Michael Christopher Byrne, my paternal great-grandfather, has long been the bane of my life, genealogically speaking. Saddled with his way too common surname, and fettered by a lack of information, even though he was born after birth registration commenced in Ireland, I’ve been unable to find his origins.
Frustrated by the lack of progress, like any self-respecting genealogist might be, I even started to suspect Michael Byrne had something to hide and, from the grave, was actively thwarting my efforts to uncover his past. Now, I’m hoping his newly identified brother, Tom, will help us over this genealogy brick wall.
As discovered last week, when Tom died in 1876, aged seven, he was staying with Michael Power and his wife Mary (Leahy, Radcliffe) Power in Malahide, Co. Dublin. With this information in mind, I started the search for Tom’s birth and of the many hundreds of boys with this name registered in 1868-69 one in particular somehow caught my eye. Thomas Byrne was born in 19 November 1868, to John Byrne and Alicia Leahy – ‘Leahy’ as in Mary Power’s maiden name.
We know from the register of my great-grandparent’s marriage, Michael’s father was John Byrne, but his mother was named as Elisabeth – not Alicia – which I admit is a tad inconvenient. But, for whatever reason I was drawn to this family and when I discovered John Byrne and Alicia Leahy had one other child - Michael Byrne, born on 2 December 1867 – they really grabbed my attention. Could I have found my great-grandfather, notwithstanding his mother’s unexpected given name?
Both Thomas and Michael were baptised in Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire) about as far away from Malahide as you can get, and stay in Co. Dublin.
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Baptism of Michael Byrne, 1867 Peter Radliff and Mary Radliff
Baptism of Thomas Byrne, 1868 Thomas Evans and Anne Newton
Yet, I recognise Michael’s Godparents as being from Malahide. Mary Radliff [Radcliffe] was likely the same woman as Mary (Leahy) Power, with whom our little Tom was staying when he died. In 1867, she was married to Christopher Radcliffe, who died young. Peter Radliff [Radcliffe] was her brother-in-law. Coincidentally, Christopher and Peter were my third great-granduncles, on my mother’s side.
By the way, the copy pages of this baptism register are available on the National Library web-site, but check out the page with Michael’s details. Out of the entire book, that very section of the relevant page failed to upload. Now do you see how he tries to thwart our progress?
The information in any marriage register is provided by the bride and groom to the priest and you would expect the groom to know his own mother’s name. So, it’s hard to know why Michael’s mother was down as Elisabeth, if her name was Alicia. But, sometimes people misremember pertinent facts or maybe the priest just erred when he wrote it down.
If it does turn out our Michael and his brother Thomas were baptised in Kingstown, this brick wall is well and truly busted. John Byrne married Alicia Leahy in St Mary’s Pro-cathedral in Dublin city on 27 January 1867. His parents were Andrew and Anne Byrne from Athgarvan, Co. Kildare and the bride’s parents were Michael and Bridget Leahy with an address at Cuffe Street, Dublin.
Chris Mahon (our distant relative) was wrong. He said the Byrnes were blow-ins from Co. Wicklow and it now seems we were blow-ins from Co. Kildare!
Although I’ve convinced myself these are my ancestors, it really is only conjecture at this point. Hopefully, when I receive a copy of the birth and marriage certificates, it will show John Byrne worked as a butler. Otherwise, there will be one terribly disappointed genealogist in the family.
 Copy death register, Thomas Byrne, 1876, Balrothery, General Register Office.
 Ireland Births and Baptisms, 1620-1881, FamilySearch.
 Baptisms 9 Aug 1861 – 7 May 1869, p. 133, Kingstown, National Library.