Happy error

In genealogy, mistakes are rarely fortuitous. They often send us down time-consuming rabbit holes and frustrate us to no end. But, sometimes, they work in our favor.

Recently, I had been working to extend my Garvin line in Mallow parish in County Cork. I had been able to confirm my great-great-great-grandparents, Francis Garvin and Ellen Coleman, but I had been unable to locate a marriage record for the couple. Though there were several Garvin family groups in Mallow parish and the surrounding area, I could not place Francis Garvin with a family.

In the 1901 Ireland Census, Francis and Ellen were enumerated in Mallow town. In the “Where Born,” column, which asks in which city or county the individual was born, several places were crossed out by the enumerator. The townland of Ballyviniter was crossed out as the birthplace for Francis Garvin, while the townland of Liscarroll was crossed out for the birthplace Ellen (Coleman) Garvin. The enumerator later wrote in “Co. Cork” as the birthplace for the entire household. Ballyviniter lies just north of Mallow town, while Liscarroll lies 10 miles to the northwest. It certainly seemed that the enumerator made an error, and recorded the townlands in which Francis and Ellen were born instead of the County. Ballyviniter was a familiar townland, as Francis and Ellen lived at Ballyviniter when their first child was born in 1861.

The enumerator later wrote in “Co. Cork” as the birthplace for the entire household.

Mallow parish records recorded the birth of a Francis Garvin in 1826, born to Thomas Garvin and Honora Nagle of Ballylaught. This Francis Garvin was certainly the right age to be my Francis Garvin. But complicating matters was the fact that I could not place the townland of Ballylaught. Was it near Ballyviniter? Or could it be a sub-townland of Ballyviniter?

I had a suspicion that the aforementioned Thomas Garvin was the father of my Francis Garvin (who named a son Thomas), but I needed more proof. Cancellation Books at the Valuation Office in Dublin showed that Francis Garvin settled on Fair Lane in Mallow town in 1873. At that time, Francis and Ellen were the parents of several young children. But where did they live before? I shifted my focus to Ballyviniter and browsed the Cancellation Books for the years before 1873. Here I learned that a Francis Garvin took over the lease from a Thomas Garvin at Ballyviniter Lower in 1861. I was sure that this was my Francis Garvin, because prior research noted that he had settled here by 1861. And I suspected that this Thomas Garvin may be his father, or, a close relative. Though I still need a little more proof to confirm Francis’ parentage, I now have enough evidence to establish his early roots in Ballyviniter. Thank goodness for mistakes!

About Sheilagh Doerfler

Sheilagh, a native of Chelmsford, Massachusetts, received her B.A. in History and Communication from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Her research interests include New England, Norway, Sweden, Ireland, Westward Migration, and adoptions.

4 thoughts on “Happy error

  1. I’m going to use these clues to go hunting, I think. I have Garvins from possibly 1760, in America, but haven’t been able to figure out where in Ireland to start looking. This might be a clue. Thank you!

  2. Great luck indeed–congratulations! Not to mention your hard work in putting it all together. Others’ success stories help to keep all of us plugging away.

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