Sunday, 24 October 2021

Reconnecting a lost branch to the family tree: James Byrne

Periodically, I revisit each line of my family tree in turn to examine any documents released since my last round of research. This time, while checking my maternal third great-grandparents Francis Byrne and Jane Daly, I discovered a new branch on my family tree.

Francis and Jane married in Dublin city on 11 October 1846 and had five known children:


Birth date

Death date

Spouse, marriage year
Francis Byrne
Bef. c. 1850
19 Dec 1912
Margaret McGrane, 1871
Hannah Byrne
Oct 1852
3 Apr 1926
John Comiskey, 1869
Charles Byrne
c. 1858
19 Nov 1888
Mary McCarthy, 1878
Jane Byrne
c. 1860
24 Jan 1887
William Cunningham, 1878
Catherine Byrne
4 Jan 1861
1 Jan 1930
Charles Carroll, 1920

Over the last few years additional Irish death records have been released online, including those of Charles Byrne and his sister Jane (Byrne) Cunningham.[1] Sadly, both of them caught phthisis (tuberculosis) and died young, but interestingly, Charles' death was registered by his brother - a new-to-me brother - James Byrne.

Death of Charles Byrne, Irishtown Road, Dublin, 1888

James Byrne of 12 Upper Jane Place, son of Francis Byrne, married Ellen Sweeney in St Laurence O'Toole's church, on 2 October 1885.[2] Their son James was born on 8 September 1887, followed by daughter Julia on 16 November 1890, son Francis on 12 July 1892 and daughter Ellen Mary on 12 August 1894.[3] They were all together at 16 Brighton Terrace, Ringsend, in 1911, along with Charles' children Edward and Ellen.[4]

Household of James Byrne, Brighton Terrace, Dublin, 1911

James, who was born about 1851, worked as a glass bottle maker. Charles had been a bottle blower. I'm not sure what the difference was between a bottle maker and a bottle blower, though obviously the blowers were the ones who shaped the molten glass into bottles. I suspect the bottle maker was the boss.

Charles and James settled in Ringsend, on the other side of the River Liffey to Jane Place, where their mother and brother Francis, my direct line, lived. Ringsend was known for its bottle factories.

The Byrnes had known ties to Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire), further south along the coast, but perhaps they had a prior connection to Ringsend too. Records for St Mary's, Star of the Sea, the church serving the area, were not captured as part of the National Library's Catholic Parish Registers, so it could explain why so few baptism records for the family were found.

Like all specialist trades, sons followed fathers, and it would have been nigh on impossible for an outsider to get an apprenticeship as a bottle blower. So the question is, who got the Byrne boys in? Their father Francis Byrne, who was dead by 1869, was a stoker or fireman. I always suspected he worked in the engine room of a steamship, but maybe not.

This discovery presents a number of new clues. And it shows, even when you think you've found all there is to find, there's usually something new waiting to be discovered. 

Granny's relationship with James and Charles Byrne

  1. Copy death register, Jane Cunningham, Dublin North, 1887, Group Registration ID 6873739; Copy death register, Charles Byrne, Dublin South, 1888, Group Registration ID 7051208;
  2. Copy marriage register, James Byrne & Ellen Sweeney, Dublin North, Group Registration ID 2344539,
  3. Copy birth registers, Dublin South: James Byrne, 1887, Group Registration ID 11893293; Julia Byrne, 1890, Group Registration ID 9536729; Francis Byrne, 1892, Group Registration ID 9342758 & Ellen Mary 1894, Group Registration ID 11441412,
  4. Byrne household, 16 Brighton Terrace, Pembroke West, Dublin, 1911 Census, National Archives of Ireland.

Sunday, 10 October 2021

Celebrating 8 years at Black Raven Genealogy

This week I celebrate 8 years blogging at Black Raven Genealogy. 

On 6 October 2013, I wrote my first blog post - Welcome to Black Raven Genealogy – where I  promised to share my ancestors’ stories with family and friends. My main goal was, and still is, to keep my ancestors alive in living memory.

Now, as the 8th year ends, I’d like to say thank you. Thank you to my family and extended family, and all the other readers I have ‘met’ along the way. I really appreciate you leaving comments, sharing your knowledge and research stories with me, and returning to read my blog again and again. Your support means the world to me.

Here’s hoping, I never run out of stories to blog about!

Sunday, 3 October 2021

Maria Radcliffe - a farmer at Yellow Walls

Is a family tree ever finished? Even when you think you have found all there is to find for a branch of the family tree, someone or something else always crops up, eventually.

