Sunday 23 February 2014

Black Sheep Sunday ~ Innocent or Guilty?

Some people may feel embarrassed by an ancestor's misdeeds, as if they reflect badly on themselves personally.  Yet, no family is unaffected by ‘scandal’, so in my opinion, the bigger the proverbial skeleton in the ancestral closet the better. The rogue leaves so much more documentary evidence behind him, be it in court records, prison registers or in the newspaper coverage of events.  These sources contain vast quantities of information that would otherwise never be remembered today. They enable us to draw a picture of our ancestors’ lives, over and above the mere names, dates and places of a bare pedigree chart.

Without doubt, our forefathers led tougher lives. I’m happy to have been born when I was and not into their situation. So it’s certainly not for me to judge their actions. This is especially so, given the chances are that I might just happen to stumble upon them at the single worst moment of their lives. 

So, I don’t judge. I dismiss their crimes – a goat wandering on the public road – not even an offence in today’s world. I justify their behaviour - stealing – times were very different then. I can even idealise their actions - murder – the victim was a British spy during Ireland’s War of Independence. 

http://blackravengenealogy.blogspot.ieHowever, then I came across an offence and I found myself starting to pass judgement on my great-grandfather, and he was slipping in my estimation. On 19 October 1907, Michael Byrne of Yellow Walls was brought before Swords Petty Sessions, on the charge: ‘did cruelly abuse or torture a dog, contrary to the law’. Shame, how could that ever be justified?

I knew my great-grandfather raced greyhounds. There was a photograph at home when I was young, showing him with one of his prize-winners. By all accounts he loved his dogs. It was even said that he fed the dogs steak when his children ate bread.

Michael Byrne was not actually found guilty of this charge. The case was ‘dismissed on merits’. I don’t know what that means exactly, though it was presumably something other than ‘not guilty’, or that’s what would have been written.  So, was the case therefore dismissed on a technicality? Or, was there some kind of legal problem, but the Justice of the Peace heard the case anyway, and found in favour of my great-grandfather? 

Was Great-Grandda innocent or did he just get away with it?  

Or am I now taking too brief a glimpse into his life, with eyes warped with present-day values?

Source: Findmypast, ‘Irish Petty Session Order Registers 1828-1912’, Swords Court, database accessed 25 November 2013.

Update 20 April 2019: See the full story about that day in court, here.

© 2014 Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday 15 February 2014

Sibling Saturday ~ Dublin to Newcastle upon Tyne

Various members of our Carroll family left Dublin city for Newcastle upon Tyne, England, in a obvious case of sibling-led chain-migration. It is not clear exactly what initially attracted them to Newcastle, but by the turn of the twentieth century, the Carrolls had begun to make it their home. 

These were the children of my great-great-grandfather, Maurice Carroll, who was born in County Tipperary, about 1837. Maurice married twice and fathered at least fifteen children, although not all of them survived childhood. He first married Mary Anne Frazer in Dublin city in 1859 and, the year after her death in 1868, he then married my great-great-grandmother, Anne Ratcliffe. Maurice worked as a domestic servant and coachman at Balheary House in Swords for nearly twenty-five years and in the mid-1880s, he moved his family to Dublin city, where the younger Carroll siblings, including my great-grandmother Teresa, were born.

Annie Carroll, the second eldest daughter of Maurice and Anne Ratcliffe, married a Lancashire man, William Smith Singleton, in Dublin in 1894. Their location at the time of the 1901 census has not been identified. However, by 1911, Annie was the head of household at Ethel Street, Benwell, Newcastle upon Tyne. She was a grocer, living with her servant Katie Rooney.  Annie’s elder half-brother, James Carroll, married Anne Molyneux in Dublin in 1886. By 1901, he was living in Elswick, Newcastle upon Tyne, with his wife and youngest son, although their status as lodgers suggests their recent arrival in the town. By 1911, James was established as a household head, still living in Elswick with his wife and both sons. He was employed as a ‘fire brigade man’. 

