Wednesday, April 11, 2012

An Irishman's Diary

Recognise the author? That's right, he's our own Paddy Waldron from Clare Roots Society... and CIGO Representative

An Irishman's Diary
The Irish Times - Wednesday, April 11, 2012

" AS the son of a probate officer and an assistant probate officer, I am possibly uniquely disposed to be fascinated by wills. The anti-proverb "where there's a will, there's a relative" neatly sums up the value of a good will to the genealogist or family historian.

One shouldn't forget that where there's no will the resulting intestacy case can prove an even more valuable genealogical goldmine. I speak from experience, having been blessed with not one but two greatgrandparents who were heirs to first cousins who died intestate, generating voluminous legal files in each case, including pedigree affidavits.

Another anti-proverb, "where there's a will, there's a row", has two possible interpretations. Many wills cause rows; others appear to result from rows. In the latter type of will, the family historian can be left to read the details between the lines. For example, I recently received a copy of the 1950 will of Michael Kennedy (1879-1953) of Shanaboola, North Liberties, Limerick, a bachelor. His first bequest effectively disinherited his sister: "£500 to my sister Ellen or Ellie Kennedy Spinster residing at Shanaboola, North Liberties, Limerick aforesaid on condition that she will first yield give up and release all her right of residence and maintenance in Shanaboola under the will of my mother Mrs Mary Mulcahy." (Mary married secondly her first cousin William Mulcahy; her first husband, Richard Kennedy, died of tetanus in 1882, two days after the amputation of his hand.)

Mick Kennedy's will went on to list his relationship to numerous beneficiaries, including "Denis Kennedy of Ross Golden County Tipperary my first and second cousin", "Charles Kennedy of Dublin my first and second cousin originally of Ross", "Tessie Donworth of Luddenmore, Grange, County Limerick my first and second cousin", "John Kennedy of Botanic Avenue, Glasnevin Dublin, Cattle Salesman my first and second cousin", "Miss Mary Piggott Spinster of Dublin daughter of the late Edward Piggott buyer for Messrs McBirney Limerick, my first and second cousin", "Ena Rice daughter of the late PK Walsh of Bilboa Cappamore my first and second cousin", "Joseph Walsh son of Michael Walsh of Ballyheary House Swords County Dublin my first and second cousin" and "Rose Mulvaney of Hollypark Kilcornan my first and second cousin". The will was drawn up and witnessed by Henry M Sheehy, solicitor, the testator's first cousin twice removed.

I never before saw the term "first and second cousin" in a legal document, although I often heard it used in conversation, particularly in my father's part of the country, west Clare. It is not in common usage amongst genealogists, nor in other parts of the country, but is just another expression for "first cousin once removed".

In everyday language, once we go beyond immediate family, we seem to deal in what mathematicians call symmetric relationships. While we distinguish between two types of siblings (brother and sister), we tend not to distinguish between two types of brothers-in-law (sisters' husbands and wives' brothers) or two types of first cousins once removed (first cousins' children and second cousins' parents).

The fact that A is a brother of B does not imply that B is a brother of A (she could be his sister); but if C is a first cousin once removed of D, then D is always a first cousin once removed of C.

There may be languages other than ours that have different terms for these various relationship sub-types, but here in Ireland we appear to have not just two, but at least three different expressions which all cover both types of first cousin once removed."

Now if you want to read the rest of the cousin conundrum and find out who got what, please go to....


  1. I'd never heard of this "dollar each way" description. I find the easiest way to remember is "sharing a grandparent" 1st cousins, sharing a gt-grandparent 2nd cousins. Works for my simple mind. Mostly I can't be too bothered labelling them as just prefer relative or cousin.

  2. I hadn't either, but found it interesting. I have done it long enough not to get confused too often, but I'm with you, cousin is fine and stops a lot of head scratching! :-)


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