The online publication by the National Archives of Ireland of the census returns for the whole island of Ireland from 1901 and 1911 has sparked a huge interest in family history. Those who consider themselves Irish, in whatever part of the world, can now, at the press of a button, access details of great-grandparents and distant cousins, never before known to them. Whether they live in Coventry, Chicago, Capetown, Canberra, Crossmolina, Cornafean or Camagh there is no barrier to using this free internet facility. Such is the recent interest in Irish family roots that already there is pressure on the National Archives to abandon their 100-year rule and make the next available census, that of 1926, accessible to researchers. Descendants of the parish of Templeport are fortunate to have considerable additional help in their family search. Using the genealogical section of the popular website bawnboy.com they can link directly from any of Templeport’s 34 townlands to the census of 1901 and 1911.
The native families of Templeport, the McGoverns, Maguires, Dolans, Donohoes, Magees, Bannons, O’Reillys, Smiths, McKiernans, Bradys and many more, have dispersed over generations to various parts of the world, many leaving in times of famine and economic difficulty, some for adventure and others in search of a new life. Some have kept in touch with their ancestral parish, others are now striving to discover family connections. Interest in family history is more widespread now than it has ever been. People everywhere want to discover their roots and work on their family tree. It’s for this reason that bawnboy.com has developed a genealogical section that is the envy of even the most populous parishes.
The historic parish of Templeport in beautiful West Cavan has much to be proud of. Nestled in between the mountains, it can point to habitation going back to the Stone Age. The early peoples accessed the fertile lands by travelling along the Woodford River from the Valley of the Erne. The pagan idol Crom Cruaich was venerated at Darraugh Hill, before St. Patrick, on his visit to the area, destroyed its influence. The Lissanover Gold Collar, discovered in Templeport in 1910 by Patrick McAvinue, dates from the Early Bronze Age (3200 BC – 2300 BC) and is now preserved in the National Museum. Celtic invaders of the Iron Age deposited a decorated stone pillar at Killycluggin, the original of which is on exhibition in Cavan County Museum. The Bawnboy Pin found near the village in 1834 dates back to the period between the 3rd century BC and the 3rd century AD, the Early Iron Age.
St. Mogue, patron saint of Templeport and illustrious bishop of Ferns established a church on Inch Island in Templeport Lake in the 6th century. The Breac Mogue and the Shrine of St. Mogue’s Bell, two ancient relics of the saint, made a historic return to Cavan in 2010 from their present homes in Armagh and Dublin and were admired and venerated by vast attendances while on display in Cavan County Museum.
Templeport people at home and abroad can, without cost, access the parish’s own website, bawnboy.com sponsored by Templeport Development Association and founded and maintained by Nigel Rofé, who, with dedication and skill, keeps it up-to-date and full of interest. The genealogical website is constantly being extended, and contains a wealth of information for those whose families originated in Templeport. Much of the information in the genealogical section was compiled by Richard Morgan, originally from Bawnboy, who retains a deep interest in his native place. Most of the information now online could only have been made available because of the excellent collection of historical material preserved at Cavan County Library. There are hopes that church records of births, marriages and deaths for Templeport may eventually be available online.
In the absence of census returns, until 1901, family researchers are dependent on other sources for compiling their family history. The earliest records to be found on bawnboy.com are the Hearth Money Rolls from 1662. The Hearth Money Tax was a tax of two shillings a year paid on every fireplace. The tax collector was known as the “Smoke Man”, but what he often found was that many people preferred to live without a fireplace than pay the hated tax. Among those who paid up were Neale McEtire (McAteer) and Phelemy McKelagher, family names that survive in Templeport three and a half centuries later.
Another early source available on bawnboy.com is the Tithe Applotments for Templeport from 1823. Tithes were taxes to be paid in money to the Church of Ireland by landholders, from 1823 until tithes were abolished in 1838. Surveys of land were done to determine how much tax each landholder paid. Not surprisingly, tithes were fiercely resented by those who were not members of the Church of Ireland, and all the more so because the tax was not payable on all land; the exemptions produced spectacular inequalities. But the list of tithe payers allows us to follow most of the landholders of Templeport, particularly the smaller ones, in the early part of the 19th century.
