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


  1. I’m in awe of the way you researched and found your grandaunts. I can see I have an awful lot to learn so I’m grateful to have found your blog.

  2. Thanks Barbara, you are too kind.

    1. Not at all - I just have a lot to learn. It's great having your blog to study!

  3. How tragic indeed. You did a wonderful job finding them Dara.

  4. Thanks Ellie, my great-grandda was said to have missed them his whole life.


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