Still, amidst the chaos, life went on. The Irish word for matchmaker is babhdóir. While not all Irish marriages were arranged, many in the 19th century were. Matchmakers were busiest right before Lent, and true to form, on Friday February 13th, in 1824, Alice O’Dwyer and Cornelius Ryan, were married in the Catholic chapel in the parish of Anacarty. They were both living at Churchfield in the civil parish of Donohill, South Tipperary at the time of their marriage, and their first child was born there in 1825. He was named Michael for his Ryan grandfather.
Two years later came the birth of Andrew, named for his O’Dwyer grandfather, followed by Mary in 1829, most likely named for her Ryan grandmother who is at present unknown. Andrew and Mary were born at Goldengarden, Tipperary, a townland on the estate of the Hawarden family located about a mile from Churchfield.
In 1831 another daughter, named Anna for her maternal grandmother, was born to the couple; followed in 1834 by a son named John who was born at nearby Alleen. From those baptismal records, we learn Cornelius and Alice were known locally as Conner and Ally. After John's birth, the family returned to Goldengarden where another daughter,
Sarah, was born in 1838, Ellen in 1840 and Cornelius Jr. in the spring of 1844. That year statistics were compiled of reported outrages (crimes) in the province of Munster. Counties Cork and Limerick to the west of Tipperary had 501 and 365 respectively, Tipperary reported 907! Tipperary was still earning its reputation as a turbulent place.
The number of times the family moved makes it readily apparent Cornelius did not own a farm nor even a long term lease on one. Like many of his neighbors he was quite likely a tenant-at-will, meaning he could be evicted for missing a rent payment, or any reason the landlord saw fit. Indeed, in 1844 the Rev. John Mackey, parish priest of Clonoulty in South Tipperary, testified before a panel investigating land occupation in Ireland that Lord Hawarden had not given a lease since he took over the estate [in 1807] confirming Connor and Ally could not have possessed one. This lack of security and fierce competition for land in a country where the population was exploding as it was in pre-famine Ireland, in no small part contributed to the continuing violence.
Connor and Ally probably lived in a thatched cabin made of mud, along with most of the residents of Kilnamanagh. A survey of the barony in 1841 reported that of the 1,991 houses, 1,684 were of that material, but harder times were coming. When their youngest son Cornelius Jr. was just a year old, ominous news reached Tipperary, the potato crop in North America had been attacked by a mysterious disease.