In regard to a question asked about “clusters of names” from the blog “Sorting Through Irish Common Names,” I would like to respond. If you know Mary Kelly was born 1848 in Ireland, and you don’t know her parents, you are not ready for Irish research. You have to find out more information from the immigrant side of her life. Parents, siblings, and the naming patterns of her children can all be helpful. Even if you know she was from County Tipperary, you still have to have more information. Why? Because her 1848 birth year is probably wrong, and there’s at least 100 other Mary Kellys born in that period.
Now if you know Mary Kelly married Patrick Sullivan in County Tipperary about 1868, then you can look at the online indexes for marriages at www.rootsireland.ie or www.familysearch.org Most Catholic parish registers are indexed online. Better still, if Patrick and Mary had children born in County Tipperary, this increases your chances of finding your ancestors.
I have also cracked many cases where I’ve used the in-laws names in this cluster oriented research. You are better off knowing several surnames associated with the family in question. The theory is all were from the same parish or neighboring parishes. When working with surnames, you have to be very fluid in spelling. If a spelling in the immigrant country doesn’t match anything in Ireland, I work with a book of Irish surnames, or a database such as Griffith’s Primary Valuation. Then I can study surname variations.
Another quirk is historically, the Irish were fluid with the spelling of their surnames as
they did not think in literal terms. They dropped the “O” or the “Mc” or added them with no rhyme or reason, other than perhaps they saw them as the same name.
In conclusion, if you have common names, gather as many as you can from your immigrant research, and then proceed to narrow a geographic area using databases such as Griffith’s Primary Valuation: www.askaboutireland.ie These strategies do work very well with common names.