Saturday, 10 February 2018

James Mahon, a £10 freeholder

As discussed last week, James Mahon, potentially my GGGG-grandfather,  participated at a Special Vestry in Malahide, Co. Dublin, in 1823. The vestry sought to introduce tithes, a form of taxation payable to the (Protestant) Church of Ireland. I'm hoping to find out more about this James Mahon, but surviving records are thin on the ground.

The tithe records for the neighbouring parish of Kinsealy show James Mahon had over ten acres of land in the townland of Drynam (aka Drinan), paying one pound, seventeen shillings and eleven pence in tithes. Dynam shared a border with the townland of Yellow Walls, in Malahide, where my Mahon family lived. But was it the same James Mahon, or another sharing his name?

Tithes, 1824, Townland of Drynam, County of Dublin

This question was answered by a newspaper article, published in 1830, which confirmed the James Mahon, with land in Drynam, lived in Yellow Walls. The article contained a list of men registering their freehold interest in properties valued at more than £10. 

Excerpt: Dublin Evening Packet and Correspondent, 26 June 1830, p. 1

Why did they register their properties? - you might ask yourself. I did.

Following Catholic Emancipation in 1829, Irish Catholics were granted the right to sit in Parliament. However, a more restrictive county franchise was immediately introduced, whereby voters in subsequent elections were required to have a freehold interest in property worth at least £10. This was a five-fold increase on the previous 40 shilling (£2) franchise, and five times the requirement still applying in the rest of the United Kingdom. Few Irish Catholics met the new voting qualification, thus ensuring no real change to the status quo. Still, the freehold interest of those who did meet the requirements had to be registered, and a list of the registered freeholders published.[1] 

So, James Mahon made the newspaper when he registered his £10 holding in Drynam. John Gaffney, one of James Mahon’s colleagues at the Special Vestry, also registered his property in Malahide. This might explain why they both, being Catholic, were deemed eligible to participate in the Special Vestry in the first place, which settles last week's query over their participation there. 

But, as usual in genealogy research, when one question is answered, several more always take its place- 

Until now, everything I've found indicated the Mahons of Yellow Walls were tenants at will, meaning they were subject to eviction at any time, without notice. Now, we see James Mahon owned this land outright. What a surprise! But, it’s puzzling. As far as I was aware, the Drynam estate belonged to the Cruise (de Cruys) family for many generations, i.e. from around the time of the Norman invasion in the twelfth century.  How on earth did James Mahon get his hands on some of it?

And, if he did at some point own the land, what happened to it? There's no indication in the probate records of it being passed down to the next generation. By 1845, James Mahon, the same man, or maybe a descendant, can be seen leasing land in Drynam, at £4 an acre, from Robert Cruise, Esq.

House Book, 22 Aug 1845, Townland of Drinan, Barony of Coolock

It's getting curiouser and curiouser! Except, there's nowhere to go for more answers.

[1] 10 George IV. Cap 8, An Act to amend certain Acts of the Parliament of Ireland, relative to the election of members..., 1829, in William Finnelly, The Law and Practice of Elections in England, Scotland, and Ireland… (London,1830), accessed Google Books.

© Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday, 3 February 2018

James Mahon in the Tithe records, 1823

By now, we can conclude, most of the Mahon families living in Swords parish, in the early decades of the nineteenth century, were near-neighbours of my GGG-grandfather, Patrick Mahon, of Yellow Walls, Malahide. And, chances are, some of them, if not all, were his siblings. And, James Mahon was the name chosen for most of their eldest sons.

So, if traditional naming practices were followed, James Mahon was quite probably the progenitor of most of the Malahide Mahons, and maybe even my GGGG-grandfather. Proving this theory has always been the problem, not least helped by the gap in the parish registers spanning the period June 1777 to June 1802.

This brings us back, full circle, to two earlier families mentioned in the Swords parish registers, that I discussed previously:
Patrick Mahon and Mary Cugan, who married in 1772, baptised two daughters, both called Mary, one in 1773 and another in 1776.
James Mahon and Elizabeth Owens married in 1774 and had a son John in 1776, before moving to the nearby Baldoyle parish, where they baptised Mathew in 1785, Mary in 1789, and Michael in 1791. 
But now, there is an even greater leaning towards James and Elizabeth being our progenitors. And, it's easy to conclude Patrick was James' brother, also living in Yellow Walls. In fact, the Tenure Book confirm a property occupied by the ‘Repts. John Mahon’ in 1845 was ‘John Cuggan’s holding’.

