The fate of William Moroney Jr.

Joe Smaldone’s recent three-part Finding Irish relatives provided some great information about using Irish Catholic church registers and civil vital records. That got me to thinking about one of my husband’s Irish family lines. I realized I could use the civil vital records transcribed on to learn more about that family.

The family in question, William Moroney and Honora O’Grady, were married in 1871 in the Catholic parish of Glenroe and Ballyorgan in County Limerick. I knew from bits and pieces of previous research they apparently had ten children born between 1872 and 1893. But when I looked at the family more closely, I learned they had more than ten children. I also uncovered some sad information about the family.

Irish civil birth records are only indexed by name, year, and registration district. This means you cannot search for all the children of a couple. Eventually, in 1898, a mother’s maiden surname was added to the index. But no first names were ever indexed for either the father or the mother. Unless baptism records are available to learn a first name and an approximate birthdate, finding civil birth records is a tedious process. For each child of the right surname, you must click through to the associated image of the record. Reading through the record you can learn who the parents were, the townland where the child was born, and then decide if you found an appropriate record or not.

Irish civil death records pose a similar problem. They are indexed by name, year, and registration district, but at least these records include the age at death. Again, you cannot search by parents’ names and in fact, Irish civil death records do not even include the names of parents. When your search of the index produces a list of possible deaths, again you must click through to the image of the record to learn more information. Reading through the record you can learn where the person died and who the informant was. If you are lucky a relationship of the informant was recorded so you can decide if you found the correct record.

Happily for me, this [transcription project] included the area where William Moroney and Honora O’Grady lived.

Fortunately, has begun to transcribe vital records for some parts of Ireland. Happily for me, this included the area where William Moroney and Honora O’Grady lived. This meant I could search birth records using their names and, when I did this, I discovered not just ten children but thirteen. And three of the children were named William. This meant the first William died and another boy was named William. This was a common Irish naming practice. And when the second William died, yet another boy was named William.

I decided I needed to search the death records for more information. Because the transcriptions include the place of death, I was able to search for all the Moroney children who died in the townland of Ballynacourty, where the family lived. It turned out that only seven of the Moroney children survived into adulthood. One child died in infancy, three as toddlers, one in her early teens, and one as a young adult. The fate of the three boys named William was the saddest.

The first William was born in May 1878. He died just after his first birthday, in June 1879, from mesenteric disease, a swelling of the abdominal lymph nodes, from which he suffered for “sometime.” The second William was born in December 1881. He died just before his fourth birthday in November 1885 from chronic hydrocephalus, bleeding inside the brain, a condition from which he had suffered for two years. The third William was born two months later, in January 1886. He only lived ten months and died in November 1886, seven days after being burned. I can only imagine how traumatic these three deaths must have been for the family.

I now have a more complete picture of the Moroney family. This includes the names of all thirteen of William and Honora’s children. It also includes the early deaths of six of those children. Without the searchable transcriptions on, I might never have found all these records. I am glad to add all this information to my husband’s family tree. But I am also sad to learn of the tragic lives of the three children named William Moroney.

About Pam Holland

Pam is a certificate holder from the Boston University Genealogical Research program and has researched family history for over 14 years. She has attended numerous genealogical institutes, including Samford University Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR) and Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG). She also has a B.A. from the College of Wooster and a M.S. from Northeastern University. Her areas of interest include New England, New York (both city and state), Ireland, Germany, Social History, and DNA.

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