Sheedy – a Royal Proverbial Pain

Pay close attention to the meaning of those Latin-written records about your ancestors in Catholic church records in Ireland or you’ll lost traction on invaluable clues to your family history lines.

I have puzzled for decades whether my ancestor Patrick Sheedy truly was (as according to family legend) a man who descended from ‘Royalty’ – told in the context that he belonged to the ancient families in Ireland, where ‘our’ line had Royalty on one side and a ‘Highway man’ on the other. (This was told in the context that our Sheedy ancestor had refused to take an English title in compensation to give up his established rights to customs and lands so as to turn English. And in consequence the family lost all, but never gave up fighting to get it back).

It seems the answer has been staring me in the face all along.

Using parish records, land records and social records I have been able to definitely place Patrick Sheedy on the Oakhampton townland in Tipperary from the 1790’s until his death there in 1831 (his wife Ellen Collins died there in 1818).

Painstaking scrutiny of the parish records for the parishes of Birdhill, Newport and surrounds have provided me with the names of six children for Patrick Sheedy and his wife Ellen Collins.

But this research also revealed that Oakhampton was more a Collins / Ryan stronghold (Castle Waller was originally, and by another name the home and lands of the Ryan family aka Castle Cully or Culla). And there were no other Sheedys who share-farmed or lived on this townland, so it seemed it was not likely to be the place of his birth.

Also, unlike all the other residents on Oakhampton, Patrick and Ellen Sheedy never stood as godparents for any christenings of the children of their neighbors, nor did they ever appear as witnesses to marriages of other neighbors.

This aloofness of Patrick Sheedy has long bothered me – and made me wonder if Oakhampton was to him a poor second choice for where he would rather be.

Patrick Sheedy’s only social connections seemed to have been through the family of Patrick Downey – his share-farmer cohort, or the Collins families. Most other Sheedys in the surrounding parishes are all accountable for (their families can be connected via other research means) and yet Patrick Sheedy has remained a puzzle.

Searching in other areas of Ireland hasn’t really provided any likely parents for Patrick Sheedy, as according to the naming pattern that generally prevailed, his father could be a John or a Martin Sheedy.

And his children all married people whose family surname have definite ‘Royal’ lines (Sheedy MacNamara, Sheedy Hayes, Sheedy Finn, Bourke-Sheedy).

And then we had the Sheedy – Macnamara dilemma: all Sheedy (s) and Macnamara (s) are the offspring of Casain, son of Cas (of the Dalcassian clan – Dál gCaisas) – and could, (did, and still can) use the alias of Sheedy (Sioda – Silk) or Macnamara, McNamara, Mack, Mac, McNemara  or even Sheady, Silk, Sioda.

However in revisiting the baptismal records of Patrick Sheedy’s children, I notice a little oddity that I have overlooked in the past:  when his daughter Brigid Sheedy was christened in 1797, it was noted that her father was ‘Patricii’ Sheedy, whereas her godfather was ‘Patricius’ Downey.

I decided to play closer attention to this spelling difference, as I have learned that the Catholic priests were usually telling stories with their Latin writings: any little difference can steer you in a particular direction when understanding what the priest was telling (for example it is often noted by just the slightest variation, whether a couple were marrying at home as opposed to a church, if one person was from another parish, if they couple were marrying by banns, or if they were being married by canonical dispensation).

I began to wonder did ‘Patricii’ mean there was more than one Patrick (meaning could Patrick Sheedy of Oakhampton be the son of another Patrick Sheedy) or was there two men of that name in the townland and I wasn’t aware of another one, or did it mean something else.

A crash course in Latin gives some slight variation in meaning, but ‘Patricius’ is singular and ‘Patricii’ Plural but  the latter can indicate ‘Patrician’: According to other opinions, the patricians (patricii) were those who could point to fathers, i.e. those who were members of the clans (gentes) whose members originally comprised the whole citizen body.”

Patricii could also be a  nominative plural of patricius,  or a genitive singular of patricius  – “A case that expresses possession or relation, equivalent to the English of,’ or  be a vocative plural of patricius – – A case which indicates that someone or something is being directly addressed (spoken to), often by name. For example, in the English phrase He’s dead, Jim the name Jim would be a vocative’.

Going back over the records in this parish register shows that Patricius was the common form which the different priests used to record the name ‘Patrick’, so the ‘Patricii’ Sheedy was an uncommon form.

The plain English version supports the notion of Patrick Sheedy’s heritage, what I am not sure of now is whether his father might have also been called Patrick Sheedy and where did he come from. And why can’t I find his marriage.

Gotta go study some more Latin.