Saturday 27 September 2014

Open letter to my GG-Grandfather, John Wynne

To: John Wynne,
c/o Heaven.

Dear John,

Let me start by saying, thank you, not only for your existence, but for your survival and success in raising your family, my family. I’m sure living in Dublin in the nineteenth century was difficult enough at times. You’ll be delighted to know that life is good for your descendants (at least, the ones I know). We certainly wouldn't be where we are today, without you.

It would be nice to know more about you, John. What did you do for fun, after work? Where did you meet my GG-Granny, Bridget Hynes? Oh, and where did you come from?  Especially that one, John, please tell me where you came from. You are what's known as a brick wall ancestor, John, but I know you’ll give up your secrets in time. It’s only that, well, patience is a virtue I wasn't blessed with. Did I inherit that trait from you, John?

From 1848 onwards, you made sure you were well documented. It’s not your fault the parish failed to record your parent’s names on your marriage register. It’s not your fault either that the census reports from 1861 to 1891, which I’m sure you filled out with lots of helpful hints, were destroyed by order of the government. Had they not been, they would probably have perished during the Civil War anyway, along with those from 1821 to 1851.  I know you lived long enough to claim your old age pension in 1909, but, sadly, no documentation has survived relating to your claim. They must have pulped that too.

Where were you before 1848 though, John?

Oh, there are plenty of tall tales about where you originated. I hear our Wynne family was originally Welsh and came to Ireland with the Huguenots during the reign of Louis XIV – interesting – but not very helpful in the search for your parents. Rumours abound of a relationship to the illustrious Wynne family of Hazelwood, Sligo. Even if true, any common ancestor likely lived in the early eighteenth century. So, again, it’s not helpful. We need to work backwards, one step at a time, generation by generation, starting with your own parents.  

Some people have you in their family-trees on (That’s a web-site, John, but, we’ll have to leave an explanation of ‘the internet’ for another day). They say you were from Dundalk, Co. Louth, a brother to the famous church-builder. They don’t cite their source though and couldn't tell me how they knew. I've searched high and low to prove it true, but it’s not stacking up for us, John.

In 1920, your daughter, Mary, claimed you were from Scotland. I don’t believe her either. In the four other census returns between 1900 and 1940, she admitted it was Ireland. She left Dublin for a better life in America and must have met with much anti-Irish discrimination. It was presumably better to be Scots-Irish than Irish - posher, maybe. Poor Mary, she just wanted what was best for her boys.

So, this leaves my final clue.  You said it yourself, John. You were born in ‘Dublin City’ about 1821. It’s what you wrote in the 1901 census and I do want to believe you.  I’m not short of possibilities either, e.g. a John, son of John Wynne and Honora Minor, was baptised in SS Michael and John church on 23 December 1822.  Was this you, John, a Christmas baby? You had three grandkids named Nora. I hate to be difficult, but I really do need some kind of corroborating evidence, please, if it’s not too much bother.

It’s not my place to be critical, John, but you really didn’t leave behind much in the way of the ole ‘evidence’ concerning your origins.  Had you no brothers or sisters with the Wynne surname that could have witnessed your wedding in 1849, or sponsored the baptism of one of your ten children in the following decades? It would have opened up a whole new avenue for research, John. Did you not have even one trusted first cousin? 

Thank you for always being such an upstanding and sober member of society – not a single mention of you in the prison records and they were meticulous at recording the exact place of birth in those prison records.  I wouldn't have thought any less of you, John. Everyone knows they locked people up, in those days, for merely looking in the direction of a pint of stout.

You did leave behind some other clues though, John. Your very essence remains in the DNA of all your descendants. Two of your great-grandchildren have been tested, as well as your great-great-granddaughters, Aileen in Dublin and Phyllis in California. We’re all searching for you, John. Do you know any of your other descendants, or better still, the descendants of your siblings?  Whisper to them in their dreams, “Do a DNA test, get tested, get tested…” Start with the one with the old family-bible!

We really do need some help here, please.

your loving GG-Granddaughter,

Image: ‘Carrier pigeon with letter’ courtesy of the Graphics Fairy.

