Wednesday 30 May 2018

Ancestors from North Kerry? Check out Fr Ferris's Parish Histories

One of the unique selling points of Fr. Ferris's Parish Histories is the fact the local bishop banned the priest from publishing his book. That was back in the 1930s. If my ancestors came from the parishes under scrutiny, I would be unable to resist a peak into this first printing of his work, 85 years later.

Father Ferris spent much of his five-year curacy in the Protestant parish of BallymacElligott and the neighbouring parishes of Ballyseedy, O’Brennan and Nohoval. in North Kerry. He was an avid collector of popular history. His writings document not just the history (political, economic and social) of the area and its cultural and topographical landscape but also comprise a rich genealogical resource.

Many of his parishioners feature in the histories, so researchers may discover where their forbears lived, where they went to school, who their teachers were, who their landlord was, where they were buried, and the occupations and trades they followed. They may also learn how their ancestors were affected by the Famine, whether they were evicted or involved in the Land War, and what life was like for them during the War of Independence and the Civil War.

This is no dry academic chronicle. It is history as lived and recounted by the ordinary people of the parishes and their authentic voices come through clearly and evocatively. It is, in Fr Ferris’s own words, “a history of the people, by the people for the people”. It includes:

  • a substantial genealogical archive of the families of the parish
  • a census of householders in the four parishes in 1932
  • gravestone inscriptions from the cemeteries of the four parishes
  • an account of the Land War of the 1870s/80s (listing landlords and middlemen,evictions,local ‘Moonlighters’,policing,coercion,etc)
  • an account of the War of Independence and the Civil War (Fr Ferris was closely involved in both)
  • a social and cultural archive (e.g. Penal Days, the Famine, hedge schools, hedge schoolmasters, National Schools with lists of teachers, sports and pastimes, industry, holy wells, old cemeteries, Irish language, Protestant/Catholic relations, church history, clergy, duels, faction fights, etc)
  • an archaeological survey of the four parishes
  • a place name and field name inventory
  • a topographical survey of the parishes

In addition, in the Introduction to the book, the Editor, Brendan McCarthy, provides a biographical portrait of Fr Ferris, who was a fascinating individual in his own right.

The book costs €15 and can be purchased from a dedicated website,, where you'll also find a list of all the surnames appearing in the book.

ISBN: 978-1-9999070-0-6