Saturday 29 August 2015

Genealogy quest: Mapping the Donovan family homes

The newly discovered family grave, located in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin is quite remarkable. The plot itself does not look to be anything out of the ordinary and there is nothing to distinguish it from all the other unmarked graves in Curran Square, the oldest section of the cemetery. Yet, it is the final resting place for fifteen members of my Dad's Donovan family. 

The cemetery's burial register shows the last address of everyone interred in the grave and for over forty years, this extended family lived in the same small area of Dublin city, near the north shores of the River Liffey. It is interesting, don't you think, to chart their addresses on a nineteenth-century map of Dublin:

Dublin streets of Donovan residences are marked in yellow

Glasnevin Cemetery Register, Donovan family plot          
Last Residence
Pat Donovan
Gt Strand St
Mary Anne Donovan
Gt Strand St
Eliza Donovan
King St
Cathe Donovan
Essex Bridge
Margaret Donovan
Green St
John Donovan
Charles St
Eliza Donovan
Charles St
Eliza Donovan
Bull Lane
John Flood
Upper Liffey Street
Thomas Donovan
Gt Britain St
Thomas Donovan
49 Mary St
Francis Donovan
30 Upr Dominick St
Catherine Donovan
30 Upr Dominick St
Catherine Donovan
51 Great Britain St
Marianne Donovan
6 Blessington St

At the time of her death in 1873, my great-great-grandmother Marianne (Coyle) Donovan (also known as Maryanne) lived in Blessington Street. Blessington Street runs parallel and to the north of Dominick Street, though it is not shown on the map. I suspect Catherine Donovan of Great Britain Street (now called Parnell Street), who also died in 1873, was Maryanne’s mother-in-law. The four infants who died between 1856 and 1861 were her babies.

Apart from that, I have not yet figured out who the rest of these people were or how they fit in my family tree.

Baby Eliza of Bull Lane, who died in 1853, might have been another daughter of Maryanne and her husband John Donovan, making her a potential sister to my great-grandmother, Mary Agnes. The surviving head of household extract from the 1851 census includes a John Donovan living in Bull Lane – possibly my great-great-grandfather – but Eliza’s baptism record has not been found. 

There again, no baptism record for Mary Agnes has been found either. She was probably born around the same time as Eliza, maybe a year or two later, so perhaps they were both christened in the same church, and the relevant pages of this register have somehow missed digitisation.

Bull Lane was in the parish of St Michan, while all the younger Donovan children were baptised in St Mary's.  I have already, fruitlessly, searched St Michan's church records on, but maybe I'll have more success with the copy registers newly released on the National Library’s web-site.

Wish me luck.

See previous post in this quest: 
Genealogy Quest: Striking gold - the search for Maryanne

Sources: Glasnevin Cemetery burial register (O 54 Curran Square), Glasnevin Trust; ‘The 1851 Dublin City Census’, FindMyPast, citing Dr D. A. Chart’s index of heads of households in Dublin City, 1851, National Archives of Ireland.

© 2015 Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday 22 August 2015

Genealogy Quest: Striking Gold - the search for Maryanne

Just as I was beginning to conclude my latest genealogy quest would not be completed any time soon, I had an amazing stroke of luck. Finally, I had the documentary evidence to connect my great-great-grandmother, Maryanne, with her would-be maiden name, Coyle.

As a result of a coding error, Glasnevin Trust originally reported my great-grandmother and her suspected mother-in-law were the only two occupants of a full-sized family plot in Glasnevin Cemetery. Now, they have admitted there were actually fifteen people buried there.

This family grave is nearly as old as Glasnevin Cemetery itself. The gates to the north Dublin graveyard first opened in February 1832 and on 3 August 1832, a ‘Pat Donovan of Gt Strand Street’ was interred there. Next followed five decades of family burials, giving me thirteen newly discovered ‘ancestors’ to investigate – an absolute goldmine of family history to have finally found! 

