In the 1911 Census my great-grandmother, Bridget McDermott, was stated as having had 11 children born alive and 9 still living. I accounted for 10 of these children and, over the years, I tried to find the missing one. The parish register was patchy to say the least and I tried civil birth records for the significant gaps between known children, guessing at the likely names. Bridget’s known children were Catherine, Charles, Mary, Patrick, Peter, James, John, Sarah, Thomas and Luke, all pretty predictable in terms of the family’s traditions. No one in later generations knew this extra child’s name or whether it existed, though my aunts thought their father had two brothers who died young. After drawing blanks many times I decided that 11 was someone’s error or that the eleventh child was stillborn and mistakenly included in the number.

The accessibility of Irish records has changed a lot in recent years. Last weekend I spent some time online trying to disentangle some other McDermott families who were definitely related to my family in some way. My main source was the Roscommon database on, which provides transcripts of civil as well as church records. Since changed to subscription rather than pay-per-view its search facility has become much less restrictive.

One of the other McDermott families had a child in 1877 with two forenames (unusual in the circumstances) and one of those names was fairly out of place. I decided to check for a death for this child and up came three references for the name, two births and one death. I clicked on the death without looking at the date. Immediately there was something wrong. This was a child of a shopkeeper named Patrick McDermott. Then I saw that the death was in 1876. My head swam. I clicked on the two births. Two McDermott children (possibly second cousins) were born within a year of one another and given the same two forenames. One died at 7 weeks old in 1876. He was the son of Patrick and Bridget McDermott, my great-grandparents. His name was Paul Francis. Having searched in vain for this child over the years I found that he was in fact my namesake!

Paul is not a traditional name in my family. There were relatively few Pauls in Roscommon in the nineteenth century (26 in the 1901 Census, only one of them a McDermott). The “Civil Registration Births Index, 1864-1958” on Ancestry shows 21 “Paul Francis” or “Francis Paul” (with any surname) births in the period 1864-1884 anywhere in Ireland. Only two of these were from Co. Roscommon and they were the Paul Francis McDermotts I already identified. The “Civil Records” database is useless for comparison as it omits second forenames in most cases. In it the two Paul Francis McDermott births are entered as just “Paul”, while the 1876 death is entered as “Paul Francis”. That in itself is a poor reflection on the long awaited and ultimately restrictive database.

I have yet to determine what prompted two related McDermott couples to name sons Paul Francis within a year of one another when Paul was not a family name and neither couple lavished two forenames on their other children. There must have been an external factor, but I have yet to figure it out.

The transcript did not include the cause of death from my granduncle Paul’s death record, so I went to the GRO Research Room in Dublin early on Wednesday morning and purchased a photocopy of the record. Paul Francis McDermott died at just 7 weeks old having had croup for two days. After 139 years he is remembered again in his family.

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