County Laois in Ireland is not only landlocked, but also all the counties that it borders do not touch the coast either. This gives it the distinction of being a double landlocked county. Twenty-third in both area and population density of Ireland’s 32 counties, Laois (pronounced Leesh in English) is a part of the modern Eastern and Midland Region of the Republic of Ireland and is the seventh-largest of Leinster’s 12 counties in size and tenth largest in population.
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Laois takes its name from Loígis, a mediaeval kingdom once ruled by a tribe of this name. In its past it has also been known as County Leix and as Queen’s County from 1556 to 1922.
As the Irish diaspora has spread out across the globe, especially during the Great Famine of 1845–49 which devastated the county, many people will be able to trace their roots back to this part of Ireland.
Before civil registration was brought into Ireland, which occurred in two stage when in 1845 non Roman Catholic marriages were first to be recorded and then in 1864 for all births, marriages and deaths, the parish registers of the various church denominations were the main records in which Irish ancestors’ vital events would have been recorded. While many of those that had settled in Ireland from elsewhere in the British Isles were Protestants, the Roman Catholic church was by far the largest denomination in Ireland. For this reason researchers with Irish ancestry will turn to these records as this will be where the majority of Irish forebears will have been recorded.
A characteristic of the Irish records, however, is that from 1537 until 1870, the Church of Ireland was the official Established church in Ireland, this meant that record keeping in the Catholic Church was difficult to do openly because of enmity between the Anglican state church and the Roman Catholic Church. Not many of the Catholic church registers have survived until the latter part of the 18th century saw Catholic emancipation acts introduced. These removed many of the restrictions that had been imposed up to then in the kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland and also in the later established United Kingdom. Many parishes, therefore, have records from the 1830s – though there are some from well before this in the Laois Parish Records released by TheGenealogist. For example the parish of Rosenallis reaches back to 1765 for marriages and baptisms.
The National Library of Ireland (NLI) has digitised surviving copies of the Catholic records and TheGenealogist’s index and transcriptions provide a handy link in order to see the original image once one has found an ancestor’s result in the records.
A favourite son of Laois was the Roman Catholic priest, Canon O’Hanlon who lived a full life not only devoting himself fully to his ecclesiastical duties, but also writing many published literary works. People were astonished at his capacity to do both so fully and Dr. Walsh, the last of the three Archbishops of Dublin under whom O’Hanlon served, paid the writer-priest this tribute:
Those who know him only as the laborious student and writer of books might have thought that he devoted to his literary labours all his time and all his thoughts. Those who know him only as the zealous missionary priest might well have supposed that outside the sphere of these ecclesiastical duties he had no other cares.
John O’Hanlon had begun studying for the priesthood at Carlow College, Ireland but before completing his studies he and members of his family emigrated to Quebec, Canada in 1842, possibly on the death of his father. A move to Missouri, USA saw him enrol in the diocesan college in St. Louis where he completed his studies, and then he was ordained as a priest in 1847. Assigned to a mission in the diocese of St. Louis, he ministered here until 1853. For health reasons he then returned to Ireland and to his native Stradbally. However, after a year his health had improved and so he then offered his services to the Archdiocese of Dublin, and became a curate in the parish of Saints Michael and John.
In 1880 he was then appointed as the parish priest of Sandymount and Ringsend in Dublin, where he ministered at the church of St. Mary’s Star of the Sea in Irishtown (today there is a commemorative plaque to him displayed in the church). In 1885 he was made a Canon of the Dublin Cathedral by Archbishop Walsh, and celebrated his Golden Jubilee as a priest in 1897. He remained in Sandymount/Ringsend until his death in 1905.
Searching the records
Born in Stradbally as John Hanlon to parents Edward and Honor Hanlon in 1821 we can search for our writer-priest’s first major religious ceremony when he was baptised in that year.
Using TheGenealogist’s Master Search we enter his name and year of birth. We can add a keyword and in this case as we know the parish we are able to use that as the search word. The result returned confirms his father and mother’s forename and gives the date of his baptism as 2nd May 1821.
Alternatively, from the Search page of TheGenealogist we can scroll down to Parish Records (Transcripts) and from the drop down menu choose Laois. This will allow us to do a search with a number of other fields including parent’s name(s), father’s occupation, if we knew it, and more.
From the result returned by TheGenealogist we then click the link for the transcript to reveal the details. From both of these pages we are able to use the link to the National Library of Ireland (NLI) to see the actual image of the page from the parish record.
Using TheGenealogist’s transcriptions can be of great benefit to a family history researcher because of the ability to use its powerful SmartSearch from the transcription results. Family historians can use this tool to identify possible siblings, as well as parent’s potential marriage details by clicking on the relevant icons.
This recent release of records for over 500,000 individuals is a very welcome addition to TheGenealogist’s ever growing collection of parish records. With the added benefit of our unique search tools, such as the Keyword Search and SmartSearch, this release is a boon to those with Irish roots.