Parsons in County Mayo, Ireland

Period 1750 - 1900

Reports to Neil M. Franklin on Search for his Grandmother, Mary Ann Parsons. 1997

Neil M. Franklin (for e-mail) made requests to both South Mayo Family Research Centre (SMFRC)(Feb 26, 1997) and North Mayo Family Research Centre (NMFRC)(May 30, 1997) in search of information on his grandmother, Mary Ann Parsons (Carney). Unfortunately, nothing conclusive was found to establish positive proof of her ties to County Mayo. However, certain evidence has been uncovered to suggest that she may have belonged to one of the Parsons families who lived in the Ballyhaunis and Claremorris areas of County Mayo (South). Because other Parsons names were uncovered in the reports, especially of the South (SMFRC), the reports are printed here to help others find Parsons relatives in County Mayo, Ireland.

South Mayo Family Research Center (SMFRC) Report,

19-May-1997 by Paul Waldron

Your ancestor Mary Ann Parsons was born sometime between 1830 and 1837, according to you own information. The civil registration of births commenced for the entire country on 1st January 1864. Before this date, the only available records of birth are in parish registers of baptisms. The commencement dates of these parish registers vary form parish to parish, e.g. the earliest Roman Catholic register of baptism in South Mayo is that for the parish of Crossboyne and Tagheen, which commences in 1825; at the other extreme is the parish of Cong, Cross and The Neale where the baptismal register commences only in 1870. ln some parishes the registers of marriages and of baptisms commence in the same year, in others they have different starting dates.

Since Mary Ann Parsons may have been born slightly earlier or later than the band of years given by the enquirer, I have taken her year of birth to have been somewhere between 1828 and 1840.

Only twelve out of twenty-five Roman Catholic parishes have baptismal registers which date back to 1840, before which year your ancestor was most probably born;
...Aglish, Ballyhean, Breaghwy (Castlebar).1838.........1824
...Balla, Drum, Manulla (Balla & Belcarra).1837.........1837
...Crossboyne & Tagheen.........................1825.........1794
...Killedan (Kiltimagh)................................1861.........1835
...Kilcoleman (Claremorris).........................1835.........1805
...Oughaval (Westport).............................1845.........1823

I have searched our entire data-base, which includes all nineteenth century baptismal register in South Mayo, which includes records of the above parishes, for records of the following:

--> Birth/baptism or Mary Ann Parsons (with or without middle name, and bearing in mind all possible variation of Mary including Maria, Marie, Maise, Maney, Molly, etc.) any time before 1840

--> Marriage record of William Parsons and Winfred Costello.

--> Birth/baptism of any children of William Parsons and Winifred Costello.

Unfortunately, nothing was found to answer any of the above. It seems most probable, therefore, that if you ancestors lived in South Mayo, they must have lived in a parish for which early church registers don't exist.

Mr. Holcomb, the Genealogist whose report you enclosed with you application, discovered that William Parsons (whom he takes to have been Mary Anne Parsons Carney's father) was resident in the house of John Comer at the time of the 1860 census.(The surnames Comer, Kerrigan and Corrigan are all one and the same. There was a tendency among some Kerrigan families to mistakenly anglicize or modify their surname to "Comber" or "Comer". The form "Comer" increases steadily the further one travels eastward in County Mayo, and in the East Mayo parishes of Annagh and Bekan it was the only form used.)

The address given on John Comer's headstone is interesting, and, as you will see below, possibly very significant. "Dremderry" is almost certainly the townland of Drumaderry, to give it its official Ordnance Survey spelling. It is in the civil parish of Annagh, and is located about three miles south- west of Ballyhaunis town in eastern County Mayo. In everyday use, the placename is often spelled Drimaderry and is pronounced something like "Drimmaderra". The original Irish form of the placename is Droin a' doire, which means the ridge-backed hill of the oak tree or oak wood. I have searched the Tithe Applotment Book (1830), the General Valuation of Rateable Property in Ireland (1856) and neither of them contain any listing of a Comer family in Drumaderry. Since the Tithe Applotment Book contains the names of only a few landholders in every townland, the non- mention of a Comer in Drumaderry does not necessarily mean there was not a family of that name living there at the time. The General Valuation was compiled as the country was recovering after the ravages of the Great Famine, so the population of Drumaderry, as with the rest of the country, would have been extremely depleted in the previous ten years, so there is no evidence to confirm whether or not there was a Comer family in the townland of Drumaderry in the first half of the nineteenth century.

Now, to get straight to the point: the townland of Drumaderrry is beside the townland of Cloontumper, which was one of the very few palaces in South Mayo where there were Parsons families in the nineteenth century! (Cloontrumper is a large townland in the civil parish of Annagh. However, it adjoins the civil parish of Bekan, and, the houses at the western end of the townland are quite near Bekan parish church; for this reason, some of the families who lived at the western end of Cloontumper townland used the address "Bekan" and considered themselves part of the parish of Bekan. In reality, they belonged to the parish of Annagh, although, it is apparent that many families in this part of Cloontumper went to Bekan parish church. In 1893 when the boundaries of the parishes of Annagh and Bekan were redrawn to reflect more realistically the geographical layout of the countryside, the townland of Cloontumper became part of Bekan church parish.)

