Thursday, November 24, 2011

Michael Dillon from Ireland : Origins lost in transcription

My 3x Great Grandfather, Michael Dillon whom I had previously listed as one of my "Most Wanted" ancestors, along with his wife Mary (O'Grady) and son Michael, my Great, Great Grandfather, arrived in Australia on the 12 April 1848, aboard the barque "Subroan", carrying 209 Bounty Immigrants. According to the transcription of the ships arrival into Sydney by Ancestry, they had departed from Scarriff in County Clare, and the family's place of origin was Baher, County Galway in Ireland. records

Place of origin from the original record hosted by ancestry
Looking at the original record from the New South Wales, Assisted Immigrant Passenger Lists, 1828-1896 collection, it still states that the family's place of origin was Baher, Galway. Ireland.

Scarriff (A) to Barna (B) from Google Maps

However, searching Google Maps, no such place existed. The closest I could find is Barna (Baher), Co. Galway which is a coastal town, while Scarriff, Co. Clare is an inland town, 80 kilometres away.

I believe that the family must have had a very strong brogue, as Michael's daughter's surname was written as Denham on her birth certificate. The record shows that Michael's parents could neither read nor write, thus the possible misinterpretation of the place of origin

This discrepancy of place names and misspellings, put beside the evidence of the map, leaves me wondering just how wrong the transcriptions can be, and how vigilant we must be in checking out just what is the reality of our history, and what is meant by such terms as "place of origin".

I have had to change many of my original assumptions as to where Michael Dillon was born; Instead of being born in Barna / Baher in Co. Galway, he was born in Scarriff in Co. Clare, while the ship, (spelt Subraon on the record and Sobraon on the transcription)  departed from Barna / Baher. If I had done this simple check it may have saved me quite a few Euro's, searching Irish databases for birth and marriage certificates.

Michael Dillon, 1843-1906, Memorial Card


  1. What a great memorial card Linda! I don't have any original memorial cards from my family but I have scanned copies of a couple of memorial cards for great great grandparents.
    The Irish placenames are so confusing! I still have a couple of my Irish ancestors 'places of origin' I need to pinpoint as the only locations I have are a bit vague (is it the name of a civil parish, a Catholic parish, a townland, a barony??).

  2. Thanks Ailin,

    This is a copy of the card which is in the possession of my 3rd cousin. He received it from my aunt (my Mother's sister), so it has travelled a long way back to me. I had no idea of it's existence until 2 years ago.

    I am still not sure where the ship really sailed from, as continued searching on the National Library of Australia's Newspaper Collection, TROVE, has an article stating that the ship sailed from London via Plymouth; so how did the Irish immigrants get to London - all very confusing!

    Sorry to be so tardy in replying. Reading a blog post from Marian made me check to see if I had any comments, and was pleased and surprised to have one for this post - Thank you