The Importance of Reviewing your own Research

I’d been aware for some time that the parents of my ancestor James Lawless (1857-1920) were called Thomas and Bridget but didn’t know much about them or her birth surname. When James married in 1876, the church just recorded his parents as Thomas and Bridget Lawless.

By playing around with records* a few years ago, I’d established a brother called Laurence for James. Both were baptised in Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin) and again, the mother’s name was not recorded beyond Bridget. A few years later I started to have DNA matches to people who were descended from Laurence, so it was gratifying to discover my research was correct. Laurence was married twice so has a lot of descendants.

Recently, I was reviewing this family for other possibilities. I hit on a Martha Lawless who had been godmother to some of James’ children.  I’d never looked for her before and it didn’t take long to find a marriage to a William Bradshaw in 1883. Daughter Julia was born the following year, then twins Martha and Bridget in 1886. Sadly Martha died in 1888 of phthisis (pulmonary tuberculosis). William went on to remarry and have several more children. Julia Bradshaw married a Michael Gregory and had 3 daughters but I haven’t traced them further yet.

3 siblings seems a relatively small turn out for people having kids in the 1850s/1860s and there’s a large 7 year gap between James and Martha’s births. There are some other Lawless names on the list of godparents and witnesses but, one, John Lawless, is so far too common to pin down. There’s also a lot of people called Byrne amongst that list and I had previously speculated that Bridget might have been a Byrne by birth.

In trying to come up with a list of Byrnes for a DNA match who was also on this trail, I decided to review the 4 marriages for the Lawless children. Disappointingly, 3/4 of the marriages took place in Sandyford/Glencullen parish where they didn’t bother with the mother’s surname. BUT! Laurence’s second marriage took place after he moved to Dublin and he married Alice Kelly in St Paul’s, Arran Quay in 1888. Hallelujah! His parents were Thomas Lawless and Bridget Kinsley!

From there, I actually then managed to find their marriage in Kingstown in 1855. Thomas’s surname looks more like Lawler, and indeed had been transcribed that way but when I examined the handwriting, it’s more likely to be the variant spelling Lawles. The couple both came from Bray, but married in Kingstown and later lived back in the Sandyford/Stepaside/Kilgobbin area. Perhaps the fact that Laurence was born a mere month after their marriage might explain why they moved out of the parish to get married! A small note in Latin on the marriage indicates that Thomas was a widower (sponsus viduus est). So it looks like I might have more people to find here! That’s before I even get going on the quite rare surname of Kinsley – a variant of Kinsella.

The moral of this story is to always check over your research. Bridget’s surname was within in my grasp already and I’d overlooked it. Never rely on just a transcription if an original image is also available and always check both the civil and church versions of a marriage. Also remember to ask for help if you can’t read the writing!