Trouble with Irish Famine Genealogy Research for Burke, Keefe, and Jeffers surnames

+10 votes

I am having trouble with the research on my family in Ireland during the Irish Famine.  There are a few records that have been found; however, much of it is not helping in furthering the research.  Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.

Michael Burke - Born about 1820 in Ireland (Possibly Castlelyons, Co, Cork).  His birth date changes on the census records that I have, and the same for most of the family.  I assume that his Father's name is Patrick, but it could also be a Brother.  The name Patrick Burke was found on the Marriage record to his wife Catherine in Castlelyons, Co. Cork, Ireland.  Michael came to America on September 4, 1854 on the Ship Break O' Day arriving in Boston from Liverpool, England.  Before leaving Ireland Michael had 4 sons: John, Thomas, Patrick, and Michael.  His fourth son, Michael was baptized in Castlelyons, Co. Cork, Ireland on November 17, 1850.  As for the Death of Michael, it is still in question.  The best possible date is the Death of a Michael Burke in Boston on June 8, 1882.

Catherine Keefe – Born ~1824 in Ireland.  She is the Daughter of Thomas Keefe and Nancy Jeffers.  She married Michael Burke on January 1, 1842 in Castlelyons, Co. Cork, Ireland.  She passed away on February 21, 1893 in Boston, MA.  Based on census records she possibly has a Sister: Mary, the spelling of her name is Keith in the record.


WikiTree profile: Michael Burke
in Genealogy Help by Tim Burke G2G1 (1.5k points)
I'm waiting for my uncle to get tested but with COVID restrictions my cousin can't visit him, he's in his 90s.  That would be one generation up and as I discovered with my mum, that opens a lot more connections.
Good question Tim. I'm having similar problems finding records for Irish ancestors. I appreciate the useful guides and references provided by the people responding to your question.
There are several great Irish ancestry groups on Facebook, some by County.  They have broken a few of my walls down.

Hi there, You dont have any links in your tree too.....

I know I don't, I'm just telling you that several of the Facebook Irish groups are very helpful in filling in blanks as many still live there or have relatives who do.  Look for a County Cork group on Facebook.  All of my people were in County Clare.
I probably belong to most of the Irish genealogy groups on facebbook. The most helpful one for me is West Cork Genealogy.
My Gedmatch numbers are:

Mine - A133022

My Fathers - A557041

My Uncle - A469358

Hi Bob, using the Matching One or Two Kits tool for Kit 1 A072606 (TW) & Kit 2  NJ8541398 (Bob Moore) there's over 50 common matches.  Of course without triangulation & lots of research it doesn't tell us their links to us.  smiley

Hi Tim, looking at common matches for us there's a few common matches with Kit 1 A072606 (TW) & Kit 2 A557041 (Tim Burke Sr.) but you have lots with Kit 1 NJ8541398 (Bob Moore) & Kit 2 A557041 (Tim Burke Sr.).  Now I don't know where this leads, it's more of an observation. smiley

Very small matches to your father & uncle.  4cm & under.  The only Burke I have in my Ancestry tree is Kate Burke (1825-1900) married to Thomas O'Connell (1814-1899)

My two lines are O'Rourke & O'Connell, but mine are all in Clare.

2 Answers

+5 votes
We should collaborate! I have all of these surnames in my Irish ancestors.

Unless  you can find cemetery stones  that are still readable, you will need to rely on Griffith's Valuations, Tithe Applotment Tax Records, and the newly released Irish Catholic Parish Records. The Irish Census records for the 1800s were purposely destroyed by the English once they were done with them. Fortunately these records census substitutes I mentioned above are all online now. Trying googling them and let us know what you find out..

Sharon Troy Centanne

Irish Genealogical Research Instructor
by Anonymous Troy G2G6 Pilot (156k points)
I would not have known to look at those.  I'll see what I can find.

Thank you!
Let me know if you need any help. I have found these records are wonderful, but not always complete. I used to use them on microfilm back in the 1980s and they are so much easier to access now. Try

I never knew that these types of records existed.  I have looked at the Griffith's Valuations and found one hit but I am not sure if it is for the person I am looking for.  I have not found the Tithe records yet.

As for the Parish records, I was able to find the two sources that i already knew about.  Now I have images of the records that I only had transcripts for, it will take me a few days to go over all the date ranges that might offer me some info.  Hoping that I might find some answers.


Thank you again for leading me to these!  I will check out the website that you posted and let you know if I have any luck.
You are welcome!

My Burkes came into Boston in the late 1800s and early 1900s. They found the O'Keefe's and Jeffers once they transferred to Buffalo, New York, and married into those Irish families. Everyone seems to go back to Ireland. The O'Keeffes are definitely County Cork and areas near County Cork.
The parish records are a pretty good source, they are hard to read at times.  I have looked over Castlelyons where I found the two records I already knew about.  Did not find  anything for baptism of both patents or the first 3 children.   I have extended my search out to the parishes around castlelyons, I have been able to check 3 of them as of now from 1840 to 1850 looking for the children.  No luck yet.  I did use the valuation s and found one Michael Burke  who was renting property in both Castlelyons and the parish to the west.  Still having trouble varying that if that is the person I am looking for.  

