Looking for Thomas Barry in Kilkenny, Ireland before 1840

We know that Thomas Barry and his wife Mary Aide lived in Moanroe Commons, Knocktopher, Kilkenny when their son, Edward, was baptized at Ballyhale Catholic church in February 1840, and when their daughter, Mary was baptized in May 1843. Also Thomas Barry is listed in the 1845 House Book for Moanroe Commons, however, he is not listed in the 1848 House Book nor in Griffiths Valuation in 1850.  In 1855 New York State Census Thomas, wife Mary, and children, Edward and Mary, are listed in Evans, Erie County, New York, and it indicates that they have lived in the same location for 5 years.  The 1875 New York State Census lists that Thomas Barry died 25 March of that year at age 63 or 65, and that Mary Barry died 12 September 1874 at age 65 (see earlier blog post).

Where was Thomas prior to 1840?  Ballyhale Catholic church baptismal records prior to 1823 and all early marriage records have not survived.  It is not known when or where Thomas or Mary Aide were baptized or when or where they married.

A DNA Match Connection

I have a DNA match to a Barry family that lived in Sugarstown, Kilfane, Kilkenny, which is 12 km (7.5 mi) from Moanroe Commons.  Sugarstown is in the Thomastown Catholic parish, where many older baptism and marriage records have survived.  There is a baptism of a Thomas Barry, son of J Barry and Ellen Shea, on 19 Nov 1812.  That year would fit for my Thomas Barry’s birth based on the age given in his death record.  Could this be my 2nd great grandfather?  

Thomas Barry’s 1812 baptism lists James Comerford as one of his sponsors.  Looking at the tree from my Barry DNA match James Comerford was a witness at the wedding of his 3rd great aunt, Mary Barry, also at Thomastown Catholic church.  Is there a connection between this Thomas Barry’s family and my DNA match’s family?

John Barry and Ellen Shea had four other children: Alexander (born 1807), Paul (1810), Margaret (1815), and Judith (1818). For Alexander’s and Judith’s baptisms the residence is given as Oldtown.  No residence is given for Thomas’s, Paul’s or Margaret’s. There are four Oldtown in Kilkenny, however, the Oldtown in civil parish Jerpointchurch is the only one that has Thomastown Catholic church.  It is 3.5 km (2 mi) between Moanroe Commons and Jerpointchurch.  Oldtown is not on a modern map. 

Alexander and Paul are both unusual names in Ireland, which made it easy to find other records for them.1 John Barry is listed in Tithe Applotment with 7 acres in Oldtown, Jerpointchurch in 1833.  As would be expected Alexander, the oldest son, inherited that land and is in the 1850 Griffith Valuation in Oldtown, Jerpointchurch.  It was pretty easy to find Alexander’s marriage and their children and then his death in the civil records.  Paul never married and worked as a porter at the Workhouse in Thomastown.  There were three possible marriages for Margaret and two for Judith, which I’ve not pursued so far.  Figure 1 shows the family tree I built for Alexander down to living people, whose names are blocked off.  

Figure 1. Alexander Barry’s family tree.

Alexander’s grandson, Richard, immigrated to the US, and I was able to find several trees for Richard on Ancestry.  I sent messages to all the tree owners and was surprised to receive replies within a week.  One of them gave me the name of a potential 4th cousin, who was his DNA match.  She does not match me, but there’s only a 45% chance that a 4th cousin would match.  I sent her a message, but I’ve not received a reply.   There are several other descendants who could be DNA matches, and I need to follow up with them.

Can I Prove my Hypothesis?

That got me thinking of other Thomas Barrys in that part of Kilkenny.  Another way to prove a hypothesis is to show that none of the other Thomas Barrys could possibly be the one baptized in 1812 in Thomastown.  Starting with civil parishes connected to Thomastown Catholic parish I looked at Griffiths Valuation for these areas.  

