Sandra Doble MAGI


As genealogists, we view so many baptism registers and see so many entries for illegitimate children that we become inured to the 19th century language used to describe to describe their circumstances.

However, recently looking through the baptism register for the Roman Catholic parish of Thurles on the National Library of Ireland’s website, I chanced to notice an entry (Microfilm 02490/01, pg 25) that was so poignant I could not help but dwell on it.

Entered on 29th August 1835, it reads “Debora Wall, foundling, exposed near a stone wall near Thurles”

No name for Debora; her entire identity for life to be based on the fact she was found at a wall.

I found myself wondering if she had survived and did a cursory amount of research on her but found nothing. In probability, she died in infancy. But maybe she did survive and emigrated (or was shipped off) to America or Australia. Maybe she married and maybe she had children. Perhaps descendants of these children are even now trying to trace their Irish “Wall” ancestors – perhaps they are assuming they are descended from a notable Norman family.

Would they be disappointed to find out Debora’s real circumstances? Sometimes we can become almost obsessed with linking ourselves to a clan or a noble family line forgetting that all our names are just a circumstance captured at a moment in time. For the most part, we are all John’s son; or the blacksmith; or the fair one or some such similar moniker. Maybe this is a heresy coming from a professional genealogist!

When we embark on researching our families, it is well to remember that we often find what we did not expect; and sometimes we may not want what we find. We should approach research with an open mind and remember that each story we find is part of a bigger story of our whole society’s history each story no more or no less important than any other.