of archives D1503 and D1854 plus a series of photocopies and microfilm copies.  Most of the papers relating to the Castlewellan Estate are held within D1503 which comprises around 1.000 documents and dates to about 1650-1900

The best approach to narrowing down where to search for relevant information in large collections of Estate Papers held in PRONI is to use the Browse function as in the School Records (that is once you know the main Estate Reference)  We can get some help here by going back to John Grenham first

Alternative methods for locating Landed Estate Records can include starting with Griffiths Valuation and searching PRONI’s catalogue for signs of the individual lessors (or as often is the case attempting to extrapolate who is at the top “of the land chain”). It is possible to search PRONI’s catalogue by a name either in the title and description or by the contents of a file, however this can sometimes return a significant number of returns.

Once we navigate to the browse function and search the main reference we can begin to see the hierarchy of tiers of records appearing. The amount of information that appears within the View at each tier varies considerably between different collections, levels, sometimes this will be incredibly detailed (often written at or near the time the collection was acquired) other levels will sometimes provide little if any relevant information.

For Example D1503/1 simply shows the subtitle “Leases” and does not provide any further relevant information.

Navigate one more tier in the left hand column and more information is available in this case

Navigating through these layers, even for a professional genealogist who uses the catalogue every day can be a time consuming exercise particularly when dealing with leases and rental accounts and even then it is sometimes not possible to get all of the information we would like because of the method in which the cataloguing has been completed. One of the worst examples is within the Brownlow Estates for County Armagh where the only returns are long lists of leases from William Brownlow and the only method of finding out who each lease has been issued to is to physically order all of the leases 5 at a time through the ordering system and read each one.

Unfortunately within the Annesley papers we also get some of the same information Under D1503/4/6 Obsolete tenancy agreements and agreements of employment we can see there are 67 sets of records (some of these may be singular items and some may be boxes) we can see “Item Description Not Available”.

Working through Landed Estate Records is a very time consuming process at the catalogue level even if you know which townland and parish your ancestors lived, and this is before you even begin to research the records themselves, planning which records to search is essential simply because of the vast size of many of these collections, but there can be real value in these records that can in many instances take your family back much further than church and other records.

Working through the Annesley Papers we end up with a potential search list (none of which is likely to identify “Annie” directly but could in theory identify her father if he indeed is called Michael).

Here we have a partial conundrum – Pam has been left with the impression that her great great grandmother “Annie” came from a moneyed family but wonders if this really is the case.  A moneyed, educated family may well indeed have a lease, but an uneducated labourer or small tenant farmer is far more likely to be included in a rent book.

In this scenario, as is the case where there may be little information about any family often the best place to start is with any Schedules of tenants and lists of leases (Remember Absence of Evidence is not the same as Evidence of Absence) then moving to the maps.

By searching these items first we can then decide whether it may be viable, reasonable, practicable, and potentially advantageous or a potential colossal waste of resources to search these records further at this stage.

I examined the List of Leases PRONI reference D1503/5/4 – here is top part of the first page of the list which was two pages in length.  There were no Laughlin or variants of this name present.

I then examined D1503/4/8 Schedule of tenants on the Co Down Estate of Earl Annesley against whom is it recommended proceedings by Civil Bill ejectment for non-payment of rent should be instituted.

Here is the top of the first page.

This time I did find one reference to a variant of the surname Laughlin.  On page 4 under the townland of Lisnamulligan I found a Pat Loughlin listed with an expired lease. Paid by rent of a farm of just over 50 acres.

The lease itself is not dated but the e-catalogue provides a year of 1849.

The townland of Lisnamulligan is some distance from the port of Newcastle in the Civil Parish of Clonduff.

This is also the Roman Catholic Parish of Clonduff.  Unfortunately baptism and marriages are only available from 1850.

Lists of the names of the men who perished in 1843 from Newcastle and Annalong are:

No variants of the surname Laughlin were located.

In a simple search, where we have a single objective or an individual collection of records to search we very quickly move through each of the five steps of the Genealogical Proof Standard moving from research, cite, analyse, resolve to our conclusions.

However we can clearly see here that with “Annie” we are starting to go around in circles.  

We have found nothing definitive that relates directly to Annie that either confirms or refutes that Newcastle is or is not “Annie’s” point of origin in Ireland.

If time was not a factor we could continue to expand our research, look again at the extended options in our planning phase, and continue to “rinse and repeat” “until the cows come home”.

However what I think is more useful is to look at why we are having such difficulty with the search for any evidence of Anna Maria Laughlin.


Step 6: Closure and Conclusion.

Why is the search not successful?

  • A lack of records for the dates we need
  • A lack of a definitive location
  • A lack of ancestor identifiers
  • Time limitations on this search

In blunt terms it is the combination of these four factors that are resulting in not being able to quickly draw any form a soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion!  We simply do not have a good enough starting point or sufficient research evidence.

If the American and current DNA potential connections were exhausted at this point I would draw up a summary stating that the only options open are to continue to expand on the records and to expand on the geographical area of research initially beginning in the south eastern quadrant of County Down.

I would recommend that a list of all the Roman Catholic Parishes in this area be drawn up and the dates of what registers exist and where they can be found set out in a table (similar to what we drew up for potential research within the landed estate records) and that those with surviving registers be searched and any potential baptisms highlighted and where we can be certain that “Annie” was not baptised be ruled out as definitive negative returns in order to reduce the number of possibilities.

There are a wealth of records here in Ireland we have not explored simply because of the time factor, which given time and resources Pam could continue to follow up on.  However in Pam’s case there is a substantive amount of research that can still be undertaken within US records, not least the potential DNA connections, a lack of any definitive record of  “Annie” arriving in the US.

This is where I believe that Pam needs to focus her attention for now.  At this point Pam has accepted James MF Laughlin (1831-1898), Helen Laughlin or Murphy (1839- unknown) and Daniel J Laughlin (1853-1915) as “Annie’s” siblings based on an Ancestry DNA estimate along with Michael Laughlin (1831- unknown) as “Annie’s” father from other individuals’ family trees.  However these trees are unsourced, undocumented apart from the most basic of records and contact with the individual owners has not provided Pam with any definitive, well researched data.

There are three main areas where Pam needs to focus her attention

  • Passenger lists for Anna Maria Laughlin (including variants on spelling) – did “Annie” arrive alone or did she travel with potential family or neighbours?
  • An in-depth research of the Laughlin individuals where there is a DNA connection – are these individuals siblings or could they be cousins, 1st cousins once removed – or indeed is it possible that the DNA connection is not through the Laughlin line?
  • Further exploration of the Laughlin (including variants in spelling) surname in the areas of Peoria, Jackson and St Louis and whether any of these individuals have potential to be researched further as potential relatives or whether any can be definitively excluded as direct or more distant family.

If Pam still has research notes left by her grandmother she needs to go through these and try and figure out why her grandmother decided that Newcastle may have been “Annie’s” point of origin – is this based on any evidence?  Is it supposition?  If so based on what?

Pam’s primary focus needs to be to find additional ancestor identifiers – that is documentary connections to other members of her family and how they definitively connect to “Annie” in terms of relationship.  This information could make all the difference in an Irish research.

In Summary.

I hope you have enjoyed this case-study and can apply many of the techniques I have used within your own research.

Please do ask questions, add comments about your own experience of using any of these techniques or other methods where you achieved success or spent time going around in circles.


You can now Click here to comment on this Case-Study or ask further questions in the Green Room forum