Friday 27 March 2015

A trip across the pond

Yahoo! - Celebrations - Yahoo!

I discovered the names of two of my maternal fourth great-grandparents this week – William and Hannah Daly - something that does not happen often. Actually, to put it in perspective, prior to Tuesday, after all these years of research, I knew the names of only six of my sixty-four, fourth great-grandparents. So, this is huge!

Previously, I had located their daughter, Jane Byrne, né Daly, in the New York State Census, dated February 1892. She was going by the name of ‘Jane Burns’, having emigrated to live with her daughter, Hannah (Byrne) Comiskey. This was one of the few occasions I'd found a direct ancestor outside of Dublin, Ireland, so it was unfamiliar territory, genealogically speaking.

First, here's how my maternal grandmother connected to Jane, and William and Hannah:

Our lineage to William and Hannah Daly

In this 1892 census, Jane Burns was described as ‘an alien’, (a thought I've had about many of my elusive ancestors). She was living with her daughter and son-in-law, John and Hannah Comiskey, and their family. They were located in Brooklyn city, Kings County, New York. Jane's son-in-law, John had already obtained citizenship and the younger Comiskey children were born in the United States, including nine year old John J. So, the Comiskey family must have arrived in the U.S. no later than about 1883.

Comiskey family, 1892 New York State Census (FamilySearch)

Jane's year of birth was recorded as about 1831, though she was likely born earlier than this; she had married Francis Byrne, in St Mary's Pro-Cathedral, Dublin on 11 October 1846.

In June 1900, when the next U.S. Federal Census was enumerated, the Comiskey family, including the widow Jane, were still living in Brooklyn, New York. Jane's surname was transcribed as Bums, in error (with an ‘m’- hehe). Here, she was said to have been born in May 1835 - apparently having only aged four years over the nine birthdays since 1892 - again calling into question her true birth-year.

Jane was recorded as only ever having had one child, with only one child still living in 1900. This contradicts other evidence showing she had at least five children, including my great-great-grandfather, Francis Byrne, who was still very much alive and living in Dublin, in 1900. I wonder, did she lose touch with home?

Comiskey family, 1900 Federal Census (FamilySearch)

The 1900 census shows that Jane immigrated to New York in 1886, six years after the Comiskeys. Interestingly, they were living in some kind of institution in 1900, near Jamaica Ave. / Nichols Ave., although I do not know what this was.

So why do I believe this was our Jane?

My great-great-grandaunt, Hannah Byrne, daughter of Francis Byrne and Jane Daly, married John Comiskey, on 5 December 1869, in St Lawrence O'Toole's parish, Dublin. The baptisms of five of their children were also recorded in O'Toole's registers: Rosanna in 1870; Jane in 1871; Hannah in 1874; Michael in 1877 and Francis Thomas in 1879.

Their ages are a little off (what's new), but three of these children, Rose, Jane and Michael, listed in the correct order of baptism, were living with John and Hannah Comiskey, in New York, in 1892, as well as Hannah's mother Jane Burns [Byrne]. Our Jane, widowed at the time, had also shared an address with the Comiskeys, in Jane Place, Dublin, in 1878, when her son Charles got married. So, is it just a coincidence to find a family with these same names in New York? I don't think so.

Hannah and John Comiskey and their family were later found in the 1910 Census, living in Hempstead, Nassau County, New York. Jane was not with them, so it is likely she died and was buried somewhere in New York between 1900 and 1910, either in Kings County or Nassau County. But, searching for her death or burial, in the completely unfamiliar New York records, proved too much for me. Until this week, that is.

Last Tuesday, Randy Seaver's tip about FamilySearch adding more New York City records to their collection, caught my eye. The first thing I did was search for Jane Byrne's death, between 1900 and 1910, and there she was, at last, her address still showing as Jamaica Ave., and her maiden name confirmed as Daly. It's just an index entry, with no image attached, but still, now there is very little doubt in my mind, but this was our family in New York. (Thank you again, Randy)

And, to cap it all off, her parents were named as William and Hannah Daly - my fourth great-grandparents!

Death of Jane (Daly) Byrne, Brooklyn, New York, 1901 (FamilySearch)

Now, to see if I can find William and Hannah back in Dublin...

Yahoo! - Celebrations - Yahoo!

  • Church baptism and marriage records,
  • Jane Burns, 'New York, State Census, 1892', index and images, FamilySearch.
  • Jane Bums, New York, 'United States Census, 1900', index and images, FamilySearch.
  • Jane Byrne, 1901, 'New York, New York City Municipal Deaths, 1795-1949,' index, FamilySearch.