I am afride that the two records that I found, are not the family I am looking for.  I could be wrong.  I'm just getting a feeling I'm looking at a red herring.
As with other Irish records, the Castlelyons Parish registers appear to be incomplete. The O’Lomasney Family farmed at Ballyogaha North in Castlelyons from at least the death of Cornelius in 1705. Yet I found only a handful of baptisms for the late 18th-early19th C, and no Marriages. So if that is impacted on you confidence whether your two entries were correct, I can online say I have the right family (one is my ggg grandmother’s baptism in 1809), despite the gaps.
I am finding the same issue with incomplete records.  The records that I currently have is a Marriage listing the brides father and a witness for the Groom but I do not know if it is a father or brother (I am venturing that it was his father), the birth of the 3rd child in the catholic parish records, renting of a piece of land for farm use, and then renting the home on the farm land to another family.  I am assuming that the Burke Family lived in another part of County Cork, maybe a neighboring parish to Castylelyons but I have not found any records of Burkes in the adjoing parishes at the moment.
I am currently researching the townlands not far from Castlelyons in Barrymore Barony. I am reading the Tithe Applotment, and also the Valuations from the 1840s, which precede Griffith's Valuations, and listing all the names on the space pages for various townlands. These Valuations of the 1840s are like the Cancellation Books after Griffith's Valuations, which used to be available on LDS microfilms. The 1840s valuations show who was taxed between 1846 and 1852. Sometimes people show up in 1846 or 1847 and disappear. Their names are crossed out in follow-up visits by the tax man, and the name of their successor is penciled in. Or sometimes, the word "Down" which means the place was torn down, probably by landlords evicting tenants. Have a look at the valuations here:

Also, take a look at the space pages for Monananig, Templebodan, Ballinakilla, Peafield and a few others where I am adding surnames, first names, and taxed dates for these various valuations to find out who was where when, and if they disappear or turn tenancy over to another person who might be related. I am planning on doing Castletownroche soon as I am finding Troy's there. I have seen Lomassey, but may have confused it with Hennessy. Sometimes the handwriting is difficult, but at least it is in English! - still compiling
Have you looked at the Valuations Office records from the 1840s now online at:
I'll take a look at them.

I've been using griffith, court citations, and church records mostly.   

I do know my 3rd great grandparents were renting land and also rented a portion of that out to another family, from Griffiths.   There is also multiple citations against my 3rd Great grandfather for parking his cart in wrong places.  And the diocese records show his marriage, birth of his 2nd and 4th children.  Haven't found the 1st and 3rd as of yet, probably unreadable.
The Irish census records for the census records for 1821-1851 were not destroyed by the English, they were destroyed with the major fire at the Public Record Office of Ireland during the Irish Civil War.
So I am looking at the link that you posted and I found the same record information as I do on Griffith's.  My Micheal Burke leased 3 Acres of land and rented the house on the last to a tenant.  Which this tells me he did not live on this land.  I just do not know where he lived.
+2 votes
I had a girlfriend at one time named Burke, and did some research on that name for her.  I trashed it all later, but as I remember the general flow of things is that the Burkes originally came from Flanders around the time of William the Conqueror, at which place they were known as Burgs (castle), and I believe their coat-of-arms has a castle or castles on it.  As terminal g's are pronounced hard like K's on the continent, they eventually became Burkes in England, and some of them later went with the English to Ireland in the 1100's and did well there, in the English way of doing well in Ireland in those days.

      I don't think that will help you a great deal with the specifics, but it should provide you with some clues as to the general run of the Burke family.
by Dan Sparkman G2G6 Mach 2 (22.1k points)
Thank you! My very old Uncle Mike Burke in Ireland who died at 100 years old in 1990 told his nephews a story which they passed on to me. He said the Burkes were living in Galway and fishing in Galway Bay until Cromwell, (so probably from about 1171 to 1645?). When Cromwell took their lands to give to his own men,  my branch took their fishing boats down to Lough Hyne near Roaring Waterbay south of Skibbereen and have been at Lough Hyne for probably 12 generations now. They survived the Great Famine by fishing and by working for their landlords, who happened to be good landlords.

Other branches of the Burke family went to other places and I don't know if all the Burkes in County Cork are related through their Burke lines except perhaps back several hundred years. But some may be related to each other through their marriages. It will take a big project like wikitree to sort them all out and may take decades! I concentrate on the Lough Hyne Burkes because our family is still in contact with these cousins.
I believe my County Cork Burkes might not have been native to the area or at least Castlelyons where I find them.  I have found a marriage document of the parents and the birth of the third child, and land that was rented for framing but the home on the property was rented to another family.  So, I do not know where they were actually living at them time.

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