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Military Records - A Case Study

   Did your ancestor fight in the Civil War?  It is estimated that over 144,000 Irish Americans fought on both sides of this War and information about their origins in Ireland may be in their pension file.  

   The hardships experienced by the Irish during the Famine years caused many to seek a new life in America.  Many heeded the call to fight in regiments that were wholly Irish, such as the 69th NY Infantry, the 116th Pennsylvania Infantry, and the 28th Massachusestts, known as The Irish Brigade under commanding general, Thomas Francis Meagher.  

   In 1863, the Enrollment Act was passed requiring single men age 20 - 45 and married men up to the age of 35 to register for the draft.  There were four drafts between 1863 and 1865 and you can find the consolidated lists at  The description indicates that the originals are at the Regional Archives and may contain additional information.  In addition you  might find lists of those drafted from the local newspapers.  Here is an example from

Drafted Men

New London Weekly Chronicle (New London, Connecticut)  

Page: 2  Copyright 2014 by the American Antiquarian Society and NewsBank, inc.

   Pension records can provide an extensive amount of details on an individual.  A pension might be in the name of a soldier who was injured in the war, the name of the mother or father if the soldier supported them, or the name of the widow (which has the greatest amount of detail). The original pension records are at the National Archives in Washington, DC.  Fold3 is in the process of digitizing the Widow’s Pensions (which includes claims by parents) and currently has about 4.5 million pages done (this, however is only about 11%).  

    Below is an example from a pension record.  James Sullivan of Lawrence, Massachusetts is making a claim on the basis of his son who supported him.  He states he was married to Mary Murphy (deceased) and that they married in Dingle, County of Kerry, Ireland and that he had moved to the US fourteen years ago.  Now perhaps you are descended from another child of James and here you have the place of birth and the name of his wife, including her maiden name.  That’s why it is so important to research everyone in the family (as well as friends, associates and neighbors).  You never know who might have left the information.

Dingle, Cork Ireland

   Here’s another example from a widow’s pension record.  This one states that Robert King (the soldier, deceased) and Catherine Lonorgan were married 15 Oct 1850 in the Parish of Tubrid.  Great…a location!

A look at the Townland Index however, shows that there are four parishes named Tubbrid (note the different spelling).  

   Is there another record we can look at?  My next step was a surname distribution check using Grenham’s Irish Surnames, looking for a locality where both the name King and Lonorgan showed up.  Unfortunately I got no  hits at all on Lonorgan in either Grenham’s nor checking Griffith’s at AskAboutIreland. A few other checks to see if I could get a different spelling showed up Lonorgans in the 1901 census (National Archives of Ireland) in Cork, Limerick, Waterford and Tipperary.  The one in Tipperary was in Clogheen…that makes the Tipperary South Ridings look like a possibility.

   The next check was at RootsIreland, the Irish Family History Foundation site which contains transcriptions of church records.  According to the pension they were married in 1850.  This is a subscription site, however, you can sign up for one month for $28.  You can then download as many transcriptions as you want during the 30 days, so make sure you had some time set aside.  Paydirt!  Here’s the record of the marriage of Robert King and Catherine Lonergan (again, note different spelling) in the Ballylooby Parish in Tipperary. 


   If you haven’t found the place of origin in Ireland, it’s not likely to be in a single record.  You will need to go through a process of checking various records.  Even when you get a locality you need to be sure you can identify all of the correct adminstrative jurisdictions.  Not only is Tubbrid the name of four (civil) parishes but it is also the name of 15 townlands in 11 counties.  The Irish were not very creative with names!

   Happy Hunting!

© Donna M. Moughty 2007- 2018