To return briefly to the 1860 census listing in Charleston (SC, USA): William Parsons, age 50, Mary Ann, age 25, and Winifred, age 43, widow were lodging with one John Comer. Mr. Holcomb deduces, quite correctly, based on the evidence he describes in his report, that this John Comer is probably the man commemorated on the gravestone which describes his birthplace as "Dremderry". It is quite probable that John Comer and William Parsons, if they ended up living in the same house in America, would have known each other in Ireland. If this is the case then, William Parsons was quite possibly from the general Drumaderry area. The fact that there is record of at least one Parsons family in the townland of Cloontumper, adjoining Drumaderry, and in a number of other townlands within three or four miles of the later, suggest that this indeed may be the area where your Parsons ancestors lived. Below I deal with the Parsons families known to have lived in the Ballyhaunis and Claremorris areas through the nineteenth century:


There are no Parsons listed in the General Valuation of Rateable Property in Ireland (1856) in the townlands of Cloontumper or Drumaderry. However, it is apparent from the Bekan parish register that there was at least one Parsons family living in Cloontumper through the nineteenth century. One Thomas Parsons is listed as a tithe-payer in the Tithe Applotment Book for the parish of Bekan (1833) in a place called "Keelogues." This latter placename is long since obsolete and its location is not known with certainty: it is most probable, however, that it encompassed part of the townland of Cloontumper near the townland of Bekan. No further record can be found of this Thomas Parsons. James Parsons is the earliest traceable member of the Parsons family of Cloontumper; he would have been born c. 1836, according to the age given in his 1901 census return, and therefore could be son of Thomas Parsons listed as a tithe-payer above. James married Mary Connelly; no trace of this marriage has been found. They lived in the townland of Cloontumper, but the addresses of the adjoining townlands of Woodpark and Holywell occur in some records relating to their family, since they lived near the boundary with those townlands. James and Mary had issue of whom five sons and one daughter are known - John 1859, Patrick 1862, James 1863 (died 1877), Thomas 1867 (born in the Workhouse, Claremorris), Mary 1870 and Matthew 1874. In the 1901 census James and Mary, aged 65 and 70 years respectively, were still living in Cloontumper; all their children had moved away by that time.

I have enquired with on Mrs. Finn of Drumaderry and she states that a little house in Cloontumper, near the boundary with the townland of Holywell upper was occupied by a Parsons family into the early years of the present century: most probably the family detailed above.


A couple bearing the names Michael Parsons and Bridget Healy had issue one son and four daughter baptized in Bekan parish: Mary 1837, Honor 1840, Edward 1842, Winifred 1844 and Catherine 1846. No address is given on any of these baptismal record, and no marriage record for Michael and Bridget has been found. However, judging by the names of the baptismal sponsors, it seems likely that this family lived in or near the townland of Carrowmore West.

Like Cloontumper, there is no record of any Parsons land- holders int he General Valuation (1856) in Carrow West, however, the available records indicate that there were two households of Parsons living here through the 1870's; headed by Edward and James Parsons.

By 1901, there was just one Parsons family in Carrowmore West comprising Honoria Parsons, a widow, her son John and daughter Catherine. Honoria's husband, Edward Parsons, who was a tailor, died in 1877 aged 40 years. As he was a tailor, he probably held no land, and this would account for him not having been listed as a landholder in the General Valuation. This source shows that there were six "cottages" in Carrowmore West, whose occupants are not named. Another son of Edward and Honoria, also named Edward, was a servant/workman for the Dillon family in Feamore at the time of the 1901 census.

There is evidence to suggest thatMichael Parsons was a native of the parish of Kilcolman, and that he moved into Bekan parish; it is possible he "married into" Bekan parish. Two individuals named James Mooney and Winifred Parsons occur as baptismal sponsors for children of Michael Parsons and Bridget Healy. A record has been found of the marriage of James Mooney and Winifred Parsons on 14th Feb. 1846, in Claremorris parish; the witnesses were William Parsons and Michael Parsons. It seems probable that William, Michael and Winifred were siblings. Given that Winifred's marriage took place in Claremorris, this was probably her home parish, since marriages in nineteenth century Ireland invariably took place in the bride's home parish. Therefore (if we assume that Michael was her brother) the home parish of Michael Parsons who married Bridget Healy was probably Kilcolman. No records were found of any children being born to James Mooney and Winifred Parsons; this suggests that they either emigrated, died young, or lived in a parish which has not early baptismal records. If the latter is the case, then it is possible they lived in the parish of Kilvine where the name Mooney was found, though in small numbers. If the assumption that Michael, who may have been the progenitor of the Carrowmore West Parsons was a native of Kilcolman is correct, it is possible he came either from the town of Claremorris, or the townland of Meelickmore, since there were Parsons families in both localities. The occurrence of the name William in several of these families lends weight to the possibility (see below regarding Parsons in the civil parish of Kilcolman.


