I'm trying to location more information on my 4th great grandparents John Megone (born around 1817) and his wife Agnes Galbraith (born around 1822).

I've hit a brick wall.

I can tell from the 1861 Scottish Census, John and Agnes were married and lived together in Castlegate Street in Lanark, Scotland. At the time of the 1861 census they had five living children registered at their address.

1861 Census Ref: 648/ 1/ 20

enter image description here ![Census from 1861 Page 2

The census states that they were both born in Ireland but here the trail runs cold. I cannot seem to locate anything on the Irish side for John Megone.

Looking at the birth certificate for one of their later children William Megone (born 5th December 1862). It gives the date of marriage for John and Agnes as 22nd July 1842 in Glasgow. I'm unable to find any other reference to their marriage.

I read that there was a large number of Irish people that moved to Scotland around this time and I'm wondering if anybody is able to suggest a list of additional sources that I might be able to check or provide any assistance in tracking down additional details for John or his wife?

  • 2
    Hi, welcome to G&FH.SE! Do you have the archive reference for this census record, and if so, can you add it to your question? How many children were alive at the time of this census? You can use the edit link immediately under your question. (If you have any other questions about the site, feel free to explore the help center or ask us a question on the companion Genealogy & Family History Meta area for the site.)
    – Jan Murphy
    Dec 29, 2016 at 17:05
  • 1
    Thank you for your response Jan, I've updated the question with the refs for the 1861 census. I've also added a date for John/Agnes wedding that I discovered on the birth certificate of one of their later children. Dec 29, 2016 at 18:15
  • 2
    In my answer, I've suggested that you formulate specific research questions (more focused than "I want anything"). Please feel free to write more than one question about the same couple! You can link back to previous questions as needed. The philosophy of the site is to focus on the problem that needs to be solved rather than putting all the info about the same person in one question.
    – Jan Murphy
    Dec 29, 2016 at 18:18
  • 2
    Ah! They married in 1842? Where were they in 1851? Can you find residence records in the 1840s near Glasgow? Work to fill the gap from either side.
    – Jan Murphy
    Dec 29, 2016 at 19:01
  • 1
    Added a link to my answer to a page on Scotlands people "Chronology of record keeping in Scotland and records in the site" scotlandspeople.gov.uk/what-records-are-in-the-site#chronology and eureka! found some nice research guides on the process of Ireland-to-Scotland emigration problem.
    – Jan Murphy
    Dec 29, 2016 at 20:57

1 Answer 1


When I get stuck, I find it helpful to step back from where I am and review what I already have, starting over again as if the problem was completely new to me, and pretending that I am a complete beginner. One problem with studying family history, especially for those of us who have learned it by gathering records online, is that the big-box data providers who provide records to us encourage us to just plunge in and start looking for records. Another problem is that we are encouraged to gather birth, marriage, death, and census records, and when we hit the period when there are no civil registrations or census records, we're not quite sure what to do.

So I would suggest that you pause and look not for sources that mention your 4x-great-grandparents, but for research guides and finding aids that will help you create a research plan, and then help you put the records in context when you find them.

The FamilySearch Research Wiki has a new series of articles on the Research Process, which is a cycle including these steps:

  1. Identify what you know.
  2. Decide what you want to learn.
  3. Select records to search.
  4. Obtain and search the records.
  5. Evaluate and Use the information.

After step five, you go back to step one and repeat.

enter image description here

We all want to find everything we can, and know everything, but for finding things, it helps to work in small steps from the known to the unknown, rather than trying to leap from the last census record you have directly back to the presumed birth in Ireland. So instead of trying to push back, stop and evaluate the information you already have, and think of a smaller, more focused question, such as trying to narrow down the time frame for when your 4g-grandparents came from Scotland to Ireland.

As part of the brick-wall busting problem, I like to do the following:

  1. Gather all the records and information already in hand and put them in some kind of order. One of my goals for 2017 is to create a Genealogy Source Checklist and family worksheet for all my end-of-line ancestors and their children and siblings. But a list of sources you have on hand doesn't have to be this elaborate -- a simple list will do.
  2. Make at timeline of known events for the family, noting which sources the information came from as you go. I usually start with the person's death, if known, and work backwards chronologically as I review the records, since the portrait of a person we have at the end of life has more information than it does at birth (there are more possible identifying details that will help us determine which John Megone we're talking about and not someone else with the same name).
  3. Fill in the timeline with information from the records belonging to the couple's children, siblings, and their FAN club (friends, associates, neighbors). In particular, the sequence of birthplaces of a couple's children can give clues to a family's migration path. Records of siblings can yield the parents' names when you can't find records of your direct-line ancestors. (This is why we get the seemingly counter-intuitive suggestion to work forwards in time when we're stuck instead of backwards.)
  4. Examine records as a group as well as one-by-one. Correlate and analyze what you find. Is there conflicting information, and if so, can you resolve it?
  5. As you review your records, you may discover that you are missing items or that you have questions (perhaps because of conflicting evidence). Make a Records Wishlist and a list of Research Questions that you'd like to answer.
  6. Use your research guides to find more general information that will aid in the research process. Gather maps and other information that will help put the records you have now, and the records you want to find, in their proper context. As you learn about new record types, it might be helpful to make a timeline for those, like this Chronology of record keeping in Scotland and records on Scotlands People.
  7. Shift your focus away from searching for a surname and concentrate on the place instead. Look for case studies written by other people doing research about families in areas where your family lived. What sources did they use while doing their research? Other researchers' bibliographies can be a gold mine when it comes to finding resources.
  8. Don't neglect the work of scholars working outside genealogy and family history. I found a doctoral dissertation about the German immigrant community where my husband's family came from, and discovered that a large number of people had been recruited from a single town in Germany for their skills. Papers from people working in population studies can give you insight into census records that those of us examining single census households often miss. The National Records of Scotland website has a guide to the 1861 Census including the instructions for the enumerators. Looking at the population for your ancestors' parish in this census for this census and for 1851 can show you how much the population changed between the decades.

To find someone's birth in Ireland, be on the lookout for an important piece of information: their townland. But even if you can't find that, there are strategies that you can use. I'll put some links to research guides and aids in the Resource List below.


For Emigration from Ireland to Scotland:

General resources:

  • FamilySearch Wiki: Scotland Genealogy (see the sidebar for links to Research Strategies and a Record Finder)
  • FamilySearch Wiki: Ireland Genealogy
  • One of the best genealogy sites on the Internet: Irish Genealogy Toolkit, especially their guide to finding your family's townland.
  • Don't neglect the National Library of Scotland, especially their map collection. Locating events on a map is especially helpful when working out possible migration routes.
  • findmypast's video library can be accessed for free and gives you an overview of their holdings and how to search them. Look for Brian Donovan's presentations on Irish Records.
  • Webinars from the Family History Library (past and future) on Scotland and Ireland. Past videos are gradually being moved to their Learning Center. Many of the courses on emigration/immigration will be focused on people from Ireland who went to America, so those may not be as useful to you as they are to a US-based researcher. Seek out similar presentations about population movements within the UK from Archives and other institutions on the UK side.

General references for the research process:

  • 1
    This is a fantastic answer, thank you for your help. Dec 30, 2016 at 10:13
  • @robertmegone Feel free to write more questions about this couple as you work the problem. We can link back to this question if necessary.
    – Jan Murphy
    Jan 28, 2017 at 1:39

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.