Sunday, 23 September 2018

The Wynne family in the newspapers x 3


My first cousin recently gave me a subscription to the $ Irish Newspaper Archives, so I thought I'd use it to find her something new about our Wynne family.  This post is for you, Aileen 💝

1. Agnes (Wynne) Fegan
Agnes Wynne was born at 10 Christ Church Place, on 7 July 1877, the youngest daughter of our great-great-grandparents, John Wynne and Bridget Hynes. She married John Fegan, a salesman, on 1 March 1905. They made their home at 24 Halliday Square, in Dublin city, where they raised a large family. Sadly, Agnes died young, on 3 October 1921, aged only forty-four years. Five years after she died, her husband placed this 'In Memoriam' notice in the newspaper:

In Memoriam, Agnes (Wynne) Fegan, Evening Herald, 2 October 1926, p. 2

Do you think she went by the name Winnie, or was the intention to include her maiden name, Wynne, in this notice?

2. John Wynne (junior)
John Wynne was baptised on 1 June 1851, in St Catherine's parish, in Meath Street. He was Agnes (Wynne) Fegan's eldest brother. He married Margarita Mary Ward/Armstrong in July 1876, in Dundalk, Co. Louth, where they made their home.  After his wife died and his children were all reared, John came back to live in Dublin for a few years. Records show him in the city in 1911 and 1916. But, until now, his last known address was in Glasgow, Scotland, sometime between 1916 and 1918, and I've never been able to find a record of his death, anywhere. Now, I know he returned to Dublin, where he died on or around 20 July 1923.

Death notice, John Wynne, Evening Herald, 23 July 1923, p. 4

Here's the relevant excerpt from the copy death register:

Copy death register, John Wynne, Dublin, 20 July 1923

The register states he was fifty-one years old when he died. He was really seventy-two years of age, which is why I never paid any attention to this record in the index before now, but there are enough correct details to be comfortable this was our great-granduncle. It's true, he was the eldest son of John and Bridget Wynne, Dublin; he was a widower; his occupation was cork-maker; and his given residential address - 2 Nelson St - was the known address of his sister, Isabella (Wynne) Perrody. 

3. Bridget (Hynes) Wynne
And, saving the best for last - who'd have thunk there'd be a newspaper death notice for our great-great-grandmother, Bridget (Hynes) Wynne, herself - in 1895! 

But, voilà!

Death notice, Bridget (Hynes) Wynne, 
Irish Independent, 19 December 1895, p. 1

Most interesting, apart from the fact the notice was published in the first place, is the sentence 'American and East Indian papers please copy'. We already know Bridget's daughter, Mary (Wynne) Finnegan, emigrated to America and was living in Colorado Springs, when Bridget died. But who in 'East India' was concerned with Bridget's passing? This is a new clue.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

An impostor in my DNA?

This week, Ancestry.com rolled out enhanced ethnicity estimates for everyone who has taken their DNA test, and the genealogy world is awash with stories about their 'increased precision'. I got my update several months ago, but as I’ve never been a fan of DNA ‘ethnicity’ tools, I didn’t find reason to mention it before now. I’m Irish, so these tools never seemed to add much to the understanding of my ancestors.

Originally, Ancestry had me down as 66% ‘Ireland, Scotland and Wales’, and 34% ‘Great Britain’. Granted, you might think they pinned it down nicely to the right corner of the world… but 34% British! Hmph!!! To an Irish person, that’s bordering on a major slur. And, there's no supporting documentation for this statistic! What happened to innocent until ‘proven’ guilty?   

My pre-June 2018 Ethnicity Estimate from Ancestry.com

Their new release seems to be going in the right direction, in my perhaps somewhat prejudiced opinion. They’ve broadened the geographic scope, yet homed in more precisely on Ireland - 21% more precisely to be exact. But that still leaves 13% ‘England, Wales and Northwestern Europe’ in my DNA.  That’d be the equivalent of one great-grandparent being of 'the old foe’.

My post-June 2018 Ethnicity Estimate at Ancestry.com

MyHeritage reports a similar ethnic background to Ancestry’s original estimate, with me supposedly being 40% ‘English’. But, although these figures came from a separate, independent test, I didn’t believe them either. My parent’s test results were also uploaded to MyHeritage, and they both showed 0% ‘English’. That's more like it. 😅 So, where did my ‘English’ supposedly come from? I didn’t lick it off a stone. It was obviously bogus. Right?

My Ethnicity Estimate at MyHeritage (based on FTDNA test results)

Plus, my parent’s results were far too exotic for our tiny, historically subjugated island, on the fringes of western Europe. Dad showed 9% Italian and 8% Eastern European. My mother showed 20% Scandinavian and, with 1% ‘Central American’, she could even claim a mythical ‘Indian Princess’ among her distant ancestry. It’s all just too far-fetched to be taken seriously, especially if you ever met my parents.

