Saturday, 2 May 2015

Granny’s obituary

Well, it's happened again! Each and every time I attempt to spend any time researching my father's family history, my mother’s side clamours for the return of my attention. Last month, I'd only just started, by investigating what happened to Dad's maternal Uncle Artie, when my maternal Byrnes dangled the carrot of some previously unknown fourth great-grandparents in front of me. And, of course, I took the bait. Who wouldn't? After all, there is nothing better than having a genealogy brick wall come tumbling down, but, I'm back on the trail of Dad's lineage again now.

Newspapers are my all-time favourite genealogy resource. They are so full of fascinating stories about our ancestors' lives, and often contain details not available anywhere else. Regrettably though, in Ireland, it was the mid-twentieth century before most of my ancestors started gaining any column inches. Yet, when the Irish Newspaper Archives recently announced their three-day free-trial, I knew I had to take advantage of it. And this week, I signed up.* 

First off, I searched for information about my paternal grandmother, Lena (O'Neill) Byrne. I know so very little about Lena and her eight identified siblings. Unfortunately, she didn't make the papers until her death from breast cancer, in October 1956, when her family inserted a notice of her funeral:
Lena (O'Neill) Byrne (1895-1956),
Sunday Independent, 28 October 1956, p. 7
'BYRNE (nee O'Neill) – October 27, 1956, at her residence, Blackraven, Yellow Walls, Malahide. Lena, beloved wife of James; deeply regretted by her husband, son, daughter, sister, brothers and a large circle of friends. R.I.P. Funeral from St. Sylvester's Church, Malahide, today (Sunday) to New Cemetery at 3 o'c.'

It was more than likely my Aunt Maisie, Lena's only daughter, who organised this announcement in the newspaper. She provided the date of death as 27 October.  The following week, on 2 November, Maisie also registered her mother's death with the civil authorities, but this time gave the date of death as 26 October. I'm now not fully sure which day she died; maybe she died overnight on the Friday night / Saturday morning.

The month after the funeral, my grandfather, aunt and father, also inserted an acknowledgment in the newspaper, thanking those who cared for my grandmother during her final illness and comforted them in their grief when she died:
Lena (O'Neill) Byrne (1895-1956),
Sunday Independent, 18 November 1956, p. 9
'BYRNE, (nee O'Neill) - The husband and family of the late Helena (Lena) Byrne, "Blackraven", Yellow Walls, Malahide, wish to thank most sincerely all those who sympathised with them in their recent sad bereavement, those who sent Mass cards, letters, telegrams and flowers, and all who attended the removal of the remains, Mass and funeral. A special word of thanks to Rev. Fr. Boland, Nurse T. Stroker and Dr. J. Bell, also kind neighbours. Hoping this will be accepted by all as a token of deep appreciation and gratitude.'

On the second and third anniversaries of Lena's death, her family placed and an ‘In Memoriam’ notice in the newspaper. Here's the one for 1958:
Lena (O'Neill) Byrne (1895-1956),
Irish Independent, 27 October 1958, p. 1
'BYRNE (Second Anniversary) - In loving memory of my dear wife Helena Byrne, late of "Blackraven", Yellow Walls, Malahide, who died Oct. 27, 1956. Masses offered. Will those who think of her today, a little prayer to Jesus say - inserted by her loving husband and family.'

According to the death notice in 1956, Lena was ‘deeply regretted’ by her ‘sister and brothers’. I know her brother Artie was alive and well and living in London in 1956. I also know, her sister Tess (O'Neill) Greer predeceased her, and was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery in 1951, but I do not know what happened to Lena's six other siblings. 

Guess, it's high time to find out!

* Note: If anyone else is tempted by this offer, don't forget to cancel the auto-renew setting, unless you want the free trial to convert into a paid monthly subscription.

© 2015 Black Raven Genealogy 


  1. Dara, this happens to me frequently. I try to focus on one branch but something pops up about the other branch that is too good to resist. It is a difficult balancing act.

  2. Colleen, I've just calculated two-thirds of my blog-posts (and hence research time), cover my mother’s side, yet, I complain about the ‘brick-walls’ on my Dad’s lines. I'm now thinking, perhaps, it’s a product mostly of my own making!


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