County Mayo, Ireland Genealogy

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Guide to County Mayo ancestry, family history and genealogy: birth records, marriage records, death records, census records, parish registers, and military records.

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History

Christianity came to Ireland around the start of the 5th century AD. It brought many changes including the introduction of writing and recording events. The tribal 'tuatha' and the new religious settlements existed side by side. Sometimes it suited the chieftains to become part of the early Churches, other times they remained as separate entities. the middle of the 6th century hundreds of small monastic settlements were established around the county.

In 795 the first of the Viking raids took place. The Vikings came from Scandinavia to raid the monasteries as they were places of wealth with precious metal working taking place in them. Some of the larger ecclesiastical settlements erected round towers to prevent their precious items being plundered and also to show their status and strength against these pagan raiders from the north.

From 1169 when one of the warring kings in the east of Ireland appealed to the King of England for help in his fight with a neighbouring king, the response of which was the arrival of the Anglo-Norman colonization of Ireland. County Mayo came under Norman control in 1235. Norman control meant the eclipse of many Gaelic lords and chieftains, Norman names are still common in County Mayo. Following the collapse of the lordship in the 1330s, all these families became estranged from the Anglo-Irish administration based in Dublin and assimilated with the Gaelic-Irish, adopting their language, religion, dress, laws, customs and culture and marrying into Irish families.

The Anglo Normans encouraged and established many religious orders from continental Europe to settle in Ireland. large churches, many under the patronage of prominent Gaelic families. Spaniards came ashore in Mayo, only to be robbed and imprisoned, and in many cases slaughtered. Almost all the religious foundations set up by the Anglo Normans were suppressed in the wake of the Reformation in the 16th century. Protestant settlers from Scotland, England, and elsewhere in Ireland, settled in the County in the early 17th century. Many would be killed or forced to flee because of the 1641 Rebellion, during which a number of massacres were committed by the Catholic Gaelic Irish, most notably at Shrule in 1642. A third of the overall population was reported to have perished due to warfare, famine and plague between 1641 and 1653, with several areas remaining disturbed and frequented by Reparees into the 1670s.

Pirate Queen Gráinne O'Malley is probably the best known person from County Mayo from the mid-16th to the turn of the 17th century. In the 1640s when Oliver Cromwell overthrew the English monarchy and set up a parliamentarian government, Ireland suffered severely. With a stern regime in absolute control needing to pay its armies and friends, the need to pay them with grants of land in Ireland led to the 'to hell or to Connaught' policies. Displaced native Irish families from other parts of the country were either forced to leave the country, often as slaves, or compliant with the orders of the parliamentarians, awarded grants of land 'west of the Shannon' and put off their own lands in the east. The land in the west was divided and sub-divided between more and more people as huge estates were granted on the best land in the east to those who best pleased the English. Mayo does not seem to have been affected much during the Williamite War in Ireland, though many natives were outlawed and exiled.

For the vast majority of people in County Mayo the 18th century was a period of unrelieved misery. Because of the penal laws, Catholics had no hope of social advancement while they remained in their native land. The general unrest in Ireland was felt just as keenly across Mayo and as the 18th century approached and news reached Ireland about the American War of Independence and the French Revolution, the downtrodden Irish, constantly suppressed by Government policies and decisions from Dublin and London, began to rally themselves for their own stand against English rule in their country. By 1798 the Irish were ready for rebellion. The French came to help the Irish cause. General Humbert, from France landed in Killala with over 1,000 officers where they started to march across the county towards Castlebar. Taking them by surprise Humbert's army was victorious. He established a 'Republic of Connacht' with one of the Moore family from Moore Hall near Partry. To the Irish the surrender meant slaughter. In the 18th century and early 19th century, sectarian tensions arose as evangelical Protestant missionaries sought to 'redeem the Irish poor from the errors of Popery'.

During the early years of the 19th century, famine was a common occurrence, particularly where population pressure was a problem. The population of Ireland grew to over eight million people prior to the Irish Famine of 1845–47. The Irish people depended on the potato crop for their sustenance. Disaster struck in August 1845, when a killer fungus started to destroy the potato crop. When widespread famine struck, about a million people died and a further million left the country. People died in the fields from starvation and disease. The catastrophe was particularly bad in County Mayo, where nearly ninety per cent of the population depended on the potato as their staple food. By 1848, Mayo was a county of total misery and despair, with any attempts at alleviating measures in complete disarray.

The distribution of the Irish language in 1871. Mayo's relative remoteness meant that Irish was still widely spoken decades after the Great Famine and is still spoken today in the north-west of the county The "Land Question" was gradually resolved by a scheme of state-aided land purchase schemes. The tenants became the owners of their lands under the newly set-up Land Commission. Mayo has remained an essentially rural community to the present day.