Mam's Ethnicity Estimate at MyHeritage (based on FTDNA upload)

Dad's Ethnicity Estimate at MyHeritage (based on FTDNA upload)

But, with everyone singing the praises of Ancestry’s revised results, I’m having second thoughts. As reference populations increase and become more dependable, the results are bound to become more accurate, someday. Has that day arrived? Am I letting historic sensitivities get in the way of tracing my real ancestors? 

I do have one great-grandfather whose origins cannot be proven – Charles O’Neill, born about 1849, the son of John and Margaret O’Neill. He sounds Irish enough. Was he descended from the ancient High-Kings of Ireland, as his name suggests… or was he an impostor? 

That may be the real question here!

P.S. to all my lovely English friends, I’m only joking… sort of.😀

Saturday, 8 September 2018

Aunt Tessie, Uncle Jack and the Mafia

‘Aunt Tessie, Uncle Jack and Mafia’ - Amusingly, this is exactly what it says on the back of a photograph, purporting to be my Dad's O'Neill family. The down-arrow is labeled on the back as 'Aunt Tessie', with 'Uncle Jack' named as shown, implying the rest of them are the 'Mafia'.

Aunt Tessie, Uncle Jack and Mafia, c.1934

I recently received this picture from Marie, my granduncle's step-granddaughter. She got it from her step-aunt, May O'Neill. May was Arthur O'Neill's daughter, and my Granny Lena's niece.

Initially, I didn't know anyone in the picture. Lena did have a sister called Teresa, known as Aunt Tess in our branch of the family. And, like nearly everyone else in Ireland then, she also had a brother John. He went by the name Jack. Tess and Jack were May O'Neill's aunt and uncle, so it all fits. 

When I showed the picture to my mother, she immediately spotted my grandfather, James Byrne, in the back row, on the far left.😍 Mam also thought 'Aunt Tessie' looked like my grandmother, Lena. And, she would know. While my paternal grandparents passed away long before I was born, Mam knew them all her life.

Once pointed out, I could easily identify my Granda. Or, more specifically, I recognised the outfit he was wearing, especially the badge on his jacket. I'd seen it before... in my grandparent's wedding photo. 


Comparing James and Lena, c. 1934, to the couple in the ‘Mafia’ picture

It's definitely my Granda in both pictures, though I'm not completely sure the second picture shows my Granny. The two ladies do look very similar, but their hair is parted differently. May O'Neill may have been correct, and the lady in the second photo is her Aunt Tessie, and not her Aunt Lena. 

Granda was a farmer. He probably only had one suit, for Sundays and special occasions, which lasted for years, but these pictures were unquestionably taken around the same time, perhaps even on the same day. It's even possible, they were both taken on my grandparent's wedding day.


My grandparents married on 11 February 1934, in St Sylvester's church, Malahide, and the celebrations were held at her sister Tess's house, at 19 O'Neachtain Road, Drumcondra. Tess lived there with her husband Richard Greer, her step-children, including Thomas, Richard, Patrick, Mary and Eileen Greer, and her mother, Mary Agnes (Donovan, O'Neill) Ellis. Mary Greer was Lena's bridesmaid.

Mary Agnes Ellis was an accomplished musician, playing both piano and violin. She entertained my grandparent's guests, on the evening of their wedding. They had a great big hooley that night, according to our family lore. All four of my grandparents attended. It would be wonderful if this was a picture memento of that occasion. 


Images on Google Street View suggest it's quite possible the photo was snapped at O'Neactain Road. House number 19 has since been completely remodeled, but number 11 still bears a striking resemblance to the house in our photo. They both have similar shaped windows, cobble-dashed walls, and a cute little flower garden in the front, immediately under the windowsill. Do you see the resemblance below?


So, chances are our photograph was taken at Tess Greer's house, making it more than feasible the man standing behind her is Richard Greer, and the two girls are her step-daughters, Mary and Eileen. That's my theory for now; perhaps someday we'll know for sure. 


In the meantime, it's great to have another picture of my Granda. Thanks again, Marie.

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Genealogy blogging - a win-win-win!

Our ancestors regularly swapped photographs with family and friends, and the descendants of those relatives often still have the pictures in their possession today. Genealogy blogging creates a unique opportunity to reconnect with the current custodians of these family photos, which is especially rewarding when few mementos have survived in our direct line.

This was true for me earlier this month, as mentioned here, when, not only was I able to identify Barney O'Connor, the subject of one of our 'orphan' photos, but, much to her delight, I was able to return it to his daughter. A win-win outcome! But, that's not the end of the story. Marie, my granduncle's step-granddaughter, also had some of our family photographs in her collection.