There is a Thomas Barry (Thomas #1) in Stoneen, Kilfane in Griffiths Valuation in 1850, see figure 2.  Stoneen is 7 km (about 4 miles) from Moanroe Commons.  There is also an Andrew Barry listed here, but I don’t know who he is.  Could he be Thomas #1’s brother?

Figure 2. Griffiths Valuation for Stoneen, Kilfane, Kilkenny.

Looking for Thomas #1 marriage in Thomastown Catholic parish I found that he married Betty Mulloy 15 Aug 1836.  They had a dispensation for 3rd degree and 4th degree on the marriage record.  Third degree means 2nd cousins, and 4th degree means 3rd cousins.  Likely Thomas’ great grandparents were Betty’s 2nd great grandparents.   Elizabeth Molloy, daughter of Edmund Molloy and Margaret Kealy of Stoneen was baptized 21 Jul 1813 in Thomastown RC.  This is likely the bride in this listing.  I didn’t find a baptism for Thomas #1, which makes me wonder if he’s the Thomas Barry baptized in 1812 in Thomastown. Had he been from some other Catholic parish I’d have expected to see a note on the marriage record about receiving a certificate from another parish that indicated he’d been baptized there.  If he were baptized in 1812 he would about the same age as Betty when they married.

They had 5 children all baptized at Thomastown.  Ellen was baptized 23 Aug 1836, 8 days after the parents wedding.  This was definitely the oddest thing I’ve found in looking at the records!  I double checked the dates on both the marriage and this baptism to make sure I had the correct records. Their other children were Elizabeth (1839), Anastasia (1840), Mary (1842), and Rose (1846), see figure 3.  Following this family I could not find civil death records from Thomas or Elizabeth.  It’s possible they died prior to the 1864 beginning of civil death records.  I also couldn’t find any marriage records for any of the daughters, nor civil death records for any of them.  Either the family all died, perhaps in the famine, or they emigrated from Ireland.  

Figure 3. Thomas #1 family tree.

Next I looked for Andrew Barry, who appeared in the Griffiths Valuation for Stoneen.  Andrew Barry is the son of John Barry and Mary Barron baptized at Thomastown Catholic church in 1814.  The family residence was given as Stoneen.  Other children of this family were Laurence (1818), Thomas #2 (1823), and Margaret (1827).   Thomas #2 cannot be Thomas #1 as he would only be 13 in 1836 when Thomas #1 married.  

Thomas #2 married Ellen Ryan at Tullaherin Catholic church 30 Aug 1854.   Thomas and Ellen’s children were: Patrick (1855), Maryann (1857), Judith (1860), Andrew (1866), Bridget (1867), Margaret (1870), Ellen (1873), and Johanna (1876), see figure 4.  Thomas #2 died 17 Feb 1898, age 75, which agrees with his being born in 1823.  He was a laborer and the informant was Ellen Barry, likely his wife or perhaps his daughter Ellen.

Figure 4. Thomas #2 family tree.

I found an extensive tree for Thomas #2 on Ancestry, and there is a photo of the family tombstone in Kilfane Cemetery.  Bernie and Mary sent me information about this tombstone that was erected by Ellen Ryan Barry in memory of her husband, Thomas.  It also has information about their children: Mary Ann, Johanna, Bridget, Margaret, and Andrew who died young, as well as their daughter Johanna Walsh, her husband Walter and their daughter Anne.

Is Thomas #2 the one on Griffiths Valuation in Stoneen?  As the 4th son in the family his brother Andrew would have inherited the land from his father, so it seems unlikely.  Could Thomas #2 have inherited a farm from his father-in-law?  

There is an Ellen Ryan, daughter of Edmund Ryan and Mary Flannery baptized 1 Feb 1834, who is likely the Ellen Ryan who married Thomas #2.  Edward Ryan is in the Tithe Applotment in Stoneen as well as being in Griffiths Valuation in Stoneen along with Andrew Barry and Thomas Barry, see circled names in figure 2.  This makes it unlikely that he gave his farm to son-in-law Thomas Barry #2.  Also Thomas #2 death record said he was a laborer and not a farmer.  Thomas Barry #2 is not the one in Griffiths Valuations in Stoneen.

