Finding Your Irish Ancestors’ Origins with Griffith’s Valuation

Thinking about your Irish roots this St. Patrick’s Day? Wondering about your ancestor’s origins?  Finding a specific Irish place name can sometimes be a difficult task, especially if they came during the Irish Potato Famine of the 1840s and 1850s.  Check out the library’s Irish Genealogy Guide and Record Selection Table for research ideas.

Another great resource is called Griffith’s Valuation.  It was a land survey carried out by the Irish government between 1847 and 1864 and it lists the names of property owners, renters, and their places of residence.  Only the landholder or renter will be named, not the entire family, and tenements were not included. If the matriarch and patriarch of your family were married in Ireland and then immigrated to the United States, the valuation could prove useful.  That is because the Irish often married those who lived near them in order to keep their land in the family.  Griffith’s Valuation can be found in Ancestry Library Edition (ALE), a genealogy database available at any Buffalo & Erie County Public Library location.

If you would like to try out the Griffith’s Valuation, follow the search described in this brief case study:

Case Study – Finding the Irish town of origin for the Daniel Feeney and Margaret McDonough family

Background information:

Margaret McDonough who was born about 1832 in Ireland, married Daniel Feeney and he died in Ireland before 1860.  Their children were Patrick (b. 1851) and William (b. 1853).  In about 1860, she married Martin Hynes (b. 1830) in Ireland and their family moved to Buffalo by 1870.  Margaret and Martin’s children were Coleman (b. 1860) and Bartley (b. 1862), and they were both born in Ireland.

A thorough search of U.S. records was performed for all of the immigrants and their children including church records, naturalization records, passenger lists, vital records, census records, cemetery records, gravestones, military records, and obituaries.  Bartley Hynes’s obituary was the only source which listed a smaller than country level of location.  It stated that Bartley was born in Galway County Ireland.

Next, the Surname Cross-Reference database was searched on the SWilson website.  The database is a compilation of the names listed in the Griffith’s Valuation.  It allows you to input two surnames to see what Irish counties and civil parishes include both surnames, as well as how many times the surnames appear in each location. Searches were performed for the following name combinations: McDonough and Feeney, McDonough and Hynes, and Feeney and Hynes.  The first and second searches both produced the same parish locations, Kilcummin and Rahoon in the county of Galway.  The combination of Feeney and Hynes returned numerous results including Rahoon and Kilcummin.

Next, the Griffith’s Valuation was searched using the database Ancestry Library Edition (ALE).  ALE is available for use at any Buffalo & Erie County Library location.  You can use ALE’s card catalog (which is under the Search menu) to find the valuation in ALE.  Since it appeared that Margaret did not marry Martin until about 1860 and the valuation was conducted from 1847-1864, the surname Feeney and the location Rahoon, Galway, Ireland was searched in Griffith’s Valuation.  About 1300 results were found.  To narrow the results, the search was limited to Galway County and about 300 hits were returned.

Unfortunately, limiting to a parish (Rahoon) does not seem to work in ALE, so other search combinations were tried.  A search for the surname Hynes produced over a thousand results and searching with McDonough limited to the county Galway, produced no results (remember, no database is perfect).  To narrow things down, a search for Daniel Feeney, was performed in the hopes that the valuation covered the Feeneys’ residence while Daniel was still alive.  Three Daniel Feeneys resulted at the top of the hits list.  The second entry, which was for the townland of Knock was selected.  That record showed two land areas, one in Knock and one in Maumeen, which included all three surnames, Feeney, Hynes, and McDonough. (photo below)

Griffiths Valuation Feeney Hynes McDonough

Courtesy Ancestry Library Edition

With Knock and Maumeen as promising leads, a search in Irish land records (by a researcher in Ireland) was completed and a transaction was found transferring land from Daniel Feeney to Martin Hynes in the townland of Knock.  Thus, the place of origin of the McDonough, Hynes, and Feeney families was found.

Happy Hunting!

Posted in Genealogy

Buffalo Women’s History: Architect Louise Blanchard Bethune



Louise Blanchard Bethune was born  Jennie Louise Blanchard in Waterloo, NY in 1856.  She lived in Buffalo from 1866 until her death in 1913.  After graduating from Buffalo High School in 1874, she took a position as an apprentice for Waite & Caulkins, an architectural firm in Buffalo.

In 1881, she opened her own firm and became the first professional female architect in the United States. Her husband joined the firm soon afterwards, and in 1890 they added William Fuchs as a partner.  The firm of Bethune, Bethune and Fuchs built numerous buildings throughout Western New lafayette-hotel-copyYork and beyond.  Their most well-known accomplishment was the Lafayette Hotel, for which Louise was the primary architect.

In 1885, Louise helped organize the Buffalo Society of Architects, and in 1888 she became the first woman member of the American Institute of Architects.

Image sources:

[Louise Bethune image]. National Cyclopedia of American Biography, vol. 12, pub. 1904, p. 9.

