Researching John Barnes of the 19th Century in Ireland

Birr Castle, County Offaly, Ireland. Photo taken by Maryann Barnes

Birr Castle, County Offaly, Ireland. Photo taken by Maryann Barnes.

I’m currently doing research on the Irish Barnes line that lived in County Offaly, AKA King’s County, Ireland during the 19th Century. Family stories state that the Barnes family were farmers, but they also worked at Birr, then called Parsontown, at the Birr Castle Demesne. One job we know they did was cut peat from the bogs for the castle, which they burned for heat.

I came across this item below, while checking the historic newspapers at Genealogy Bank under Irish American Weekly, New York, January 8, 1853, on page 2. John Barnes was accused of the murders of two King’s County men. He is exactly the right age for one of the John Barnes that I’m researching. Since John Barnes (1832-1892) was married in 1859 in County Offaly, and raised a family of twelve children, I don’t think he was found guilty. But the two murdered men had lived right in his section of the county. There was at least one other John Barnes that doesn’t seem to be related, from King’s county in the 19th century. That was Corporal John Barnes who died in Crinkle, King’s County of hepatitis on October 26, 1881. [Source: Irish Civil Death Records 1864 – 1900, Irish Midlands Ancestry]. His age was listed as 45, so possibly that was the John Barnes that was arrested in Dublin.


Source: Irish American Weekly (NY), News From Ireland.

The Griffith’s Valuation 1848 – 1864 is a good starting point in Irish research, and I found only one John Barnes listed in King’s County. He’s listed in the Parish of Ettagh, Primary Valuation of Tenements, with a landlord named William Wallace. The townland is Glasderrymore, which is very close to the Roman Catholic Church of Cooldery, of which the Barnes family were members, along with the older Kilcolman Roman Catholic Church.

Glasderrymore is next to the townland of Aghadouglas, where John Barnes lived after marrying his wife, Maryann Ryan Barnes, June 13, 1859 at the Kilcolman Church. The name John was handed down from father to son for at least four generations in this Barnes line. The only other Barnes listed in the King’s County, Ireland Griffiths Valuation were Charles Barnes and Thomas Barnes [Heritage World Family History Services. Ireland, Griffith’s Valuation, 1848-1864 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2008.  Original data: General Valuation of Ireland. Dublin, Ireland: Irish Microforms Ltd., 1978. National Archives, Dublin and Public Record Office, Belfast].

This is what I have on the four generations of John Barnes’ from County Offaly:

  • John Barnes, born about 1786 in Scotland and died 1866 in the Townland of Aghadoughlas, King’s County, Ireland.
  • His son, John Barnes, born 1832 in either Scotland or Ireland and died 1892 in Dromakeenan, King’s County, Ireland.
  • His grandson, John Barnes, born 1870 in Roscrea, County Offaly, Ireland and died 1949 in Coolderry, County Offaly, Ireland. [Note: The name of King’s County was changed to County Offaly in 1920 during the Anglo-Irish war of Independence.]
  • His great-grandson, John Joe Barnes, born 1914 in Coolderry, County King’s and died 1998 in Coolderry, County Offaly, Ireland. This John Barnes never married, and so ends the direct line.

The National Archives of Ireland has a free online database for the Calenders of Wills and Administrations 1858 – 1920. This year they included a more advanced search engine to include the executor and beneficiary, along with the deceased name. Searching for John Barnes in King’s County, I found in the 1904 registry the second generation John Barnes that died in 1892. Most likely when his wife, Mary Ann Ryan Barnes, died in 1904 the estate was settled, in favor of his son, John Barnes. You can click on the link for the PDF of the record.


One of the great wonders of the 19th Century, a reflecting telescope, was built by the Third Earl of Rosse of Parsontown at Birr Castle in the 1840s. For 70 years it was the largest telescope in the world, and it is considered the largest historic scientific instrument still working today. Tradespeople from the town helped build the “Leviathan of Parsontown” as it was called. I wonder if the Barnes family had any relatives working on this masterpiece.

Leviathan of Parsontown, first light 15 February 1845, capable of seeing further into space than any other telescope of the 19th Century.

The telescope, Leviathan of Parsontown, first light 15 February 1845, capable of seeing further into space than any other telescope of the 19th Century. Photo taken by Maryann Barnes.

Good luck researching your 19th Century surnames! I’m always happy to hear from any other Barnes folks with Irish roots.

About Maryann Barnes

I live in Virginia and enjoy meandering walks back into the past. I also enjoy old photographs and sharing family research.
This entry was posted in Barnes, County Offaly (Kings), Family History, Ireland, Locations, Maryann, Research, Ryan, Surnames and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Researching John Barnes of the 19th Century in Ireland

  1. Welcome to Geneabloggers. I’m new to Geneabloggers this week too and it’s great to see someone else researching Irish origins. Best of luck with your research.
    Happy blogging,

    • Maryann Barnes says:

      Thanks, Dara! Irish research does have challenges, but it is so rewarding when you do find something! Good luck in your research, too! Cheers, Maryann

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