Every human being is unique and no doubt that was true of Patrick Lanagan as well. But what makes him special to me is this: he is the only person whom I have found who is recorded in Griffith's Valuation of Ireland and then emigrated to America. How I found the Lanagans' location in Ireland also depended on something unusual: the relatively rare name of his father-in-law. Here's the story:
From his records in Waltham, I knew that Patrick was born between 1823 and 1827 in Ireland and that he had married his wife Hannah about 1853. The Lanagans' first three children were born in Ireland between 1854 and 1861 and their fourth was born in Massachusetts in July 1863.
I was tracing a descendant of their oldest daughter, Ellen, but from her sister Catherine's marriage record I learned that Hannah's maiden name was McRane. Then I found Hannah's own death record which gave her parents' names as Bartholomew McCran and Honora Scanlan.
At this I asked myself, How many Bartholomew McCrans could there ever have been on the face of this earth? I used the Irish Times surnames page and Google to arrive at the answer: Not many, and most of them were from County Sligo.
There is a gap in the available vital records for Sligo, so Ellen's baptism record was not available, but I was able to find transcribed records for her sister Mary in 1858 and her brother Patrick J. in 1861. Both were baptized in Sligo Parish, Sligo, children of Patrick Lanigan/Lonacan and Anne McCrann/Hanna McRyn.
There is also a Patrick Lanagan on Griffith's Valuation, listed on Church Lane in the Town of Sligo, parish of St. Johns Union, Co. Sligo. I'm fairly sure this is him, since he is in Sligo Town, not in the countryside, which means he might have had a trade. On his Waltham records, Patrick was always recorded as a shoemaker.
So when you are looking for answers in your family history, keep an eye out for something unique. It may be all you need to solve the puzzle.
Photo of Sligo courtesy of a Lanagan descendant.