© 2014 Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday 20 September 2014

Today's family history story: Patrick Wynne and Teresa Carroll

My great-grandparents, Patrick James Wynne and Teresa Josephine Carroll, married on 29 August 1905 in St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, Marlborough St., Dublin. The bride’s parents were seemingly not at all pleased when they first heard news of the match.

Patrick James Wynne (1868-1937) and Teresa Josephine Carroll (1888-1958)
Wedding Photo, Patrick Wynne and Teresa Carroll, 1906, 
(Photo by M. Glover Ltd., 124 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin)

According to our family lore, Patrick Wynne was originally betrothed to another woman, but his lovely red-haired fiancé called off their engagement, shortly before their wedding. Earlier in 1905, Patrick’s younger sister Agnes had married and set up home with Jack Fegan, taking her elderly father with her and leaving Patrick alone to fend for himself. So, without losing any time, the thirty-seven year old bachelor started calling at the house of Maurice and Anne Carroll, in North Gloucester Place. Maurice and Anne believed Patrick was courting their eldest daughter, Mary, who was closest to him in age. The likely couple had met at work in Varian Brushes, Talbot Street, where Patrick was a brush-maker and Mary was the bookkeeper. 

Six weeks later, to the surprise of all, Patrick asked Teresa, Mary’s seventeen year-old sister, to marry him and she said yes. Maurice and Anne Carroll were said to have been shocked at the prospect of their young daughter marrying a man twenty years her senior and even went so far as to ask the priest not to marry them. The priest advised that Patrick would make a good husband and the marriage went ahead, regardless.

By the time Teresa was twenty-one years old, she was the mother of three lovely boys: Maurice O’Carroll Wynne, born 13 October 1906; Brendan Patrick Wynne, born 6 April 1908 and Kevin Wynne, born 16 December 1909.

Maurice, Kevin and Brendan Wynne, Dublin and Newcastle upon Tyne
Maurice, Kevin and Brendan Wynne, 
circa late 1910

Between 1909 and 1911, Patrick Wynne was registered to vote in Dublin city, confirming the family's home address as 16 St James’s Avenue, off the Clonliffe Road.  On the night of the Irish census in 1911, Teresa and her three boys were visiting her mother and sisters in North Gloucester Place, her father Maurice having passed away in 1906. Patrick was lodging with other brush-makers in Cork City, the headquarters of Varian Brushes, where presumably he had been sent for work.

Some of Teresa’s siblings had, by then, settled in Newcastle-on-Tyne, England and the Wynne family soon joined them there. Patrick and Teresa had five more children born in Newcastle: Eileen Mary Wynne on 22 May 1916; Brian Patrick Wynne on 18 June 1918; Nora Teresa Wynne on 1 October 1920; Terence McSwiney Wynne on 14 April 1922 and Laurence Wynne on 22 April 1924. Notice the six year gap between the births of Kevin and Eileen! 

Recently, my aunts told me another story about my great-grandparents that nicely accounts for this gap. Patrick Wynne was said to have gone to Australia to establish a better life for his family there, leaving Teresa and the three boys behind in Newcastle. Well, there’s no better contraception than being 10,000 miles apart!

So, I searched for some proof of this and found the following records which probably relate to my great-grandfather’s travels:

On 7 July 1911, Irishman, Patrick Wynne, a brush-maker by occupation, set sail from London, England, bound for Melbourne, Australia. He travelled 3rd class, via the Suez Canal, on board the ‘RMS Osterley’. On 8 August 1911, the ship, including the brush-maker, Pat Wynne, docked at Fremantle on the west coast of Australia, before stopping at Brisbane on the east coast, six days later. On arrival at Brisbane, Patrick was recorded as being a married man, travelling without his wife. He was listed as being forty years old. Our Patrick would have been forty-three at that time, but everything else fits and I am always a little wary of rounded ages.

Patrick James Wynne, a brush-maker, was registered in Australia’s electoral rolls as living in Fitzroy, from 1912 to 1916. Fitzroy was a working-class neighbourhood in Melbourne's northern suburbs. He had two addresses there- 78 Johnston Street until 1913 and 69 Bell Street thereafter. Patrick was not registered there in 1910, the roll for 1911 was not found online and this Patrick had moved on by 1917. This is not inconsistent with the time our Patrick is said to have spent in Australia, though we know he was back in Newcastle by the autumn of 1915, as Eileen was born in May 1916.

