Family research rabbit holes

Every now and then I dabble in a bit of online genealogy research. I say dabble as opposed to those who seriously pursue details of their fore folks. It’s not that I’m not interested, but I just have the feeling that using a pay site is tantamount to being scammed. But that’s just me.

If you have ever tried to do any similar research on Irish relatives, you will perhaps have met up with the wall that arises regarding censuses from 1861 to 1901. The information from these polls was destroyed, intentionally. So one is left with church records and various registrations – birth and death – for the most part.

I recently came across a record that fills the requirements of a person being my relative. Evidently, I had a great-great (or as the genealogy sites put it, Great X2) aunt. Ellena Deegan, daughter of James and Mary (Lennon) and sister to James Jr. and Matthew.

… down the Spitalfields rabbit hole I jumped.

A bit of research brought me to some of Ellena (or Ellen)’s background. She was born on January 10, 1857, and baptised at St. Nicholas RC parish four days later, on January 14, 1857. At that time the family was living at 7 Spitalfields Street. (not Spittalfields, as in the entry), in The Liberties area of Dublin. Google Maps claims the church, which still exists, is a four-minute walk from the Spitalfields location. Well, down the Spitalfields rabbit hole I jumped.

The first step I took was to check the current view of 7 Spitalfields. Often this exercise is fruitless as many housing units from 150 years ago have long been razed for more modern buildings. But I believe I was lucky. The Google Street View of 7 Spitalfields (below) showed it to be one of a row of houses that, even with some modernization, may well be of the right vintage.

By chance, the adjacent house, 8 Spitalfields (the notion of odd numbers on one side of the street, and even on the other is not as common in Ireland as it is in many other places) was recently for sale. I looked up the listing online and found a virtual tour of the house. Using this as a template, I got an idea of what unit 7 (with the yellow door) might look like inside.

According to the 1901 Census entry below, 7 Spitalfields included six rooms, each of which was inhabited by one family.

For the reasons mentioned above, I could not find a census listing for the time when I knew my family was living there. However, I did find the entry for 7 Spitalfields Street in 1901. It shows that not one, but six families were living at the address at the turn of the century. According to the 1901 Census entry below, 7 Spitalfields included six rooms, each of which was inhabited by one family. In the case of the Reddington family, seven people lived in one room. Five members of the Dowling family were also housed in one room of 7 Spitelfields. In total 18 people in one house! Even if we go out on a limb and consider the possibility of unit 7 comprising the neighbouring, and matching, building, that’s a whole lot of people under one roof.

Alas, of Ellen Deegan, I have not found any more information. But I will endeavor to track her down!

1 thought on “Family research rabbit holes

  1. Linda Blackwell Phelan February 8, 2023 — 11:59 am

    This is fascinating, Deegan. I have a book you might enjoy looking at, with pictures of the Liberties area back then. We have to get together for tea…all four of us. Lin

    Sent from my iPad


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