Tom Kemp, Director of Genealogy Products

Genealogist Q&A

Whether you're a seasoned genealogy pro or just getting started, our Q&A answers the most commonly-asked family history research questions.

Have a question about or hit a brick wall in your family history research? Tom Kemp, Director of Genealogy Products, internationally known librarian, archivist and published author with over 50 years of genealogy experience, provides expert answers to the most commonly-asked genealogy questions in our informative Genealogist Q&A and our complimentary guide "Getting Started Climbing Your Family Tree."

To begin, click on the genealogy question links below to view the answers. Also, download our free Search Tips Guide.

I am looking for the parents of Michael and Catherine (Lyons) Rafferty. Where should I look next?

Here's what I know: I found my grandfather Michael Rafferty in the 1910 Census in Boston - living with his wife Catherine and family. It indicates that he was born in about 1872, was a Motor-man on a... Here's what I know:I found my grandfather Michael Rafferty in the 1910 Census in Boston - living with his wife Catherine and family. It indicates that he was born in about 1872, was a Motor-man on a street car, was married around 1900 and immigrated in 1895.


Since Michael was not in the 1920 census and Catherine is listed as a widow, it is reasonable to conclude that he died somewhere between 1910 and 1920. My brother believes he died in 1914-1915.

The 1900 Census shows a Michael Rafferty born in 1873, emigrated in 1893, was a motorman and was living in a boarding home with a Thomas Rafferty.

The 1910, 1920 and 1930 census lists the brother of Michael Rafferty, Thomas Rafferty, as living with the family.

Catherine Rafferty (my grandmother, maiden name Lyons):

The 1920 and 1930 census shows that Catherine immigrated from Ireland in 1892. She was naturalized in 1897. She lived at 272 Corey Rd in Boston. She was living at 78 Hichborn St in Brighton at the time of Thomas Sr's wedding (according to newspaper clipping). She died approx 1950.

A: OK. I would suggest several approaches. First that you look for their death certificates.FamilySearchLabs has been putting all of the Massachusetts death certificates from 1841 through 1915 online but at this point that project is only 58% complete. That is a terrific free resource - you will want to check back as more certificates are added.

You also want to contact the Massachusetts State Archives. They hold the original Massachusetts vital records from 1841 to 1915. They have put up a searchable index to these records from 1841 to 1910.

You also have several clues in the research that you have already done.

Look again at the 1900 Census. You have them identified in Boston Ward 25, Precinct 7.

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Notice that there is a Timothy Rafferty living on the same street, just a few houses down from them.

Look closely at the lines for Timothy and his wife Bridget.It says that Timothy has been married for "42" years - getting married in approx. 1858.The record shows that Bridget has been married for 27 or 28 years (notice the two numbers written in that column) in approx. 1872 when she was 44 years old. Notice further that the record indicates that she had no children.

The census taker should have indicated how many times they have each been married. Since the record indicates that Timothy was first married in 1858 and Bridget first married in 1872 - there was certainly another marriage for one or both of them.

But, look again at line 84 for Timothy. What is the 8/12 written after the marriage? It is possible that this represents the number of children that Timothy had with his first wife - 12 children and that 8 of them are still living. Spacing 12 children from a marriage date of 1858 - could indicate children born from 1859 to the early 1870s.

Just an idea, but could Timothy be Michael Rafferty's father or uncle?

I would suggest that you keep searching the Massachusetts and Irish vital record indexes.

In searching the Civil Registration Indexes for Ireland for 1845 to 1958 I do find a Timothy Rafferty married in Castlebar, County Mayo in 1870. The Civil Registration Indexes are also free on the site.

Here is the citation:Name: Timothy RaffertyRegistration district: CastlebarRecord type: MARRIAGESRegistration date - quarter and year: 1870Film number: 101251Volume: 4 Page: 144Digital GS number: 4179384 Image number: 00313Collection: Ireland, Civil Registration Indexes 1845-1958

Looking further at the Irish Civil Registration Index there is an entry for a Michael Rafferty born in Castlebar, County Mayo in 1873. You should get a copy of this birth certificate to see if this person was also born in November 1873 - giving you a strong indication that you have a match.

Name: Michael RaffertyRegistration district: CastlebarRecord type: DEATHSRegistration date - quarter and year: 1873Estimated birth year: 1873Film number: 101586Volume: 19Page: 69Digital GS number: 4200218Image number: 00501Collection: Ireland, Civil Registration Indexes 1845-1958

I did not find an entry for Thomas Rafferty born January 1870 in Ireland.

Be sure to also search for the naturalization records of Michael, Thomas and Timothy Rafferty - to see what clues these give you. Contact the National Archives Regional centers in Massachusetts for these records. Click here to see their online guide.

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