The younger Carroll siblings then took their turn and emigrated from Dublin city to make their home in Newcastle upon Tyne.  John Carroll, aged twenty-two, was still living in the family home at 20 Gloucester Place North in 1901 and worked as a solicitor’s general clerk. Within a few years, he had migrated to Newcastle upon Tyne, where he married Selina Asher in St Mary’s Cathedral, in February 1914. His sister, my great-grandmother Teresa (Carroll) Wynne, was a bridesmaid at their wedding. Records show that, between 1914 and 1917, John and Selina had three children in Newcastle upon Tyne, confirming their settlement in the town. The youngest sibling, Maggie, was aged only seventeen in 1911, but it is believed that she too later emigrated to live in Newcastle upon Tyne. 

St Mary's Roman Catholic Cathedral, Newcastle (Wikimedia Commons)

Patrick Wynne married Teresa Carroll in St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral in Dublin, in August 1905. In 1911, Teresa was staying at her mother’s home in Gloucester Place, with her three infant sons, while her husband, a brush-maker by occupation, was lodging in Cork, near the head-quarters of his employer, the Varian Brushes Company. Family lore suggests that the Wynne family went to Newcastle about 1913, a time of great industrial unrest and the ‘Dublin lock-outs’. The Wynnes settled in Newcastle upon Tyne and their five youngest children were born there. Bizarrely, by today’s customs, they left their third child, Kevin, my grandfather, behind in Dublin to be raised by his maternal aunt, Mary Carroll – thus, our Dublin origins.

It seems the Carroll siblings were quite happy in Newcastle upon Tyne, as, despite the short distance between Dublin and Newcastle, there is no record of any them, nor their descendants, returning to Ireland on any permanent basis.

Sources: Census of Ireland 1901 and 1911; Census of England and Wales, 1901 and 1911; Church records at and IrishGenealogy.ieFree BMDGeneral Register Office, Dublin, birth, marriage and death copy registers.

Annie (Carroll) Singleton was the subject of a previous post, here – Aunt Annie’s Will

© 2014 Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday 8 February 2014

A letter from Ireland, dated 1900
A letter from Ireland, dated 1900
Here follows a transcript of a letter from Maggie Wynne to her Aunt Mary (Wynne) Finnegan in Colorado Springs. Maggie was born in Dundalk, Co. Louth, on 5 July 1879, the eldest daughter of John and Margaret Wynne and a niece of my great-grandfather, Patrick Wynne. Maggie was Grandda Kevin’s first cousin and Mary was his aunt.

It is a very sad letter, in which Maggie tells of her own mother’s death, from phthisis pulmonalis (tuberculosis).  It is also a tale of the hard times in Ireland in 1900, when emigration was, as always, a common factor in the lives of Irish families.  It seems that by 1900 the Dundalk Wynne family had already spoken of their plans to go to America and in the early twentieth century many of Maggie’s siblings did end up in New York. Interestingly, the letter suggests that my great-grandfather, 'Uncle Pat', had already completed a stint abroad by 1900, nearly five years before his marriage to my great-grandmother, Teresa Carroll. Little did they know then that he too would eventually leave Ireland for good, and make his home in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

Bachelors Walk
December 2nd, 1900
PS Uncle Pat
is home for good.
Working away. 
M. Wynne

My Dear Aunt Mary,
You will be surprised to hear of my poor dear mother’s death. She died on 11th Oct. She was complaining for some months. She complained of her liver, lungs, kidneys. If you remember the last letter she sent you, she told you how ill she felt. She knew well she would never see America. When we first spoke of it she said ‘you will be leaving me in the grave behind you’.

