Saturday, 21 January 2017

The Wynne Family of Dundalk

No one alive today remembers where my great-great-grandfather, John Wynne senior, came from. He was first recorded in Dublin city about 1848, the year prior to his marriage to Bridget Hynes. Also, nobody today knows why their son John Wynne junior migrated to Dundalk in Co. Louth. But he did. He married Margaret Ward, a.k.a. Armstrong there in 1876 and that’s where they raised their family.

Dundalk was more than fifty miles north of Dublin city, a fairly significant journey in nineteenth-century Ireland, and well out of the range of everyday visits from family in Dublin.  It’s hard to imagine why John junior might have moved there.

There were a number of other Wynne families in and around Dundalk at the time. And one of my reasons for researching my Dundalk cousins was to find out if there was a connection between my Wynnes and these other families.

There is a suggestion, although I’ve no idea where it originated, that John senior was a brother of the once well-known Irish church builder, James Wynne of Dundalk. I’ve never been able to find anything indicating if this was true, but I thought I’d take another look again now.

James Wynne, the builder, was born at Dowdallshill, Dundalk in August 1852. He was much younger than my great-great-grandfather, even younger than his son, John junior. James was the eight of the nine children born to James Wynne and Catherine Martin, as  listed in the baptism register for the parish. His father was described as a mason and a tradesman on the marriage documents of two of his children and young James went on to become a successful building contractor in the area. 

The Dundalk Club, Roden Place, Dundalk

In 1886, he built ‘the Dundalk Club’, a red-bricked, end-of-terrace, former gentleman’s club in Roden Place. But, he specialised in building Roman Catholic churches. Prof. Google credits him with having built St Patrick’s Church in Donaghmoyne, Co. Monaghan in 1901, the tower of St Patrick’s Church in Dundalk in 1903, and the Church of the Assumption of our Blessed Lady, in Tullamore, Co. Offaly in 1906, amongst others.

Surely, memory of such a successful relative would have survived in my direct line – if indeed he was a relative.

It is true though, James had a much older brother named John, baptised in Dundalk in 1832. This is the chap some online family trees claim was my great-great-grandfather. But nearly everyone in Ireland had a brother called John then. The 1901 census suggests one in five males were named John. And, this same census indicates our John Wynne was born about 1820, in Dublin city. So, I have some doubts.

Plus, to me, it seems a tad unrealistic that a sixteen-year-old boy would leave his home in Dundalk and move to Dublin city, only to marry and start a family within a year or two. Our John was a shop assistant, at least in later years. Would a teenager have had the means to head up a household in Dublin city, without the support of his parents living nearby?

Perhaps it’s time to build a better picture of the Wynne family from Dowdallshill and maybe rule out this theory once and for all. And, you never know, I might find my family in the process.

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© Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Great-Granduncle John Byrne: Putting a face to the name

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and I must say, I agree. Nothing quite brings your genealogy to life faster than finding a picture of a long-gone relative. And, this week I received a photograph of my mother’s granduncle, John Byrne. 

John was a sailor. He worked as a merchant seaman, serving as second mate on voyages between Britain and Ireland. In September 1918, towards the end of World War I, the British Merchant Marine introduced sailor identity books.

John’s identity documents describe him as being 5 feet, 5¼ inches in height, with brown hair and blue eyes. He had his initials ‘JB’ tattooed on his left arm, as well as a woman’s face and clasped hands. His wife, Margaret Byrne of 31 Jane Place, Dublin, was listed as his next-of-kin. The identity book also contained his photograph. 

John Byrne (1885-1930), Jane Place, Dublin
John Byrne (1885-1930)

According to his youngest daughter, John loved the sea. Tragically for him, however, as a young man, he went blind. He knew his ship so well he continued to work afterwards, concealing his sight-loss from his shipmates. No one suspected he couldn’t see. Then one day, someone left a trap door open on the deck and John fell in. John lost his job. The poor man missed the sea so much he was said to have died soon afterwards of a broken heart.

And, it was true. On 15 January 1930, John died of cardiac failure, having been ill for a month with congestion of the lungs. He probably suffered from a condition known as congestive heart failure, where the heart, being unable to pump effectively, truly was broken, even medically speaking.

See more about my great-granduncle John Byrne, here.

Source: Merchant seamen’s records for John Byrne of 31 Lower Jane Place, Dublin, held at the Southampton City Council Archives, England; Family knowledge about John Byrne’s loss of sight, recalled by his granddaughter. Copy death register, John Byrne, 1930, General Register Office.

Photograph from the Merchant Seaman Identity Certificate, 1918-1921 (form CR10), Southampton City Council Archives.

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© Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Birth of Ann Radcliffe

Happy New Year, everybody!

There were no new genealogy discoveries made in this house over the past week - I’ve been spending my time with living family. But, Ann Radcliffe’s birth certificate arrived in the post. She was born at 40 Addison Street in Liverpool, England, on 19 October 1849.

Birth Ann Radcliffe, Liverpool, October 1849

She was baptised on 28 October 1849 in St Anthony's Roman Catholic Church on Scotland Road nearby, though this record gives her birthday as 20 October.  

I'm fairly certain both documents relate to my great-great-grandmother, Anne Ratcliffe, who grew up in Malahide, Co. Dublin, and married Maurice Carroll in 1869. So far, she’s the only one of my ancestors found born outside of Ireland.

Her parents were named as John and Mary Radcliffe, which is correct. And, although Radcliffe was a common name throughout Lancashire, her father worked as a plasterer, also correct, narrowing things down a bit more.

Plus, a matching family were found in Rainhill, just ten miles east of Liverpool, at the time of the 1851 census. John, a plasterer, Mary his wife, and their two-year-old daughter, Ann, lived at 127 Kendrick’s Cross in the village. True, the Ann born in October 1849 was only seventeen months old when this census was taken, not yet two years as shown, so it’s not a perfect match.

Also, it’s still unclear who Ellen Slanety was, the ten-year-old school-girl sharing the Ratcliffe family's home in Rainhill. She was listed as John’s sister-in-law, so presumably Mary’s sister.  But, as far as I can tell at this point, Mary’s surname was Leonard, or Lennard - another kink yet to be overcome. 

Nevertheless, the John Ratcliffe in Rainhill in 1851 was born in Ireland, where the Radcliffe/Ratcliffe surname was extremely rare. Our John was a widower and living in Australia by the end of the decade, and this family were not found in any subsequent census returns in England. So, with all the matching criteria, the family cannot be easily dismissed.

It's also interesting to find a Thomas Leonard heading up a household of Irish-born agricultural labourers at 125 Kendrick’s Cross in 1851, just two doors down from the Ratcliffe family. Perhaps, he was related to Mary and maybe he’ll open the door to her past.

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© Black Raven Genealogy