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Pets in Your Family Tree

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Dad and Peggy the dog

My Dad and his dog Peggy, 1931

Some people love their pets to the point of distraction. I may fall into that category (well, not quite) but I was tickled by some of the recent information I’ve found in my genealogical travels. What triggered this (no pun intended) was a search in findmypast.ie (this is a private, fee-based). I turned up tons of Sheridans and on further examination found that they were listed because they had licensed their dogs. Yes, dog license registrations for parts of Ireland are on Find My Past!

One might wonder what could possibly be gained by knowing that great uncle James owned several sheep dogs and a mastiff. Well, the first thing we would know is that great uncle James was a sheep farmer (granted, not a huge leap of imagination given that the man lived in Donegal, but still.) However, we have found the place where great uncle James lived and in Ireland, where any record is a good record, that is a very important piece of information.

Once I’d found these registers, I had to explore further. Most of the licenses are for working dogs like sheep dogs and terriers, some are for racing dogs—which is what I was hoping to find for the Sheridans who raised great racing dogs—but some are a little harder to fathom, like Mr. Coll in Rathmullen who owned two black poodles. Yes I know poodles are actually a sporting dog, but in a sea of terriers and sheepdogs, the poodles do say something about the man, don’t you think?

Another indication of the importance of pets in our lives is their inclusion in the census records. I was reading one of the many blogs that I regularly peruse and came across the story of Bobs, the black cat, who was enumerated in the 1911 British Census. It appears that in Britain, the householder filled out the census form, unlike in Canada, where people were enumerated and their names put on a list. I had to pursue this further and came across another posting, this time for a dog that listed not only her name but that she was a “faithful Irish terrier”—hence the name Biddy, the fact that she was a “demon on cats and vermin” and that she was 11 years old.

Again, this says as much about the person who owned her as it does about Biddy and it reminded me of visiting my husband’s aunt who kept a small Parson’s terrier on her farm in Cavan. He was a charmer and my husband mentioned this fact to his aunt who said “Aye, and he’s a great ratter” driving home the vast difference between her rural life and our, more sheltered, urban one.

So, scoff as you may about the keeping of seemingly useless records—there is no such thing in genealogical research.

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