03 October 2012

Wedding Wednesday: Mahoney-Knowles

I had long known of the marriage of John Mahoney to Catharine Knowles from previous work by Auntie. While I had the information, I had never seen the original marriage record. There is something about seeing the original that still gives me goose-bumps! Thanks to the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht for making this wonderful collection of Irish church records available online (http://www.irishgenealogy.ie/).

The marriage record contains scant information: the marriage date (24 [27?] November 1841), groom’s name (John Mahoney), bride’s name (Catherine Knowles) and the names of witnesses (Michl Brien, Patt Magrath).

There is an abundance of information in that one line! The bride’s maiden name is included! From the marriage date, the date of birth of the first child and the birth dates of the bride and groom can be estimated. Knowing the Parish will make subsequent research more efficient and less likely to mistakenly identify the wrong Mahoney family.

The faith of the bride and groom are not included. Can we assume that both are Catholic since the record is from a Catholic Parish? Probably not. At the time of the marriage, it was a federal offense for a Priest to solemnize a Catholic-Protestant marriage. If you were a Catholic Priest at the time, would you have included a notation that a bride or groom were Protestant?

Family lore tells us that Catherine Knowles was an English Protestant who converted to Catholicism. She likely converted before her marriage but the marriage record alone is not conclusive. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to find her conversion record? A record of her departure from the Protestant Church? It will take a bit of luck to find those records!

I’ve long wanted to know the names of John Mahoney’s parents. His death record did not name his parents but did give his age. John was born about 1818. The date will help in identifying his baptismal record.

The Church of Ireland was the official registrar of Ireland at the time of the marriage. In order to protect inheritance and legal rights, there may be another record of the marriage in the Church of Ireland. Maybe it will have more information.

Correlating the witnesses' names on the marriage with those on baptismal records of John and Catherine’s children may identify likely siblings of John. Searching on a cluster of names is more likely to identify the correct family than searching simply on ‘John Mahoney’ - not quite as bad as ‘John Smith’ but ….

I am just beginning my research in Irish records. I am currently taking the NIGS Course, “Irish Conformist and Non-Conformist Church Records.” This post was inspired by one of the assignments.


Ballymartle Parochial Area (Ballymartle, Cork, Ireland). Clountead, Ballingarry and Ballymartle Parish Records, Cork and Ross Diocese, 1836-1880. Database and digital images. Irish Genealogy: Explore your Family History. http://churchrecords.irishgenealogy.ie/churchrecords/ : 2012.

Filios, Norma. Mahoney History and Genealogy. N.p.: The Author, n.d.

Hutchinson, Brian. Irish Conformist and Non-Conformist Church Records. Revised Edition. [Toronto:] National Institute of Genealogical Studies, 2008.


  1. It's so great to see you back online. I love this post. (I'm jealous of the citations). Re: "conversion record" -- since she was a Protestant, she probably was already baptized. Therefore, the Catholic Church would not "rebaptize" her. They don't typically record other sacraments in the church registers (i.e. first communion, confirmation, etc.) Not only that, but the Catholics often were forbidden to keep church registers openly in Ireland, causing many to be lost.

    1. Auntie Liz this is fantastic! Looking forward to your next findings, as Catherine Knowles's family is said to have been quite posh and a part of gentry. I'm trying to remember what Grandma said about them, but I want to say her father was a barrister? May the luck of the Irish be with you as you dig deeper! xx - Anna

    2. You are right about the Catholic Records. It is quite possible that there will be no baptismal record for John. The Penal Laws of 1703 weren't repealed until 1829. Catholic Church history in Ireland is fascinating. I was amazed that Priests could be killed for performing mixed Protestant-Catholic marriages!

      Occasionally registers include other information such as conversions, congregations lists, local censuses, etc. I'm hoping against hope to find some of these things in the registers!

  2. Anna, Your memory is absolutely correct! There will be more information about both families and their locations coming as I continue to work my way through the course work. :) Auntie Liz


Comments welcome!