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Starting points

Things to do - Blennerhassett Challenge

Things to do - Letitia Blennerhassett

Things to do - Cashel

Things to do - George Cashel land records

Competition Blog

The Blennerhassett Challenge

by Mark Humphrys

Open genealogy competition launched 2008, to tackle genealogy problem unsolved since 1985.

A problem in Irish genealogy of around the 1790-1840 period, both Catholic and Protestant, probably in Co.Kerry.



There is one epic problem in all of my family tree research - the Blennerhassett problem. For years I have been searching for the link of the Cashel family with the Blennerhassett family. I have gathered lots of circumstantial evidence, but have yet to prove the link.

So I have decided to throw this open to the world as The Blennerhassett Challenge. I invite anybody who wants to tackle a hard problem in genealogy to have a go at this. This competition is open to both amateur and professional genealogists.

I offer a     Reward of € 1,000     for the first person to solve this problem.

If you are a professional genealogist, I also offer     9 million views of your ad     by family tree enthusiasts for free, for five years. Details below.

years so far I have spent trying to extract the Blennerhassett descent implied in the notes of my grand-aunt above,
and the Blennerhassett descent remains unproven.


  1. 1st prize: I offer a     Reward of € 1,000     for the first person who solves this problem (i.e. finding the link of the Cashel family with the Blennerhassett family).

  2. Kudos and publicity: I plan to get some publicity for this. I have already had considerable media coverage of my genealogy work (in Nature, The Atlantic Monthly, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Newsweek, Forbes, Wired, Slate, The Boston Globe, USA Today, Bloomberg BusinessWeek and The Irish Times, and on BBC TV, Newstalk radio, National Public Radio, CBS News, ABC News, MSNBC, Fox News, CTV and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation). I am confident that I can get the Blennerhassett Challenge covered by the media also. Amateur and professional genealogists alike, this is a chance to demonstrate your prowess by cracking a hard problem in genealogy. There are few if any comparable competitions in which to demonstrate your skill. Whoever cracks the problem will be celebrated on my popular genealogy website indefinitely.

  3. Millions of free ads: If you are a professional genealogist, I can offer something further. As well as the money and the kudos, I will give you A free large ad at the top of every single one of my web pages for 5 years. I have over 1,800 public pages, which get around 150,000 page views per month. That's     9 million views of your ad     by family tree enthusiasts for free. Note that this would be the same exposure as 2 months on the front page of the Irish Times every day, except my readers are mostly genealogy enthusiasts rather than just anyone. No other ads will be displayed on my website other than yours. The ad will of course link to your site. The ad placement will mention that you won the Blennerhassett Challenge. You may change the ad regularly over the course of the 5 years.

  4. Interim prizes: I offer     Multiple rewards of € 100     for important interim contributions to this problem, short of solving it (i.e. short of finding the link of the Cashel family with the Blennerhassett family). Interim reward winners will also be celebrated on my website.

Terms and Conditions - Amended Nov 2015

  1. 1st prize: The 1st prize will be awarded to the first person who solves the problem - i.e. finds the link of the Cashel family with the Blennerhassett family. To be precise, the winner needs to prove, step by step, the exact family relationship of George Cashel to the 3 Arthur Blennerhassetts that are discussed below. The competition will end when the 1st prize is awarded. Joint or simultaneous contributors will share the prize. I will need to see your sources and verify your work before I pay out. My decision as to whether you have solved the problem or not will be final.

  2. Millions of free ads: The ad size, design and text should fit in with my site and will be subject to my final approval. There may be a handful of pages on which an ad is not appropriate. My decision will be final as to what these pages are. The figure of 9 million views is based on current traffic. No absolute guarantee can be made as to future number of views other than an undertaking to display the ad for 5 years.

  3. Interim prizes: My decision will be final on whether a contribution merits an interim reward. I will need to see your sources and verify your work before I pay out.

  4. General: I will not accept responsibility for expenses incurred by competitors. The sole rewards in this competition are as detailed above. There will be no other rewards or payments. I reserve the right to amend these terms and conditions at any time at my discretion. If any amendments are made they will be highlighted on this page. I reserve the right to end this competition at any future date if the problem is not solved. Competitors must agree to these terms and conditions.

  5. Eligibility: Anyone I hire to research this for me will not be eligible for this competition.

Introduction to the Blennerhassett - Cashel problem

OK, now you are hopefully interested, here is a description of the problem.
It is a problem in late 18th - early 19th century Irish genealogy, both Catholic and Protestant, probably in Co.Kerry.


  1. Our family descend from George Cashel (George Blennerhassett Cashel, born about 1807, Co.Kerry, Catholic).
  2. George Cashel's mother was said to be Letitia Blennerhassett, of the prominent Protestant Co.Kerry family of Blennerhassett. She was said to be disinherited for running away with a Catholic, Edward Cashel. "Her family disowned her but the Cashels all thought it very romantic." Note that while George Cashel's name is certain, his parents' names should be regarded as not certain.
  3. The Blennerhassetts have a fantastic family tree, including a Royal Descent, which is why I am so interested in finding out if our Cashels descend from them.
  4. When George Cashel joined the County Constabulary (which later became the RIC) in 1828 he was recommended by "A. Blennerhassett, J.P.". This must be a relation of his, and must be one of these 3 Arthur Blennerhassetts, all of whom are related to each other.
  5. The challenge is to find the link of the Cashel family with the Blennerhassett family. That is, what is the exact relationship of George Cashel to those 3 Arthur Blennerhassetts?

Starting points

Read these first!

At the risk of biasing your search, I should say that there is a current favourite candidate for the solution to the problem. But please note this is not proved and the answer may yet lie elsewhere:

George Cashel's RIC record.
Showing that he was recommended by "A. Blennerhasset, J.P." when he joined the County Constabulary in 1828.

George Blennerhassett Cashel's middle name displayed on mar cert of his son Blennerhassett Cashel in 1869.
See larger and full size.

Detail from grave of George Cashel's son Blennerhassett Cashel.
Unfortunately, he neglected to write down exactly why he was called Blennerhassett, thus leaving it as a challenge for his descendants.

This brief note in the BLENNERHASSETT entry in [Burkes Irish, 1976] by Brian Fitzelle first made me realise in 1985 that my Blennerhassett line might connect to the World family tree.

Ideas for Things to do

Things to do for Letitia Blennerhassett of Tarbert

Competition Blog

Good luck!

If you are having a go at this challenge, good luck! I will be delighted to pay out if you solve it. And don't forget the interim prizes discussed above.

If you are having a try at this, feel free to let me know. I will be happy to answer any questions that I can to help you. I will help competitors as much as I can.

And you don't have to commit to any lengthy period of research. You can just dip in and out. For    €1,000    why not give it an afternoon and see if you get anywhere? Why not keep the Blennerhassett Challenge in mind every time you visit a library or archive? I'll give    €1,000    to whoever cracks this, even if it only took them 10 minutes.

Good luck!

Dr. Mark Humphrys,
Dublin City University, Ireland.
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