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Rescuing the family tree from scandal

Curt Yeomans

Curt Yeomans

So, it turns out old Danny boy probably wasn’t a player after all.

He was just a prolific baby-maker.

You might recall I wrote about a potential alarming discovery I’d found about my great-great-grandfather, Daniel Minogue. Someone who has done some genealogical research on my family claimed to have found evidence that he had two families going on with two different women at the same time in the tiny village of Tulla, in County Clare, Ireland.

I think I can safely say that I’ve discovered Irish records that proves that wasn’t the case. The Ireland Civil Registration Births Index for 1864-1958 and the Ireland Births and Baptisms Registry for 1620-1911 available through Ancestry.com show he probably wasn’t starting a family with anyone but my great-great-grandmother, Catharine Molony. That’s because they were too busy making babies together.

Between 1867 and 1879, they had eight children, including Daniel, Catherine, Mary, Martin, James, Anne and my great-grandfather, Simon and his twin, Peter. All of the children, except Anne, were born before 1875, so they were basically turning out a kid a year for a while.

There may have been a ninth child, Patrick, born a year before Daniel, but the names are off by a few letters. His parents are listed as Daniel and Catherine Malony Menogue. Therefore, it’s hard to tell if there was a family with very similar names, or if the clerk who registered the information couldn’t spell, or if it was just a transcription error when the record was digitized.

Minogue, Menogue, tomato, tomahto.

If Patrick is another child of my great-great-grandparents, he wouldn’t be the oldest of their brood. Catharine Molony must have had wits of steel. Either that or she liked torturing herself with the pain of childbirth.

Personally, I’m hoping it was the former.

But regardless of Patrick’s place in the family tree, you can clearly see Danny boy wasn’t a two-timer and my great-great-grandmother wasn’t “the other woman.” She was the only woman and they were just a very fertile couple.

That is a great relief because I come from stout Irish stock. Large families in the 19th century were probably as Irish as downing a couple of pints of Guinness and making out with the Blarney Stone would be today.

I would have been worried if Simon and Peter were the only kids, and for a long time they were the only kids we knew about. We only knew about Peter because he and my great-grandfather co-owned a saloon in New York City before prohibition.

Yes, yes, I had a purveyor of booze in my family tree. So what? We’re Irish so are you really surprised? I have a distant cousin back in Ireland who has run a pub for decades.

But my experience shows one of the issues people face when researching their family histories. When you get far enough back, records become scarcer and the likelihood increases that you’ll confuse your ancestor with someone who had a similar name.

If you’re looking in Ireland, in an area where your family was prevalent, you’d quickly find another issue. Certain names, such as Daniel, were common.

In 100 years, only celebrity children will be easy to find in records because ain’t nobody else naming their kids Apple or Moon Unit.

For example, my great-grandfather’s brother, Daniel was born in 1867 in Tulla. If all I had was his name and a general idea of the year and location in which he was born, I’d be up a creek without a paddle. There were at least three Daniel Minogues born in County Clare in 1867. I’d really need more information to narrow it down.

Fortunately, I did have more information. I was able to find all of my great-grandfather’s siblings because I knew the parents, birthdates and location to look for. That made it incredibly easy to find the family through birth records.

However, I have no information about who the elder Daniel Minogue’s parents were. That would probably be a question for the Minogues who still live in Tulla, and there are plenty of Minogues still in that area. They might still have the family bibles that list who was descended from whom.

And fortunately, there are still quite a few Minogues left in and around Tulla. Daniel and Catharine were quite the prolific baby-makers after all.