On New Year's day, we made our Christmas trip home to Newmarket, Co.Cork. A bit later than usual this year. We had a great day my Dad recently celebrated his 70th birthday and it was nice to spend some time at home. My Dad and I went for a drive a paid a visit to the City of Shrone which I recently became interested in. And we also paid a visit to one of Dad's friends and an old neighbour. Photo of some of the pilgrim stones from City of Shrone, Co.Kerry.
During our travels, it struck me how the use of family nicknames is still very prominent in rural Ireland at least. A lot of families are still distinguished by the old names such as Dan Paddy Andys, Mick Mike Dennys, Paddy Jack Patsys or Young Con or Old Con or even Mad Con! Our own family was always known as the Mór Murphys (The Big Murphys) apparently stems from a story that our Murphy ancestors were very tall men. They would have even overshadowed myself as I am over 6 foot tall. Three Murphy brothers by all accounts ran the Knocknagree fair at one stage and some of them were nearly seven foot tall. These, of course, are all oral histories. Photo of Knocknagree.
These nicknames can often be a great genealogy source but were usually never written down or recorded. Mick Mike Denny, for example, is for Michael son of Michael who was the son of Denis. This tradition is still very prominent but perhaps all these nicknames should also be written down in local histories. You can even get the longer versions such as Con Jerry Jack Mikes. Of course, they can be terribly confusing for someone looking for directions. Which Murphys do you mean? Ah, you mean the Philly Jerh Cons??? Why didn't you say so?. There are also some funny ways of distinguishing between families some of them not the most flattering but still part of an old Irish oral history such as The Weasels or The Stalks. Now defunct with the families well gone from the area.
Also, those fond of the odd refreshment have acquired a few nicknames down the years such as Johnny Whiskey and Tadhy Whiskey. Someone not local to the area might have some issues and need a rural dictionary. Of course, everyone just assumes you know who they are on about.
So throw away the Sat Nav's and just ask for Mick Mike Dennys you can never go wrong.
Over and out for now from Ger Dan Dan Mick Owen Mór in case you can't find me. :)
Interest in Genealogy research is at an all-time high in recent years. TV programmes such as Who Do You Think You Are have certainly contributed to its popularity in Ireland and the UK. international markets such as the USA always had an interest in tracing their family history. I always loved the romantic idea of the rich American returning to Ireland several generations after their Ancestor's left Ireland to live the American dream. Apologies for the rich American stereotype; but that was always the popular assumption in Ireland at the time back in the 1990s. Most Irish had no interest in tracing their ancestry certainly a lot less than now.
The use of Autosomal DNA testing for Genealogy has also exploded in popularity in recent years. I had even become obsessed with this form of tracing your family history at the expense of tradition paper research methods. It can be fun but also a frustrating method with so many people that don't reply when you contact them especially when they have a high enough DNA match to be 2nd or 3rd cousins and may be able to break down a possible brick wall on the paper trail. I am a member of many DNA social media groups and pages; people are also obsessed with ethnicity results and also expect these tests to possible lead them back to Adam and Eve sadly they cannot. Marketing of these products has a massive contribution to these ideas. Our Ancestry is far more complex or perhaps simple all in one sentence. The big Y-DNA test is perhaps the best method for going back several centuries but they also have their limitations and only on paternal line. MtDNA is useful for maternal lines but without a paper trail essentially of no use.
I am no expert on mathematical equations for calculating ancestors and I am also not an expert on Irish History but a logical point of view is as follows. Assuming an average generation gap of 30 years if you go back a thousand years or so in theory you should have just over a billion ancestors assuming no crossovers in ancestry which is obviously impossible. Ireland only had an estimated population of 720,000 people a thousand years ago. A number of invasions and plantations of Ireland took place during this time period. The Norse Vikings were still a presence towards the start of this time period and had some influence on the gene pool at this stage. The Hiberno-Norman invasion of 1169 (+33%~) and the English crown plantations in the 16th and 17th Century (+40%~). There were also some events that led to significant population decreases such as the Black Death c.1348 (-15%~) and the Great Irish Famine in 1845 (-50%~). The Bruce Scottish Invasion of Ireland c. 1315 also had some impact on population but conceded with the European Famine.
Essentially the gene pool of 720,000 people from thousand years ago is relatively undisturbed bar the Hiberno-Norman influence especially in counties of Cork and Kerry which my Ancestors all inhabited as far as can trace c.1800. The Protestant plantation of 16th and 17th century was estimated to have had a 40%+ increase in some parts of Ireland especially in Ulster but had relatively little effect on the native Catholic gene pool. Hiberno-Norman settlers c.1170 were believed to be mostly of Welsh extract which only introduced more Celtic DNA. The area where most of my ancestors lived is called Sliabh Luachra. And it was one of the few areas not conquered fully by the Normans and many Gaelic families moved to this area after the Norman invasion. To hell or to Sliabh Luachra! (over 400 years before To Hell or to Connacht). After the Norman invasion c.1170 people were dispossessed from their good farmland in parts of East Cork and further afield and settled in the rushy mountain "Sliabh Luachra". Eventually, the Norman's became more Irish than the Irish themselves as they intermarried into Gaelic Ireland.
So if I could build my tree back a thousand years what would we expect to see? From logic, it would seem we would have the same individuals listed as your ancestor a few thousand times on different lines. A bit mind-boggling. The good news is we are all probably descended from some High King or Chieftain. To make this all possible people must usually have married their close cousins. It is estimated that 80% of marriages historically were between 2nd cousins. If you look at original parish records from the 19th century Ireland you will notice many notes about such marriages still been common practice. This can explain all those close DNA matches that can't be traced on paper Also considering that most people did not usually travel far in their lifetimes in old Gaelic Ireland this would limit the gene pool even further.
So basically our family trees are shaped like a diamond, not an inverted pyramid that never ends. Tracing back a few hundred years gives a wider shape. But keep going you will find the shape narrowing, eventually tracing back to only a few ancestors.
We are all more closely related that we actually think especially in a small island like Ireland. So when you do meet someone with the same surname and they announce we are not related think again!! Happy New Year.
Will this stop me trying to trace back to Adam and Eve. Certainly Not!!
Kitty Cooper's Blog
https://blog.kittycooper.com/2014/05/how-many-ancestors-did-i-have-1000-years-ago/ [accessed 02/Jan/2019]
Grant Family History Website
http://www.grantonline.com/grant-family-genealogy/Records/population/population-ireland.htm [accessed 02/Jan/2019]
https://www.politics.ie/showthread.php?156856-The-Population-of-Ireland-from-Ancient-Times-until-the-Great-Famine [accessed 02/Jan/2019]
The Irish Post article by Jack Beresford Nov 26th, 2018
https://www.irishpost.com/news/adam-eve-exist-proof-162201 [accessed 02/Jan/2019]
Wesley Johnston website (map from www.irelandstory.com)
http://www.wesleyjohnston.com/users/ireland/past/history/norman_invasion.html [accessed 02/Jan/2019]
Nature Research Journal published Dec 8th, 2017
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-17124-4 [accessed 12/Jan/2019]