At this point I’ve not been able to prove my hypothesis that Thomas Barry baptized at Thomastown in 1812 is my 2nd great grandfather. More research is needed.


I have a DNA match to a Barry family who lived in Sugarstown, Kilfane, Kilkenny, but I don’t know how my Barry family connects to them.  Kilfane is in the Thomastown Catholic parish.  There’s a Thomas Barry baptism there in 1812, which is about when my 2nd great grandfather was born based on his age at death. I have a hypothesis that this Thomas Barry is my 2nd great grandfather.  John Barry and Ellen Shea were the parents of that Thomas and had 4 other children; Alexander, Paul, Margaret and Judith.  Alexander and Paul are unusual names which made it easy to follow Alexander’s family down to a potential 4th cousin.  She had done DNA test, but we did not match. There’s a 55% chance that 4th cousins won’t share any DNA.

Another way to prove my hypothesis would be to show that being my 2nd great grandfather was the only possible solution.   I looked at other Thomas Barrys in the area.  Thomas Barry #1 married Ellen Ryan and had 5 daughters.  I cannot find a baptismal record for him, which makes it possible that he is the 1812 baptism.  However, since he’s listed in Griffiths Valuation in Stoneen, and would not have inherited land if he were John Barry and Ellen Shea’s son Thomas, it suggests that he is not the Thomas Barry baptized in 1812. I cannot find marriages for any of his daughters, nor death records for any of the family.  It seems very likely that they emigrated from Ireland.

Thomas Barry #2 married Ellen Ryan and had eight children.  I was able to find his baptismal record, marriage, baptismal records of his children, his civil death record, and tombstone in Kilfane.  His life is totally documented.

Next I am going to look for Thomas Barry baptismal records in a wider range of Kilkenny.  As well as looking at other DNA matches that triangulate with the Sugarstown Barry family and me.

  1. FIona Fitzsimmions, transcript of online chat, 12 Dec 2020, privately held by Coleman, Grand Marais, MN.

Thomas Barry in Kilkenny, Ireland

Like everything else this year the Celtic Connections Conference went virtual.  That gave me the opportunity to attend, as the dates of the live event would have conflicted with several local things I would have been involved with.  There were several presentation dealing with Griffiths Valuation.  Although I’d used it several times in the past, I learned a great deal more about it in the conference.  

Griffiths Valuation

The Griffiths Valuation was a property tax based on what income could be produced annually from the land.   It was carried out from 1847 to 1864 starting in the south of Ireland and moving north.  Every area of land and building were measured and the person leasing the property was named.  Irish census began in 1821 and occurred every 10 years, however the majority of the census records were either destroyed by the 1922 fire at Four Courts or were pulped for making paper in WWI.  The only fully existing census records are from 1901 and 1911.  Some fragments of earlier census exist and can be found on the National Archives of Ireland website. Because of the loss of early census records the Griffith Valuation and the Revision books are now used by genealogists as census substitutes.

Thomas Barry, 2nd Great Grandfather

My 2nd great grandfather was Thomas Barry.  My Dad had built extensive family trees for both his side of the family and my Mom’s family.  As the only child I obtained all the records after their deaths.  Dad’s information said that Thomas Barry and his wife Mary (Aide) Barry lived in the Village of Ballyhale, County Kilkenny, Ireland.  I found baptismal records for Edward, my great grandfather, born in 1840 and for his sister, Mary, born 1843.  The Roman Catholic church there did not have any records that had survived for Thomas and Mary’s wedding or either of their baptisms.