Dear Aunt Mary,
It is very hard to believe my darling mother is gone forever. My father is breaking his heart. You know my mother was in the Mater [Hospital] in Dublin for three weeks. When she came home she was dying. She lived with us eleven days after she came home. She suffered great agony. She was conscious to the last. We were all around her when dying. A week before she died she took her last farewell of us. So you can imagine the scene that night. She was quite reconciled to die.
She asked me to write to you. I had a letter written to you long ago but was never posted. I am in charge of seven. I hope God will spare me to look after them. Times are very hard.  Now here everything is so dear. I’m not very strong at present. My health is gone down. My father is going in for Hall Keeper in the Young Men’s Society rooms. I hope we may get it, free house light & fire & £12 a year. So think of that and my father’s money besides.
We didn’t hear from Dublin since my mother’s death but I suppose they are quite well. I must wind up my short note with fondest love to you all. Also, wishing you and Mike a very happy x-mas and bright new year.

Believe me dear Mary,
your affectionate niece,
Maggie Wynne.

Many thanks to my third cousin, Phyllis, for sending me a copy of Maggie’s letter.  Phyllis is Mary’s great-granddaughter.

© 2014 Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday 1 February 2014

Uncle Michael married Aunt Kate

Ok, don’t get me wrong – I don’t hear voices or anything. I’m not that mad yet – but sometimes, when I am researching an ancestor, I get a sense of someone guiding me. This sense seemed to have been very strong when I was trying to find out what happened to Catherine (Kate) Devine, a sister of my great-grandmother, Christina Devine.

My Mam had told me that Kate Devine lived with my great-grandparents, Christina and her husband, James Byrne. Her niece and namesake, Kathleen Byrne, was supposedly very fond of her Aunt Kate.  This may sound weird in today’s world, but my Mam even remembers a ponytail of long black hair, streaked with grey, and said to have once belonged to Aunt Kate. It was still in a wardrobe in my great-grandparents house when my Mam was young. However, the Irish Census returns did not reflect Kate Devine living with my great-grandparents in 1901, or in 1911, and I could not find her anywhere in Ireland.

Byrne Household, 31 Jane Place Lower, 1901 Census of Ireland (NAI)

The last record of Kate Devine found was dated March 1898, when she registered her father’s death. She would have been nearly thirty-four years old then, still single and living at home with her father. I thought she had never married. Perhaps I associated her with her fore-mentioned niece, Kathleen Byrne, who also never married, but lived with my grandmother for many years.  So, without success, I searched for a record of Kate Devine’s death.

The census records do show that my great-grandparents shared a house with Michael McGrane and his wife Catherine. The Byrnes and the McGranes were living at 31 Lower Jane Place, off Oriel Street, Dublin in 1901, when each family occupied two rooms of the four roomed cottage. Both families also shared a cottage at 13 Lower Jane Place, in 1911. However, little did I twig that Catherine McGrane, wife of Michael McGrane, was the same person as Aunt Kate. 

Form B1, House and Building Return, 1901 Census of Ireland (NAI)

I knew the McGranes were relatives on James Byrne’s side. His mother was born Margaret McGrane and further research proved that Michael was his maternal uncle. Michael was also my great-grandfather’s best-man, at his wedding in August 1897.

Then, I obtained the burial records for the Devine grave in Glasnevin Cemetery, where Kate had buried her father. They showed that Michael McGrane’s wife, Catherine McGrane, of 13 Lower Jane Place shared their grave.  She died on 1st July 1917, stated age forty-four years. Aunt Kate would have actually been nearly fifty-three years of age then, so I still didn’t associate her with Catherine McGrane.  I remember thinking that my great-grandmother must have been very close to Uncle Michael’s wife, to bury her with her own parents.

It wasn’t until a distant McGrane cousin gave me access to her online family tree that I saw that Michael McGrane had married a Catherine Devine. Then, I understood. They married on 20 November 1898, in St Lawrence O’Toole’s Church on the North Strand in Dublin. This marriage certificate confirmed that Uncle Michael had married Aunt Kate! Aunt Kate did live with my great-grandparents, just like my Mam had said.

‘Hallelujah!!!’ sang the heavens, when it all fell into place and I had a sense of Aunt Kate breathing a huge sigh of relief as her silent messages finally got through.

Sources available on request.

© 2014 Black Raven Genealogy