The population of County Mayo is roughly 130,638 people.[1]

Archives and Libraries

Cemeteries

A considerable number of cemeteries in County Mayo have been transcribed and published. Some of these are available online. Here's a list:

Census

Census records for County Mayo (and Ireland in general) were mostly destroyed prior to 1900.

The following web site provides researchers with free on-line access to an index, with images, to the only two complete censuses available for Ireland: the 1901 and 1911 censuses, available at the National Archives of Ireland

Church Records

Church of Ireland

The Representative Church Body Library has all surviving Church of Ireland registers. Some copies are held at:

  • the local parish
  • local archives and libraries
  • FHL (Family History Library) has few transcription copies of Church of Ireland parishes

Presbyterian

The vast majority of Presbyterian chapel registers have never been centrally archived, and thus are found in various locations. [Regretably, preservation of these precious records and the rich Presbyterian heritage of local Presbyterians as well as descendants of same, at large whose roots originate from Ireland, are at risk unless and until such time as when these registers are all copied into at least microform or, better--a digitized format.]

You must conduct exhaustive, thorough studies to determine to which Presbyterian denomination your ancestor belonged; and to then, determine the whereabouts of surviving registers--if any. The following most likely places to start your search to find and search Presbyterian registers starts with checking at the following locations:

  • the local Presbyterian congregation/church (if still in use)
  • distant Presbyterian chapels (if the local chapel closed)
  • town libraries
  • county archives/libraries
  • PRONI (Public Record Office of Northern Ireland)
  • The National Archives, Dublin
  • The National Library of Ireland

Other:

  1. The excellent rootsireland web site for County Mayo has some Presbyterian data now available online for 7 different chapels; some from as early as 1819.
  2. The FHL (Family History Library) has but few transcription copies of Presbyterian chapels

Methodist

The rootsireland web site for County Mayo has some Methodist data now available online for about 5 different chapels in the county from as early as 1829.

Roman Catholic

The FHL (Family History Library) has several copies of the original Roman Catholic parish registers of County Mayo parishes in its collection. You can identify these listed online at FamilySearch.org. IF you know the name of the civil parish in which your Catholic ancestor resided, or was from, click "Catalog" and type in the name of the parish and then highlight/click on "Church Records".
The National Library, Kildare Street, Dublin, is the custodian of all available Roman Catholic parish registers from throughout the country--including County Mayo.

The rootsireland.ie web site has data from numerous Roman Catholic parishes now online for searching. There are fees attached (about $7 for each entry).

Civil Jurisdictions and Parish Research Information

Civil Registration of Births, Marriages and Deaths

Government-sponored registration of births, marriages and deaths began in 1864. To find information on the vital events of your irish ancestor, here are some helpful websites for obtaining critical information:

  • To obtain certificates of birth, marriage or death for your ancestor[s], write to or contact the following record office; the cost is €10 (about $13) per certificate:

   General Register Office, Government Offices,
   Convent Road Roscommon.
   Tel: +353 (0) 90 6632900
   LoCall: 1890 252076
   Fax: +353 (0) 90 6632999
   Fax: +353 (0) 90 6632988

There are fees for performing particular searches; see their website for further information.

Estate Records

Estate records may provide names of households in such records as leases, rents, and mortgages. These ought to be consulted and used when extant, especially when church registers do not exist for the time period being researched. Here are some web sites which hold estate records and some transcriptions of same:

Land and Property

Place-Names

Here are two important place-name aids/tools for locating your Irish place and its parish jurisdiction[s]:

  • List of All Townlands, Towns and Townships in County Mayo. - click county "Mayo"; then click "Submit" to view a complete alphabetical listing of all townlands, towns and townships and the parishes in which they reside
  • Topographical Dictionary of Ireland by Samuel A. Lewis; at LibraryIreland.com - provides a rich 1837 historical perspective of each Ireland parish and large township; great for determining which churches existed in each parish--Church of Ireland or Nonconformist

Societies

Family history societies often publish helpful journals, transcripts, compiled genealogies and host helpful websites. They may have ongoing projects to transcribe records and create indexes. Most societies publish queries in their journals and maintain lists of members’ research interests that may be helpful to you. You may want to join one of these societies, reap the benefits of their expertise and resources or support its efforts.

Here are the two major family history societies holding coverage for the whole county and the contact information for each:

Mayo North Family Heritage
Eniscoe, Castle Hill, Ballina, Co. Mayo
Tel: +353-96-31809/ Skype: +353-96-31809
Fax: +353-96-31885
E-mail: normay@iol.ie
Web: http://www.mayo.irishroots.net South Mayo Family Research Centre

Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo
Tel/Fax: +353-92-41214
E-mail: soumayo@iol.ie
Web:Mayo Irish Roots

Websites

Useful Church Records Websites


  • Wikipedia Collaborators, "County Mayo," In Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/County_Mayo. Visited 24 October.