Postcard. Lafayette Hotel, Buffalo, N.Y. No printer and no date. Postmarked January 2, [no year].

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Flyer Breaking Old World

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Newly digitized newspaper index, 1983-1996

WNY Index Blue BooksOne of the in-house (in-library?) newspaper & magazine article indexes created by Buffalo & Erie County Public Librarians is now available online!  Known to some as the “blue book” indexes, the volumes of The Western New York Index are the key to finding articles on Buffalo people, businesses, and events from January 1983 to December 1996.  These book indexes pick up where the bulk of article indexing leaves off in the Grosvenor Room’s Local History Card File (predominately 1925-1982).  Read more about the history of this Index and this digitization project by the Western New York Library Resources Council here.

This unique index includes major articles and obituaries published by these publications:

  • Buffalo Business Journal
  • The Buffalo News
  • Buffalo Spree
  • Business First of Buffalo
  • Business New York
  • WNY Genealogical Society Journal
  • Western New York Magazine

After locating a citation on your topic of interest, stop in to the Grosvenor Room to locate the article in the newspaper (on microfilm) or magazine (in print, usually bound).  Check our online catalog for titles & date ranges.

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Holidays…in the “olden days”

Our scrapbook collection never fails to surprise and delight us!  In a few volumes devoted to holidays, we find that librarians saved newspaper articles that featured the origins and traditions of many celebrated days. Here are a few items on Halloween:

Holidays scrapbook Halloween p. 369

Holiday customs from 1923, Literary Digest. Article from the NY Times, 1929.

Holidays scrapbook Halloween p. 375

“Hallowe’en” traditions and superstitions from Scotland. From the Buffalo Express newspaper, 1899.

While the majority of our scrapbooks have clippings from Buffalo newspapers only, the Holiday Scrapbooks often have articles from other major papers of the time. Librarians sought to preserve civic and religious holiday history in these educational and entertaining volumes.  Take a look at these unique scrapbooks on your next visit to the Grosvenor Room!

holiday scrapbook Books on shelf

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The Erie County Society for the Prevention and Cruelty to Animals

“Life is a thing of common use, by Heaven as well as to insects, as to monarch given.” – Quote found in the Erie County SPCA 1893 annual report, originally by Edmund Waller from the Maid’s Tragedy.

May is National Pet Month. To celebrate, delve into the early history of the Erie County SPCA.  The images below are from the organization’s annual reports 1883-1938.  The reports are available in the Grosvenor Room’s Buffalo Collection at the following call number: Buffalo HV4702 .E6. There are some gaps in the collection.

The Erie County SPCA was incorporated in 1888, though the roots of the society date back to 1867 when a Buffalo chapter of the SPCA was formed.  Work to prevent the cruelty to animals was particularly difficult in its fledgling years, especially for women.   Before the society was incorporated, there was a women’s branch of the ASPCA in Buffalo and in that time, it was seen as inappropriate for women to protest.  It was common belief during the Victorian Era that women belonged in the home, and some who acted on behalf of animal rights were harassed and threatened with violence.  Of course, men too were commonly threatened at this time when many were ignorant to the idea of animal rights.

Unsurprisingly, the first court case brought forth by the society was regarding the mistreatment of canal mules.  Mules were used to pull boats along the Erie Canal and often worked for six-hour shifts.  The mules in question were malnourished and driven while injured.  Happily, the verdict was in favor of the SPCA.  In the late 1800s and early 1900s, SPCA agents were appointed to watch over canal animals as well as those in stockyards.  Buffalo at that time was the second largest railroad center in the country; its livestock trade business was extensive because of the ease of animal transport.  Brave volunteers made arrests, ordered animals to be fed, took off painful collars and restraints, and removed animals from abusive or negligent caretakers.

The organization worked for pro-animal legislation and lobbied against animal dissection.  Volunteers educated local police on new animal laws, on proper animal handling, and police officers were made honorary members of the society.  Members talked to school children about respecting animals, essay contests on animal rights topics were sponsored, junior humane societies were formed, and local schools were given books on “kindness to animals.” Of course, the society had many other achievements, such as installing water fountains to encourage the watering of animals, building an animal shelter, and free veterinary clinics.

To read about the modern day programs and achievements of the Erie County SPCA, see the society’s website:

 Dogs on Roof     Dog Catchers

Auto Fleet       Dog in Car

Clinic Visit      Free Water for Horses

Horse Ambulance

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Major League Lefty in Buffalo Yearbook

Warren Spahn, the left-handed baseball pitcher, didn’t actually graduate from South Park High School when a career in sports intervened. The Cy Young Award winner, who played for 21 years in the National League and has the distinction of having been the left-handed pitcher to win the most games in his career (363), is shown here in the South Park Dial yearbook from 1939, just three years before his debut in the Major League.

Warren Spahn, South Park HS, Dial, 1939

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