Friday 20 March 2015

Friday's Faces from the Past ~ Uncle Artie and Aunt Winnie

My granduncle, Arthur O'Neill, died on 7 January 1965, in London, having moved there soon after the war. Dad was just a boy when he left, yet, he still has fond memories of his 'Uncle Artie.' Although my father knew very little about his maternal ancestry, his recollections of Uncle Artie have enabled me to piece together the highlights and the lowlights of Artie's life.

Artie was born into a family of nine children, in Dublin city, the fourth and youngest son of Charles O'Neill and Mary Agnes Donovan. Around his tenth birthday, his father died suddenly, catapulting the family into crisis. Although his mother remarried in 1896, within a year of his father’s death, she was unable to take her dependent children with her to her new home with Thomas Augustus Ellis and they ended up in care.

Arthur O'Neill, (c.1885 - 1965)
Arthur O'Neill, 1901 Census, Industrial School, Limerick
Click on image to enlarge

At the time of the 1901 census, when my grandmother and her sister Johanna were found in foster care, the only potential sighting of young Artie, was in a boys’ industrial school, run by the Christian Brothers, in Limerick city. Many miles from home and without the company of his elder brothers (who were, by then, working and living with their mother and Mr. Ellis in Dublin), life in the industrial school was most likely not fun. It was certainly not fun, if the unspeakable abuse allegations, which have since come to light, are anything to go on. But, Artie survived this ordeal, and by 1911, he was back in Dublin, working as a hairdresser, and living with his mother.

In April 1917, Artie married Winifred (Winnie) O'Connor, né Earley, in the church at Sandymount, Dublin. Winnie was the widow of Bartholomew O'Connor, who died in January 1913, leaving her with three children, Brendan, aged five, Ellen, aged four and Winifred, barely two years old. When Bartholomew died, Winnie was pregnant with their fourth child, Bart, born eight months later.  

Winnie's situation obviously reminded Artie of his own experience, following his father's untimely death and undoubtedly his heart went out to the children. He was perhaps determined to keep them all together, and that, he did. Artie and Winnie went on to have four more children, Mary (May), Charlie, Art and Tom and when they were still young, the O'Neills and the O'Connors, all moved to Kiltimagh, in county Mayo, on the west coast of Ireland, where Artie worked as a barber.

Arthur O'Neill & Winifred (Earley, O'Connor) O'Neill (Dublin & Kiltimagh)
Arthur and Winifred O'Neill, c. 1919

This photo, probably taken about 1919, is believed to be of the young Arthur O'Neill, with his wife Winifred and one of their children. 

Some thirty years into their marriage, Winnie became very ill. Knowing she was going to die, the couple came back to Dublin, and stayed with my grandparents, in Malahide. As they had come of age, many of Winnie's children had migrated to England, in search of work, and settled there. 'Black Raven', the name of our house in Malahide, is situated conveniently close to Dublin Airport. So, not only was my grandmother able to care for Winnie in her final days, but the move back to the east coast also made it easier for her children to visit. It was during this time that Dad came to better know and like his Uncle Artie. Winnie died at ‘Black Raven’ on 8 October 1948 and was laid to rest at Glasnevin Cemetery, next to her first husband, Bartholomew O'Connor.

Arthur O'Neill & Winifred (Earley. O'Connor) O'Neill (Dublin & Kiltimagh)
“1947, Art O’Neill & Winnie”

This photograph was taken in 1947, not long before Winnie’s death. Do you see a resemblance between them here and the young couple in the earlier photograph above? I believe I do.

Shortly after Winnie died, Artie went to England to live with his daughter, May. He was listed in the London Electoral Registers in 1949, at 44 Victoria House, on the South Lambeth Road, living with his children May and Tom O'Neill. After May and Tom had both moved on and gone their separate ways, Artie continued to live in the same flat in Victoria House, with his step-son, Bart O'Connor. Bart was the child born after his own father's passing. He married Teresa Byrne in 1953, and Artie remained with the newly-weds in Victoria House, until they all moved together, to Chatsworth Way, in South East London, in 1960. This was still their home when Artie died, in 1965, at the age of seventy-nine years. 

© 2015 Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday 14 March 2015

Of times past ~ Maurice Carroll


The very earliest written record found, relating to my great-great-grandfather, Maurice Carroll, was apparently dated 1857. In this transcript, he was named as the father of David Carroll, a child born on 26 December, at Bow Bridge, and baptised in the parish of St James, in Dublin city. David’s mother was named as Mary Anne Frayer.[1]

Little David would surely have been a welcome Christmas addition in any family, except, in this case, his birth may have been a mixed blessing. In 1857, his parents were not married. It was thirteen months later, on 9 February 1859, when Maurice Carroll married Mary Anne Frazer. Maurice’s parents, my third-great-grandparents, were recorded in the register as David Carroll and Catherine Cummins. So, the baby boy was seemingly named after his paternal grandfather.[1]

The deferral of Maurice and Mary Anne’s marriage is curious, not that pre-marital conception was rare in Catholic Ireland, but couples were normally compelled to marry prior to their child’s birth, if they were going to marry at all. Public condemnation by the priest, the families and the community at large generally saw to that. The reason for the delay is therefore intriguing, but, the exact circumstances of Maurice and Mary Anne’s courtship are probably now lost forever.