But, as it turns out, I’m already familiar with some of the occupants of the grave and their presence in with my great-great-grandmother helps to solve my biggest Donovan family mystery – her maiden name.

Remember, my hypothetical great-great-grandparents, John Donovan and Maryanne Coyle, married in February 1851 and had the following children: 
  • Thomas Joseph Donovan, born 11 March 1854
  • John James Donovan, born 18 November 1855
  • Thomas Laurence Donovan, born 20 June 1857
  • Francis Donovan, born 16 September 1858
  • Catherine Donovan, born 18 March 1860
  • Teresa Anne Donovan, born 18 May 1862 

Well, it now transpires that the Maryanne Donovan, established as being my great-great grandmother,  shares her grave with four of these children. The eldest child, Thomas Donovan, was buried on 23 July 1856, aged two; the second Thomas Donovan was buried on 21 March 1859, aged one; Francis Donovan was buried on 23 March 1861, aged two; and Catherine Donovan was buried on 6 April 1861, aged one.

Even in the midst of my excitement at this discovery, I can only feel sorry for John and Maryanne. They must have been inconsolable with grief at losing so many of their babies, one after the other. Of their remaining two children, I've found no confirmed subsequent record of John James, as yet, while I have already discussed what happened to Teresa, during my post Genealogy Quest: Expanding the search via a collateral line.

So, given four of the infant children of John and Maryanne (Coyle) Donovan were buried in the same grave as my great-great-grandmother, Maryanne Donovan, also the wife of a John Donovan, and the owner of the plot, it now seems most likely that my Maryanne and the former Maryanne Coyle was one and the same person.

The coincidence, otherwise, is just too great – don’t ye think?

Striking gold!

See also previous posts in this quest: 

Saturday 15 August 2015

Genealogy Quest: the search for Maryanne – a stroke of luck

This week, as I followed the ancestral trail of Maryanne Donovan, my great-great-grandmother, whose maiden name has long remained unproven, I had an amazing stroke of luck.

Maryanne Coyle  has long been the suspected mother of my great-grandmother, Mary Agnes Donovan, although her parents were named only as John and Maryanne Donovan at her marriage to Charles O'Neill, in 1874.  Now, I have finally found that single shred of evidence to tip the balance of proof from possible to probable.

Happy Days!!!

A while back in my blog  actually, it was over a year ago now  here, I thought it strange to find my great-great-grandfather, John Donovan, buried in a paupers’ grave in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin. Only two years before his death, his wife Maryanne and his suspected mother Catherine had been buried in a full-sized family plot in the same cemetery, and were the only two occupants of the grave.

Well, it pays to be curious!

When I contacted Glasnevin Trust, they confirmed the owner of this family plot was Maryanne Donovan, my great-great-grandmother, interred there in May 1873, the month after Catherine.

And, amazingly, after an investigation, Glasnevin Trust confirmed there were other burials in this grave - burials omitted in error from the grave register I had previously purchased – burial records absolutely critical to my quest.

The newly discovered occupants were erroneously coded as having been buried in the Garden section of the cemetery. They were actually interred, with Maryanne and Catherine, in the section known as Curran Square. So, when I obtained the grave register for the Curran Square plot, their names were sadly omitted.

This was not the only factor conspiring against me. I had also, separately, purchased the burial register for the plot mis-coded as being in the Garden section. Little Thomas, a suspected two year old son of John and Maryanne (Coyle) Donovan was interred there when he died in 1856. But, his grave had been deemed a paupers’ grave, meaning the names of the other occupants were not revealed to me. Seemingly, Glasnevin Trust automatically applies this designation to any grave where the number of occupants exceeds a certain number. Yet, I am glad to say it was not a paupers’ grave.

You see, in addition to Maryanne and Catherine Donovan, there were a further thirteen (yes, I did say 13) family members interred in the grave  fifteen people in this one grave – I can hardly believe it myself. 

That is why there was no room for John Donovan when his turn came.

