Out of the Ashes! The Young Family of Letterscanlan in the charred remains of the 1841 Census

William Young



When I started researching my husband’s family tree, I was told about William Young, his Great, Great, Grandfather, who was a colporter with the Methodist Church in West Cork.  I discovered that a colporter was someone who distributed books and religious tracts.   William was a member of the Methodist Church who had a deep and sincere Christian faith.  While he was distributing Bibles and tracts to the people of West Cork he also took the opportunity to share his faith on a one to one level as well as to preach the Christian Message.

Apparently the Young family came from somewhere near Aughadown (pronounced Affadown) between Ballydehob and Skibbereen in County Cork.

The 1901 census showed William, aged 59, living with his wife Hester and 6 children in Templemartin near Bandon.  He was a Methodist and was born in County Cork.  This led me to his marriage in Bantry Methodist Church to Hester Vickery of Bantry in 1873.  His marriage certificate showed his residence at the time as Letterscanlan (a small townland in Aughadown) and stated that his father James Young was a farmer.


As it appeared that William was born around 1842, there was no point looking for a Civil Birth Record as the state didn’t start to record births until 1864.  Likewise, the records I found in the Methodist and Church of Ireland records didn’t go back far enough.  Having run out of birth, marriage and death records I checked the land records in Griffiths Valuation which showed that in 1853 a James Young was renting just over 36 acres in Letterscanlan from Henry Becher, the local landlord.

Going back a step further I checked the Tithe Applotment Books (TAB) which showed both a William Young (76 acres) and a Richard Young (17 acres) listed in Aughadown in 1829.  Unfortunatley the information in the TAB was gathered for the purpose of taxing land rather than recording family history so there’s no indication how William and Richard Young may have been related to each other.

At this point I thought I had hit a brick wall with my Young family as I was now in a pre Church and Civil records era.  Then I discovered the 1841 Census records.  Most of the records for County Cork from the 1841 census were destroyed in the fire in the Public Records Office in Dublin in 1922.  A quick search showed records for just 97 people in County Cork in the 1841 census.  Not expecting to find any relevant information I scanned through the names and couldn’t believe my eyes when I found 2 Young’s from Letterscanlan.  Bingo.  I clicked on the link to bring up the Young’s page and this is what appeared…


… the charred remains of a census record.  Not even one straight edge of a page remained.  But I wasn’t looking for straight edges – I wanted information and this charred,fire damaged remnant provided it.  The head of the family in 1841 was James Young a farmer.


The next section is not so easy to read as the fire destroyed a some vital information, leaving us with just a few tantalising clues.  The section listing those present on the night of the census is missing.  It appears that no one was absent from the house on census night. The last section was  a “Return of Members of this Family, Servants or Visitors, who have died while residing with this Family  since the 6th June 1831”.

The information that I can make out from this section is that James Young’s mother,  ..ne Young, died aged 65 in 1832 (?).  His father, …liam Young, died aged 80 in 1840.  His uncle, whom I cannot make out his name, died of pleurisy (?) aged 67 in 183?.


So thanks to this remarkable piece of paper that was filled out in a small farmstead in West Cork in 1841, stored in the Public Records Office in Dublin and just about survived the 1922 fire in the Four Courts I have been able to trace our Young family of Aughadown, Co. Cork back to a William Young who was born c.1760.

The Young line which married into our Jeffers family in 1904 is as follows:

William Young 1760-1840

James Young c.1799 – ?

William Young 1841-1911 married Hester Vickery 1846-1936


Frances (Fanny) Young 1876-1952

married Jasper Travers Jeffers 1878-1950.  These are my Great, Grandparents-in-law.







My origins using DNA testing

Probably one of the main questions which leads to every family tree search is ‘Where do I come from?’   Growing up as I child I simply knew that my mum was from Cork and my dad from Dublin.  I then learnt that My mum’s mother was Welsh are her fathers parents were Scottish and Irish.  On my dad’s side, his mother was Scottish (though born in the North of England) and his father’s family had come from Northern Ireland.  So what did that make me?  Born in Cork, I suppose I’ll always be first and foremost a Cork woman.  My Birth-Cert and passport say I’m Irish.  I look Irish (in a conventional sort of way).  I sound Irish.  I feel Irish.  That begs another question – What is Irish?   Going back just two generations my ancestors were certainly not from this island of Ireland.  Of my 8 great-grandparents, 3 were Scottish (Stewart, Paterson, Barclay), 2 were Welsh (Davies, Jones), 1 from Northern Ireland (McCully) and 2 from what is today called Ireland (McConnell, Wood).

