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

+7 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
asked in Genealogy Help by Tim Burke G2G1 (1.5k points) now I can add JEFFERS to my Irish quest?  I have been trying to find any info on my GG Grandmother - who until now looks to have been dropped off by aliens rather then having had parents. Her DOB is 1824 - so pre-famine - had not even considered she was from Ireland.


I have done the mt DNA tests...sure does not clearly show Irish more then my father's siblings [JEFFERS was a maternal all female line]. Perhaps mine was not Irish...
My Jeffers are Irish, but I don't know where they are from yet. The Jeffers are related by marriage.
The only insight that I have on the Jeffers is that it is the Maiden listed for Catherine's Mother on Catherine's Death Record in Boston.  All the Census records that I have claim that her mother was of Irish birth.  If her family came from somewhere else before her birth then I am not sure.  There is always the chance that Catherine did not know where her Mother was from.


Once I find something I will get it posted and hopefully others might be able to gather some information from what I uncover.
Hi Michael Burke, I descend from the Lomasney family of Castlelyons, Britway area. The 1766 Cencus in which Lomasney family members appear also lists :

John, James & Edmund Burke (protestants)

Toby Burke (catholic)

John, Daniel & Alexander Keefe (Catholic)

The Lomasneys also appear in the 2768 list of tenants of the Barrymore Estates but I don’t see any of your surnames there.
Rory Cain - how did you access a 1766 Census for Ireland? I am searching Jeffers, Taugher, Ford, White/Whyte in Armagh vicinity; Pearson, Irwin/Erwin, Kee, McKee, Morrow, Graham, Moran, Dixon/Dickson in Donegal; Downes in Dublin.
The surviving 1766 Religious Cencus is incomplete. You need the luck of the Irish. I had luck with the Barrymore Estate but with none of my other Irish lines. It appears that for Co Armagh, only Creggan Parish survives; in Co Donegal, only Donoghmore Parish, plus protestants in the parishes of Inch & Leck; and in Co Dublin, only Crumlin, Donnybrook, Castleknock & Taney. And that is illustrative of the hit-and-miss nature of Irish records in general.
Too bad. In Armagh, I need Kilmore Parish. In Donegal, I need Killymard. In Dublin, St.John's in the Dublin City :(
Hi Bob, I've got quite few Jeffers in the family tree from the Kilmore area, Co. Armagh. In fact my great grandmother, Maggie Jeffers, born in New York in 1874 to Irish parents but went back to the Kilmore area with her da shortly after her birth when her mother died.  That branch are connected to Brann from that area.
I am finding all these names in Rathcormack RC Parish:

My 2nd Great Grand Mothers name was Burke.  Eleanor Burke married Bernard McGroarty in Donegal on 18 Feb 1868. the record only lists her fathers name as Walter.  this is the only record I can find on them.  Some time after they were married the moved to Wilkes-Barre Pa

That is helpful, Tony. Do you have a GEDmatch #?   John Hayes just shared this link with me:

My Burke line, came to Boston in 1854.  they had 8 children in total.  The oldest John Burke left home and I have not been able to find any record of him.  Two of the older Brothers had familys and stayed in the Boston area.  The other 3 of the others died while living in the family home.  The last two ended up selling the family home and I loose all trace of them.  I do not know if they ever got married or left the Boston area.
You might need to find if the Barrymore Estates owners were Catholic or Protestant . That way you would know if your family name was in order to follow a family line. This would be okay up to a point anyway. For example, we were able to find the farm that my family lived on,because we know that they had not been Catholic. at least for a few decades. Living in Northern Ireland maybe was easier to find a place to live if they switched.

Yes - GEDmatch ID A072606

The James Jeffers in Cornascreeb is most likely in my tree, 4th great uncle, James Jeffers (1840-1911) in 1866 he lived in Tamnaghvelton, adjacent to it. Happy hunting

2 Answers

+4 votes
Best answer
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
answered by Sharon Centanne G2G6 Pilot (141k points)
selected by Tim Burke
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.
+1 vote
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.
answered by Dan Sparkman G2G6 Mach 1 (18.1k 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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