This week, I came across a record for a Maria Radcliffe.[1] Maria died in Yellow Walls, the same townland in Malahide, Co, Dublin, where my Radcliffe ancestors lived. She was 56 years old when she died on 2 February 1888, indicating she was born about 1831-32.

Death of Maria Radcliffe, Balrothery, 1888

My family tree shows a great-great-great-grandaunt, Mary Ratty, baptised on 9 July 1831.[2] She was the only daughter of Peter Radcliffe and Anne Sarsfield. Mary is the English spelling of Maria and Ratty was a nickname commonly used in my Radcliffe family, so presumably Maria and Mary were one and the same person. Also, Peter Radcliffe, Maria's brother, and my great-great-great-granduncle, registered her death.

Baptism of Mary Ratty, Swords, 9 July 1831

Maria never married. She worked as a farmer. Isn't it unusual in Ireland for a woman's occupation to be mentioned! Most of my female relatives of the nineteenth century were described as 'wife of a carter', or 'daughter of a labourer', etc. But, Maria farmed.

Do you think she rented her own land, or did she live most of her life in her parents home and farm land rented by her father? Probably the latter. Her father died on 17 March 1887, less than a year before Maria. She is not recorded in Griffith's Valuation, created about 1850 in Malahide, but this was before Maria reached adulthood. It would be interesting to check the succeeding Cancelled Books, at the Valuation Office in Dublin, to see if she ever did lease land in her own name. 

During the last year of her life, following the death of their father, relations between Maria and her brother Joseph were seemingly quite strained. She even took him to court.[3]

Petty Sessions registers, Maria Radcliffe, Swords court, 1887

On 26 November 1887, at Swords petty sessions court, Maria gave evidence against Joseph to the effect that he:
'did unlawfully, willfully and maliciously damage, injure and destroy a lock on an out-office at Yelow Wallls, the property of [Maria], in the month of June 1887 under the value of £5'.
What had Maria got in that shed? We never had locks on the sheds at home when I was growing up in Yellow Walls, one hundred years later. We didn't even always lock the front door. Maybe the sheds had belonged to their father, and Joseph was seeking whatever he thought was rightly his inheritance.

The court concluded it had no jurisdiction in the case.

And Maria died of pulmonary congestion, as a result of valvular heart disease, barely two months later. And Joseph probably got whatever he was looking for.

Relationship Chart - Maria Radcliffe and my Grandfather

[1] Death, Maria Radcliffe, Balrothery, 1888, Group Registration ID 6320631,
[2] Baptism, Mary Ratty, Swords, 9 July 1831, National Library of Ireland.
[3] Petty Sessions registers, Maria Ratcliffe, Swords court, 1887, FindMyPast.

Sunday, 5 September 2021

Carroll sisters - a tale of betrayal (cont'd)

When my mother was a little girl, she was eavesdropping on her parents and overheard them whispering about her father's Aunt Annie. Mam thought they said Annie had married her sister’s husband, with whom she’d been having an affair. Mam had got the wrong end of the stick. Annie was innocent. I told this story before - Annie Carroll – a tale of betrayal. However, back then, perhaps I told the wrong truth.

Like I unwittingly hinted then, there was more to Annie's story, and maybe it did involve her little sister, Margaret Mary Carroll.

Margaret Mary Carroll
Margaret was born on 23 September 1893, the youngest child of Maurice Carroll and Anne Radcliffe.[1] In the weeks before Margaret's first birthday, her sister Annie married William Smith Singleton, then a butcher, from Kirkham, England.[2] In 1911, Margaret was seventeen and still living at home in Dublin, while Annie and William were seemingly already living apart, with Annie in Newcastle, mysteriously calling herself 'Annie Smith' and William nowhere to be found.[3]

We know Margaret married Christopher Penrose in Gateshead, England in 1923. We know Christopher died in 1934. We now know Margaret went on to marry Martin Penrose in Essex, England in 1943.[4] And we know she didn't have any children with either Christopher or Martin. But she did have a child. We know, because we (my aunt, her first cousin, my first cousin and I) share second and third cousin DNA matches with her great-granddaughter.

Margaret's son Maurice
Margaret's son was born on 6 April 1915, in Gateshead, England. On his birth certificate, he was named Maurice Ernest Jones, the son of William Jones, a master butcher, and Margaret Jones, formerly Carroll.[5]

Maurice Ernest Jones, GRO Reference: 1915, J Quarter, Gateshead, vol. 10A, p. 2070

Who was William Jones? There is no sign of a marriage between him and Margaret Carroll between 1911 and 1915. Did Margaret fib when she registered the birth and claim her surname was Jones, to hide the fact her son was 'illegitimate'?

