Saturday, 18 October 2014

Our family history: Joseph Wynne

Surprisingly, or maybe not, quite a number of my ancestors are recorded in nineteenth-century Irish prison records.  Some were locked up for more ‘romantic’ crimes relating to the struggle for Irish independence, but more often than not it was for petty offences like being drunk in public.  Luckily for us, the prison registers are packed full of genealogical information that would not otherwise have survived and this is why you keep hearing about our family’s historic misdeeds. It is not that ours was a particularly villainous family ­- it just did not take much to fall foul of the law back then. 

In March 1902, my great-granduncle Joseph Wynne, then forty-seven years of age, faced a seven day prison sentence, just for getting drunk. He did not actually do anything else wrong, apart from showing his face in public, having had one (or probably more) too many. Joseph served his time in Dublin’s Mountjoy Prison, rather than pay the extortionate ten-shilling fine. 

The register for the prison confirmed Joseph was born in Thomas Street, Dublin, in about 1855 and while no record of his baptism has been located, this address is in keeping with what is already known about our Wynne family. John Wynne and Bridget Hynes, Joseph’s parents, lived in Thomas Street from the time of their marriage in 1849, until the 1870s.  

Joseph Wynne (c1855-1910), Mountjoy Prison Register, 1902
Joseph Wynne (c1855-1910), Mountjoy Prison Register, 1902
(Click on page to enlarge)

Joseph was described in the prison register as being five feet five inches in height and weighing 168 pounds. He had brown hair, grey eyes and a fresh complexion, with no distinguishing marks. Joseph was a brush-maker by trade.

Strangely, Joseph named Patrick, his younger brother and my great-grandfather, as his next of kin, even though their father John was still very much alive at the time. Joseph was also recorded as being a widower.

Ten years earlier, on 10 September 1892, Joseph had married Katie Hosborough in St. Kevin’s church, Harrington Street. He was nearly twenty years older than Katie. Tragically, two years before Joseph was arrested for drunkenness, Katie died at Holles Street Hospital, a maternity hospital in Dublin city. She was only about twenty-six years old when she died of syncope, supposedly a transient loss of consciousness, but one she suffered for eleven days before her death. Sadly, there is no record of any surviving children from their marriage.

Joseph died of phthisis (T.B.) on 22 October 1910 in Jervis Street Hospital.  His last address was 9 Kings Inns Street. His brother Patrick organized his interment in the St Paul’s section of Glasnevin Cemetery.  

When my great-grandfather organised the burial, the cemetery recorded his residential address as 9 Kings Inns Street, the same address as Joseph. Patrick was by then married with two children and registered as the ‘inhabitant householder’ at 16 St James’s Avenue, off the Clonliffe Road. This was the family’s home when his son Brendan was born in April 1908 and when my grandfather Kevin was born in December 1909.  It is therefore somewhat surprising to see Patrick residing in Kings Inns Street and not in Clonliffe Road. This is especially so as, six months later, on the night of the Irish census, Patrick was again recorded as living separately from his wife, Teresa. He was lodging in Cork city, when Teresa (Carroll) Wynne and their children were visiting her mother in Dublin.  Patrick was known to have travelled to Melbourne, Australia shortly thereafter, without his young family, and resided there for some years between 1911 and 1915. I wrote about this hereSo, did Patrick move in with Joseph, solely to take care of him during his illness?  Was it merely convenient to provide one single address to the cemetery, when organising Joseph’s funeral? Or, could Patrick and Teresa have been living separately in 1910 also?  

Sources: Prison registers 1790-1924, FamilySearch index; Irish Prison Registers 1790-1924, Findmypast; Copy marriage and death registers, General Register Office; Burial register for Glasnevin Cemetery, Glasnevin Trust. Dublin City Electoral Lists 1908-1912, 1915. 

© 2014 Black Raven Genealogy


  1. It's not that I particularly like the misdeeds of ancestors but I love the records that resulted from misdeeds and accidents. Lucky you, Dara.

    1. Me too, Nancy, thanks for your comment.

  2. Great work as usual Dara! I have one of those too, 3rd Great-Grandpa Cornelius Ryan was heading home from fair day in Tipperary Town (I deduce) en route to Goldengarden when he was nabbed in Grenane, he paid his fine.

  3. Thanks Ellie, it was probably more usual for the fine to be paid in such minor crimes – poor Joseph, maybe he was not able to afford it – I do love the extra information provided by the prison register though!


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