I've been trying to find out more about some of my Irish ancestors.

My 3rd great-grandparents John Joseph McEvoy and Mary Murray were living in Liverpool, England in the mid-1840s, but both were originally from Ireland. I have not been able to learn anything about their lives or the lives of their parents prior to John and Mary's marriage in Liverpool in 1840.

According to their marriage record (below) at the St. Anthony's Parish in Liverpool, John's parents were named Charles and Bridget McEvoy (I think Bridget's maiden name was Hughes), and Mary's parents were John and Honora Murray. (At least I think it says Honora? That's also what Ancestry transcription thinks it says...)

enter image description here

Where in Ireland are the McEvoys and Murrays from?

So far, my research hasn't yielded much on this question. My understanding is there are no Irish birth records before 1864, but I've not found any baptism records for John or Mary or their parents. (I've looked on Ancestry, Familysearch, RootsIreland.ie, and FindMyPast but didn't find anything.) I also understand that there were no passenger lists for Irish ships going to and from England. So I fear I won't be able to find this information, but though I'd check in case anyone has any thoughts.

Below are some facts that I do know about these McEvoys. (Sorry if I'm including too much detail, but I figure the more I can put out there the better):

  • John McEvoy and Mary Murray had a son named John Joseph McEvoy (my 2GGF), who was born in Liverpool on Feb. 1, 1844, and baptized in Liverpool on Feb. 4 of that year (sources here and here). Unlike John Sr. & Mary and their parents, I have lots of information about him
  • According to letters John wrote to the U.S. War Department while trying to collect his military pension, his mother Mary died in Liverpool, and then he and his father immigrated to the United States some time between 1853 and 1855
  • There is a record here for a Mary McEvoy who died in 1851 from St. Anthony's in Liverpool
  • John Sr. died in 1857, very shortly after he and John Jr. came over to America. He is buried at Calvary Cemetery in Queens, New York
  • It appears John Sr. and Mary also had a daughter named Rebecca McEvoy (per St. Anthony's baptism here, which lists Charles and Bridget McEvoy as godparents). I believe Rebecca died around the same time as her mother Mary
  • According to John and Mary's marriage record (the screenshot above), John was living at 2 Sawney Pope Road at the time of the 1940 marriage, and Mary was living at 84 Scotland Road (presumably both in Liverpool)
  • There are some UK City and County Directories that list three different John Murrays living in Liverpool (none on Scotland Road, but some close to it) in 1843, with three different professions (one a customs officer, two who are tailors), but I don't know if that's the right John Murray
  • To make matters even more confusing, there are sources out there that indicate a John McEvoy and Mary Murray married, came to the United States, and settled in the Herkimer, New York area. But I think this is a different John and Mary
  • In case it's useful, here is a link to John Joseph McEvoy in my family tree on Ancestry; from there you can click to get to either of his parents as well.

4 Answers 4


I can confirm that there are no passenger lists for travel between England & Ireland. It was a short domestic journey and no records have ever been kept for that sort of travel.

Check the 1851 English census for the family in case they indicated where they came from in Ireland. Often it will just say Ireland but sometimes a more specific place is given.

If John & Mary married in 1840, then they were presumably born c 1820 or even earlier. I assume they were Roman Catholic. A difficult problem you face is that many RC parishes in Ireland don’t have baptism records for the early 1800s. This makes finding their roots pretty challenging. Death registration didn’t start till 1864, and few RC parishes kept burial records so a search for their parents may not reveal anything either. No easy way round that.

I agree that Mary’s mother’s name looks to be Honora. That was a common name for the time. Friends and family would have called her Nora.

You can use this site to see where both Murray & McEvoy were found in Ireland in the mid 1800s. https://www.johngrenham.com/surnames/ Unfortunately both are very common names found all over most of Ireland so it’s not much help in this particular case.

DNA testing might throw up a link to someone who knows more about the families origins.

