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Using Civil War Records to Identify a Locality in Ireland

   Did your ancestor emigrate at the time of the famine or shortly thereafter?  Did he serve in the military during the civil war?  Even if he didn’t there might be records that could help pinpoint an area in Ireland where he lived.  

   Because of the loss of many Irish records, the researcher must be diligent about searching every possibility.  Although most US records simply state “Ireland” as the place of birth, you don’t know what you’ll find until you look.  Many Irish immigrants served in the Civil War (on both sides) and even if you ancestor didn’t serve, perhaps a brother or cousin did.  You may find a draft registration list for the area where you ancestor lived where at least the county is identified.  This list from Alabama lists registrants from Counties Limerick, Clare, Galway and Cork.

   Here’s another from Pennsylvania listing individuals from Cork, Kilkenny and Mayo.

Both of these lists come from Ancestry.com. U.S., Civil War Draft Registrations Records, 1863-1865 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.

   If you know your ancestor served and received a pension you should be reviewing all of the documents in his pension file.  The real gold is in the Widow’s Pensions which Fold3 is digitizing and putting online.  A Widow had to prove she had been married to a soldier and that the children were the children of the soldier.  There are affidavits, letters, baptismal and marriage records, death records and lots of other things in pension files…I once found a personal diary.  You may not find one document that gives origins in Ireland, but you may find hints.

   Here’s a document that identifies the place of marriage as “Tubrid in Ireland.”  There are two Tubbrid parishes, one in Tipperary South and one in Kilkenny.    This limits the area of search and by using other tools, such as Grenham’s Irish Surnames you might be able to determine the more likely location. 

   In another case we have a translation (as well as the original) from the parish register in Quebec giving the names of the bride and groom, as well as the names of their parents (including the maiden names of the mothers).

   Mothers of soldiers could also receive a pension if there was no wife or children, so you should also look for unmarried brothers of your ancestor who might have served.  Here, Mary O’Meara, mother of soldier Timothy O’Meara received a pension. 

Reading through the file (which is 43 pages long) there is also a reference to the fact that her husband died in Kings County, Ireland 20 years ago.  We likely have the place of birth for Timothy, and a date of death of his father, John O’Meara about 31 August 1843.

In another letter in the file addressed to G. O’Meara speaks of the death of “his dear brother” and that “God comfort his mother and sister.”  In a letter from Timothy to his brother he names his sister, Mary.  In his final letter he addresses to John naming him to take care of his “poor mother” and signs it “to you my brother.”  

   All of the above pension records were taken from Fold 3, "Approved pension applications of widows and other dependents of Civil War veterans who served between 1861 and 1910," [database on-line].  This is an ongoing project with over 4 million pages online, 57,000 added in the last month.  So if you don’t find what you’re looking for, check back.

   Happy Hunting!

There are still a few places left for the 

Ireland Research Trips in October.

© Donna M. Moughty 2007- 2013