One of the challenges in constructing the family history is to expand the knowledge of the family roots in Ireland. Fortunately, the Irish are well organized to assist people with genealogical research. There is a good 72-page booklet, Tracing Your Irish Roots by Christine Kinealy. It has useful information on where to look and what to expect and is widely available in Ireland. Genealogical research is becoming easier as historical data in Ireland becomes more widely available through the Internet. Most of the records of interest are in Dublin. Some however, are in Belfast. There has been fairly good record keeping since the 1700s. The challenge is to find those records. Many records prior to about 1850 were lost in a fire in the archives building in Dublin in 1922. However, there is always the possibility that other copies of the information still exist. We are constantly amazed at the information uncovered about the Cassidy family in Ireland. We’ve also found it pays to revisit sources that have been checked before. As our knowledge of the family grows, information that originally seemed unimportant can become quite relevant.
Since William Cassidy came to Canada from The Port in County Donegal that location and the 1700-1800s time period is the primary focus for our research.
The towns of importance are Mountcharles and Dunkineely. Mountcharles, on the road from Donegal Town to Killybegs, had a population of 508 in 1821. Today it is probably about 1500.
Gathering Our History
Ellsworth Cassidy in 1998 and Mike Cassidy in 1999 separately identified William’s parents and siblings in Ireland.
Peter and Gwen Cassidy visited Ireland in 1995, 2000 and 2005 and did research on the Cassidy family roots. In Dublin, they spent time in the National Library and the National Archives. In County Donegal, they toured the Inver area, explored church cemeteries, and talked to a pleasant elderly resident, Mrs. Annabella Cassidy, who lived about a quarter of a mile (0.4 km) from the Inver Methodist church of which she was a member. Her address is Mullanboys, Mountcharles, Co. Donegal, Republic of Ireland. It used to be Inver. She has lived in the house since 1939. Her husband, George Oliver Cassidy, died in 1984 at the age of 89. He is buried in the Inver Church of Ireland cemetery about a half mile (0.8 km) down the road because the Methodist church does not have a cemetery. According to her grandson, Dave Cassidy, Annabella died March 2002. [Peter and Gwen visited with Annabella Cassidy in June 1995 and again in June 2000.]
Peter and Gwen searched church cemeteries from Mountcharles to Killybegs for Cassidy tombstones. They found a few, mainly in Church of Ireland cemeteries. Very few Cassidys were found in the Catholic cemeteries. Also, there were few graves prior to about 1850. One wonders if the people who died before 1850 were generally buried on the farm.
Ellsworth Cassidy visited Ireland in October 1996 and he too visited with Mrs. Annabella Cassidy in Mullanboys. She sent him to see G. Jim (Jimmy) Henderson who had a hardware store located on the diamond in Donegal town that he had turned over to his son David. David took Ellsworth to his home where his father Jimmy lives. Ellsworth describes Jimmy as a most talented man, a couple of years younger than himself. Jimmy and Annabella are descendants of Mary Cassidy b. 1854. Mike Cassidy feels Mary Cassidy is likely related to our William through one of his sisters but cannot draw a definitive link.
The Henderson family lived next to the Cassidy stone cottage in The Port in the early 1800s and married into the Cassidy family. The two older Hendersons, Jimmy and George, both in their 80s (1999) live in the vicinity of Donegal Town. They are cousins of Annabella Cassidy of Mullanboys.
National Library in Dublin
In the National Library Peter and Gwen searched through the Catholic records of births, marriages, and deaths for the Diocese of Raphoe, Parish of Inver. These records are for the period from approximately 1845 to 1880. They found 15 Cassidy birth references dating from 1867 to 1880 written in Gaelic. No references to Milligan, William’s wife’s family, were found in the records for the Parish of Inver.
National Archives in Dublin
At the National Archives in Dublin, Peter and Gwen found several Cassidys referenced in the Griffith Valuation of 1848 and in the Tithe Applotment of 1823. The Tithe Applotment book is essentially a property tax record organized by parish and townland. No references to Milligan were found. But there was a Melligan. Based on these records, it is believed that the townlands most likely to yield Cassidy family roots are Killybegs, Hoase Park, Kilmacredden, and Port Parks.
The townlands of Hoase Park and Port Parks could not be found on the survey maps of Ireland. They were clearly in the Parish of Inver in 1823 as shown by their mention in the historical records, but they no longer exist as townlands by those names. The Port townland near Inver existed then as it does today. There is no Mt. Charles in the Parish of Inver. There is a Mountcharles though, which seems to often be spelled Mount Charles.
Other sources checked in the National Archives were the Will Extracts of Office of Charitable Donations records, the Pre-1708 Deeds index, the Crossle Abstract index, the Marriage License index for the Diocese of Raphoe 1740-1755 and 1817-1830, the Wills Records (Diocesan), the Index of Diocesian Administrative Book, the list of Finian Suspects, the list of Prisioners Petitions, and the Manuscript Sources for the History of Irish Civilization. In these references there were several Cassidy references but no Milligan or Melligan.
The Religious Census of 1776 is available for the Diocese of Raphoe. There are some interesting notes in the sixteen pages of text about the religious leanings of the residents. Apparently the minister, John Wilson, saw a decline in Protestantism. There are no Cassidy references in these census records. The documents, however, appear to be incomplete.
Church of Ireland Parish Records
The Church of Ireland parish records are available in the Representative Church Body Library in Dublin. These documents were not searched by Peter and Gwen, however Mike and Maureen Cassidy have shown that there are valuable records there relating to the Cassidy family including the Church of Ireland records from Inver. The library has four volumes on file for the Diocese of Raphoe covering baptisms 1805-1871, marriages 1805-1845, and deaths 1827-1875.
Michael notes that church records do not go back to the time of Andrew’s parents marriage. It’s worth noting that the date of Andrew and Margaret’s marriage in 1793 was on the back of a minute boof of official parish meetings over several years. The paper had been reused.
Roots of Jane Milligan
Despite extensive research in the Donegal area, no trace was found of Jane Milligan or her family. This is strange as she is reported to have been born in The Port and to a family important enough to own land. There are virtually no Milligans in the area which leads to suspicion that she was probably from an area to the east where Ellsworth Cassidy believes there are many Milligans.
Some Websites for Irish Genealogy Research
The National Archives of Ireland: http://www.nationalarchives.ie
Irish Genealogy Toolkit: http://http://www.irish-genealogy-toolkit.com
Public Record Office of Northern Ireland: http://www.proni.gov.uk
National Library of Ireland: http://www.nli.ie
The Irish Times (Irish Ancestors): http://www.irishtimes.com/ancestor/index.htm
The IreAtlas Townland Data Base: http://www.thecore.com/seanruad
Ask About Ireland: http://www.askaboutireland.ie
Dippam (Documenting Ireland: Parlaiment, People, and Migration): http://www.dippam.ac.uk/ied
Internet Archive: https://archive.org/index.php
Ordnance Survey of Ireland: http://www.osi.ie/Home.aspx
Mapcarta (Ireland): http://mapcarta.com/Ireland
Donegal Genealogy Resources: http://donegalgenealogy.com