  • Thanks for this advice, I appreciate it! Oct 29, 2022 at 20:01

A possible sister to your groom - marriage of a James Murphy and Catherine McEvoy same Church in Liverpool (St. Anthony's RC) 19th January 1843, looks like the same address..

Murphy/McEvoy marriage

Unfortunately the priest only filled in father's name in the 'parents' column.. witnesses appear to be James Williams and Isobelle[?] Duggan

Might be worth searching for this couple on the 1841 census and also the later returns after the marriage to see if they stayed in England and if Catherine ever gave a county of birth

p.s. I think the McEvoy residence on both marriage may be Sawney Pope Street

  • 2
    Thank you very much for this! Between the Liverpool/St. Anthony location, the Charles McEvoy ancestor, and the Sawney Pope Street connection, I do indeed this is the daughter of my Charles McEvoy, which would make her my 3rd great-grandaunt! I"m looking more into her now; I have found a James and Catherine Murphy in Liverpool that gave birth to an Agnes Murphy (b. 1846) and Mary Ann Murphy (b. 1855) but so far I'm not sure if that's the correct James and Catherine... Oct 29, 2022 at 19:59

You've alredy made a good start by gathering records in Liverpool and in the US. Extend your research and be on the lookout for more extended family members, associates and neighbors. This approach is called "cluster research" and more recently, Elizabeth Shown Mills refers to it as the FAN Principle or "FAN CLub Research".

Some guides for studying clusters of people include:

You may not be able to find the information about the county of origin in records about John or Mary. There may be clues in the records of siblings, children, grandchildren, or in the records of other collateral lines. Look at historical newspapers, naturalization records, passenger lists, passport applications, and other records from family members to see what information is contained in the records.

If you haven't already, do a deep-dive into all of the records you have gathered so far. Do you know how the records were created, and for what purpose? Have you looked at just the entries for your people, or have you examined the whole page, or surrounding pages in the record set?

Look for research guides online and in libraries near you, such as:

Take a step back from the individual records, and study the context for all the records you have. Do you know what was happening in history at the time the records were created? Have you listed your sources in the order of record creation? Have you make a timeline of events to look for gaps?

Have you to looked for other individuals born in Ireland who lived in Liverpool or in the communities in the USA where your people lived?

Have you searched for local histories? Check PERSI, JSTOR, Google Scholar and sites like Academia.edu (warning: be prepared to filter out nagging emails) for published scholarship, and check Iinternet Archive for local histories. Check Histpop.org and Google Books for published reoprots about the census, etc. Look for diaries and other materials from the community via ArchiveGrid and similar sites.

Looking at published works by other scholars and genealogists can show you techniques and search strategies to try, new sources to explore, point you to record sets you haven't considered yet.

If you're working online, bear in mind that the 'big box' websites emphasize record sets like the census and BMD or church records because those record sets are likely to have information about more people, so customers/library patrons will be more likely to find something rather than nothing. But other record sets may be richer in information, such as wills, land records (if you can get them). Studying house history can be sometimes be useful in disambiguating same-name individuals in the community. Use all the identifiers that you can find, and be creative in your searching and research.

Looking at the bigger picture helps you spot clues in records that you might have missed earlier, because you didn't understand the significance. As you review your prior research and look at new records, it helps to start with the most recent records and to work back slowly (think INCHWORM rather than LEAPFROG).


More from Genealogy Stack Exchange:

  • Thank you very much for these links/resources and suggestions, I appreciate it! Oct 29, 2022 at 20:01
  • @ColinMcEvoy I've edited the answer a bit to clarify. Be on the lookout for clues to what County in Ireland the family might have come from first, then narrow down to the townland if you can.
    – Jan Murphy
    Oct 30, 2022 at 21:55

Interesting question - and i have exactly the same issue, tracing Irish ancestors who went via Liverpool in the 1800s. One possible clue that you may have already considered is that they often are recorded in the Liverpool registers under Latin names, so "John" is buried as "Johannes", etc.

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