By the time their second son Robert was born in July 1860, Maurice and Mary Anne had moved out of the city, and set up home in Balheary, a rural district near Swords, in north county Dublin.[2] Neither Maurice nor Mary Anne had any apparent ties to the area. Maurice was supposedly born in county Tipperary.[3] According to their 1859 marriage register, his parents had an address in Limerick and Mary Anne’s parents hailed from Clonmel in county Tipperary. So, Maurice probably only moved to Balheary for work. He was seemingly employed by the Baker family at Balheary House, initially as a domestic servant and later as their coachman.

Balheary House was then owned by Henry and Belinda Baker. Although it no longer survives today, at that time, the house and demesne had probably changed little since 1837, when it was described as: 
‘a large square structure with several apartments of ample dimensions; in the saloon and dining-rooms are some fine pieces of tapestry, formerly the property of the Earl of Ormonde: the surrounding demesne, through which flow the small rivers of Fieldstown and Knocksedan, is well laid out, and commands a fine view of Howth and the Dublin mountains, with the town and environs of Swords, which, with its church, round tower, ruins of the monastery, and other interesting objects, presents a varied and picturesque scene in the foreground. [Swords,  Samuel Lewis, A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland 1837]

Swords, from Robert Walsh, Fingal and its Churches, Dublin, 1888

It sounds like the family lived in beautiful surroundings. Their subsequent children were baptised in the parish of Donabate, close to Balheary: Catherine Carroll in May 1862; Thomas Carroll in December 1863 and James Carroll in November 1865.[2]

Then, in March 1868, tragedy struck the young family and Mary Anne died of phthisis (tuberculosis), leaving Maurice a widower. James was only two years of age.[4]

Old Mr. Baker died on 31 December 1876, a widower, with no surviving children. His estate went to his nephew in England and Maurice’s sixteen-year employment at Balheary came to an abrupt end.  By this time, he had married Anne Radcliffe, my great-great-grandmother and my great-grandaunts, Mary and Annie Carroll were born.[5]

Throughout the following decade, Maurice and Anne appeared to have moved all over Dublin, in search of work.  In 1878, when their son John Carroll was born, Maurice worked as a coachman in Ballybrack. Ballybrack is situated to the very south of county Dublin. In 1882, he was still a coachman, but back living in north county Dublin, at the Baskin, in Cloghran, near Swords, and their son Maurice Carroll was born there. They were at Middleton, in Cloghran, in 1884, when their son Peter Carroll came along. By 1888, when my great-grandmother, Teresa Carroll, was born, the family had moved back to Dublin city.[2] [4]

In the mid-1890s, Maurice and Anne were thought to have purchased, or at least acted as the (slum) landlord for, a property at 20 North Gloucester Place, Mountjoy. Here, they both saw out their days. The house was in 'tenements' in 1901, when the Carrolls shared it with two other families, and they were the 'rated occupiers' there in 1909.[6][7] The majority of my ancestors did not own their homes at the end of the nineteenth century, so, it would be interesting to find out the truth of this. There is probably more information available in the Valuation Office in Dublin – a mission for another day.
[1] Church registers on 
[2] Church registers on
[3] Household Return (Form A), 1901 Census, National Archives of Ireland.
[4] Copy BMD registers, General Register Office.
[5] Will and Grant of Henry Baker, 1887, Ms. T1612, National Archives of Ireland.
[6] House and Building Return (Form B), 1901 Census.
[7] Dublin City Electoral List 1909,

© 2015 Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday 7 March 2015

The Radcliffe Insolvency Saga

Sandridge from Hobsons Bay, 1863

Life was good for John Radcliffe, a thirty-four year old plasterer, turned building contractor, living in Sandridge (Port Melbourne), in 1861. Being in the right place, at the right time, he was awarded many lucrative government contracts and accumulated such wealth and property as would have been barely imaginable to a man of his social standing back home in Ireland.  That year, he married Bridget Flanagan and maybe tried to forget the tragic death of his first wife, Mary. Presumably, he still thought of their twelve year old daughter, Anne, my great-great-grandmother, left behind with his family, more than 10,000 miles away, in Dublin. 

In 1864, John built a substantial home, a mansion by some accounts, on Bay Street, Sandridge. He bought the site for £150 in 1863 and spent £1,000 on building costs. There, he resided with his new wife and set about making a life for himself. Sadly, his second chance of happiness was short-lived, and soon thereafter, John succumbed to ill-health. 