Not being of a scientific mind-set and therefore not really understanding DNA I was slow and sceptical to have my DNA tested.  Eventually however, curiosity got the better of me and I just had to give it a go.  The first test I had done was for my adult son as this would show up both my own and my husband’s DNA and possibly link me to more relatives.  As I keep my tree on http://www.ancestry.co.uk, I decided to use their autosomal testing service.  It really couldn’t have been any easier and in just a few short weeks, his results came back.  Even though I sent it off with just a number for a reference and not linked to my tree it came back showing that the closest relative on their database was a cousin of my father-in-law.  This gave me confidence in the system .  I was surprised how much of his DNA originated outside of the British Isles.


Now curiosity really got the better of me as I didn’t know which part of his DNA was mine and which was his father’s.  The only answer was to get my own test done.  The results have just come back and surprisingly the two results are quite similar.  Even more reassuring is that Andrew is definitely my son!!  I’m not sure how I’d have reacted if that hadn’t been the case.  Unfortunately there are no close family links connected with my test on the ancestry database yet.


Having traced much of my family back to the 1700’s on many of my branches I haven’t found any proof of them stemming from mainland Europe or beyond.  It’s quite unlikely that I ever will.  But it’s nice to know the migration pattern of my ancestors.  I hope that as more people get tested that I may get links to others who share a common ancestry.

As for the question of where am I from? –  I’m still a Cork woman.  I’m still Irish and now I can say with confidence that I’m European.

Parish v. Civil Records

One of the projects I’m working on at the moment is transcribing and digitising the records for Fanlobbus Parish in Dunmanway Co. Cork.  Today I was working on the burial registers and I found myself drifting and wondering about the people who were named in them.  There was an appalling level of infant mortality in the 19th century.  Epidemics almost completely wiped out some families. Many young men who should have been in the prime of their life succumbed to TB in their 20s and 30s.  Young women died in childbirth.  Not to mention accidents, murders and homocides.

A couple of entries in the parish register were difficult to decipher so I decided to go to http://www.irishgenealogy.ie and compare the church burial record to the civil death record.  Church registers deal with the burial of the deceased and contain basic information such as name, address and date of burial.  The civil  death registers contain more details, such as the cause and place of death, as well as marital status, occupations and the name of the person reporting the death.  I expected that the information on the church record I was struggling with, would be exactly the same as the civil record.  Wrong.  On many of the samples that I checked the details differed.

Here’s one example. The Church record shows that Melian X of Kenrath, was buried on 6th August, 1923, Aged 70.  Z.W. Miller and Arthur Wilson were the clergy who officiated.


The Civil record (below) reports her date of death as 5th August, 1923.  It gives more information than the Church record, telling us where she died and that she was female, a widow to a farmer and states her cause of death as gastritis and heart failure.  It also names her son-in-law, who was the informant.


The huge discrepancy in this case is her age.  The age is displayed very clearly on both registers.  According to the church she was 70, but according to the state she was 76.  The ages varied on many of the samples of death/burial records I checked between these two sets of records –  most were out only by a year or two, but some had larger discrepancies.

In 1864 the state started to register deaths and from then onwards, it’s possible to check both sets of records to get a more complete record of the person.  However, pre-1864 we have to rely solely on the burial records.  What I learnt today is that the records are not necessarily 100% accurate.  In many cases they are the only information that is available on our ancestors and we are very grateful to have them, but we need to keep an open mind regarding the exact dates and information provided.  Don’t immediately rule potential relatives in or out solely on that one piece of information.  Sometimes its peoples ages that are a little  bit out, other times it’s the spelling of names, or variants of addresses.

Keeping in mind these (usually minor) inaccuracies, parish registers are a hugely important primary source of information used to trace our ancestors and I for one am extremely grateful to the scribes who created these amazing records.




First blog post – Sharing my Genealogy Journey

Having recently graduated with my diploma in genealogy from UCC, I plan to share some of what I learnt while completing the course.  Tracing family history and creating family trees is highly addictive, taking me off on many unexpected tangents and leading me down some very interesting avenues and sometimes even up a cul-de-sac.  I intend to share some of these experiences and journeys as my quest continues.