We had the first picture, on the left, below. It once belonged to my paternal grandmother, Lena O'Neill. Lena never recorded the names on the back of her photographs. She merely wrote 'snapped by L. O'Neill', which is lovely, though not always particularly helpful. But, we know this picture is of Lena's sister Joanna (Joan) O'Neill, with Joan's husband Jack Lockhead, and their new-born daughter, Mary Agnes (May) Lockhead. May was born in Liverpool, England, on 12 August 1926, confirming, with reasonable accuracy, when and where this picture was taken. It also places my Granny in Liverpool at that time.

And, Marie sent me the second picture, on the right. Both photographs were obviously taken on the same day. Joan is wearing the same clothes and holding the baby in the same pose, and both pictures are taken in front of the same house. Except, Marie's picture also includes my Granny Lena (far right). The back of the photograph, which Marie originally received from Joan and Lena's niece, reads 'Lena & Joanna, in Liverpool, with neighbours'.

Jack, Joan and May Lockhead, 
Liverpool, 1926
Joan & May Lockhead, Lena O’Neill, 
with neighbours in Liverpool, 1926

Hardly any pictures of my Granny Lena have been passed down in our family. This one possibly represents the years she spent working in England, before her marriage. It's wonderful to have it. Thank you again, Marie.

So, isn't that just a win-win-win! 

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Colour clustering

Last week, one of the genealogy bloggers I follow wrote about a new way of sorting her Ancestry DNA matches. She calls it the 'Color Cluster Method'. It certainly produces colourful results and it's quick and easy to follow, so I thought I'd try it. All going well, it should divide our matches into four clusters, with one to represent each set of great-grandparents.

The first step is to list the second and third cousin DNA matches at Ancestry.com. Unfortunately, however, I only have four such matches in total at this level, barely enough to create a single good cluster, never mind four, so I had to move the goalposts. Though not recommended, I added the fourth cousins Ancestry.com deems high confidence matches to the mix. Some of them are known third cousins anyway and it gave me twenty-six matches to play with.

It sort of worked. I got nine groupings, but among them, four distinct clusters are obvious. And, while not specific to any particular set of great-grandparents, three of my grandparents are definitely separately represented by the first three clusters, as depicted below. 



On my mother's side, the yellow cluster, in column 1, contains known cousins on her paternal Wynne line, all being descendants of my great-great-grandparents John Wynne and Bridget Hynes.  The orange cluster, in column 3, includes two cousins on her maternal Byrne line. They are descendants of my third-great-grandparents, Myles McGrane and Margaret Doyle, but the other matches in this group have not yet been proven. And, on Dad's side, the blue cluster, in column 2, includes five identified cousins on his paternal Byrne line, all descendants of my third-great-grandparents, Andrew Byrne and Anne Clynch.  

So, does the green cluster, in column 4, represent my other grandmother, Dad's maternal O'Neill line?  That's the big question. It would make for an interesting conclusion, as currently we have no known DNA matches on the O'Neill side. 

None of the matches in the green cluster have been identified yet, but as there is no overlap between any of these four clusters, i.e. no match has been allocated more than one colour, the chances are the green group represents a different lineage - maybe the O'Neills. 

The next step is to ascertain surnames common to different members of each group, so as to gather clues to the identity of our as yet undiscovered ancestors. Luckily, four matches in the green cluster have an online family tree, though only two include the surnames of their great-great-grandparents. (Note: if you are following the method as it was intended, and originally included only second and third cousin matches, you need only list the surnames of great-grandparents here). 

Regrettably, there are no surnames in common among any of the matches in the green cluster, bar one. Two matches, including the one with no online tree, share the surname Donvan, an unusual distortion of the Irish name, Donovan. And, Donovan is a known surname in my O'Neill lineage. But, I've already investigated this match, without success; their Donovans seemingly go back to Co. Cork, whereas ours were well established in Dublin city, by the early nineteenth century. 

The remaining five clusters presumably represent earlier generations still. Their lineage may even be indicated by the second colour some matches share with members of a main cluster. 

So, food for thought... 

Perhaps my cousins might like to try out this method? Aileen, Phyllis, Holly - you all have lots of cousins at second and third cousin level. Give it a go! & let me know how you get on. 

See Dana Leeds' easy to follow instructions on The Enthusiastic Genealogist blog at NEW METHOD: DNA Quick Sort and Color Clustering: Identifying Common Surnames and Color Clustering: Working with "4th Cousins" and Color Clustering: Top 25 Fourth Cousins.

