What’s In A Name?

Our research to this point showed that the name Benn had a certain ‘rarity value’ in the Irish records. The records used to compile the family tree also went towards constructing a ‘family profile’ indicating the Benn family had ‘substance’

  • Family marriages took place by Marriage License Bond rather than by banns
  • they left wills
  • the land-records showed they had a large farm

A conversation with Dick Benn also raised an intriguing question-mark over the family’s origins. In conversation, Dick told a story he had heard from his mother: the Benns had arrived in Roscrea from Limerick, and had originally settled in Limerick as religious refugees from overseas. Dick had no idea of the time-frame in which any of these events occurred, but we knew that by the late 1760s the Benns were in Tipperary, so the Limerick connection pre-dated this.

Unfortunately, the 1760s also predates most of the surviving documents in Ireland.

Taking into account the profile of the Benn family, and the probable time of their arrival in Limerick, our best option was to try and pick up the paper trail in the Registry of Deeds.

The Registry of Deeds is a potential treasure trove but the arcane document system and the archaic writing deters all but the most obsessive of researchers.

The Eneclann research team painstakingly worked through the grantors’ indexes for the time-frame 1708 and 1810, and also examined the townlands index for deeds in the Ballygurteen/Shinrone area. Their patience and diligence paid off eventually.

They examined more than 50 documents only to discard half of these, until they were left with 24 deeds relating to the extended Benn family. Reviewing these documents they made some interesting discoveries:

  • The earliest relevant documents showed the Benn family in 1719 in Limerick city.
  • Deeds from the 1750s to 1780s showed that a younger generation of the family settled outside of Limerick
    a. From 1756 onwards we find them in the district of Dromane and Liss in Galway.
    b. From 1768 onwards we find them in Nenagh and Ballygurteen in Tipperary.
  • As late as the 1780s the family name was spelt as Benn and Behn in the documents.