Nicola Morris, MAGI, Dublin

Peter Whelan was born on 6 June 1865 in Stepaside, Dublin.  He was the son of Peter Whelan, a soldier residing in Gibraltar, and Margaret Costello.

A search for the marriage of Peter Whelan Senior and Margaret Costello in the civil marriage index was unsuccessful, suggesting that the couple married prior to 1864, when civil registration of Catholic marriages commenced, or their marriage was not registered with the civil authorities.  A search of all databases of parish registers failed to find a record of this couple’s marriage, suggesting that the records for the church in which they married did not survive or were not indexed.  Finally, a manual search of the parish marriage register for Sandyford, where the townland of Stepaside is located, found the marriage record for Peter Whelan.  He married Margaret Costello on 14 August 1864.

(Image courtesy of the National Library of Ireland,

Their church marriage record contained a wealth of information.  According to the parish register, Peter Whelan Senior was residing at Curragh, Co. Kildare, at the time of his marriage. This address was consistent with his occupation of soldier.   He was the son of Jacobis [James] and Maria Whelan of Drogheda.  Under the ‘observations’ section of the parish register was a note written by the parish priest “Peter Whelan a soldier in the 86th Regiment married by certificate of Rev. J. Maloney chaplain to the forces _______ at the Curragh Camp”.  Incidentally, the observation note for the marriage that followed Peter’s established that the groom in that instance had been baptised into the Roman Catholic Church prior to his marriage, suggesting that he was originally Protestant.

Peter’s marriage failed to appear in the indexed church records for Sandyford at, because the marriage register has not been transcribed and indexed for the 1860s.  This one document identified the names and address of Peter Whelan’s parents, as well as the regiment in which he was serving and his address at the time of marriage.   A medal card for the Indian Mutiny (1857-1859) identified a Peter Whelan serving with the 86th Regiment.  The medal card recorded Peter’s regimental number, which led to his service record, indexed under the name Whealan, which confirmed that Peter had served in Gibraltar and identified his place of birth as the parish of Donore, just outside Drogheda, where he attested in 1855.

Notations in margins and observation columns are not always transcribed into online databases of records.  In this case searching for the original record paid dividends.