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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Micro Film - Reviewing Moynalty Church Records

A few months back, I decided to try my hand at viewing and gleaning information from a microfilm at the LDS library.  They have gathered information from all over including Ireland where and when available.

Now, I had known that others had obtained information from a film in search of my Maxwell Family. In fact, the film number is 926176, Parish of Moynalty, County Meath, Ireland.  It contains marriages, baptisms, deaths, and other memorabilia starting around 1829.  The test to myself was to try and find exactly what others found plus seek out extended family on my Maxwell and Shaffrey side when possible.

What this meant was going page by page on the film seeking what ever stood out in the way of a family connection.  On about page 4 of my search, there was my 3G Grandmother, Judy Shaffrey, as a sponsor for a baptism.  What a find and the person who was showing me how to load the microfilm machine said that was great luck.  He indicated that many people don't find what they are looking for that quickly, if at all.  I didn't have the heart to tell him that I'd be finding a whole lot more.  I didn't want to sound overly confident.  I did tell him that other family members had already searched this film and found people so I figured that I would.

When it comes to church records, you just can't be quite sure what to expect.  The handwriting is tough to read.  Over the 50 year period in which these records are from, the handwriting does change a few times.  Around 1841, the handwriting is pretty atrocious at times and yet reminds me of my own cursive scrawl when I am in a big hurry.

It did take me about an hour to get a feel for what I was reading through.  This document starts with a number of pages from Parochial Registers of Coole (1864-1883) and appears to be marriages only.  These pages are lined and everything is written impecably.  That is not the case for Moynalty, yet there is significantly more information for this Parish.  

The second part of the film is the ledger book with church baptisms for the Parish of Moynalty, Meath.  The ledger pages simply have the following up top for example "1831 January B".  The "B" stands for baptisms.  Some of the "8's" look like "9's" and yet they are "8's".  The person wrote fancy at times making the numbering a bit of a pain to read and interpret for sure.  I am still not sure how you can make such a huge consistent run on eights that look like nines.  One might have thought the years were 1931 on up the line. It is the 1800s though.

I quickly found my 3G grandmother as a sponsor to a baptism and found five of her children readily (Denis, James, Ellen, Catherine, and Judith Maxwell).   Those records are intact and I did not have to spend hours zooming in and out on the document to figure things out.  It definitely helps that I already had their birth dates which, in fact, are their baptismal dates.  That really is no surprise.

As I scanned through baptisms, I found lots of Caffey's, Lynch's, and Cahill's for the early 1830s.  I also spotted a number of entries for Shaffrey's.   That surname is indicated as Shaffrey, Shafery, Shaffery, and Shaffry in the book.  I can tell they are all the same variation on the same family's last name.  Shaffrey is spelled a couple of different ways just in reference to my own 3G grandmother, Judy.  A Catherine Shaffrey seems to have the same issue going on with a few other Shaffrey's.  You know, when spelling of a last name really does matter most, it's butchered or altered.  Let's not forget that some of these entries look to have been written in great haste.

The next part of the book has a ledger for the marriages for the Parish of Moynalty, Meath.  They run from about 1830 to 1883.  I quickly found the entry for my 3G grandparents, Joseph Maxwell and Judy Shaffrey on September 24, 1834.

My original plan was to print the entire document and review it carefully at home line by line.  However, it takes too long to scan the document off the microfilm and save it to my flash drive.  Instead, I decided to just save the pages where I found Shaffrey's and/or Maxwell's.  That was still a lot of work.  On the microfilm reader, you get a decent view of the church record entries.  It can take some time to get through them but once you spot a name like Shaffrey and familiarize yourself with the scribes' handwriting, you're set.  Printing a copy does not produce the best results and saving it to a drive is not much better.

As meticulous as my research has been on this film, I'm sure I missed something.  A second set of eyes with me would have been great to decipher the sanskrit.  I don't have too many complaints though.  The test of my abilities to track this down and get through it do shine through.  The satisfaction of reviewing and discovering this source information myself was fantastic.  I am so thankful that the predecessors to my own research left me with clues including the film number.  I now understand what these films are and how to use them.

Additionally, my uncle has stressed to me to prove my ancestry to myself without taking other's research at complete face value.  His words ring true -- "Prove it!"   I'm getting to the point of proving my family tree.  I might actually find more information than others found along the way.

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