Further records for this period that might help are hard come by. The Tithe Applotment Books of the 1820s should provide additional clues. These records supposedly list everyone with more than an acre of agricultural land, along with the amount they owed in tithes (taxes) to the 'Protestant' Church of Ireland. But, unfortunately, the records are seemingly not available for Malahide. 
All that remain are the minutes of the Church of Ireland (COI) parish meetings held in 1823, introducing tithes in the district.

Taxes are never popular, but in a predominantly Catholic country, tithes payable to a ‘rival’ church were particularly reviled. Still, it appears Catholics were represented at the COI meetings, and even formed part of the ‘implementation committee’. Surprisingly, the signatories to minutes of the initial meeting held in Malahide included James Mahon:

Francis Chambly, Incumbent,
John Espine Batty, Chairman
James Reck
Charles Sadlier
Robert McEntire
John Gafney
Thomas Wogan
James Mahon

Excerpt from minutes, Special Vestry, Malahide, 13 October 1823

Prior experience of the Swords parish registers tells me Gafney, Wogan and Mahon were Catholic families.

At least, this proves there was a James Mahon living in Malahide, in 1823, but whether he was my GGGG-grandfather, his son, his brother, nephew or even his cousin, remains to be seen.

If this man was my GGGG-grandfather, he was likely in his seventies by 1823, but then again, longevity ran in the Mahon family; Patrick Mahon was in his eighties when he died in 1865.

© Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Homing in on Patrick Mahon's family

Before Christmas, I was working on Dad’s Mahon ancestors, trying to learn more about my GGG-grandfather, Patrick Mahon, from north Co. Dublin. I had found several of his contemporaries, with the same surname, in the church registers of Swords parish, where Patrick worshipped, and wondered if any of them were his siblings. 

John, Henry, William, Mary, and Thomas Mahon, all baptised their children in Swords parish, during the early decades of the nineteenth century. Thomas married there in 1821, two years after Patrick, and seemingly shared a particularly close relationship with my ancestor. They both associated with a James Mahon too, though James had no children mentioned in the baptism register. The others were likely a bit older, but not too old to have been of the same generation.

The next step was to check if any of them had links to Yellow Walls, a small townland of about 400 acres, in Malahide, where Patrick lived. If they were his near-neighbours, there is a strong chance they were also closely related.

The records best suited to this task are the manuscript notebooks of the Valuation Office. The Tenure Books contain a list of every holding in the region, specifying the occupier’s name and the annual rent paid, while the House Books contain a further description of each home and its rateable valuation. Both books are available for the Swords / Malahide area.

The books are searchable by barony, a now obsolete form of administrative area in Ireland. Malahide was in the barony of Coolock and Swords in the barony of Nethercross. So, both these baronies were examined. The records date to between about 1845 and 1847, some years after the noted church events, and when many of the targeted individuals might have already met their maker.

Still, it was significant that, apart from one Christopher Mahon in the neighbouring parish of Donabate, all the Mahons in the area lived in the townland of Yellow Walls. It’s therefore nearly a given they were all from the same extended family – my family. Plus, the names of all the men, now linked to Yellow Walls, also correspond with those previously found in the church records. Therefore, the families detailed in the church registers were probably also mine.

The tenure books showed a William Mahon sharing lot 41, while a James Mahon shared lot 42. James Mahon also occupied lot 111, my GGG-grandfather Patrick Mahon was at lot 112 and the Reps of John Mahon at lot 113. Presumably, John had recently died, and his family remained on the property.

The house books again confirm two men called James Mahon lived in Yellow Walls, both in good-quality thatched houses. One of them also leased land in the adjacent townland of Drinan, a.k.a. Drynam. They include my GGG-grandfather’s house in Yellow Walls, described further here, and mention that Thomas Mahon leased land in the townland. They make no reference to John, or William, who may also have recently died.

It is immediately obvious that James was an important name in this extended family. The church records also show that both Patrick and Thomas named their eldest son James, as did William Mahon and Mary (Mahon) Cave. John Mahon also had a son named James.

And, it was customary for the eldest son in Irish families to be named after his paternal grandfather, though the tradition was not always precisely followed. 

So, while I may never be able to prove it, I half suspect the Yellow Walls Mahons all shared the same father  James Mahon – who was perhaps my GGGG-grandfather.

