Saturday, 14 April 2018

DNA Diary: Pointing to the O'Hara line

This week’s post reaches far into the upper echelons of my family tree, to my fourth great-grandparents, Paul Doyle and Catherine O’Hara. They married in St Catherine’s church, Meath Street, in Dublin city, on 23 August 1828, witnessed by Patrick and John O’Hara, presumably Catherine’s relatives.[1] 

Descent from Paul Doyle and Catherine O’Hara 

As might be expected, given they died over a hundred years ago, no one alive today remembers hearing of Paul and Catherine, and everything we now know about them has been gleaned from old documents. Ironically, much of what we learned about their lives came from records created on Paul's death.

Paul Doyle died on 21 January 1872, at his home in Kevin Street, Dublin. He died as a ‘result of an accident and hernia’, having suffered for eleven weeks without medical attention. Unfortunately, no mention of his accident was found in the newspapers of the day, so we may never know what happened to him. 

When Catherine registered his death, she claimed he was seventy-two years old and working as a weaver. When she organised his burial at Glasnevin Cemetery, she said he worked as a dyer.[2] Weaving, spinning and dyeing was a once lucrative industry in the Liberties area of Dublin, where the Doyle family lived, but the industry was all but destroyed when tariffs were introduced centuries earlier, so the Doyle family probably lived from hand to mouth. 

Potential DNA match on the O'Hara line
Anyway, my cousin Myles recently drew my attention to a DNA match he shares with two siblings Mary and Tom, and a lady named Barbara.  Myles, Mary and Tom and my mother are all third cousins, descended from the various children of Myles McGrane and Margaret Doyle. Margaret Doyle was born in Dublin city in 1831, the eldest daughter of Paul Doyle and Catherine O'Hara. And, Barbara's great-great-grandmother was Alicia O'Hara, who lived in Texas, in the U.S.

Ancestry, our DNA testing company, predicted Barbara and the McGrane descendants are fourth cousins. Their relationship is not necessarily on the O'Hara line, and they may even share two separate lines of descent, but given they have a surname in common, it makes sense to start there. Except, if the connection is via the O'Haras, they must be more distantly related than fourth cousins. The closest relationship feasible is if Catherine (O'Hara) Doyle and Alicia's father were siblings, making Barbara a fifth cousin to my mother and her known cousins.

Alicia O'Hara married John Morrison, a stevedore, in Galveston, Texas, on 8 October 1868, naming her parents as John O'Hara and Catherine McDonald, from Dublin.[3] So, i
t was only a matter of finding John O'Hara in Dublin and linking him to our O'Hara/Doyle family! 

But, as it turns out, there was a likely John O'Hara and Catherine McDonnell in St Catherine's parish, at the right time. (T
he surnames McDonald, McDonnell and McDaniel were often used interchangeably.) They baptised their daughter Margaret in St Catherine's in 1834, and their daughter Rose in 1836. Then the family moved to St Paul's parish, on the other side of the River Liffey, where they baptised Joseph in 1838, John in 1841, Alicia in 1843 and Mary Jane in 1846.  Often, family relationships can be ascertained by examining the names of the children's Godparents, but in this case, there was no obvious O'Hara/Doyle connection.[4] 

It is likely Catherine (O'Hara) Doyle had a sister Ellen O'Hara. Ellen was Margaret Doyle's Godmother.  She married John Mullen in St Catherine's parish, on 4 November 1836. Paul Doyle, not a common name then, and Patrick O'Hara witnessed their marriage. Catherine Doyle had sponsored their daughter Mary Anne's baptism, in April 1836. And, later, in 1853, John and Mary Anne Mullen were Godparents for Paul and Catherine's youngest daughter Ellen Doyle. This all smacks of a close family bond.[5]  

Baptism of Eliza Mullen, SS Michael and John’s parish, March 1841

John and Ellen Mullen also christened a son Andrew in 1837, and a daughter Eliza in 1841.[6] 
And, although John O'Hara (living in St Paul's parish?) sponsored Eliza Mullen's baptism, his was a fairly common name in Dublin, so, on its own, could not be taken as indicative of a relationship between our two families.  

