Saturday 23 August 2014

Irish Army Census, 1922 and my Granduncle John Byrne

I love finding ancestors in census records, probably because so few Irish censuses have survived intact. An Army Census was taken at midnight on 12 November 1922, during the first year of the Irish Free State. It records more than 33,000 members of the newly formed National Army, including quite a few of my relatives. The Military Archives of Ireland has now created a digital index to this census and made it freely available online, together with copy images of the original returns.

My maternal granduncle, John Byrne, the eldest son of James Byrne and Christina Devine, served as a lieutenant in Ireland’s National Army (also known as the Free State Army) and is recorded in this Army Census. Then aged twenty-four years and single, he was a member of the Engineers Corps and, at the time of the census, was stationed at ‘Headquarters Block, The Curragh, Co. Kildare'. His home address was given as 3 Lower Jane Place, off Seville Place, Dublin, the same address as his father, who was listed as his next of kin. 

Lieutenant John Byrne, Irish Army Census, 1922.
Lieutenant John Byrne, Irish Army Census, 1922 (click on image to enlarge)

Family lore recollects another story about my granduncle John that occurred in this period in Irish history. John was said to have been granted the honour of first raising the Irish Tricolour, in place of the Union Flag, at Dublin Castle, after the British command handed it over to the Irish Free State Government.  What a privilege this must have been for him!

Celebrations were short-lived, however. Many in Ireland rejected the Anglo-Irish agreement and Civil War soon broke out. The National Army was initially made up of units of volunteers from the Irish Republican Army, although it expanded rapidly in the early months of the Free State.  The Civil War saw men, like my granduncle John, sadly forced to fight the Anti-Treaty forces, those same men that had just previously been their comrades in the fight for Irish independence.

The 1922 army census can be searched on the Military Archives of Ireland web-site

© 2014 Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday 16 August 2014

Benjamin Byrne, an update

I now have an answer to the question posed in my post ‘Was Granny’s Uncle Bennie a sailor?’, where I had found a Benjamin Byrne who married Annie Florence Porter in Seaforth, England, in 1918. I wondered if he was my great-granduncle, of the same name, who had left no trace in Dublin since 1913. Well the short answer is, most certainly, ‘yes’.

Last month, I received a Facebook message from a reader, Claire, who had found my post while searching for her grandfather on Google. Her grandfather, Benjamin Porter Byrne, was the second son born to Benjamin and Florence. Although Claire remembers her grandfather speaking about his frequent childhood trips to Dublin visiting his maternal grandparents, sadly, he had never mentioned his father's family.   

This got me thinking and I began searching for the Porter family in Dublin. Porter is not an Irish name, but lo and behold, there they were in Seville Place, within spitting distance of where my Byrne ancestors lived. In 1911, a fourteen year old Florence Porter was living with her family at Coburg Place. They had resided in the nearby 1st Avenue Cottages in 1901.  Annie Florence Porter, of 9 Seville Place, was baptised at the local St Barnabas church, on 2 August 1896. Uncle Bennie and Annie Florence Porter must have known each other for their entire lives. Who would have guessed? This was just too much of a coincidence! 

Benjamin Byrne & Annie Florence Porter, Marriage, Seaforth, 1918

My great-granduncle Benjamin Byrne had run off to England with Annie Florence Porter and married her there. One possible reason for their apparent elopement soon became clear. St Barnabas church served the Protestants of the area.  Florence’s father was from Co. Tyrone and her mother from Co. Fermanagh. Their religion was confirmed as being Church of Ireland in the 1911 census. The Byrne family, on the other hand, were Roman Catholic. Although both congregations lived together in harmony in Dublin at the start of the twentieth century, intermarriage may not have been readily condoned, most especially if the children were not brought up as Catholics. Benjamin and Florence married in the Church of England and their children were also baptised as Protestants. This was more than feasibly the cause of the rumoured rift between Benjamin and his brother, my great-grandfather, James. 

Yet, despite all the family complications, Benjamin had gone ahead and married his sweetheart. Fair play to you, Uncle Bennie!

Sources: 1901 and 1911 Census, National Archives Ireland; Baptismal register, St Barnabas church, Dublin.

© 2014 Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday 9 August 2014

The Aunt Marys

Respondents to the 1911 census were required to state, for each married woman, the number of years they had been married, how many children were born alive and the number that were still living. This information is most useful to Irish genealogists attempting to build a family-tree. The return showed that my great-grandmother Christina (Devine) Byrne, the wife of James Byrne for thirteen years, had had eight children, six of whom were still alive on 2 April 1911. Sadly, no information had survived in our family regarding the two children that had died, other than a suggestion that they may have been little girls, born before Aunty Kate. These were my mother’s aunts and we didn’t even know their name!