© Black Raven Genealogy

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Third great-grandparents, confirmed with DNA, again

Happy New Year, everyone.

The results of my new DNA test (thanks Aileen & Co.) came in on Christmas Eve, and I’ve been happily checking them out ever since. One of the highest matches, a predicted 4th cousin, is a man with the alias M.N.

Luckily, M.N. has an online family tree. It includes his GG-grandmother, Annie Burns, supposedly born in Ireland in 1863. The surname Burns, or more commonly Byrne in Ireland, stands out as the only surname we have in common. Except, I have Byrne on both sides of the family.

According to M.N.’s tree, Annie Burns, also known as Anna, married Walter Rogers, and lived in Chicago, in the United States, where she died on 23 October 1934.[1] Her parent’s names are not given, but according to the attached record of her death, Anna was born in Co. Kildare, in Ireland.

Dad's Byrne line came from Co. Kildare. My GG-granduncle, Andrew Byrne also made his way to Chicago, where he adopted the surname Burns. What are the chances that Anna (Burns) Rogers and Andrew Burns were siblings?

Looking at my own family tree, Andrew Burns, or Byrne as he was originally known, had a sister Anne Byrne, barely two years his senior. She was baptised in Newbridge, Co. Kildare on 23 May 1853, but then her trail went cold. She could easily have ended up in America, with her brother. The Chicago lady was also born in May. Her estimate birth-year was up to ten years out, but that's not unusual.

A quick search online revealed Walter and Anna had two children. Their daughter, May Rogers was born in 1889, and their son Charles Walter Rogers in 1890.[2] At the time of the 1900 census, Anna, by then a widow, was living with her two children, at 3400 Irving Avenue, Chicago.[3]

But, look who was living in the household next door. It’s my GG-granduncle Andrew Burns and his family! 

Andrew Burns household, Chicago, 1900 U.S. Federal Census
Rogers and Burns household, Chicago, 1900, U.S. Federal Census

Now, what are the chances, Anna Rogers and Andrew Burns were siblings!

This makes M.N. my 4th cousin, just as our DNA predicted.[4] Our most recent common ancestors are our GGG-grandparents, Andrew Byrne and Anne Clynch, from Athgarvan in Co. Kildare.

DNA chart showing 4th cousin relationship, Byrne, Athgarvan, Co. Kildare.
Relationship with DNA cousin

See also ‘Third great-grandparents, confirmed with DNA’ where I wrote about Dad’s DNA match with a direct descendant of Andrew Burns (1855-1900) of Chicago. 

[1] Death of Anna Rogers, 1934, in ‘Illinois, Cook County Deaths, 1878-1994’, 
database, FamilySearch, citing records in the Cook County Courthouse.
[2] Death of May (Rogers) Marine, 1910, and Charles W. Rogers, 1920, in ‘Illinois, Cook County Deaths, 1878-1994’, same.
[3] Anna Rogers household, in the 1900 U.S. Federal Census, Chicago Ward 6, Cook, Illinois, roll 250, p. 23B, Enumeration District 0166, accessed at ($)
[4] Denoted a high confidence match, sharing 43 centimorgans of DNA across 6 segments.  

© Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Branching out to find my Mahon roots

When you hit a dead-end in the search for your ancestors, like I did pursuing the parents of my GGG-grandfather, Patrick Mahon, it’s often helpful to branch out, and follow the trail of their siblings instead. Their siblings may have left additional clues as to the identity of the previous generation, providing a way around the genealogy impasse. 

Trouble is, in this case, Patrick’s siblings are also unknown!

They were probably all born within a decade or two of Patrick, i.e. around 1784. But, unfortunately for us, this coincides with a significant gap in the church registers for Swords parish, where Patrick lived, and was presumably baptised. So, if Patrick’s siblings were born in Swords parish between June 1777 and May 1804, there’ll be no record of their baptisms, either. They probably won’t appear in any surviving records until after they’ve left their parent’s home, married, and started families of their own.   

The earliest reference to my GGG-grandfather was in Swords parish, in 1819, when he married Jane Cavanagh, and where their children were later baptised. People often ask their brothers and sisters, or perhaps their nieces and nephews, to sponsor the baptism of their children. So, the Catholic parish registers for Swords, where Patrick, and hopefully his siblings worshipped, likely contain the only remaining evidence of their relationship.

Several other Mahon individuals, who also married in Swords in the early decades of the nineteenth century, were reflected in the parish registers. Any or all of them could have been related to Patrick. There was John Mahon who married Anne Gilsenan, probably about 1800; Henry Mahon who had a son out of wedlock with Sally Fitzgerald in 1808; William Mahon who married Elizabeth Owens in 1810; Mary Mahon who married Thomas Cave in 1816; Michael Mahon who married Mary Walsh in 1817, and subsequently lived in the neighbouring parish of Donabate; and Thomas Mahon who married Eleanor Farrell in 1821.

The parish registers also reveal Patrick and Jane selected James Mahon and Eleanor Mahon as Godparents for their eldest son, James, born in 1823, while Margaret Mahon was Godmother for one of their younger sons, Michael, in 1835.  It’s hard to know exactly how James, Eleanor and Margaret were related to Patrick, but it’s possible, Eleanor was born Eleanor Farrell, the wife of Thomas Mahon.

And, it seems Thomas and Eleanor Mahon had quite a close relationship with my GGG-grandparents. They asked Patrick and Jane to sponsor the baptism of their eldest daughter, Margaret, in 1822. This Margaret was old enough in 1835, to have been the Godmother of Patrick and Jane’s son, Michael. Margaret was conceivably Patrick’s niece. Patrick and Thomas were probably brothers.  

Baptism of Margaret Mahon, 1822, Catholic Parish Registers, Swords

There was a James Mahon associated with Thomas and Eleanor, too. He was Godfather to their son Pat, in 1828, and the same man, or maybe another of the same name, sponsored the baptism of their daughter, Eleanor, in 1830. Perhaps Thomas and Patrick had a brother called James. But if they did, there’s no apparent record of him, with a wife and children, in the Swords parish registers.

Patrick and Thomas Mahon married within two years of each other, so perhaps they were closest in age. This may account for the number of 'connections' between them, found in the parish registers. Not, that theirs was the only hint of a familial relationship between the Mahons of Swords parish. Thomas was Godfather for John’s son James in 1812, while Mary Mahon sponsored the baptism of his daughter Alice in 1804. 

Next week, hopefully a trawl though the records of the Valuation Office, will provide evidence some of these men were close neighbours of Patrick, in the townland of Yellow Walls, Malahide.

Source: Catholic Parish Registers for Swords, Co. Dublin, at the NLI

© Black Raven Genealogy

Sunday, 19 November 2017

An Ill-timed gap in the register

When Patrick (Pat) Mahon married Jane Cavanagh in the parish of Swords, Co. Dublin, on 12 September 1819, his parents’ names were not recorded in the register. This severed all hopes of a documented connection to the previous generation, leaving little clue as to the identity of my fourth great-grandparents.

Pat was born about 1784. At least, that was what his daughter-in-law, Mary Anne Mahon, estimated, when she registered his death in 1865. His birthplace is unknown. Yet, we can surmise, for now anyway, he was born close to where he lived and died.

Regrettably, no one named Patrick Mahon was found in the baptism registers of Swords parish, or any of the neighbouring parishes, around the time of his birth. Then again, his birth coincided with a large gap in the Swords parish registers, spanning the period June 1777 to June 1802. If Pat was a local, there were two potential couples living in Swords parish, at the relevant time, who may have been his parents.

The first couple were Patrick Mahon and Mary Cugan, who married in Swords parish, on 5 July 1772. On 15 February 1774, in the same parish, James Mahon and Elizabeth Owens were wed. Either couple may have been my direct ancestors. Or not! Both are worthy of further consideration.

Patrick and Mary had two daughters called Mary, one baptised in Swords parish in 1773, and a second in 1776. James and Elizabeth had a son John, baptised in Swords parish in 1776.  Sometime before 1785, they moved to Baldoyle, where their son Mathew was baptised, followed by a daughter Mary in 1789 and a son Michael in 1791. Probably, both couples had many other children, coinciding with gap in the register.

So where do we go from there?

The names chosen for a couple’s children frequently provide some clue as to the identity of the couple’s parents. Pat and Jane Mahon named their children, Elizabeth, James, John, maybe James again, Mary, Christopher, Michael and Patrick. Unfortunately, that covers all the bases, and any leaning towards James and Elizabeth could well be coincidental. We’ll need to look elsewhere to uncover a connection.

