Saturday, 1 October 2016

Was Bridget Wynne a Midwife?

Bridget (Hynes) Wynne, my great-great-grandmother, was a midwife from Co. Limerick. At least, that’s what Pat Fegan, Bridget’s granddaughter, told us, and her claims usually turn out be true. In fact, there is already ‘evidence’ she came from Limerick - Bridget even said so herself on admittance to the Grangegorman Female Prison in 1884. Now, for the first time, I may have found documentary support for the theory she was a midwife. 

Although it was not unusual at the time, Bridget’s occupation, if any, was omitted from her death register. Married women were normally said to have been the wife or widow of whatever their husband did for a living, even when they worked themselves. And, Bridget’s case was no exception. When she died in 1895, her daughter Agnes reported her as the ‘wife of a shopman’ and her burial register shows she was ‘a shop assistant’s wife’. There is no mention anywhere Bridget worked outside the home.

This week, I was searching for the copy birth registrations of Bridget’s grandchildren. I found one for John Joseph Vaughan, the only son of John Vaughan and Margaret Wynne. Margaret was Bridget’s eldest daughter. John Joseph was born at 10 Christ Church Place in Dublin, on 25 March 1882. The following month, Bridget registered his birth, confirming she was present when he was born. She lived nearby at 4 Christ Church Place.

But it was the entry in the register immediately preceding John Joseph’s that caught my attention. Mary Anne Howard was born on 4 April 1882, the daughter of James Howard, a tailor, and Margaret Lightfoot.[1] Mary Anne was born at 10 Christ Church Place, same as John Joseph. This house was probably a tenement building, shared by numerous unrelated families, and as far as I know, the Howards were not related to the Wynnes.

Even so, when Bridget registered the birth of her grandson, she also registered the birth of Mary Anne Howard. She claimed to have been present when Mary Anne was born as well. Does this indicate Bridget was the midwife? Well, maybe not on its own, but it's a good first step. And, it certainly suggests she was handy to have around during childbirth. 

Birth Register, 1882, Dublin South, Mary Anne Howard and John Joseph Vaughan

[1] Surname was given as Proudfoot on the baptism record on Irishgenealogy.ie. 
Source: Civil records on Irishgenealogy.ie; Burial Register, Glasnevin Trust.
Click on image to enlarge.

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© Black Raven Genealogy

12 comments:

  1. Good eye! Are the records set up such that you can sit and scroll page after page looking for her name?

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  2. There is a work-around, Wendy, so it is feasible to scroll through the pages, but the Dublin District is just too big to go fishing in.

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  3. An interesting transcription error, from Lightfoot to Proudfoot..can't blame the predictive text that is the bane of our lives for that one.

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    1. LOL! and I couldn't believe how common both surnames were in Dublin city in the 17th and 18th centuries.

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  4. It sounds like you may be on to something here - the larger context does seem to be supporting the theory she was a midwife. Good luck with your continued research.

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    1. Thank you, Family Sleuther. Also, I appreciate you leaving a comment.

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  5. That is an exciting discovery. Looks like the puzzle pieces are coming together.

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    1. Thanks Colleen, I think this one might be slow in coming to fruition.

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  6. It's a pity we can't search those registers by informant...maybe in time.

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    1. Maybe Claire, though it seems unlikely the GRO will ever have the resources. As for the commercial companies, seems their only focus is to increase their database size, with little regard for improving the usability of the records.

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  7. Interesting post! Were there other reasons that a person might have registered a child other than being the midwife?

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  8. Thank you Janice. Yes, under the legislation, apart from the parents, the onus of registering a birth also fell on the owner of the house where the child was born, on anyone present at the birth, and on the person looking after the child. I've seen many examples of births registered by the grandmother. So, without further evidence, it could easily be argued Bridget was merely visiting her daughter when the second child was born and then registered the birth as a favour to the neighbour, given she was registering the birth of her grandson, anyway.

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