Tracing your Clonmany Ancestors

by Godfrey F.Duffy. August 1998


Tracing your ancestors in Ireland can be fraught with difficulties because of the destruction of the invaluable records held at the Public Records Office (PRO) during the 1922 Civil War.

Chief among those records were the 19th century census returns which contained personal details of millions of individuals for the period encompassing before, during and after the Famine.

In numerous cases the census returns were the only details held on individuals as they pre-dated many parish registers and civil registration in Ireland (which began in 1864).

To an extent the destruction of the census returns has been mitigated by the use made of them during the processing of 'old age pension claims' in the 1908 - 1921 period.

Most people 70 years or over were eligible to claim a pension and the majority did so.

During the 1922 Civil War the pension claims were held in the local Custom and Excise stations so while their survival rate was better than the census returns it has been haphazard and the pension claims in the certain parishes have faired better than others. This seems to be the case for Clonmany parish, Co Donegal, at least for 1908 the first year of 'the Pension'.

The vast majority of the claims held for Co Donegal are held at the PRO in Belfast under the reference T.550.Vol 37. They have never been indexed and the claims for various parishes are mixed in bound volume form.

Fortunately the pension claims for Clonmany appear complete and are all in one section. They date from the 1908/09 period and there are over 430 pension claims for the Clonmany parish.

The procedure for claiming a pension was for the claimant to send the PRO via the local Custom and Excise office details on their townland of birth, parent's names and their present age. The PRO made a search of the 1841 or/and 1851 census returns and return the forms to the Customs and Excise office verifying the claimant age on the 1841 or 1851, their parents names and place/townland of birth. The claimants would have been born in the 1830's or 1840's and their parents at the start of the 19th century or the close of the 18th century.

This is an invaluable genealogical source to anyone with Clonmany ancestry.

NB. The Clonmany pension claims have been produced in transcript form by me and were donated to Clonmany parish archive during the 'McGlinchey Summer School' in June 1998.

Genealogical Sources

Other genealogical sources that can be used in tracing your ancestry are;-

1. 1901 and 1911 Census Returns (complete for all of Ireland), location National Archives (NAI), Dublin.

2. Parish Registers (Catholic), location National Library (NLI), Dublin and local parish churches. N.B The priest of Clonmany has a surname index of the parish registers.

3. Old Age Pension Claims - Clonmany parish, location PRO (Belfast). NB. Transcript copies deposited at NAI and Clonmany parish.

4. Primary Valuation of Tenements (1857), location - Co. Donegal library, NAI and NLI. NB. Name/Surname index on CD Rom available.

5. Tithe Applotment Books (TAB) - Co. Donegal (1828), location NAI and NLI.

Example of tracing ancestry using named sources

Subject : Ancestors of John Duffy (1) of Portsmouth, NH, USA.

1. John father Michael Duffy (2) noted on 1911 census age 14 years living at Kinnea, with his parents and grandparents.

2. Michael Duffy noted on 1901 census age 4 years living at Kinnea with his parents John (3) and Catherine Duffy at house of grandparents John (4) and Bridget Duffy.

3. John Duffy (3) married Catherine Devlin in 1894 (parish registers). John's abode given as Gortscrighan (group of houses within Kinnea).

4. John was baptised in 1861 (parish registers).

5. John Duffy (4) married Bridget Duffy on 13/11/1854 (parish registers)

6. John Duffy (4) made pension claim in 1908 naming his parents as John (5) and Sarah Duffy of Kinnea. He was located by PRO on 1841 census age 10 years, making his year of birth 1831. His parents were probably married in the 1820's.

7. John Duffy (4) was listed living at Roxtown (Kinnea) in 1828 (Tithe Applotment Books).


John Duffy (4) was probably born in the last decade of 18th century. Using the above sources 4 generations of the same family were traced over a 200 year period.

Godfrey F.Duffy August 1998.

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