This is a story from Jean T about the problems of tracing Irish ancestors.


My Great Grandfather Dennis Moneghen was born on 5 November 1851 in Newcastle upon Tyne.  His parents according to his birth certificate are Peter Monegham and Bridget McGragh but I haven’t been able to find a marriage certificate for them.

Nor can I find them in the 1861 census.

I can find them in the 1871 census.  Dennies Monaghan is single and living with his mother Bridget who is listed as Head of the household but not a widow and I have not found a death certificate for her husband.  Also living with Dennis and his mother are two siblings, Patrick and Mary.  I obtained their birth certificates and in each case their father is stated as Patrick Monaghan and their mother Bridget McGraw.  I have looked and there is no marriage certificate for a couple with these names either.

The research continues….  Dennis married a Mary Largey on 11 September 1871 and on his marriage certificate he gives his father’s name as William Monaghan!  I find Dennis and Mary in the 1881 census with two children – John H and Dennis.

In the 1891 census they are called Monahan (transcribed as Monaham) and now have five children (Dennis, Frank, Annie, Mary and Edward).  Their son John H is missing from home but I found him in lodgings.

The 1901 census still has Dennis and Mary married (this time their surname is transcribed as Monoghan) still with four children at home (John H is now back home, Annie, Mary and Edward – Frank has now left home).

Next comes the 1911 census and this has Mary living with her married daughter Annie (Threadwell) stating that she is “married”.  So where is Dennis?  (Annie is a widow, her husband having died in 1908 at the age of 27.)

So far I have been unable to find Dennis after the 1901 census, even though he didn’t die until 9 March 1924 – the informant on the death certificate was his daughter Annie (Buckham) – so where is he?  (Annie remarried in 1911 to Thomas Buckham.)

Because I had been unable to find the family in the 1861 census I started to research this area again.  With a friend’s help I found a copy of the 1861 census but don’t know if this is correct or not.  It states that Patrick and Bridget Monegan are married with five children.  The transcription of their names is not accurate – they are Ann, Harriet (should read Dennis), Frances (should read James), Patrick and Mary.

My concerns with this census are first of all that this is the first census where Bridget gives her birthplace as Ireland.  In all the others she says she was born in London.  Also Ann is aged 15 in this census – where was she in 1851?  James is aged 8 so wouldn’t have been on the 1851 census but where is he on the 1871 census?  I have checked deaths for him but in vain!

I will carry on trying to finalise the details of this family BUT will I ever know who Dennis’ father really was?  Was he Peter or William or Patrick?