And, the names of some of those interred help establish the required link back to the Coyles.

More next week...

A Genealogy Happy Dance!
A Genealogy Happy Dance!

See also the previous posts in this quest: 
The Search for Maryanne...
© 2015 Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday 8 August 2015

Genealogy Quest: Expanding the search via a collateral line

My great-grandmother, Mary Agnes Donovan, named her parents as John and Maryanne Donovan at the time of her marriage to Charles O’Neill in 1874. Not untypically, Maryanne’s maiden name was not mentioned in the records and my working hypothesis (or maybe wishful thinking) is her maiden name was ‘Coyle’.

I’ve already done a fairly exhaustive search for records relating to Mary Agnes Donovan, without finding any proof of her mother’s maiden name. So, if Mary Agnes had a sister, confirmation of her mother’s name might prove, or perhaps disprove, my 'Coyle' theory.

And, a Teresa Donovan registered the births of two of Charles and Mary Agnes’s children, confirming she was living with the O’Neill family in 1876 and 1879. It was not beyond the realms of possibility – actually, it seemed quite likely – this Teresa and Mary Agnes were sisters.

Plus, I already knew John and Maryanne (Coyle) Donovan had a daughter named Teresa Anne, born in 1862.

So, I set myself the task of finding out what happened to Teresa Donovan.

And, on 6 June 1900, a Teresa Donovan married William Corless, in St Andrew’s church in Dublin. William was a tailor, with an address in Manchester, England. Teresa was living at 8 Queen’s Square, off Pearse Street, in Dublin, the same street where the O’Neill family had lived when Jack O’Neill was born in 1879.  The marriage register confirmed Teresa’s father was John Donovan. He was an upholsterer by trade, just like Mary Agnes’s father, making it is most likely Mary Agnes and Teresa were sisters. me a newly discovered great-grandaunt!  Woohoo!

Unfortunately, mothers’ names were never recorded on civil marriage records in Ireland.

But, sometimes their names, and even their maiden names, were noted in Catholic parish registers, so my next task was to search in the records of St Andrew’s. Frustratingly though, while copies of the register books for the parish were available on, they only go up to the 1890s. The records for St Andrew’s are also held on microfilm in the National Library, and last month they were published online. These were said to date to 1 July 1900 - one month after Teresa’s marriage. Could I be that lucky? 

Yes and no. Their marriage was included in the register and confirmed Teresa’s mother’s name was Maryanne, but her maiden name was not recorded.

Marriage register, William Corless and Teresa Donovan, st Andrew's, June 1900,
Excerpt from marriage register, St Andrew's, Dublin, 1900,
William Corless and Teresa Donovan, 

Teresa and William left Ireland after their wedding. They were found back in Manchester at the time of the 1901 census, where William worked as a ‘journeyman tailor’. They had no children in 1901, but then it was only fifteen months since their marriage.

So, could this Teresa have been the same Teresa Anne, born to John Donovan and Maryanne Coyle and baptised in St Mary’s Pro Cathedral in 1862?  She would have been thirty-eight years old when she married William.

The 1901 census confirmed she was born in Ireland, but gave her age as only twenty-five years - born about 1875-76 - thirteen years after the daughter of Maryanne (Coyle) Donovan. But, census returns are often inaccurate when it comes to age.

Also, I know Teresa was born earlier than 1875! For a start, her mother died of tuberculosis in 1873. She was Godmother to Catherine O’Neill in 1876 and registered her birth, suggesting she was at least a teenager by this time. Perhaps she felt it necessary to understate her years when she married William.

Unfortunately, I can’t find William and Teresa in the 1911 census, either in England, or in Ireland, and there’s no subsequent confirmed record of them.  

So, although I've found Mary Agnes a sister, there is still no real proof their mother’s name was Coyle. 

Back to the drawing board...