Then, Barbara obtained the burial register for a grave at Glasnevin Cemetery. The occupants of the grave included Margaret O'Hara, buried in 1834, Rosanna O'Hara, aged five years, buried in 1841, John O'Hara, aged seven months, buried in 1842, Mary O'Hara, aged nine months, buried in 1847, and Catherine O'Hara, aged thirty-five years, buried in 1847. The family were from West Arran Street, in St Paul's Parish and there's little doubt but it's the family of John O'Hara and Catherine McDonnell.[7] 

And significantly, Eliza J. Mullen, who died aged seven years in 1848, shares their grave.[8] 
Was this the Eliza Mullen whose Godfather was John O'Hara? It's hardly a coincidence! And, if Eliza Mullen was Catherine (O'Hara) Doyle's niece, I'd say we've found a 'connection'.

It's not proof, but that and the mounting number of 'O'Hara' DNA matches suggests we're on the right track.

[1] Doyle-O'Hara marriage, St Catherine's parish, 23 Aug 1828, Church records on
[2] Copy death register, Paul Doyle, 1872, Dublin South, General Register Office; Copy burial register, Paul Doyle, 1872, ($) Glasnevin Cemetery.
[3] Marriage no. 526, John Morrison and Alicia O'Hara, St Mary's Catholic Cathedral, Galveston, Texas, accessed on FamilySearch.
[4] Church records on; Free index, with image attached, Catholic Parish Registers on FindmyPast.
[5] Church records on
[6] Same.
[7] Copy of a listing of interments in grave L 152, Garden Section, Glasnevin Cemetery.
[8] Same.

© Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Malahide Tóstal Parade, 1953

A while ago, I was browsing through pictures of the 'Shops of former years' on the Malahide Historical Society website, when I happened upon a picture of my father. He was young at the time, just fifteen years old, but still recognisable. 

The picture was of the Tóstal Parade in Malahide, Co. Dublin, in 1953, as it made its way down Main Street and pased the old cinema. By way of explanation, An Tóstal was a festival held throughout Ireland, mostly in the 1950s, which saw many towns around the country hold a parade or some other sporting or cultural event. Dad was playing the bagpipes in the pipe band leading the Malahide parade. He's the young man in front, in the lighter colour suit.

James and Michael Byrne, Malahide, Co. Dublin, 1953

So I sent a link to the picture to my mother and this is what she replied: 
'Yes that is Daddy in front. Paddy Condron is directly behind him. Johnny Mahon is the second on the right and Pat Cave is playing the drum behind him.  Your grandfather is on Pat's left.'

Wow! Granda is also in the picture! You can count on two fingers the number of pictures I've seen of my Granda Byrne - one was his wedding photo and the other was on his memorial card. He played the drums in St. Sylvesters pipe band in his day, but here he is just walking behind, supporting them. 

How cool is that!

With many thanks to Roger Greene of the Malahide Historical Society, for permission to share the photograph here. 

© Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Who's in the picture?

Does anyone know this chap? 

He is probably related to me somehow. The photograph was found at 'Black Raven', Dad's ancestral home, in Yellow Walls, Malahide, so chances are he was connected to one of my grandparents - James Byrne or Lena O'Neill.  

Looks can be deceiving, but he doesn't resemble a typical Byrne to me. Nearly all Dad's paternal first cousins lived in or around Yellow Walls, where I grew up and I knew most of them. 

So, perhaps he was on the O'Neill side. My grandmother and her sister Joan were raised in foster care in Yellow Walls, but their older siblings lived elsewhere.  We didn't know them. 

