Finding Family

One woman's obsession with family history.

There are times when I’ve researched and the records and results were discovered one after the other. Birth record; marriage record; death record. This usually occurs when I already know the details of the person I’m searching for and from these building blocks I can then begin to give their story more substance through the use of other records and information available to me. On the other hand, there are times when I just can’t find anything “easily”.

So what do you do when you don’t have any information about the people you’re searching for? What if you only have names? And common ones at that. For me, this is when I usually make discoveries in a ‘round-about’ way.

The discoveries themselves usually happen over time. As I search in one direction a piece of the puzzle is obtained. Then I might try a different route and another piece is found. As the puzzle begins to take shape more and more pieces are discovered. Eventually, with persistence, the puzzle comes together and everything starts to make sense.

One such round-about discovery occurred recently with the McCarthy side of my family. Some of you may remember my post entitled ‘A Great Find’ which was mostly about the wonderful article I discovered on Trove. In this post I also mentioned that I already knew the names of my Great x 2 Grandmother’s parents (Patrick McCarthy and Elizabeth Kennedy) from certificates that I’d ordered. For a long time these names  and a few sketchy details of their births and marriage were all I had.

By chance one day I ordered a death certificate which I really, really hoped was Elizabeth McCarthy (nee Kennedy’s). When it arrived there were whoops of delight! The names of her husband and her children matched my Elizabeth. This was indeed her and I now also had her parents’ names: John Kennedy and Margaret Barry.

Patrick was more elusive. I knew from Elizabeth’s death certificate (she was listed as a widow) that he’d obviously died before she did but I had no idea when. Then there was the fact that sometimes they used McCarthy, sometimes they used Carty and sometimes they used Carthy and coupled with the name Patrick meant that there were far too many records for me to risk buying.

It all seemed pretty hopeless so I let the McCarthy family lie. Yesterday, I once again took up the search and started with Roots Ireland. Expensive as it was, I decided to put my money where my mouth is so that I could troll through their records. I soon came across a marriage record that simply had to be theirs.

On 13 November 1853, Patrick Carty married Eliza Kennedy in Cloughjordan, County Tipperary, Ireland. Their marriage was witnessed by Pat Connors and Mary Barry.

Yes! The details (date and place) matched the details I’d already obtained from the Victorian certificates and the witness, Mary Barry added further weight seeing as though I now knew that Elizabeth’s mother’s maiden name was Barry.

I added the details to my tree and continued searching but didn’t have much more luck with the McCarthys on Roots Ireland. I went back to Ancestry, clicked on Patrick’s profile and noticed the ‘hints’ at the top of the page which had been there a while. I already knew they related to death records but seeing as though I had no idea whether they belonged to him I had for some time completely ignored them.

This time I clicked on the hint relating to the Australia Death Index. I gasped in surprise. The parents listed on the record were John McCarthy and Mary Connors. The same surname as the witness at Patrick’s marriage! This had to be it! Hardly able to contain my excitement, I jumped on Victorian BDM and ordered a copy of the uncertified image. I once again have to praise Victorian BDM for such an innovative, helpful feature because after only a few minutes the certificate was downloaded. Eureka! It belonged to my Patrick.

The excitement however was slightly marred by the details of the record. A miner and labourer in Victoria, Patrick McCarthy was accidentally killed on 27 April 1885. At the time he was working on the Kensington-hill cutting when the face cutting fell on top of him and smothered him. An inquest was held the next day stating this as the cause of death and on 29 April he was buried in Melbourne General Cemetery.

P McCarthy

He left behind his wife Elizabeth and five young children aged between 11 and 28.

The works he was involved in which ultimately brought about his untimely death can be best summed up in the following snippet from a larger article.


There are of course more records that need to be accessed (i.e. inquest documents) but for now it’s nice to finally be able to give Patrick an ending, albeit a sad one. It always amazes me though when I do get to an “end” point during difficult parts of my research and then think back as to how I got there. The path taken is never easy and it’s often full of twists and turns but with persistence and lots of thinking outside the box I eventually find what I’m looking for.

I know I’m not the only one out there who sometimes researches in a round-about way. What about you? Have you ever made family history discoveries via an indirect route?


  • Roots Ireland Church Marriage Records for Co. Tipperary.
  • Victorian Death Certificate for Elizabeth McCarthy (Year: 1897 / Number: 5703).
  • Victorian Death Certificate for Patrick McCarthy (Year: 1885 / Number: 6173).
  • 1885 ‘COLONIAL TELEGRAMS.’, The South Australian Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1858 – 1889), 29 April, p. 5, viewed 6 February, 2013,
  • 1888 ‘THE KENSINGTON HILL AFFAIR.’, Bendigo Advertiser (Vic. : 1855 – 1918), 6 April, p. 3, viewed 6 February, 2013,

4 thoughts on “Finding Records in a Round-About Way

  1. Woo, excellent sleuthing! I do love when one little clue leads to another. I’m following such a trail on my Laughlin line. I hit a brick wall so I started tracking down all the out-of-towners listed in my gg-grandfather’s funeral write-up. Turns out most of them trace to a group of Laughlins that came to the US about 20 years or so before he did. My theory is that he joined existed family in New York, although I haven’t been able to prove it yet. I’ll be ordering his PA death record soon… if I’m lucky and it lists his specific birthplace, I think I’ll be ready to try RootsIreland.

    1. Jess says:

      Thanks Brandy! It sounds like you’re doing some excellent sleuthing too! Looking through lists of who attended a particular person’s funeral is something I haven’t really considered before. Sometimes they’re printed in the papers here so I’ll have to remember it for next time! Thanks for the tip and for stopping by and leaving a comment. 🙂

  2. rose2852 says:

    Yes, I have absolutely made new discoveries in a roundabout way! Sometimes without even having to try (this doesn’t happen often enough, though!)

    1. Jess says:

      Those are often the most amazing discoveries, Rose! When I make these types of discoveries I can’t help but wonder whether I’m being ‘guided’ in the right direction. 🙂

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: