My 4th great-grandparents, Peter and Anne Radliffe had six sons of their own, five of whom survived childhood and lived to carry on the family name – Peter (who probably died as a child), John, Thomas, Peter, Joseph and Christopher – all born between 1826 and 1841. Rumour has it that one of the boys had a son out of wed-lock, but the couple were not allowed to marry. The baby’s mother was said to have knelt and cursed the family and afterwards there were no more sons born, only daughters, and the Radcliffe name died out. This is typical of old Irish superstitions, so it was interesting to see whether or not it had come to pass. I’ve now located all the known Radcliffe boys, the eldest two, having only recently been found in Australia.
John, the eldest surviving son, and his wife Mary had one daughter, Anne, my great-grandmother, born about 1849. They had no other children. John was widowed and ended up in Australia about 1859. He married Bridget Flanagan there in 1861, but had no more children.
Son, Thomas Radcliffe also went to Australia and married Mary Minogue from Feakle, Co. Clare in 1863. Thomas and Mary had three sons, Peter, Thomas and Joseph. This story should end here – three sons – case closed and curse disproved. However, research shows ‘the curse’ merely skipped a generation. Joseph died in a shooting accident in 1895, aged only twenty-two years, while Peter was childless when he died in a motor vehicle crash, aged sixty years in 1928 and Thomas, who died in 1932, aged sixty-one years, only had one daughter, Mary, who also died young.
Son, Peter Radcliffe married Jane Corr of Swords, in May 1868. Peter was a plasterer and Jane was a smith and they lived in Malahide. Peter died of chronic brights disease (kidney failure) on 20 April 1891, aged fifty-seven years and his wife, Jane, died one year and one day later. I have found no record of Peter and Jane having had any children.
The next son, Joseph Ratcliffe, was thirty-two years of age when he married Bridget Grogan. The marriage was held in St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, Marlborough Street, Dublin, on 29 December 1867. Joseph and Bridget lived a long life in Malahide, where Joseph was a painter and farmer, like his father. Joseph was in his eighties when he died in 1918, having been married for more than fifty years and his wife died in 1923. The couple were not blessed with any children of their own.
Finally, when Christopher was twenty-four years old, he married Mary Leahy, in May 1866, at Rathmines in south Dublin. There is no record of them having had any children. Within six years of their marriage, Christopher died of phthisis (tuberculosis) at their home in Malahide. In March 1872, he was buried in the Abbey Graveyard, in the grounds of Malahide Castle. In August the following year, his widow Mary married Michael Power of Drynam.
While there may well be other sons, not yet found, tragedy certainly seemed to have followed this Radcliffe family. Their lineage appears to have ended with the death of grandson Thomas in 1932. Were they cursed? Maybe not literally, but perhaps the story of the curse was latched onto in later years as an explanation for the end of their lineage. This would mean that previous generations, more closely linked to events, also noted its end. Sad, to think I won’t find any Radcliffe cousins.
Sources: Church records at RootsIreland; Victoria birth, deaths and marriages; Australian newspapers; Church records at IrishGenealogy; General Register Office, copy marriage and death registers; Census of Ireland, 1911; Michael Egan, Memorials of the Dead, no. 9, 1996, p. 153; The image is an illustration of a dodo in the menagerie of Emperor Rudolph II at Prague, by Jacob Hoefnagel, c.1602 (Wikimedia commons).
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