Names can be so common you don’t know if you have the right Patrick Murphy in the Irish christening records. This is true if you only have a minimum amount of details. I was working on just such a case, where I believed I had identified the correct Catholic parish in County Tipperary. However, a few doubts remained which needed to be addressed.
Creating an On the Spot Research Strategy
My solution was to think in terms of the strong and weak points of the case. The name Patrick Murphy was my weakest point, because it was common. My strong point was the parish registers listed “addresses” such as townlands and localized place names within the townlands. This meant I could easily sort Murphy families out by their address. What made this task even easier was the old registers had been recopied by hand during the 1930s and placed on printed fill in the blank pages.
The new register itself was both a strong and a weak point. Yes, it was easy to scan a page but the transcribers often had problems reading the original handwriting.
Identifying my Strongest Point
My strongest point was the family in question was found in a small, localized place called The Rock. I documented all Murphy families from The Rock to see if any immigrated to the Ontario city where the targeted family lived. Could I establish any common patterns?
Now if the Murphy pattern couldn’t be worked on the Ontario side, I could expand my strategy by studying ALL families, regardless of surname, hailing from The Rock. Then return to my Ontario research and see if common migration patterns emerged.
Often creating on the spot strategies are the only way to solve research problems. You simply cannot go to a database with minimum information and know which Patrick Murphy is the man you are seeking.
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