Maurice Singleton (1915-1998)

Margaret's great-granddaughters heard rumours growing up that their grandfather's birth surname was Jones, yet they knew he hated any association with that name. He only ever used the surname Singleton. And it is certainly true, Maurice Ernest Singleton shared the exact same birthday as Maurice Ernest Jones - 6 April 1915.[6]

Death, Maurice Ernest Singleton, 1998, GRO index,

A new theory
Was William Jones Maurice's father? Or was his father actually a man called Singleton?

Remember, Annie Carroll's husband's name was Singleton. Could William Smith Singleton have been Maurice's father? He was also a William, and a butcher, like Maurice's father on the birth register. And, there was a rumour in the Singleton family too that his father was the husband of his mother's sister. Perhaps we are finally getting to the bottom of the Carroll family scandal.

So, if our theory is correct, Margaret had an affair with her Annie's husband, and even had a child with him. William was 24 years older than Margaret. They never married. Legally they never could. By the time Annie died in 1926, Margaret was married to Christopher, and William died in 1932, two years before Christopher died. But maybe at some point, Margaret and William lived together as husband and wife.

Perhaps it was Margaret who placed this memorial notice in the newspaper, on the first anniversary of William's death.[7] No marriage was registered in England for William Smith Singleton after Annie's death. And Margaret was seemingly prone to the odd little white lie.

Lancashire Evening Post, 6 February 1933, p. 2

The 1921 census of England and Wales, due to be published early next year, may shed more light on this.

And we also need to see if any clues can be found in my cousins DNA results.

[1] Birth Margaret Carroll, Dublin North, 1893, Group Registration ID: 9809957,
[2] Marriage Anne Carroll, Dublin South, 1894, Group Registration ID: 2187735,
[3] Maggie Carroll, Gloucester Place North, Mountjoy, 1911 Census of Ireland, National Archives of Ireland; Annie Smith, Ethel Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, 1911 Census For England & Wales, Findmypast.
[4] Marriage Margaret M. Carroll (Penrose), GRO Reference: 1923, J Quarter, Gateshead, vol. 10A, p. 1754; Death Christopher Penrose (age 55), GRO reference: 1934, M Quarter, Gateshead, vol. 10b, p. 113; Marriage Margaret Penrose (Parsons), GRO reference: 1943, J Quarter, Romford, vol. 4a, p. 1289.
[5] Maurice Ernest Jones, GRO Reference: 1915, J Quarter, Gateshead, vol. 10A, p. 2070.
[6] Death, Maurice Ernest Singleton, 1998, GRO index,
[7] Lancashire Evening Post, 6 February 1933, p. 2.

Sunday, 29 August 2021

What happened to Margaret Mary Carroll? - Answered

I do love killing off the ancestors and finding where the bodies are buried. Don't you?

A couple of years ago, I wrote about my search for Margaret Carroll, the youngest daughter of my great-great-grandparents, Maurice Carroll and Anne Radcliffe. I'd found her marriage to Christopher Penrose in Gateshead, England, in 1923, and evidence of Christopher's death in 1934. And, that’s where the trail went cold.[1]

There was a Margaret Penrose listed in the 1939 National Register of England and Wales. She was a widow, living alone in Hornchurch, Essex, where she worked as the manageress in an off-licence. She was born on 24 Sep 1893, just one day after our Margaret's registered birthday. She later married Martin Parsons in Romford, near Hornchurch, during the second quarter of 1943.[2]

Source: Findmypast, 1939 Register, Margaret M. Penrose, Hornchurch U.D.

I suspected this was my great-grandaunt, but was led astray...

A note beside Margaret's name in her baptism register supposedly contained details of her second marriage. She was said to have remarried in Hornsea, Yorkshire on 15 November 1949 - not Hornchurch, Essex in 1943. However, her new husband’s name was not given in the baptism register and no record of the likely marriage could be found.[3]

Source:, baptism register, 1893, Pro-Cathedral

So, I put the research aside until something new turned up. This is a perfectly valid research strategy, I'll have you know! 😏

The note on Margaret's baptism register is still baffling, but a new DNA match on Ancestry recently showed a way forward. I share 47cM of DNA with this lady, my cousin Aileen shares a whopping 175cM, Aunty Anne shares 101cM and her cousin Larry shares 170cM. This places us squarely in the 2nd-3rd cousin bracket. She also matches descendants of great-great-granduncle Thomas O'Carroll, so must realistically be a match on the Carroll line.

