Saturday, 10 May 2014


Mary Agnes Donovan and Charles O’Neill, my Dad’s maternal grandparents, married in St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral in Dublin on 19 April 1874. The church marriage register revealed that (Mary) Agnes’s parents were John and Maryanne Donovan, but the word ‘Mortui’, meaning ‘deaths’, written in the address field after their name, suggested that they both had died prior to their daughter’s marriage.[1] (Mary) Agnes was living at 121 Gloucester Street, north of Dublin's River Liffey, at the time of her marriage to Charles.
Excerpt from the marriage register of Charles O’Neill & Agnes Donovan, St Mary Pro-Cathedral, 1874

The civil marriage register recorded that Mary Agnes's father, John Donovan, was an upholsterer by trade, a fairly uncommon occupation, giving him a relatively unique identity, in Dublin.[2]

There was only one feasible death registered for a Maryanne Donovan, in Dublin North, prior to 1874 and it proved to be that of my great-great-grandmother. It confirmed that ‘Mary Anne Donovan' of 6 Blessington Street, Dublin, an upholsterer’s wife, had died of consumption on 12 May 1873, having suffered from the disease for six months. She was stated as being only forty years old. John Donovan, of the same address and presumably her husband, was with her when she died and registered her death.

In 1873, there was no known cure for consumption, or tuberculosis, as it is better known today. They had not even discovered then that it was a contagious disease. Mortality from tuberculosis was still lower in Ireland than in the rest of the Britain then, but it was on the rise. Unlike in many European countries, where improving standards of living reduced its mortality rate, the increasing population in Dublin city and the resulting over-crowding caused the disease to spread.[4]

'Marianne Donovan' was buried at Glasnevin Cemetery, in a purchased plot, in the section known as Curran Square, on 14 May 1873.  Her grave is now unmarked, though there may well have once been a wooden cross or some other markers.[5]
Glasnevin Cemetery, burial register Maryanne Donovan, 1873

It turns out that John Donovan was not in fact deceased at the time of his daughter’s marriage, although he did die the following year. More on him next week. 

[1] Church marriage register, Irish Genealogy.
[2] Copy marriage register, General Register Office.
[3] Copy death register, General Register Office.
[4] Greta Jones, ‘Captain of all these men of death’ the history of tuberculosis in nineteenth and twentieth century Ireland (New York, 2001), pp 2-4. 
[5] Burial register, Glasnevin Cemetery Museum

© 2014 Black Raven Genealogy


  1. Nice touch with the footnotes! My McGarr grandmother who lived at Ballyraggan had Phthisis listed as the cause of her death in 1866, which usually means TB (I've read).

  2. Thank you Ellie, Phthisis, consumption, TB were all names for this dreadful killer. TG for antibiotics!


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