Double trouble


The red boxes mark the neighboring townlands in which the Holland families lived. Courtesy of National Library of Scotland

Recently I was researching my Holland surname line and ran into an interesting problem. I found two men named William Holland, each of whom married a woman named Ellen Fleming, in the same parish around the same time. Which was the right William Holland and Ellen Fleming for my family? Were the couples related? How was I going to tell their children apart?

These two Irish couples were from Barryroe parish in County Cork. One couple married in 1820 and the other in 1839. I found baptismal records for children with these parents born between 1820 and 1845. Luckily, the Holland child I was tracing was born in 1828, so I knew he belonged to the older couple who married in 1820. But what about any children born after 1839? How was I going to place them in the right family? They could belong to either the older or younger couple. That is where townlands became the key to figuring out these families.

Townlands, the smallest unit of land division in Ireland, can be used to distinguish among people of the same name. When I looked at the earlier baptismal records for the 1820 couple’s children I discovered they lived in the townland of Lissycrimeen. After 1839 William and Ellen had children born in both Lissycrimeen and the townland of Lislevane. It appeared the older couple lived in Lissycrimeen and the younger couple in Lislevane. Knowing which family lived in which townland, I could then place any children born after 1839 into the appropriate family. Using this strategy meant my older couple in Lissycrimeen had children between 1820 and 1841 and the other younger couple in Lislevane had children between 1839 and 1845.

Townlands became the key to figuring out these families.

Lissycrimeen and Lislevane are neighboring townlands with the furthest points in each only about 2 miles apart. At first, I didn’t know if the two William Hollands were related, but it seemed likely since they lived so close together in the same parish. Then in July I was contacted by a Y DNA match to my Holland surname. His Holland family was descended for the younger couple in Lislevane. This was an exciting discovery to learn the families were indeed related.

Unfortunately, because of the lack of Irish church records, we have not been able to figure out the exact way our two families are connected. We are currently looking for any estate records from the area that might help us figure out the relationship.

Pam Holland

About Pam Holland

Pam is a certificate holder from the Boston University Genealogical Research program and has researched family history for over 14 years. She has attended numerous genealogical institutes, including Samford University Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR) and Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG). She also has a B.A. from the College of Wooster and a M.S. from Northeastern University. Her areas of interest include New England, New York (both city and state), Ireland, Germany, Social History, and DNA.

14 thoughts on “Double trouble

  1. You were lucky to find as much as you did that far back in Irish records. Townlands were not often recorded in the many records I have searched. But what a puzzle. So glad you found all of that.

  2. An interesting find. A quick look shows about 5 Hollands including I’m assuming your William in the 1834 Tithe Aplotments for Lislevane but no Hollands for Lissycrimmeen. Not unlikely that the younger William is indeed an offspring of one of the Lislevane Hollands (William, Daniel, Daniel Jr., Timothy etc.) Both Williams seem to appear in their respective places in the Griffiths Valuations. Have you considered the naming order of the children as a rough guide to possible parents for the younger William?
    Good luck in your search.

  3. They say that when we learn something, a new wrinkle is formed on our brains. When figuring out complicated genealogy puzzles, I sometimes think I can feel my brain wrinkling!

      1. Oh. That explains it! It’s happening to me too! And my overloaded brain keeps dumping out stored information that I need.

  4. I have Holland ancestors, too. But it’s messy! My Holland ancestor is really an Ashe/Ash. It’s a long complicated story including a son who changed his name from Ash to his mother’s maiden name of Holland because of his playboy reputation. That line was one of my brick walls and once it started to fall came tumbling down. Smith, McCauley, Holland, Ashe, Stark, Stinson, Revolutionary War, Ireland, Scotland, New Hampshire. Traitors and Loyalists, Revolutionary heroes and famous people. What a trip! And it all started with the sentence, “her name was Abigail and she called herself Nabby but our records show her as Neaby Smith. She was the niece and adopted daughter of Gen. Stark” Craig Smith’s blog “Smith history” gave me the clue to dig. I spent months working 12+ hour days working on it. Of course there is no piece of notarized paper that confirms it.

  5. Hi Pam, I have a question about your Holland surname. Have you ever found that Halloran/Holleran and Holland are interchangeable? The backstory: I have an ancestor named Ann Halloran, at least, that was her surname according to my family. But, others of her descendants call her Ann Holland. Ann is from County Clare. There are other Holland men in Iowa City during her lifetime (where she ended up) and I know they are Irish, but I haven’t been able to identify if they are her relations. My hope is to take her back to an exact place in County Clare. I have clues, but am still searching. It would be interesting to know if you found that Holland and Halloran is the same surname, with one being anglicized. Thanks!

  6. My Abraham Bates Tower had an uncle living in the same county with the exact same name in the 1800s. Then back in earlier times, there was an ancestor with the exact same name, but in Massachussets. Makes it tough. Fortunately, their wives have different names.

    1. You have only two relatives with the same name in the same town — I have four Francis Whitmores living in Middletown, CT at the same time! (I wonder how they kept their mail straight.) and 19 overall. And 22 Johns in the first century they were in America. Don’t get me started about Abigails! Ha! It’s all fun.

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