After learning that FindMyPast listed the exact date that the Griffiths Valuation was printed, and that it took 3 months to compile and print, I decided to look and see if Thomas Barry, was listed there.  Griffiths Valuation for Kilkenny was published in April 1850.  I really didn’t expect to find him listed there, as the 1855 census for Evans, Erie County, New York state indicated the family had been residence there for 5 years.

The children’s baptismal records indicated the townland where the family lived at that time.  Edward’s baptismal record is shown in figure 1. Starting at the left it has Feby 11 Ned Tom Barry Mary Aide and on the 2nd line Martin Millea Cath Millea and Moanroe.  Mary’s baptismal record in 1843 also listed Moanroe.

Figure 1. Edward Barry’s baptismal record 11 Feb 1840 Ballyhale Catholic Parish, Kilkenny

I looked for Thomas Barry in Griffiths Valuation in Moanroe Commons, Kilkenny.  To my surprise I found that Thomas Barry leased land in Moanroe Commons along with Anastasia Barry.  I had no idea who Anastasia Barry was, as far as anyone in the family.  I knew she had to be a widow, as the only women in Griffiths Valuation were either widows on their husband’s land or the landowner, and she was clearly not the owner here.  But where did Thomas live?  I broadened my search to nearby townlands and found that he had a house in Knocktopher Manor which was next door to Moanroe Commons.  The Griffiths Valuation for Knocktopher Manor is in figure 2.  Anastasia had a house next door to Thomas, and the land they shared in Moanroe Commons backed into the location of their houses.  Figure 2 is a composite of the top of the page of Griffiths Valuation which shows the column heading and the listings for Knocktopher Manor which was at the bottom of the page. 

Figure 2. Griffith Valuation for Knocktopher Manor, Knocktopher, Kilkenny.

The numbers and letter in the first column indicate the location on the map, and the small a and b indicates house.  Column 2 has the name os the occupants.  Parentheses surrounding Thomas’ and Anastasia’s names  indicate that each of them is responsible for the tax on the house and land.  The immediate lessor is Thomas Norman, Esq. who seems to lease a good bit of land here.  He may not be the actual owner and was subletting the land, but more research is needed to determine that. Column 3 has house, office and land.  An office is not what we’d think of today.  It could be a barn, or a stable. Content of the land is in acres, roods and perches.  A rood is 1/4 of an acre, and there are 40 perches in a rood.  The net value would be how much income could be expected from that land in a year.  The net value of the buildings would mainly be for the house.  They had to pay tax of 1£ 2 shilling on the house. I learned from Fiona Fitzsimmons Celtic Connections presentation that a house with a tax about this amount would be made of cob walls.  Cob was made from mud and straw and usually white-washed to help keep out the weather.  When the house was abandoned, and no one was any longer living there, heating it and caring for it, the house would just melt into the landscape.  Using the numbers in column 1 we can look on the map and find the location. The map for Knocktopher Manor and Moanroe Commons is shown in figure 3.  I’ve circled 6a and b in Knocktopher Manor where Thomas and Anastasia Barry lived.  The land they had in Moanroe Commons is 11, so it basically is their back yard.

Figure 3. Map showing Moanroe Commons and Knocktopher.

What’s more Thomas’ next door neighbor was Martin Millea.  His house is at 5a, shown both in figures 2 and 3.  It just happened that Martin Millea was one of the sponsors on Edward’s baptismal records, shown in figure 1!  This had to be my Thomas Barry!!  That would leave just about a 6-month window from when they left Ireland and arrived in the US. I planned to add several months on either side when I started digging in ship arrival records, just in case. My latest hypothesis was that this was my Thomas Barry and Anastasia was his mother.  This totally threw out two earlier hypotheses I had.  One was based on a Barry DNA match whose family was in Thomastown, and had a Thomas baptized in 1812 with parents Js Barry and Ellen Shea.  That hypothesis had been based on this Thomas’ baptismal record that showed James Comerford as the sponsor, and he had been a witness at the wedding of Mary Barry, who was a daughter in the family there.  Thomastown RC is the next RC parish to Ballyhale RC and only a few miles away, so it seemed a reasonable hypothesis.  The other hypothesis was based on an Aide cousin to Thomas’ wife, Mary, whose naturalization papers said he’d arrived in the US via Buffalo, NY in 1846.  Buffalo is only a short distance from Evans, NY and since families, neighbors and friends often traveled from Ireland to US, this also seemed a reasonable hypothesis.