© 2014 Black Raven Genealogy

Sunday 14 September 2014

Black Sheep Sunday ~ an obtuse crime

If you were committing a robbery – not that I am suggesting that any of you would – but, if you were, wouldn’t you at least try to be a little bit clever about it?  Put it this way - would you steal something and display the spoils in your front garden, for all the world to see? Well that is exactly what one roguish couple did, in the village of Malahide, Co. Dublin, in December 1912. Sadly, this hapless duo, Ellen and Patrick Mahon, were related to us Malahide Byrnes.
The cause of complaint against Ellen Mahon: ‘Defendant between 9th and 14th day of December 1912, at Beechwood in said district and county [Malahide, Co. Dublin], did unlawfully uproot, steal, take and carry away a quantity of privet shrubs to the number of about 90, value for ten shillings, the property of Mr. Wm. Trumbell of Beechwood. Contrary to the Statute in such case made and provided.’ 

The cause of complaint against Patrick Mahon: ‘Defendant on 14th December 1912, at Carrickhill in said district and county [Malahide, Co. Dublin], had knowingly in his possession & planted in his garden at his dwelling house a quantity of privet shrubs to the number of about 90, value for ten shillings, alleged to have been stolen & the property of Mr. William Trumble [sic] of Beechwood; and defendant is hereby required to satisfy the justices that the aforesaid shrubs were lawfully in his possession.’
Transcribed from the Petty Session Register, Swords Court, 1912 (items 82-83).

Both Patrick and Ellen were found guilty and fined ten shillings each plus costs, or alternatively, they each faced seven days hard labour in Mountjoy Prison.

When I first came across these charges in the Petty Session Register for the courthouse in Swords, Co. Dublin, I saw the defendants’ address was given as Carrickhill, Malahide. Carrickhill was situated nearer Portmarnock, at the opposite end of Malahide to Yellow Walls, the home of our Mahon ancestors.  So, I initially thought that they belonged to the other Mahon family of Malahide, the one whose relationship with our family has not yet been established, but which dates way back into the eighteenth century.  

However, further information about the court case was also reported in the Freeman’s Journal, on 24 December 1912 (Happy Christmas, Patrick and Ellen!).  Apparently, when initially accused of the crime, Patrick Mahon said he had got the shrubs from ‘his father at the Yellow Walls’, making him one of our lot. Here's the article from the newspaper:

1912 court case, Patrick and Ellen Mahon, Malahide.
Freeman’s Journal, 24 December 1912, p. 2.

So, I did some more digging into Patrick’s origins, to see just how closely related we were. The 1911 census found him living in Malahide, with Ellen, his wife of six years, and their two sons, Michael, aged three and Gerald, aged one. Their 1905 marriage register revealed that Patrick was the son of Patrick Mahon senior, a farmer. In 1901, young Patrick was living with his parents, Patrick and Catherine Mahon, in Yellow Walls.

I was already familiar with this household. Patrick junior was a first cousin of my great-grandmother, making him my first cousin, three times removed. Patrick senior and my great-great-grandfather, James Mahon, were brothers. My Dad even remembers young Patrick’s little sister, Teresa Mahon, who was a very respectable National School teacher in Malahide when my Dad was a boy. 

Twenty shillings plus costs was a lot of money for a general labourer, in 1912. Bet they got nothing but the proverbial lump of coal in their Christmas stocking that year!

Still, it’s hard to believe that she dug up the man’s hedge!

Sources: ‘Irish Petty Sessions Court Registers 1828-1912’, Swords court, accessed on; Freeman’s Journal, 24 December 1912, p. 2; 1901 and 1911 Census of Ireland, National Archives of Ireland; Copy marriage register, General Register Office. Black sheep image adapted from one found on The graphics fairy

© 2014 Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday 13 September 2014

A celebration of the life of Colm Wynne (1944 – 2014)

Colm Wynne (1944-2014)
Some of you may have noticed that my usual weekly post failed to appear on Saturday 30th August. Our family was sadly attending the funeral of my most wonderful uncle, Colm Wynne, who lost his battle with cancer on 28th August 2014. Colm left us that day to help my darling brother Sé (pronounced Shay) celebrate his 35th birthday. No doubt, Uncle Colm drank a glass, or two, of his favourite Hennessy X.O. at the celebrations that ensued. Heaven only knows what Sé’s tipple of choice might have been, but I'm sure it was a truly joyous occasion! 