The biggest clue to dating the picture is the photographer’s stamp on the back. It reads: 
‘The Franco Portrait Studios – 6 Nth. Earl Street, 85 Talbot Street, 39 Mary Street, 46 Harrington St., Sackville Studios, 15a Lr. Sackville St. – Dublin’  

A review of old Dublin Street Directories revealed the Franco Portrait Studios were a group of businesses, seemingly operated by photographer Harry Cowan. He worked in Dublin city during the first half of the twentieth century. 

The Directories show Harry operated under his own name at 15 Lower Sackville Street, under the name Franco Portrait Coy at 6 North Earl Street and 85 Talbot Street, and as the Franco-British Portrait Co. at 46½ Harrington Street. And, he must have had a relationship with Mark Rubenstein, who worked as a photographer at 39 Mary Street. 

Directory listings may be a year or two out of date, but we can still use them to help date the photograph, given Harry's various studios were in business at different times.  

6 North Earl Street was destroyed during the British bombardment of Dublin city in April 1916. It was not rebuilt until after 1919, and the Street Directory that year lists the address as 'destroyed in rebellion'. The Directories for 1920 and 1923 are not available online, but in 1921 and 1922, all five studios listed on the back of the photograph were in operation. The Talbot Street studio did not appear in the Directory for 1924, and we know Sackville Street officially changed its name to O’Connell Street that year anyway. So our photograph must have been taken between about 1920 and 1923.[1] 

I'm not good at estimating ages, but based on this timeline, I'd say the lad in the picture was born at the turn of the twentieth century, give or take a few years. How old would you say he was when this picture was taken?

My grandmother Lena was the baby of the O'Neill family, born in 1895, eliminating all her older brothers as potential candidates. Perhaps it was one of her nephews, except which one? 

We can rule out Lena's sister Teresa, who had no children, and Joan who only had a daughter, and Mary Agnes whose eldest son wasn't born until 1916. And, we can rule out her brother Arthur too, as he did not marry until 1917. 

This leaves Lena's brother Robert, whose eldest son, also Robert O'Neill, was born in August 1909. He'd have been fourteen years old in 1923 - too young to have been the boy in the photo? Robert grew up in Navan, Co. Meath, anyway. 

So, perhaps it was Lena's nephew, Charles O'Neill, the eldest son of her brother John, born in December 1907. He grew up in Dominick Street, in Dublin city, not far from the Harry Cowan studios. 

We cannot rule out Lena's eldest siblings, Charles O'Neill born in 1875 and Catherine O'Neill born in 1876 - they've not been spotted since their respective baptisms, and may have perished as infants, but they could have gone on to have families of their own, and may have kept in touch with my grandmother. 

Maybe someone out there recognises the boy? If you do, please send me an email or leave a comment below. 

[1] The Post Office Dublin Directory and Calendar for 1918, vol. 1-3, Alex. Thom & Co., Limited, Dublin, 1918, accessed at FamilySearchThoms Irish Almanac and Official Directory - the years 1919, 1922 & 1924 accessed at ($) Ancestry, and 1921 & 1925 accessed at Ask about Ireland

© Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday, 24 March 2018

John James Donovan, upholsterer

Recently, I recommenced the search for Dad’s granduncle, John James Donovan, the second son of John Donovan and Maryanne Coyle, from Dublin city. John was probably the only boy in his family to reach adulthood. His siblings, excluding the youngest Teresa Anne, and my great-grandmother, Mary Agnes, all died in infancy and were interred in the family plot at Glasnevin Cemetery

John James Donovan was born on 18 November 1855 in Great Britain Street, now Parnell Street, in Dublin city. He was christened five days later at St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, on Marlboro Street. It’s quite possible his Godparents, Thomas Donovan and Bridget Coyle, were also his grandparents - they shared their names, at least. His baptism register is the only document so far found directly linking John with my family.[1] 

John's father, my great-great-grandfather, was an upholsterer, and although there is no corroborating evidence, when he was young, John probably worked with him and trained as an upholsterer too. The surname Donovan is predominantly a Co. Cork name, so his birth in Dublin city, together with this relatively uncommon occupation, might render him somewhat recognisable in future records, should any ever arise.

