Saturday, April 6, 2013

Surname Saturday / I've Got Ryans By The Number

     Ryans are the Smiths of Irish genealogy.  They were literally everywhere in Ireland, though Tipperary and Limerick had the highest concentrations, which is still the case.  The Irish Ancestors website has this to say about the family, “The vast majority of Ryans today are descended from the family of Ó Maoilriagháin, meaning descendant of a devotee of St. Riaghan”.  All I have to say is these people must have been shamelessly prolific.
     I have two Ryan lines in my family tree, neither is related to the other and they’re not even from the same county.  One hails from the Barony of Clanwilliam in South Tipperary where I’m told they were very important before Cromwell and his hordes arrived, the other from the Barony of Middlethird in County Waterford. 

      Tracing Ryans in no easy feat, especially given the old Irish penchant for reusing forenames.  I thought I had lucked out when I found my third great grandfather Cornelius Ryan.  An oddball name like Cornelius would surely level the playing field somewhat, but no, it’s a fairly common name in Ireland.  The Tipperary Family History researchers ( were able to locate the family for me in Churchfield townland only because I had found US records indicating Cornelius’ wife and children’s names.  You really must do your homework in the US before thinking about Irish research, the more you know about your people the more likely you are to find them in Irish records.  It’s especially important when it’s a common family name like Ryan.

No that's not paint-I left the moss on that line for photographic purposes
     The other line was a little harder to trace… I had to do it myself.  They had married into my Power family who I knew were from somewhere in County Waterford, where you can’t throw a stone without hitting a Power. These Ryans weren’t really related to me, I was tracing them to hopefully determine a townland for the Power family.  My break came in the Catholic cemetery in Palmyra, NY where I located a grave stone for Mary Power (my second great grandfather’s sister) and her husband Thomas Ryan with the engraving, “Natives of Tramore” as you can see in the picture above. 

     I’ve been doing Irish genealogy long enough to know that when a record of any sort says Tramore or Tralee or anyplace else that you’ve actually heard of, it’s usually not the end of the story.  Nine times out of ten, Tramore is the parish not the townland.  You’re getting close, but not quite there yet.  When the Catholic Parish of Tramore records finally came online at IFHF ( ) I found the Power’s real address, the townland of Cullen Castle, a few miles north of Tramore.

     By the late 19th century these Ryans and Powers, along with the Crotty family also from Cullen Castle, (one of whom, Honora, was my third great grandmother and mother to Mary Power Ryan above), had all relocated to the Town of Farmington in upstate New York; there was and is no Farmington village.  Even today the name fits perfectly, Farmington is mostly farmland.  There was a general store in a hamlet called Pumpkin Hook, (I swear I’m not making that up), but it’s been closed for decades.  The place still looks pretty much as it did when the Ryans, Powers and Crottys were roaming about and I kinda like that.

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