I find that with so many databases rapidly coming online, that we are now able to conduct in-depth studies like never before. Between RootsIreland.ie, FamilySearch, Ancestry.com and FindMyPast.ie we can do what was unthinkable only a few short years ago. In this blog, I will take an example from a small rural cemetery in West Virginia, and demonstrate how you can literally document an entire community.
Identifying an Irish Immigrant Community
We know in all the immigrant countries, Irish Catholic tombstones often have birth places carved on them. This practice was not universal, but if you hit upon a cemetery which has many such stones, then you can develop a viable area of study concentrated upon that one community. This documentation process can help you make some sense out of settlement patterns within that community. One example would be the small Catholic community at Irish Mountain, West Virginia.
Irish Mountain is located above the New River in Raleigh County, West Virginia, and the Irish community dates back to 1855. The cemetery by the old chapel has an amazing amount of tombstones with Irish place names preserved on them. At just a glance, it becomes obvious; most of the people came from counties Clare and Kerry. There are other counties represented, but these are by far the majority. The assumption would be at least some of these families were interlocking in Ireland. If not in Ireland, then being surrounded by a sea of evangelical Protestant neighbors, they would have intermarried on Irish Mountain.
Documenting the Irish Immigrant Community
For so long the Catholic registers for County Clare and County Kerry were not online. Then indexes to County Kerry registers appeared on Irish Genealogy.ie and indexes to County Clare on RootsIreland.ie. For the first time, this provides us all with a chance to explore communities such as Irish Mountain, West Virginia. To use these amazing indexes, we have to ask appropriate questions:
- Who married and had children in Ireland? These may be found in the databases.
- Who married in West Virginia but perhaps has other relatives on Irish Mountain from Clare or Kerry? Parents and siblings may be found in the database.
- Is there a pattern of parishes in Clare and Kerry these Irish Mountain immigrants came from?
- Using Griffith’s Primary Valuation alongside the Catholic registers databases, is there a pattern of townlands these families came from?
The goal would be to see if immigration was random, for whatever reason, or if there was a systematic migration out of a few parishes specifically to Irish Mountain.
Irish Mountain is just one example. Other immigration patterns are already known or suspected around the world. With databases at our fingertips, we can now explore and flesh out targeted communities like never before.
If you would like help documenting the Irish in a particular community Click Here.