Sources: Church records on IrishGenelaogy.ieCatholic parish registers at the NLI, National Library; Copy Birth, Marriage and Death registers, General Register Office; Theresa Corless, Manchester, 1901 Census of England and Wales, accessed on

© 2015 Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday 1 August 2015

Genealogy Quest: The case for Maryanne Coyle

Last week, I identified potential candidates for the role of my paternal great-great-grandparents, the parents of Mary Agnes (Donovan, O’Neill) Ellis. They were John Donovan and Maryanne Coyle, who married in St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, Dublin in 1851. Maryanne gave birth to six children between 1854 and 1862, leaving a nearly too short window for the birth of Mary Agnes, yet, there are many ‘coincidences’ suggesting these were her parents.

First, we know Mary Agnes’s parents were called John and Mary Anne Donovan, so named when she married Charles O’Neill in St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, in 1874. We just don’t know Maryanne’s maiden name.

Secondly, a Mary Agnes Donovan was Godmother to Maryanne (Coyle) Donovan’s daughter, Teresa Anne, in 1862. This at least proves there was a Mary Agnes in the Donovan-Coyle family. It was not unusual for older siblings to act as Godparents, and is in-keeping with the theory discussed last week, asserting Mary Agnes was older than stated in the 1901 and 1911 census returns.

It also seems our Mary Agnes really did have a sister (or relative, at least) named Teresa. A Teresa Donovan lived with her for a number of years after her marriage and registered the birth of two of the O’Neill children. If Teresa Anne, daughter of John and Maryanne (Coyle) Donovan, known to have been born in 1862, was our Mary Agnes’s sister, she would have been orphaned by the age of thirteen, making it reasonable for her to live with her elder sister and Godmother. 

There was a tradition in Ireland at the time, although not always followed, of naming children after their grandparents. The eldest son was named after his paternal grandfather and the eldest daughter after her maternal grandmother, with subsequent children being named after their other grandparents.  In a post entitled ‘An Unexpected Discovery’, I concluded that Thomas and Catherine Donovan may have been Mary Agnes’s paternal grandparents, or at least close members of her father’s family. And, evidently, the name Thomas was important to the Donovan-Coyle family too. They christened two sons Thomas; Thomas Joseph in 1854 and, after his death, Thomas Laurence in 1857. Significantly, the name Catherine was given to their daughter born in 1860 and it is also of interest to find the couple had no other daughter named Mary, especially as the mother’s name was Maryanne.

A Joseph Coyle was Godfather to John O’Neill, the son of Mary Agnes and Charles, baptised in 1879, proving a Coyle connection to our Mary Agnes.

There is some evidence to suggest that my great-great-grandfather, John Donovan had a sister, or other close relative, named Alice Donovan. I mentioned her before, here. And, an Alice Donovan was a witness to the marriage of John Donovan and Maryanne Coyle, in 1851.

Finally, Denis Newport, an unusual enough name in Dublin, was best man at John Donovan and Maryanne Coyle’s wedding in 1851. That year, a Denis Newport lived at 36 Cole’s Lane, also in St. Mary’s parish and in 1845 a Denis Newport operated as a cabinet, chair and sofa manufacturer at number 40. Mary Agnes’s father, an upholsterer, worked in the same industry and was likely employed by a cabinet maker. Later, Mary Newport of 27 Cole’s Lane was bridesmaid at Charles and Mary Agnes’s wedding in 1874.  Denis and Elizabeth Newport had a daughter Mary who married a William Ryan in St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, in November 1877.

This seems like a lot of coincidences to me, maybe not enough to fully complete the jigsaw and conclude that Maryanne Coyle was my second-great-grandmother, but going in the right direction nonetheless. Don’t you think?

The search for the missing pieces continues…


See also the previous post in this quest: 
The Search for Maryanne...
Sources: Church records on; Copy birth registers, General Register Office; Chart's head of households survey, extracted from the 1851 census of Dublin, FindMyPastPettigrew & Oulton's Dublin Almanack & General Register of Ireland, 1845, FindMyPast. Image credit: Pixabay.

© 2015 Black Raven Genealogy