Sunday, 5 August 2018

One more mystery solved

Bernard (Barney) O'Connor Dublin and Kiltimagh
Bernard (Barney) O'Connor
Do you remember this chap? 

A few months ago, I published this little photograph and asked 'Who's in the picture?' His was an 'orphan' photo, from 'Black Raven', our house in Malahide, Co. Dublin. 

Well, somewhat to my surprise, a lady found my post and contacted me this week, saying:

Hello Dara, I am so excited by the photograph of Who's in the picture as the photograph is of my Father Bernard (Barney) O'Connor.  Barney was the son of Bartholomew and Winifred O'Connor (nee Earley) from Irishtown, Dublin.

Isn't that wonderful! 

I now know exactly who he was.

Barney O'Connor was Arthur O'Neill's step-son. Arthur was my granduncle, my Granny Lena's brother. Lena obviously received a copy of this picture and kept it, which is how it came to be at 'Black Raven'.

Barney's father, Bartholomew O'Connor, died in a tragic accident at work, in January 1913. He worked for Dublin Corporation, in the City's main sewage works, which was situated at the Pigeon House Fort. When his colleague was rendered unconscious, eleven feet under, in a culvert at the pump house, Bartholomew immediately went to his rescue. However, he too was overcome by the fumes. The first man died at the scene and Bartholomew died two days later in hospital. He was only about twenty-nine years old. 

The Royal Humane Society posthumously awarded him a medal for his bravery. His son Barney kept the medal in a silver box, and treasured it all his life. But, at the time, Winifred was left alone with four young children - Barney was five years old, Ellen was three, Winnie was nearly two, and Bart was born eight months after his father's passing. According to her granddaughter, when Bartholomew's died, Winifred earned her living by running the shop and Post Office at Bath Street, in Irishtown. 

And, it was there she met Arthur. He came into the shop one Sunday morning to buy a packet of cigarettes, on his way to watch a band playing in Sandymount. They obviously hit it off. They were married on 1 December 1917, in the Star of the Sea Church in Sandymount. 

In 1925, Arthur answered a newspaper advertisement seeking a hairdresser in Kiltimagh, Co. Mayo. The job supposedly came with a three bedroom detached house with lots of space. By then, Arthur and Winifred had four children of their own, to add to Winifred's four. Arthur got the job, and the whole family moved West. Barney trained as a hairdresser with Arthur, in Mayo. 

And, they all lived happily ever after, or so the story goes. 

Thank you so much to Arthur's step-granddaughter for all the information she has provided about my O'Neill family. I do hope you enjoy the photograph of your father, which is making it's way to you in the post.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

The Byrne cottage, Athgarvan


In the nineteenth century, Irish newspapers generally only catered for the upper- and middle-classes of society, and unless they had found themselves on the wrong side of the law, they rarely mentioned my working-class ancestors, but on this occasion, they have delivered a real gem:-

At some point, following the death of her brother, Edward Byrne, in 1881, my Dad’s great-grandaunt, Mary Byrne, and her husband, Owen Doran, 'inherited' the Byrne cottage, at Athgarvan Cross, Co. Kildare. This cottage, or one standing on the same site, was once the home of my third great-grandparents, Andrew Byrne and Anne Clynch.

After a few years, the Dorans emigrated to New York, and the little cottage passed out of the Byrne family for good.  Before they left, they held an auction, to sell off all the stuff they were leaving behind. The auction was advertised in the county newspaper and the advertisement tells much about our ancestral home, and hints at the perceived attraction of living in Athgarvan, at the end of the nineteenth century. 

The Byrnes never owned the cottage in Athgarvan, nor the acre of land on which it stood. They held it under some kind of lease, at an annual rent of £1 and 10 shillings. Due to the low rent, their 'interest' in the property had a value, and could be sold on. They also hoped to sell their furniture, a bit of timber, Owen Doran’s carpenter’s tools and a heap of manure.

Owen Doran, Emigration sale, Athgarvan, 1891
Kildare Observer and Eastern Counties Advertiser, 
28 February 1891, p. 4

What would bring someone (and by someone, I really mean my ancestors) to live in Athgarvan? It was barely more than a hamlet of houses. It's a beautiful part of the country, no doubt, but that didn't put food on the table. The only business was seemingly an old corn mill. Owen Doran was a carpenter, so he was selling its proximity to the market towns of Newbridge and Kilcullen, with the Curragh Camp on its doorstep.

The British Army had built a large barracks on the Curragh, housing potentially thousands of men, but not until the mid-1850s. The Byrne family had lived in Athgarvan from the early 1830s, or maybe even earlier. Plus, Andrew Byrne was a gardener, not a tradesman or a dealer, and the 'big towns' weren't exactly 'big', before the army came. Maybe, Andrew was just born in the area and stayed put.