The following year, they converted their new home into the ‘President Lincoln Hotel’ and John applied for a publican's licence. The property included two sitting-rooms and two bedrooms, in addition to their private accommodation. Perhaps, with his illness, John was struggling to earn a living as a builder. Or, maybe he worried for his wife's livelihood, should the unthinkable happen, and decided to set her up in a profitable business she could manage on her own. Either way, the hotel did not spell the end of John's financial woes and, six months later, citing heavy losses on contracts and ill-health, he was declared insolvent. A man named Henry Shaw was appointed as the official assignee. Shaw immediately commenced the sale of John's assets, with a view to distributing the proceeds amongst his creditors. 

Town, and Melbourne & Hobson's Bay Railway Piers, Sandridge, 1862

John Radcliffe did not include the hotel in his original schedule of assets (£439) and liabilities (£1,495). He was presumably desperate to keep it for himself and his wife, especially as his failing health now seriously jeopardised his income as a builder. When questioned about this omission in the creditors' court, John claimed the hotel was mortgaged to a Mr. Gatehouse for over £600 and he had already transferred its ownership to his father-in-law, Patrick Flanagan, in settlement of a £300 debt for unpaid wages. The court did not accept this account and the official assignee took possession of the hotel. It sold for £850 at an auction held in August 1866. However, the following month, Mr. Shaw applied to transfer the publican's licence to Patrick Flanagan, and John and Bridget continued living there until their deaths. It would seem the family somehow came up with the money to keep the business and their home. 

This was, perhaps, not John's only attempt at circumventing the insolvency proceedings. He also gave two pieces of land, one in Sandridge and one in Melbourne, to his brother-in-law, Robert Flanagan, claiming it was in settlement of a debt. However, in March 1867, long after John Radcliffe was dead and buried, Henry Shaw sued Bridget for possession of the property, by then returned to her by her brother. The judge believed the Radcliffe's story was improbable and, quoting an English judge, declared ‘there was no woman who could not be either kicked or kissed out of her jointure.’ He returned the property to Henry Shaw. 

Seemingly, Thomas Radcliffe, John's younger brother, also wanted a piece of the action and, much to John's dispute, claimed he was owed £204 for goods sold, work done and money lent. To back up his claim, Thomas produced a scrap of paper, covered in figures in childlike handwriting, and claimed it was an I.O.U., signed by John. Thomas worked as a foreman in John's building business, and, if deemed to have been a partner, even a junior partner, he would have been entitled to a share of the profits, if any, not wages. The commissioner ruled the evidence produced by Thomas was suspicious and the so-called I.O.U. absurd. He concluded Thomas could not have been working as a servant, so was not entitled to claim wages, given he had allowed them to accumulate for years, while at the same time hiring and paying the other workers. Thomas's claim was unsuccessful, though it surely destroyed the brothers' relationship with each other, in the final days of John's life.

Sandridge, 1866

It was on 30 October 1866, the very day of John Radcliffe's death, that he finally got the better of Henry Shaw. In July 1865, he had taken out a £600 life insurance, for his wife's benefit. When he later became insolvent, the policy passed to the official assignee and was listed in the schedule of assets with a value of £20. In September 1866, the Radcliffe's attorney, Mr. Sterling, offered £10 for the policy, but this offer was refused and it took some time for them to raise the full purchase price. Possibly, every last penny had gone to securing their home at the auction. On the morning of 30 October, Mr. Sterling paid over the £20 asking price and the policy was returned to Bridget Radcliffe. Her husband died later that day. 

Mr. Shaw then issued proceedings against Mr. Sterling and Bridget Radcliffe, arguing they knew John was dying and, having suppressed this material fact, the policy should be returned to him. Mr. Sterling denied knowledge of his client's impending death, answering that Mr. Shaw had equal opportunity to ascertain the insolvent's state of health, being in possession of his premises. The judge agreed and dismissed the case, with costs. Bridget got the benefit of the insurance policy.

Unless meningitis had rendered John Radcliffe unconscious on the morning of his passing, he presumably died happy in the knowledge that his wife would have a roof over her head and a business to provide an income. So, after a long and painful illness, he could finally rest in peace.

My grandfather's Radcliffe Pedigree 

Source: The Argus, Melbourne, 1861-67, accessed on Trove, digitised newspapers, National Library of Australia.  

Image credits:  Town, and Melbourne & Hobson's Bay Railway Piers, Sandridge, by Arthur Willmore (1814-1888), engraver, Victoria illustrated, 1862; Sandridge, 1866, by Henry Gritten (1818-1873); Sandridge from Hobsons Bay, 1863, by Charles Troedel (1836-1906), printer, all courtesy of  the State Library of Victoria.

© 2015 Black Raven Genealogy