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

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