Which is why I was particularly drawn to the following census extract, enumerated in 1881, in Birkenhead, near Liverpool, in England:

John J. Donovan, 1881 Census, Birkenhead, Cheshire, England, FamilySearch

It shows John J. Donovan, a single man, aged twenty-five years, lodging in a house at 25 White Street. John J. was born in Dublin about 1855-56 and worked as a ‘practical upholsterer’. He fits exactly the expected description of my great-granduncle. His move to England would also explain why no further trace of him was found in Dublin.

Except, this is the only mention of John J. Donovan found in England, too.

The U.S. City Directories make reference to several upholsterers called John J. Donovan, as you might expect. These men lived in places like New York, Massachusetts, and San Francisco - all places Irish immigrants might make their home – but none of them have panned out so far.

I hoped our DNA results might contain the answer and introduce us to a living descendant of John himself. It’s practically a given such a close cousin would share DNA with us, especially with Dad, but nothing has turned up on that front, either. There are Donovan matches all right, but they seemingly stem from much earlier ancestors, far earlier than our Donovan brick wall. 

My Donovan brick wall

So, if you think you may be related to John J. Donovan, born in Dublin, in 1855, please send me an email or leave a comment. I’d love to know what happened to him.

[1] Baptism register, St. Mary's, Dublin city (20 Jun. 1853 to 2 Jan. 1858), line 4400, NLI.

© Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Papa Joe

Today, I'd like to introduce you to Joseph Wynne, better known as Papa Joe to his grandchildren. Joseph was a first cousin of my grandfather, Kevin Wynne. 

In 1907, when he was twenty-four years old, Joseph left home in Dundalk, Co. Louth, and made his way to America. He signed on as a trimmer onboard the Carmania, an ocean liner serving the Liverpool-New York route, but on arrival in New York, he deserted ship and supposedly swam to shore.[1] 

Joseph was born on 24 May 1883, in Mary Street, Dundalk, the second son and fourth child of John Wynne and Margarita Armstrong, a.k.a. Ward. He was baptised four days later. His Godparents were Joseph Wynne and Julia Hoey.[2] 

On leaving school, Joseph served an apprenticeship with a carpenter in Dundalk, an occupation that would serve him well in New York City.

On 31 July 1910, he married Catherine McDonald, a girl he knew from home. Catherine was born on 22 June 1888, at Jocelyn Street, Dundalk, the daughter of John McDonald, a fireman on the steamships. Her mother Mary died of tuberculosis in 1891, when Catherine was an infant, and the children were said to have been raised in an orphanage in Dundalk.[3] 

Joseph and Catherine raised a family of eight children in New York City. Seemingly, however, Joseph was not the ideal husband or father, spending far too much time in the pub, drinking the family budget. Perhaps he took after his granny Bridget Wynne in that regard; she had a problem with alcohol too, an illness that even saw her spend a night or two in jail. 

But, this wasn't the only trait Joseph may have inherited from his ancestors. He had black hair and blue eyes, same as my granda, and same as many others in our extended Wynne family. And, just like his siblings, and his Uncle James Wynne, Joseph could sing. As a young man, he sang solo at concerts in his native Dundalk, and, according to his granddaughter, he was known to entertain the neighbours in the evenings, singing out on his front porch, in Brooklyn, New York.[4]  

Joseph was eighty-five years old when he died in March 1968, in Lynbrook, Nassau County, New York. Catherine survived him by nearly nine years. They were buried next to each other in the Cemetery of the Holy Rood, in Westbury, Nassau County, New York.[5]

