Saturday, 5 April 2014

‘Hello Ratty’

As you know from my previous posts, I have been looking at our Radcliffe lineage in the past few weeks and believe I have made another really exciting break-through. I may even have found some 5th great-grandparents.
Our Radcliffe Pedigree 

My 3rd great-granduncle, Joseph Radcliffe (1835-1918), brother of John above, was known to his neighbours in Yellow Walls as ‘Ratty’. I had always thought that this was merely an unfortunate nickname. ‘Ratty’ was the last member of our Radcliffe family known to have lived in Malahide, Co. Dublin. He died in 1918, yet memory of him survived. Until relatively recently, there was even a disparaging ditty recited locally concerning his abilities as a house-painter,  but unfortunately, I do not know the words.  

Ratty is certainly not a widely known variant of the Radcliffe surname, even though the renowned Irish genealogist, Edward MacLysaght, recognised it as an 'occasional abbreviation’.  No consistent spelling for 'Radcliffe' was used by my family over the years and I have searched for all the variants. However, never before did I think to check for ‘Ratty’ as a surname. Not until recently.

When I did, I found three more children born to my 4th great-grandparents Peter Radcliffe and Anne Sarsfield. Their baptisms were recorded in the same Roman Catholic Church, where I had found the baptism of John Radcliffe - St Colmcille’s, Swords.

Originally, I had discovered the following children:
  • Peter Ratcliff baptised on 4 May 1826; 
  • John Ratcliff on 15 June 1827, my 3rd great-grandfather; 
  • Joseph Radcliff on 1 November 1835; and 
  • Christopher Radcliff on 2 June 1841.
Now, I can add three more children to the list, nicely filling the eight-year gap between John and Joseph: 
  • Thomas Ratty baptised on 19 Jul 1829;
  • The only daughter, Mary Ratty on 9 July 1831; and
  • Peter Ratty on 6 August 1833. 

The first Peter, born in 1826, may have died in childhood, with the name being reused for the next boy born.

This Ratty surname has opened up a whole new avenue for further research into our Ratcliff(e)/Radcliff(e) lineage.  It has also provided the names of six additional Godparents, some of whom may well be related to Peter and Anne, and perhaps hold the clues necessary to extend their pedigrees back another generation.

Unfortunately, Peter and Anne’s marriage record is still not immediately obvious in St Colmcille’s records, or in the surrounding parishes. However, I may have found Peter’s baptism record.  A Peter Ratty was baptised in the nearby Baldoyle parish, on 25 November 1798. His siblings’ baptisms were also recorded - John Ratty in 1791, Thomas in 1792, a second John in 1794, Mark in 1797, Ellen in 1806 and Margaret in 1809. Peter’s parents, and possibly my 5th great-grandparents, were named as Thomas Ratty and Mary Cullen. Coincidentally, or not, these names were given to two of Peter and Anne's children. It's not a common name in Ireland, but it seems that there were two men named Thomas Ratty living in Baldoyle at this same time, adding complications to the search. 

My 4th great-grandfather, Peter Radcliffe, died on 17 March 1887, and his son Joseph registered his age as 90 years. A 1798 baptism is therefore quite feasible. Proving it, however, is another matter entirely.

Sources:  Edward MacLysaght, The Surnames of Ireland (Dublin, 1985), p. 255; Church records,

© 2014 Black Raven Genealogy


  1. Great break through Dara!

  2. Thanks Ellie. Unfortunately, I might be running out of road on this one.


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