Our newfound cousin knows her great-grandmother was born Margaret Carroll and recognised the name Parsons, making it a safer bet to order the Parsons-Penrose marriage certificate. It arrived in the post during the week. And eureka!

GRO reference: 1943, J Quarter, Romford, vol. 4a, p. 1289

Margaret Mary Penrose, the daughter of Maurice Carroll, a schoolmaster (pardon?) married Martin Edmund Parsons at the Registry Office in Romford, Essex, on 14 April 1943.[4] My great-great-grandfather, Maurice Carroll, was a coachman, working for a big-house, not a schoolmaster. He was a talented man, for sure. It's said he played the trombone (or some such) in the Theatre Royal in Dublin. He was good with his hands too, and made a dolls house for his daughter Teresa, out of an orange box. The dolls house still survives in the family today. But, a schoolmaster! I don't think so. Yet, I do think this was our Margaret, and maybe a little white lie.

Margaret was 80 years of age when she died, surviving Martin by 15 years. She died of cancer at East Riding General Hospital, Birdlington Road, Driffield, East Yorkshire on 3 July 1974.[5] She was buried with her husband Martin at Driffield Cemetery. Click to see a picture of their headstone, here.[6] The inscription is faded, but can still be made out as:
'In loving memory of Martin Edmund Parsons, died 22 May 1959, aged 75, And of his dear wife, Margaret Mary Parsons, died 3 July 1974, aged 82.'

Margaret's great-granddaughters, Maria and Lisa

But there is so much more to Margaret's story. It's sad. And a little shocking. And, it must once have caused a huge rift in the Carroll family. But more about this next week.

Click Here

[1] Marriage Margaret M. Carroll (Penrose), GRO Reference: 1923, J Quarter, Gateshead, vol. 10A, p. 1754; Death Christopher Penrose (age 55), GRO reference: 1934, M Quarter, Gateshead, vol. 10b, p. 113.
[2] Margaret M. Penrose, Hornchurch U.D., Essex, England in the 1939 Register, Findmypast; Marriage Margaret Penrose (Parsons), GRO reference: 1943, J Quarter, Romford, vol. 4a, p. 1289.
[3] Baptism register, St Mary's Pro-Cathedral, 1893, Margaret Mary Carroll,
[4] Marriage Margaret Penrose (Parsons), GRO reference: 1943, J Quarter, Romford, vol. 4a, p. 1289.
[5] Death Margaret Mary Parsons, GRO reference: 1974, S Quarter, Bridlington, vol. 7, p. 225.
[6] GENUKI: Driffield Cemetery gravestones.

Sunday, 30 May 2021

Okay, Houston, we've had a problem here (re: readers on email)

Google provides the platform I use for this blog and towards the end of April, they sent me the following message:
'You are receiving this information because your blog uses the FollowByEmail widget (FeedBurner). Recently, the FeedBurner team released a system update announcement, that the email subscription service will be discontinued in July 2021. After July 2021, your feed will still continue to work, but the automated emails to your subscribers will no longer be supported. If you’d like to continue sending emails, you can download your subscriber contacts.'
But, in typical Google fashion, they didn't provide an alternative solution. This is an issue for anyone who wants to continue to receive emails with posts from Black Raven Genealogy. No other blog readers are effected, as far as I am aware.

I've identified another service that should meet our requirements. It's called Mailchimp. According to the blurb, 'Mailchimp is an American marketing automation platform and email marketing service'. It's way more complicated than Feedburner, but it's free (for small users like me).

Anyway, I intend to use the Google offer to download the email addresses for the readers who signed up to receive posts by email, and then upload these addresses into my new account at Mailchimp. So, email readers will automatically be added to the new distribution list. I'd like it to be a seamless transfer, but cannot guarantee it. Please bear with me as I sort out any teething problems.

I've linked Mailchimp back to the Black Raven Genealogy blog. Emails will look a bit different than what you’ve received up until now, but you can check they've come from me, as the content will match what is posted on the blog, here.

If, for any reason, you would prefer not to transfer to Mailchimp, all you have to do is click on the 'Unsubscribe now' link at the bottom of this email, and your subscription will be cancelled. Or, drop me a line at and I will cancel it for you. This will mean no more posts from Black Raven Genealogy and I'll be sorry to see you go.