Both are greatly missed.

At Colm’s funeral mass, my amazing cousin, Aileen Wynne, read this beautiful and moving eulogy that she had written for her father. 

‘Colm, my dad, was a great guy, as is shown by the overwhelming numbers of friends and visitors to the hospital, the hospice, here today, and last evening.  We, as a family, are very grateful for all of this support.

Colm was born in 1944 and lost his father way too young, when he was 16. As a result, he spent his life living with strong women - six sisters, his mother, maiden aunt and a housekeeper. For a quiet life he married my mother, then decided it was too quiet and had four daughters, and of course his beautiful granddaughter whom he cherished and adored.

Dad was a man who gave everything to whatever he was doing at the time. One major passion in his life was ballroom dancing. This is where he met my mother. She was not impressed by the arrogant git who cut in front of the boy she was about to dance with. His persistence paid off and she eventually realised he wasn’t so bad after all. They married in 1970.  Many of the dancers here have known him longer than us.

Colm started work in the Hire Purchase Company of Ireland, later known as AIF and AIB Finance & Leasing. He’s had many events and adventures during his life there. In 1972, his life was changed dramatically, not just by the birth of his eldest daughter, but by a change in job from 'Bank Clerk' to 'Systems Analyst'. This was where he got his love of technology and a great outlet for his inner nerd. He joined the Irish Computer Society and their Fellows’ Luncheon was one of the highlights of his social calendar, even up to this year when he had to attend in his wheelchair. 

Another major highlight was the school reunions for Joeys.

Colm loved photography from the time he first got to play with a box brownie as a child. He particularly loved landscape photography and we have many happy memories of heading off on photographic expeditions with him. Unfortunately, after some ill health when we were kids, later recognised as a massive heart attack, he wasn't able for the hill-walking so he moved to the studio, shooting portrait and glamour instead. He was a stalwart of the AIB Photo club until it ceased.

After he started his heart medication, he was able to take up landscape photography again. This was fantastic as, about six months before I got married, Carmel picked up a camera and started shooting, winning awards and loving it. This meant that since his retirement, she and Dad were able to go to Tymon Park to shoot the wildlife there. I know she got some great shots, though we’ve never seen Colm’s.

1991 was another significant year for Colm - new job, new hobby.  He moved from IT back into the business in AIF and he took up Toastmasters. Toastmasters, for those who don’t know, is an organisation that promotes communication, public speaking and leadership skills. With the skills learnt in Toastmasters, he was able to speak at some international DanceSport congresses and persuade them to adopt many of the rules and regulations of the Irish dance world.

He was also very involved with Concern debates, which he loved to adjudicate.

Colm retired in 2007, after 44 years. In theory, this was to allow him time to do all the things he’d wanted to do for years. He and Carmel had some great photographic holidays in Namibia, Iceland and other places. He was able to spend time working on the politics of ballroom dancing and the constitution of the Irish Dance Sport Federation / DanceSportIreland.  He also completed his Distinguished Toastmaster award.

Colm Wynne (1944-2014)

Unfortunately, he discovered he enjoyed genealogy handed to him, rather than looking in libraries and archives. This meant that Dara, my cousin, and I have our work cut out for us.

Dad also loved music. He discovered how to book tickets on Ticketmaster some years ago, and he did. He’d see a gig coming up that he wanted to go to and he’d book the tickets - then he’d find someone to go with him. He got to see great artists live, the 50th anniversaries of the Dubliners and the Chieftains, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen… I believe there are still some of those tickets on the go…

Unfortunately, since he retired, he’s spent a lot of time ‘on the mend’ from serious illnesses. Each of these, on their own, might have killed another person, but not Colm.’
Aileen Wynne, 30 August 2014

© 2014 Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday 6 September 2014

The McGranes of Fishamble Street, Dublin

My maternal great-great-grandmother, James Byrne’s mother, was born Margaret McGrane. Like the majority of my known ancestors, Margaret was most likely born in Dublin. On an unstated day in November 1851, she was baptised in SS Michael and John church, Lower Exchange Street, on the south side of the River Liffey. Her residential address was not recorded. Her parents were Miles McGrane, a general labourer, and Margaret Doyle.[1] They had married in the same church, on 26 January, ten months before Margaret's baptism.[2] She was the first of their twelve identified children.