Like any self-respecting genealogy-junkie, I set myself the task of identifying them. In 1911, two in every hundred people in Dublin shared the surname Byrne, so, it was clear from the outset that this was a tall order, but an attempt had to be made.  A quick review highlighted a likely five year gap between the birth of the twins and the birth of Kate:

Date of Birth
Place of birth
John C. Byrne
c. Jul-Sep 1898
Dublin North
Francis Byrne
7 September 1900
31 Lower Jane Place, Dublin
Jeremiah Byrne
7 September 1900
31 Lower Jane Place, Dublin
Kathleen (Kate) Byrne
13 January 1906
28 Lower Oriel Street, Dublin
James (Barney) Byrne
16 October   1907
28 Lower Oriel Street, Dublin
Annie Byrne
26 August 1910
13 Lower Jane Place, Dublin

However, the FamilySearch birth index for Ireland listed 8,528 Byrne births in the Dublin North registration district between 1901 and 1905 and I balked at the prospect of trying to narrow this down to a manageable number. Then, on 3 July this year, the government released our own improved birth index, which from 1903 onwards, half way into our target period, promised to provide full birthdates and mother’s maiden name. Limiting the list of births to those whose mother’s surname was Devine would surely provide the identity of at least one of my grandaunts. Unfortunately, I never got the chance to check the index for their mention and after only two weeks, on the order of the Data Commissioner, the index was unceremoniously taken down, and is now ‘temporarily unavailable’. There has been no update, since 18 July. 

This week, I had a moment of inspiration. I’m not sure why I have never thought of it before. Since its opening in 1832, most of my City ancestors have been interred in Glasnevin Cemetery. It is the likely final resting place of my two grandaunts. The index to the cemetery’s online burial register facilitates a search by last address. So, by first selecting all forenames beginning with A and then B and C, etc., I was able to obtain a list of all Byrne burials, in a selected period, where their last address included ‘Jane Pl’.

Ours was not the only Byrne family living in Jane Place, but, one record stood out – a Christina Byrne, aged six months, was interred in 1904. Through trial and error, further refinement of the address revealed that she had last lived at 25 Upper Jane Place, which in 1901 was the home of Myles and Elizabeth Byrne. Myles Byrne was my great-grandfather’s elder brother.  The purchased burial register showed that little Christina, who had died from ‘delicacy’ was the child of Myles and Elizabeth Byrne. She was my newly discovered first cousin twice removed, but not my grandaunt.

Then I began the search again, using the address ‘28 Lower Oriel Street’. Oriel Street, just around the corner from Jane Place, was the birthplace of Kathleen (Kate) Byrne in 1906. When I got to forenames beginning with M, my search was rewarded with two babies named Mary.  

According to their burial registers, on 4 October 1902, the eldest, Mary Anne, named after Christina’s mother, died from convulsions. She was four months old. Her younger sister, Mary Christina, also died from convulsions, on 5 December the following year, aged only three months. They were both the children of James and Christina Byrne. How tragic it was for them to have lost their two little girls.

Nevertheless, my grandaunts have been found and can now be properly remembered!

Sources: 1901 and 1911 Census, National Archives Ireland; Copy birth registers, General Register Office; Civil Registration Indexes, 1845-1958, FamilySearch; Burial register for Glasnevin Cemetery, Glasnevin Trust.

© 2014 Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday 2 August 2014

A Mother’s Surprise!

Sarah Jane Teeling (1861-1927), Upper Jane Place, Dublin
Sarah Jane Teeling (1861-1927),
Upper Jane Place, Dublin

This lady was born Sarah Jane McGrane on 19 August 1861, at 41 Mecklenburgh Street, Dublin. Her parents were Myles McGrane and Margaret Doyle. She was a younger sister of my maternal great-great-grandmother, Margaret (McGrane) Byrne. However, she will always be better known in our immediate family as Frank Teeling’s mother.

On 30 July 1879, when Sarah was still only seventeen years old, she married Richard Daly, a man over forty years her senior. Richard lived in Upper Jane Place, off Oriel Street, in Dublin, where Sarah would spend the remainder of her days. Richard died on 24 October 1888 and within two years Sarah married Christopher Teeling, who was more her own age.

Sarah gave birth to fifteen children in her time, five with Richard and ten with Christopher, but sadly, most of them died young.

One of her surviving sons, Frank Teeling, became a sniper in the Irish Republican Army during the Irish War of Independence. He was captured, beaten and imprisoned on Bloody Sunday, 21 November 1920.

He was sentenced to death by hanging.

Frank’s daring escape from Kilmainham Gaol, along with Ernie O’Malley and Simon Donnelly, on 14 February 1921, caused so much excitement in Ireland. News of the escape even made page 3 of the New York Times, where they deemed  it ‘almost incredible’ that Frank could elude justice, when under military supervision in Kilmainham, especially with it's 40-foot walls. It was the source of huge embarrassment for the Crown's forces in Ireland.

The day after the prison-break, when Frank was in hiding, Sarah Teeling was interviewed by the Irish Independent. She told of her frequent visits to the prison, bringing food parcels for her son. She said she got very excited when, on the previous day, her parcel was refused and the soldiers told her 'HE WAS GONE'. 

Frank Teeling escapes from Kilmainham
Irish Independent, 16 February 1921, p. 5.

What must it have been like for a mother to see her beloved son tried for murder, locked up and sentenced to death? How relieved Sarah must have felt on his timely escape from Gaol.

Sarah Teeling died on 5 June 1927, aged sixty-seven years, and was buried in Dublin’s Glasnevin Cemetery.  As for Frank, they never did catch him. When he died, aged 76, on 25 January 1976, he too was buried in Glasnevin, with his wife Lily, and his younger brother, Joseph.

Irish Independent, 16 February 1921, p. 5; New York Times, 16 February 1921, p. 3; other sources available on request. 
Photograph of Sarah Teeling, courtesy of Michael Meehan, In the front gate – and out the back: the story of Frank Teeling (Dublin, 2007).