Anastasia Barry

So who is Anastasia Barry? There’s no mention of her in any of the family notes or tree that my Dad had done. But then again he never says anything about Thomas’ parents. Dad likely got his family information from his father, Frank, who would have gotten it from Edward. My Dad was only 5 when his grandfather Edward died. It’s unlikely his grandfather told him any family information. Edward, born in 1840 and in the US at least by 1855, may not have known his grandparents at all. That would mainly depend on when the family left Ireland and Edward’s age at the time.

I searched FindMyPast baptismal records for Ballyhale Catholic parish using Barry surname and An* as the mother’s forename and found two records; Margaret born in 1825 and Nellie born in 1831. The earliest surviving baptismal records for Ballyhale Catholic parish are in 1823 according to John Grenham’s website. Thomas likely was born before that time. Those two baptismal records list John Barry as the father and Anastasia Riley as the mother. Potentially these are Thomas’ parents and Margaret and Nellie are his sisters.

Revision Books

Every few years after the Griffiths Valuation a revision was done.  Since this was a record for collecting tax, it was necessary to update the person living there that would be required to pay the tax.  The Revision books started just after Griffith Valuation and continued to the 1980s.  These Revision books are housed in the Valuation Office in Dublin.  Some have been digitized, but not all, and none of them are online at this time.  I emailed the Valuation Office asking about this location where Thomas Barry was in Knocktopher Manor.  I fully expected a reply telling me how to apply for the information and the cost.  However, the next day I received an email with 2 pages from the Revision books.   Thomas took over the lease from Anastasia in the 1860-62 timeframe.  That likely indicates that she died, but Civil records for death did not start until 1878. Thomas is replaced by Eliza Barry in 1882, and Eliza is replaced by Richard Moore in 1883.  Figure 4 shows the Revision book for 1876-1883.

Figure 4. Revision book for 1876-1883 showing Thomas Barry in Knocktopher.

Checking the civil death records Thomas died 31 Oct 1881 as reported by his son, John.  Elizabeth Barry, widow of Thomas Barry, farmer, died 8 May 1882 again reported by son John.  This is not my Thomas Barry, as I know he was in NY in June 1855.  I’d heard many times how unusual the surname Barry was in Kilkenny.  So it had never occurred to me that there could be two Thomas Barry’s in the same area of Kilkenny!  

Validation Books

Now what to do?  Prior to Griffiths Valuation there had been Field Books which described the land, quality of the soil etc but also listed the name of the person on that land.  There had also been House Books which listed the houses on the land and what had already been surveyed in preparation for the later valuation.  FindMyPast had Field books from 1848 and House books for 1845 and 1848.  Thomas Barry who lived in Knocktopher Manor and died in 1881 was found with his house in Knocktopher Manor in 1845 and 1848.  But looking at the House books also for Moanroe Commons, since the children’s baptismal records said that was where my Thomas Barry lived, I couldn’t find him in 1848, but there he was in 1845!  In the 1845 House Book both my Thomas Barry in Moanroe Commons and the Thomas Barry who had a house in Knocktopher Manor were listed!  This appears to tell me that my Thomas Barry who was there in 1845 and not in 1848 left Ireland for the US after 1845 and before 1848.  Maybe they did travel with the Aide cousins, and maybe he was baptized in 1812 in Thomastown.  Lots more research needs to be done.  But now I do have an earliest date for his arrival in the US when I start searching passenger records.