The Music Hall, Fishamble Street
Music Hall, Fishamble Street
Source: The Musical Times, no. 730, 1 December 1903, p. 799.

Research shows that Margaret spent much of her first ten years living at or near Saul’s Court, also known as Albert Place, a small court once standing off Fishamble Street. Fishamble Street was in the civil parish of St John, an area of about twelve acres within the old city walls. It is one of the oldest streets in Dublin, dating way back to the middle ages. In the year 1356 an order was issued prohibiting the sale of fish anywhere else in Dublin city apart from in the fish ‘shambles’, or markets, and it was from these that Fishamble Street earned its name.[3] In the eighteenth century, the street was home to Dublin’s more prosperous citizens and its music hall even hosted the world’s first recital of Handel’s Messiah. However, by the mid-nineteenth century it had become a poor and deteriorating neighbourhood with many of the houses converted into tenements. In 1851 the parish was home 3,483 people, living in 296 houses.[4]

The family’s address can be gleaned from its sporadic recording in the baptismal and burial records for Margaret’s siblings. Two brothers, John Laurence and Patrick, both died at Fishamble Street, in March 1854 and March 1855, aged six months and six weeks, respectively.[5] In April 1856, when Francis Joseph McGrane was baptised in SS Michael and John's church, the family resided at Saul’s Court, Fishamble Street and when her younger sister Catherine was baptised in October 1858, their address was given as 8 Saul’s Court.[6] Little Catherine died in January 1860, by which time the family had moved to the north side of the River and were living at 17 Aldborough Court, off the North Strand.[7]

Griffith’s Valuation, 1854, Saul's Court
Griffith’s Valuation, 1854, Saul's Court

Saul's Court is no longer in existence. Griffith’s Valuation of 1854 above shows it was once made up of only four houses. The owner was William Burkett, although ‘lodgers’ lived in three of the houses, i.e. they were in tenements. By 1862, Thom’s Directory confirmed all four houses were in tenements.[8]  

Saul’s Court, Fishamble Street,
Source: Watson's Almanack, 1783, courtesy of SWilson.Info*  

According to Gilbert’s History of Dublin, Saul's court was located on the eastern side of Fishamble Street. It was named after Laurence Saul, a wealthy Roman Catholic distiller, who lived there in the early eighteenth century.[9] Based on the listings in Griffith’s Valuation and Thom’s Directory of 1862, Saul’s Court was situated off Fishamble Street, between Castle Street and Copper Alley. It was eight houses up from Castle Street and three houses down from Copper Alley, roughly about where the star is positioned on the map above.  This was right in the path of Lord Edward Street, which opened in the 1880s.

Given there were only four houses in Saul's Court it is unclear exactly how the McGranes lived at number 8, in 1858. Perhaps the four houses were split into 'apartments'. Perhaps number 8 Fishamble Street, leased by John Crotty and others in 1854, but owned by William Burkett, was considered to be part of Saul's Court. William Burkett owned eight houses in or immediately adjacent Saul's Court, so, presumably it was one of these.

* Note, anyone with Irish ancestry should check out the free website, which is quickly becoming an excellent resource for Irish family history research.

[1] Baptism register, SS Michael and John, accessed 
[2] Marriage register, same.
[3] John Gilbert, A history of the city of Dublin, i (Dublin, 1861), p.47.
[4] Census of Ireland for the year 1861, part i: area, population and number of houses, City of Dublin, p. 44-45, accessed
[5] Burial register, Glasnevin Cemetery, Grave NE 85.5.
[6] Baptism register, SS Michael and John.
[7] Burial register, Glasnevin Cemetery, Grave NE 85.5.
[8] Thom's Irish Almanac and Official Directory for the Year 1862, Dublin Street Directory, accessed
[9] Gilbert, A history of the city of Dublin, p. 94.

© 2014 Black Raven Genealogy