Fact meets fiction

by Diane Duane

Peter has been doing some genealogical research over the last couple of weeks, and has found out some unusual things about his family that none of us expected.

For one thing, he’s looking for a McGuffin. Specifically, Iris McGuffin, one of  many, many cousins on his mother’s side. For a writer… how appropriate that there should be all these McGuffins scattered around.

And something else a little unusual has turned up as well.

Peter has a female ancestor — a great-grandmother — who appears as an adult in public records of 1910/1911, though she does not appear as a child or young adult in earlier censuses. After her first appearance, she  vanishes without warning. But her name later reappears several times over the twentieth century, until finally she vanishes a few decades ago, not to be seen again.

Her name is Sara Jane Smyth.

I wonder when she changed the spelling…  🙂

…A touch of clarification here: the spottiness of the records is a local problem and not at all unique, as a huge number of birth/death/census records in Ireland were destroyed by fire during the Irish Civil War, when the Four Courts  and the Custom House were bombarded in the Battle of Dublin  (28 June -5 July 1922). As a result, those doing Irish genealogical research are very often forced to fall back on duplicate birth/death records (when they can be found) in local churches and other decentralized archives.  Unfortunately these are all too few, as record-keeping in Ireland before the Civil War was extremely centralized.  I’ve run into frustrations of this kind myself when attempting to trace the Irish ancestry on the Duane / paternal side of my heritage.

In any case, having an ancestor be present in one decade, then missing for the next few, then appearing again, is hardly unusual for the Irish-based ancestry-hunter. But the name brought me up short when Peter started showing me the records…

(BTW, greetings to our Reddit visitors!)

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