[1] 'Liverpool, England, Crew Lists 1861-1919' accessed on ($)
[2] Copy birth register, Joseph Wynne, Dundalk, 1883, accessed; transcription of the baptism register, Joseph Wynn, Dundalk, 1883, accessed ($)
[3] 'New York, New York, marriage index 1866-1937' accessed on ($); copy birth register, Catherine McDonald, Dundalk, 1888, copy death register Mary McDonald, Dundalk, 1891, accessed
[4] Dundalk Examiner and Louth Advertiser, 21 November 1903; 'World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918' accessed on ($)
[5] Burial of Joseph C. Wynne, 1968, and Catherine Wynne, 1977, Cemetery of the Holy Rood, Westbury, Nassau County, New York, accessed on Find A Grave
[6] Family anecdotes, as told by Joseph's granddaughters, Pamela and Holly. 

Image: Carmania poster accessed via Wikimedia Commons.

(c) Black Raven Genealogy 

Sunday, 18 February 2018

DNA Diary: The Jacksons

Happily, I’ve now identified two more lovely cousins among my top-ten DNA matches at Mary and Tom are brother and sister and a match on my mother’s side.

They are my third cousins once removed.[1] Luckily, they both had a small family tree online, and although it only contained the names of their parents and grandparents, their relationship was immediately clear. Their paternal grandparents were Thomas Jackson and Mary Josephine Flynn, from Dublin city, and the ‘Jackson’ surname had cropped up in my research previously. 

Last summer, during my quest to identify all the grandchildren of Miles McGrane and Margaret Doyle, I discovered their daughter Maryanne McGrane married Benjamin Jackson, in Dublin, in 1883. Mary Anne was the younger sister of my great-great-grandmother, Margaret (McGrane) Byrne.

Benjamin and Mary Anne had thirteen known children, seven girls and six boys, all first cousins of my mother’s grandfather, James Byrne. So far, I’ve only followed the fortunes of the three eldest boys - Thomas, Benjamin and Miles Jackson. 

Miles Jackson was born at 63 Belview Buildings, Dublin, on 3 January 1892. He was only five years old when he died on 14 March 1897. He suffered from asphyxia, having bourn a bad bout of laryngitis for six days. Even though he received medical attention, without modern-day antibiotics, they were unable to save his young life.

Benjamin Jackson was born at 63 Belview Buildings on 30 October 1890. Sometime after he left school, he got a job as a liftman with Jacob’s Biscuit factory, one of the largest employers in Dublin. He never married. Unfortunately, Benjamin died in a horrendous accident at work, when he was only twenty-one years old. On 20 February 1912, he fell three stories, about fifty feet, to the bottom of the lift shaft at Jacob’s factory and died of shock, having fractured his pelvis in four places. The inquest into his death was reported in the newspapers.

Benjamin Jackson, Accidental death, 1912, Jacob's Biscuit factory, Dublin,
Irish Times, 23 February 1912, p. 3

How sad was that!

Thomas Jackson, Benjamin and Mary Anne’s eldest son, was born in Meath Street, Dublin, on 21 August 1885. Like for his brothers, Mary Anne signed the birth register with her mark, indicating she could not write.

When Thomas was fourteen years old he got a job as a labourer in the cooperage department of St James’s Gate Brewery, a.k.a. the Guinness Brewery. In time, he became the foreman there.

He married Mary Josephine Flynn on 10 October 1910, in St Catherine’s Church, Meath Street. They had five children together. Mary Josephine died in Dublin on 24 December 1937, and Thomas on 1 February 1953. My new DNA matches, Mary and Tom, are their grandchildren.

Relationship with the Jackson cousins

[1] One sharing 48 centimorgans across 3 DNA segments, and one sharing 42 centimorgans, across 3 DNA segments, falling within the range of third to fourth cousins on

Sources include: Copy birth, marriage and death registers, General Register Office, accessed on Irishgenalogy.ieThomas Jackson (1885-1953), Genealogy, Archives, Guinness Storehouse

© Black Raven Genealogy

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