Irish lineage is notoriously difficult to negotiate. Few records exist prior to 1800. Registration of all births, marriages and deaths did not begin until 1864. The census records from inception (1821) up to 1851 were destroyed by fire in 1922 during the Civil War. The records from 1861 – 1891 were, unbelievably, pulped by government order to support the 1914-18 war effort.

Add to this that County Cork was overrun with McCarthys and given names tended to follow a narrow pattern down through most families. The task of even reaching back to the mid 19c was not easy.

However, my Great-Grandpa Jeremiah married Mary (also a McCarthy) in 1864 in Dunmanway, West Cork. They are recorded living in West Green, Dunmanway in 1911 when Jeremiah was 74 and Mary 72.

One of their 11 children was Florence (Flor), my Grandpa (b.1877). He was to marry Ellen Murray (b.1880) in 1903. The Murrays hailed from the townland of Behagullane, which is a few miles north of Dunmanway. They made their home at ‘Tonafora’, a cottage down a lane a mile or so outside Dunmanway town. The story is that Flor was granted an acre of land to house his family.


Taken at Tonafora early 1930s – Grandma Ellen, Aunt Nuala, Grandpa Flor, two unknown aunts.

I have early memories of both Flor and Ellen. I spent several extended holidays at Tonafora as a child. Flor was, by some accounts, a harsh man. He worked hard at labouring and I recall he would regularly collect horse dung from the lane in a bucket for gardening purposes. My Grandma Ellen was always happy to see me though I recall that she could never understand a word I said to her, Dad having to translate.

More to come in part 3.