Bawnboy and Templeport Poll Book of 1761 contains the relatively short list of those from the parish who could vote in the parliamentary elections of 1761 ''to elect two knights to represent the county in the Parliament to be held in Dublin on May 19th 1761''. The right to vote was at that time very confined. Voters were substantial landholders and landlords. But in 1825-26 another fuller register was drawn up, of people from Templeport entitled to vote. In order to be a registered voter by this time, a person had to have a freehold property. Most were 40 shilling freeholders, their land held on a lease. Catholics who held such freeholds had been eligible to vote since 1793. Lists of these voters from Templeport are included on bawnboy.com. By 1833 residents of Co. Cavan were obliged to register as Keepers of Arms, if they were in possession of guns, pistols, swords, blunderbusses or bayonets. Some of these weapons may have been used for hunting, some for protection and some may have been relics from the past. Although there were almost 1,500 people registered in all of Co. Cavan, the number of people registered in 1833 in Templeport Parish, and available online, is relatively small.
The most valuable 19th century source of information for family researchers, freely available, is Griffith’s Valuation. This was the first land valuation in Ireland, and it lists every landholder and householder for every parish in the mid 1800’s. Templeport Parish was surveyed in 1857. The Valuation contains information in respect of each townland, a map number locating the holding on the first edition six-inch Ordnance Survey maps, names of occupiers of holdings, the name of the person from whom the holding was leased and a description of the holding, the area in Acres, Roods and Perches, and the valuation of the buildings and land. Bawnboy Genealogy provides links to Griffith’s Valuations for Templeport and also, for quick reference, lists the landholders of the parish in alphabetical order.
It was in the following decade, the 1860’s, that a scheme was begun, overseen by Bawnboy Board of Guardians, to vaccinate all infants in an effort to prevent the spread of smallpox. A register is still in existence recording all the children who were vaccinated in Bawnboy from 1864 to 1877. The register, a document of much importance to the parish of Templeport, was discovered by the Baxter family of Main St. Ballyconnell and donated to Cavan County Library. The names of all the children treated, their ages and a parent’s name and townland can be found on bawnboy.com and is an important census substitute for the 1860’s and 1870’s. So too is the record, taken from the book, ‘The College Boys’ of all students from Templeport who attended Kilmore Academy from 1839 to 1873 and later at St. Patrick’s College until 2005.
Gravestone inscriptions can be invaluable to the family historian. They provide information on names, dates, places and relationships. Templeport has four cemeteries, at St. Peter’s Church of Ireland, St. Patrick’s Kilnavart, St. Mogue’s Island on Port Lake and at Bawnboy’s St. Mogue’s Church. All the headstone inscriptions have been transcribed and are published on bawnboy.com. St. Peter’s was for many years used as a burial place by both Catholics and Protestants, and gravestone inscriptions there were recorded by the late Bawnboy author and historian Chris Maguire. St. Mogue’s Island has been used for burials since the 12th century, but the headstones surviving are of more recent origin. Since 1938 a register has been kept of all burials on the island and these too can be seen on bawnboy.com
A recent important dimension of family history searching is in tourism. Many descendants of Irish ancestry, whether American, British or Australian have, as their greatest lifetime wish, to make a visit to the old family homestead and walk the lanes and fields that their forefathers trod generations ago. Organised tours are becoming available with an Irish roots theme, where professional assistance is provided for those who want to make the most of their Irish visit. Of course the reality isn’t always what they expected to see. But one recent visitor was not disappointed, when on his return to Rhode Island he reported that, ‘his search for a small part of family history was made easy by Bawnboy’s timeless feel. The village appeared much as it might have back at the end of the 19th century. Cars or horse-drawn carts would seem equally fitting on Bawnboy’s closely bordered streets’. Bawnboy residents would surely not agree, but are only too happy to let good people ‘live the dream’.
Click here for the Article which appeared in the Anglo-Celt on 17th February 2011
Sadly Richard Morgan passed away on 11th April 2015. There is an appreciation by his colleague Ciaran Maguire here
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