From the mid-1840s onward, Pat and Jane are documented as living in the townland of Yellow Walls, in Malahide, a small village in north Co. Dublin. It’s not known when the family first arrived there, but it’s likely, all the Mahons in Malahide were related, especially those living in Yellow Walls.

Malahide and surrounds, in Co. Dublin

The trouble is, the church registers do not directly link either of our two identified couples to Malahide. In the Roman Catholic division, Malahide formed part of Swords parish, and Swords was a large town. While there was a separate chapel in Malahide, the church records were kept at parish level and home addresses were omitted. It’s not reasonable to claim a close family connection to every Mahon living in Swords parish, at least not with the same conviction.  

But, by the mid-1840s, when an extensive property-tax survey was taken in the area, four Mahon families, including Pat’s, were found living in Yellow Walls, with another nearby in Donabate. There were none in Swords proper. This was surely significant.

Granted, our target couples were probably long dead by then. Even some of their children had likely passed on. But, it’s a promising start. And, if I can prove a relationship between Pat and his Mahon neighbours, and then connect any of them with either of our target couples, it may help overcome the disadvantage created by the lost church register.

Sources: Catholic Parish Registers at the NLI; Baronies of Coolock and Nethercross, 1844–1846, Valuation Office house and field books, National Archives of Ireland

Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Baptism conundrum – James Mahon

Patrick Mahon and Jane Cavanagh/Kavanagh were my third great-grandparents. They married in the parish of Swords, Co. Dublin, on 12 September 1819 and baptised seven of their children there.[1] My direct ancestor was their son James. I’d always believed James was one of the twin boys, born in July 1823. Now, I’m not so sure.

Infant mortality was high back then. And, when a child died, it was customary for their name to be given to the next child born with the same gender. So, it’s always prudent to examine the register for subsequent baptisms. And, I did. 

Baptism date
Elizabeth Mahon
2 Aug 1821
Catherine Fagan
James Mahon
10 Jul 1823
James Mahon
Eleanor Mahon
John Mahon
10 Jul 1823
Peter Ratcliffe
Catherine Owens
Gap 6½ years
Mary Mahon
21 Jan 1830
Pat Cavanagh
Catherine Donnelly
Christopher Mahon
30 Dec 1832
James Dennis
Mary Dunne
Michael Mahon
04 Oct 1835
John Casey
Margaret Mahon
Patrick Mahon
24 Oct 1841
Jack Cave
Catherine Murphy

Another baby James Mahon was baptised in the parish, on 8 June 1827. His parents were James Mahon – not Patrick – and Jane Kavanagh. John McGlew and Jane Owens sponsored his baptism. My first thought was wrong father, wrong family! 

James Mahon, Yellow Walls, Malahide
Baptism of James Mahon, 8 Jun 1827, Register of Swords Parish

But, the more I think about it now, the more I suspect this James was my ancestor, with his father’s name incorrectly recorded. Such mistakes did happen, sometimes. And, if my hypothesis is correct, it would help explain the otherwise large gap between the birth of the twins in 1823, and the birth of Mary in 1830.

Neither Mahon nor Cavanagh were particularly common surnames in Dublin, not that that would rule out the possibility of a so-called couple marrying, twice – but it would constitute a small coincidence, especially if the bride’s name was Jane, in both instances. Plus, no other mention of the couple James Mahon and Jane Kavanagh was found in the area, or elsewhere.

If this was my second great-grandfather’s baptism, it might also shed some light on why he claimed he was seventy years old in the 1901 census, when John, his supposed twin, was listed as seventy-eight.[2] James, born in 1827, would have been seventy-three at the time of the census, and people often rounded their age to the nearest ten years.

However, when James died, two years later, on 2 December 1903, his son-in-law, Michael Byrne, reported he was seventy-eight years old.[3] This is a better 'fit' for James, the twin born in 1823, who would have been seventy-nine. Stated ages were notoriously unreliable, so it’s near impossible to draw a final conclusion.  

I don’t suppose there’s any way to ever know, for sure, which is the correct baptism record for my ancestor.  What do you think?

[1] Swords parish marriage register, microfilm 06616/06, National Library; Swords parish baptism register, microfilm 06616/07 and 06616/07, same.
[2] James Mahon, Yellowwalls, Malahide, Dublin, Census of Ireland, 1901, National Archives; John Mahon, same.
[3] Death of James Mahon, Balrothery, 1903,

© Black Raven Genealogy