You don't need to do anything if you wish to continue receiving posts. And, you can always change your mind in the future. Emails delivered by Mailchimp will also have an 'Unsubscribe' link at the bottom.

The post you receive next week will probably be delivered by Mailchimp. If you experience any issues or irritations with it, please let me know, by return. Apologies in advance for any hiccups we may encounter along the way. Thank you for your support.

Sunday, 23 May 2021

Amazing family history to be found on Facebook

There are all these cool local-history Facebook groups popping up everywhere now, and two great ones for Malahide, Co. Dublin, the village where I grew up. One of them is a 'closed' group, but the other is open to anyone who requests access - Old Malahide History. Group members enthusiastically share their old photos of Malahide, and its people. Each new photo starts a conversation that sparks old memories. I love these groups, not just for the fascinating local history, especially about the townland of Yellow Walls, but also for all the amazing 'new to me' family history too.

I'm sharing some of my favourites, for those not on Facebook, and so you can see the type of gems that might be waiting for you to find. 

Here's a photograph I came across of my Dad with some of his old pals. Pure magic! I have never seen a picture of my Dad like this one before. It was probably taken in the mid to late 1940s. Dad was born at the end of 1937 and he looks no more than about ten years old here. Do you agree? He is in the front row, third from the left, with the dark tie, and named Michael 'Jerks' Byrne. The photo was supposedly taken near where the houses at 'Ard Na Mara' were later built.

Back row: Seamie Nugent, Joe Ryan, Patsy 'Nugget' Nugent, Gerry 'Bangers' O'Neill, Paddy Condron, Unknown, John 'Gunner' Kennedy
Front row: Unknown, Andy Carty(?), Michael 'Jerks' Byrne, John 'Skinner' Ryan

Here's a colourised version. Doesn't the added colour (authentic or otherwise) really bring the picture to life!

I also like the following one of the Yellow Walls gang. Dad and his older sister, my Aunt Maisie, are in it. The photo was likely taken two or three years after the last one, probably about 1950. The kids often played at an unused area on Sea Road, near the crossroads at Yellow Walls - maybe this was taken there. Maisie is the blond girl, with the dark coloured dress and cardigan, in the middle of the back row, and Dad is kneeling in front of her, third from left (you might miss the tiny little fella hiding to his right!).

Back row: Kay or Jean Condron, Ellie Condron, Renee Condron, Maureen Curran, Rita Ryan, Maisie Byrne, Joe Ryan?, Paddy Kennedy, Joe Condron
Front row: ?, tiny lad, nearly hidden?, Mick Byrne, Brendan Leonard, Cyril Lee, Piero Farrell, John Ryan, Brendan Leggett?
(Names crowd-sourced on Facebook, subject to correction)

And this one. The old Barracks in Yellow Walls, where I believe Lord Talbot housed his Fencible regiment, in eighteenth century. I passed it every day walking home from school, and it looked just like this, right down to the old dog sitting at the gate. By then, it was used as a farm shed. Now it is gone, replaced by housing developments.

One commentator reminisced, 'I remember the auction in 1958/59 when they sold off the contents of the house and yard. Mick Byrne bought a wardrobe for 5/-. The bonus was a banjo stored on the hat shelf.' We never heard this story. He also said my Dad was 'a great piper', which he was, and mentioned his nickname 'Jerks' and 'Sweet Afton'.

Where the nickname 'Jerks' came from, I've no idea, other than Dad inherited it from his father. As a young lad, Dad was also called 'Little Jerks'. Dad smoked Sweet Afton when we were young, switching to Carrolls later. I remember him going to McAllister's Garage of an evening after work, to buy his newspaper, his smokes (in their pretty yellow packet) and a liquorish pipe or a fizzle stick for us.

The above picture was taken a little further down the road from the Barracks, towards Barrack's Bridge, on Old Yellow Walls Road, on the way to our house. Intriguing! I can't say I remember the cottage on the right. Was it gone before my time?  Except, I do have a huge sense of déjà vu. I wonder if the scene is merely imprinted on my DNA. The road probably looked more like this in the days when Dad was walking home from school. His parents and grandparents also walked this way, in their day.

This photo of the Back Strand was snapped before my time too. It must have been colourised, it came out well enough. Years ago, they built a new road into the village, on the strand itself, right where these geese are wandering. No wonder the road is prone to flooding now! So many times I've seen pictures of cars parked there, in a foot or more of seawater - destroyed.

Such amazing photographs!  Such cherished memories!

Dad would have loved to see these. And tell me one of his stories.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, to all our old neighbours for sharing them on Facebook.