Not very far from Carrowmore is the townland of Farnaun, where another Parsons family lived. Patrick Parsons is listed here in the General Valuation; as far as can be established, he married Honoria Mulkeen in 1827. He died in 1882 aged 80 years; she died in Claremorris workhouse in 1892 aged 81 years. They were the parents of Luke Parsons who was born c. 1830. Luke married Margaret Winston in 1872 and they had issue of whom one son and four daughters are known: John 1873, Mary 1874, Bridget 1880, Anne 1882 and Catherine 1886.

By 1901 Luke Parsons, aged 70 years, was widowed, his wife Margaret having died in 1888 aged 50 years. He was living in the townland of Derrynamuck (beside Farnaun) with his son John and daughters Anne and Catherine.

One record indicates that a John Parson and his wife Winifred Reilly lived in Culnacleha and had a daughter Mary in 1884. No further record of this family was found. Culnacleha is beside Farnaun, so John may have been a brother of Luke who remained in the area for a short time before emigrating.

Given the relative proximity of Carrow West, Farnaun and Culnacleh, the Parsons families living there through the nineteenth century must have been related, but to what degree cannot be discovered for want of records. All three townlands were int he church parish of Annagh until the reorganization of parish boundaries in 1893, and the parish registers commenced only in 1851 (baptisms) and 1852 (marriages). The early years of these parish registers are quite incomplete and patchy.

The townland of Cloontumper is only about three miles north of both Carrowmore West, and Farnaun, so it is likely the family in the former townland was from the same stock as the others.

The occurrence of "Edward" as a the name of Mary Ann's son and grandson is interesting. It was not a very rare Christian name in nineteenth century, though its use over a number of generations in her family suggests it may have had a family significance. A number of Edwards occur amongst the Parsons families in the Ballyhaunis - Claremorris area: Edward Parsons of Carrowmore West, a tailor and Edward, son of Michael Parsons of Bekan parish, born 1842 (these last two probably the same individual).

"William", which, like Edward, was not amongst the very commonest of Christian names in use in nineteenth Mayo, also occurs among the Parsons families of Carrowmore West, as well as the Parsons families of Claremorris.


The Kilcolman parish registers commence in 1835 (baptisms) and 1805 (marriages); they contain numerous references to Parsons, but the records are so inexplicit that it is impossible to discover any verifiable connections between them.

What is known is that Michael Parsons was listed in the General Valuation (1856) is Claremorris. However, a number of other Parsons are known to have been living in Claremorris at this time: William Parsons of Meelickmore (born c 1790, died 1881 aged 91) and John Parsons of Claremorris town; neither are listed in the General Valuation.


Michael Parsons of Claremorris town had a son John who married in 1851 Mary Smith Greer, a Protestant. They had issue of whom the following are know: Michael, William, Ellen, Ellen (2). Mary and John. Nothing more is known of this family, certainly they were not in Claremorris at the time of the 1901 census.

John Parsons was father of James Parsons, born c.1846, a shoemaker in Claremorris town. James married in 1868 Catherine Cunniffe and they had issue of whom the following are know: John, Ellen, Bridget and Maria. James died in the Workhouse in 1878 aged 32, and nothing more is known of this family.


William Parsons of Meelickmore was born c. 1790 and died in 1881 aged 91 years. He seems to have been father of John Parsons who married Bridget Glynn. They had issue of whom the following are known: Michael, Martin, Michael (2). No further trace of this family has been found, so they probably emigrated.

A number of isolated marriage records have been found relating to Parsons families in the parish of Kilcolman, but their precise addressed cannot be discovered.

North Mayo Family History Centre (NMFHC) Report

22-JUL-1997, by Fiona Lynn Forde

The report from the NMFHC was of little value. They reported that records from Crossmolina and Ballina were checked for reference to Mary (Anne) Parsons born c. 1825-1840. Unfortunately, no relevant details were located. These were the only area with records before 1840.

One note on the Parsons surname in the report said, "Some Irish families called Parsons may be of Gaelic origin. In the Tudor Fiants we frequently meet MacEparson, MacParson etc. In Scotland, this name became MacPherson. The surname 'Parsons' occurs in only five North Mayo parishes. By far, the greater number of North Mayo Parsons were situated in Carracastle which is on the border between counties Mayo and Roscommon."

Addendum by Ray Parsons

Apparently the Mayo Parsons are mostly Catholic, while the early Parsons, landholders from England, were Church of Ireland, protestants. The Mayo Parsons may be of Gaelic origin as suggested by the NMFHC researcher, but not necessarily so. According to the Rosse papers, William Parsons of Birr, b. 1731 "added further to his estates in Tipperary and MAYO through his marriage to Mary Clere".

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