A fine example of the merchant class is afforded by the Faris family of Dublin who were said to have been Quakers or Presbyterians in the mid-nineteenth century. William Johnston Faris, a tea taster or tea merchant, was born about 1863, son of William J. Faris. The family home was thought to be Greystones, Co. Wicklow.

The reputed Quaker connections of the family initially suggested a search of the records in the Friends’ Meeting House Library, Eustace Street, Dublin as a promising starting point to begin a search for members of the Faris family but this approach merely led to the proverbial cul-de-sac, a constant hazard in ancestry research. Likewise a search of the marriage registers over the years 1861-65 at the Office of the Registrar General, Dublin, failed to yield the hoped for entry of the marriage of William Johnston Faris, Senior.

The first break in the case came with an entry in Thom’s Dublin Directory for 1861 which records the ancestor at a good address:

  • Mr W.J. Faris, 22 Anne Street, N.E.

He was not recorded in 1860, 1862 nor 1863, however, Thom’s Dublin Directory picks up the trail again in 1865; Mr Faris had moved:

  • William Johnston Faris Esq., 2 Leinster Road, West Rathmines.

From 1869 to 1903 Thom’s Directory records William Johnston Faris at 7 Garville Avenue, Rathgar, a suburb of Dublin.

Instead of trying to divine the parish or indeed the religion of the ancestor, the next step was to search the 1901 Census for 7 Garville Avenue, which among much information gives the county of birth, and here was Mr Faris, a Presbyterian, born in Co. Cavan:

  • Wm J. Faris, head of family, widower, Presbyterian, aged 72, occupation merchant (druggist etc.), born in Co. Cavan
  • Harriett Jane Faris, daughter, Presbyterian, age 42, unmarried, born in Co. Dublin
  • Frances E. Faris, daughter, Presbyterian, age 29, unmarried
  • Bridget Ferry, servant, Roman Catholic, aged 27, unmarried, born Co. Donegal.

A search of the Index to Surnames for Co. Cavan gave only a few parishes which recorded the surname. Happily these parishes were covered either by a rare nineteenth-century census or by a Tithe Book. Unhappily, after searching two Tithe Books and two censuses we were unable to trace the family.

The only alternative was to return to the Office of the Registrar General for a marriage of Faris in Co. Cavan. This was done after estimating daughter Harriett’s date of birth from the 1901 Census. A search of the civil marriage records around 1859 produced two marriage entries which seemed likely, one was for Dublin and the other for Co. Leitrim.

After comparison the marriage entry of Co. Leitrim was chosen as the correct ancestor. This entry read as follows:

  • 4 September 1860 William Faris, bachelor farmer of Aughevore, son of George Faris, farmer, married Frances Morrow, spinster daughter of Robert Morrow, farmer of Drumbrainless. The marriage was by licence in the Presbyterian Church, parish of Carrigallen, district of Mohill, Co. Leitrim. Witnesses were Francis Lipsey and Margaret Morrow.

Our choice was based upon several correspondences. Firstly William married Frances, and one of William Johnston Faris’s daughters, according to the 1901 Census, was Frances. Secondly the date of marriage 1860 approximately suits the 1901 Census dates for William Johnston Senior and Harriett his daughter. The religion is Presbyterian. Although the census gives Co. Cavan as birthplace of William Johnston Faris, a map shows us that Carrigallen parish in Mohill district borders Co. Cavan. With border areas it is common that the county is ambiguous. This explains why an extensive search in two nineteenth-century Cavan censuses, where the surname occurred, produced no conclusive results. The family was in Leitrim.

Sir Richard Griffith’s Primary Valuation of Co. Leitrim, a land valuation dated 1856 which lists property occupiers for tax purposes, gives us these Faris entries for Aughevore townland:

  • William Faris rented a house and over 31 acres
  • George Faris rented a house and over 30 acres
  • Anne Faris rented a house and over 66 acres

Presbyterian church registers for Carrigallen were only kept from 1861 therefore the Tithe Applotment Book, a land valuation c.1830 which listed property occupies for religious tax purposes, is the furthest back one can trace this family. The Faris entries for Aughevore townland, Carrigallen parish are as follows:

  • George Faris held 12 acres, valuation £13 6s, 8d., tithes 13s. 11¾d.
  • William Faris rented 17 acres, valuation £18 16s. 8d, tithes 19s. 7¾d.
  • David Faris rented 34 acres, valuation £35 6s. 8d., tithes £1 16s. 0¼d.
  • Alex. Faris rented 40 acres, valuation £43 6s. 8d., tithes £2 5s. 2½d.

In the case of research involving examination of parish registers at local level we depend upon good will of busy clergymen whose first concern is not, of course, genealogy. The majority are helpful and a few pounds should be enclosed for their trouble.

Presbyterian church registers exist in three main repositories; local custody, on microfilm or manuscript in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland and in the Presbyterian Historical Society, Church House, Fisherwick Place, Belfast, Northern Ireland. Copies of the Index of Registers in Local Custody are kept at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland and the Genealogical Office, Dublin. These bodies also have copies of the Index of Registers on Microfilm in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland.

The professional class in Ireland traditionally included the clergy and those who practised law and medicine. Although our example traces a clergyman, there is, however, a new source for members of the legal profession in Guide to Irish Family Records (Heraldic Artists, Dublin, 1981). The Dublin Directory and Thom’s Directory contain lists of those who practiced law and medicine in Ireland. These professionals may also be found in Alumni Dublinenses 1583-1860. The Biographical Index to the Royal College of Physicians (manuscript in the Librarians’ Office of the National Library of Ireland) and the various directories of the Royal College of Surgeons which begin in the mid-nineteenth century contain further record of doctors.