Contributed by Roderick O'Donoghue
"Books are like unsown seeds. When they open up and are allowed to sow their own seeds in our minds, their effect can be 'seismic'.
In my youth I was told that I was descended from O'Donoghues who had once been kings. I decided to find out whether this was myth or truth, so I turned to family members and traced back to Colonel John William O'Donoghue of the 47th Foot. I then found a copy of Irish Family Records from 1976 which revealed a Jeffrey Wrixon O'Donoghue and, after considerable digging, i discovered that they were one and the same person, and that Jeffrey Wrixon O'Donoghue changed his name in 1794 to join the British Army. Strangely, he reverted to his birth name on his marriage certificate and his occupation was Major in the 47th Regiment of Foot.
A connection had been made between family data, proven facts, and a recorded pedigree.
Sadly, the entry for O'Donoghue in Irish Family Records contains 12 different errors and several queries. It taught me that records, even in books, can frequently be wrong, yet many people accept them.
The next book is our Society founder's book 'O'Donoghue People and Places'. This was written a few years ago now and gives a fuller historical picture and context to Irish history and some notable O'Donoghues through history. This not only added to my knowledge but triggered a greater interest in the historical of my family and those who share the same name.
Rod's book is invaluable and provides a good starting point for research proper, rather than name collecting. As Rod was a pioneer in trying to formulate a coherent account of People and Places, subsequent research may or may not discover new facts, which modify some of his early findings. This is in no way a criticism, as his research is formidable and helps greatly. It is just that sometimes a writer has to include, in good faith, their very best insights at the time of writing. Indeed, I would always recommend Rod's book over Irish Family Records, even though Irish Family Records is part of the Burke's Peerage group of books.
I discovered an ancestor named Mhaire Ni Dhuibh O'Donoghue. She married Daniel O'Connell Mor, Chief of the Name. Her grandson was Daniel O'Connell, the Liberator. In an effort to discover more about her and our O'Connell connections, I purchased a book, The Last Colonel of the Irish Brigade. This book revealed that my ancestor, Jeffrey Wrixon O'Donoghue and his older brother were great nephews of Mhaire, and that they are listed in her son Colonel and Count Daniel O'Connell's regiment of the Irish Brigade. I also discovered that Mhaire was a noted poetess, and that her brother, Geoffrey, was also a poet, (but he is not to be confused with the more famous poet of the same name, Geoffrey O'Donoghue, about whom both PS Dineen and John Minahane have written).
Another ancestor, Blanche Augusta O'Donoghue, seemed, for a long time, to disappear from late Victorian records, until I discovered a record of a marriage in the India Office. She married Lionel Slade Carey, the son of the Bailiff of Guernsey. I wondered how my Victorian ancestors could be so connected to, and marry into, the families of the Queen's representative in Guernsey, to Generals, to the illustrious Spencer of Althrop family. The answer soon became clear, viz. Indian colonial administration. So i started to look into the Careys of Guernsey by buying an esoteric book called The History of the Careys of Guernsey. To my surprise, I discovered that three of my Victorian O'Donoghue ancestors married into Careys mentioned in the book, and that two of the O'Donoghues were born in Ireland. The O'Donoghue Carey marriages gave rise to such people as Cedric O'Donoghue Carey, or Rupert O'Donoghue Carey.
These snippets show that a simple quest to collect names is transformed by books which give further lists; is added to by books which give historical context; is amplified further by more detailed family books; and overflows into researching other areas and other families in the hope that more can be discovered. Family research through books grows like seeds into family trees, and fleshes out and clothes the names we discover.
It also shows that research has to question and check everything. One only has to look at Ancestry to see how often major mistakes are repeated, and the more they are repeated, the more they are believed. "