Saturday 26 September 2015

Genealogy Saturday: The French Connection

My grandda's first cousins had a very unusual surname, for Ireland - Perrody. According to the 1901 Census of Ireland, only one so called family resided in Dublin city - ours. There was nothing else for a budding genealogist to do but find out where they came from and despite its numerous variants, the surname was so rare, it was ripe for investigation.

My great-grandaunt, Isabella Wynne, married Richard Perrody, in St Audeon's Church in Dublin, on 6 November 1892.[1] At the time of their marriage, Richard worked a carpenter and had an address in Camden Street in Dublin - there was nothing to suggest he wasn't Irish. He left no clues as to his ancestral roots in the 1901 census either. Here, he said he was thirty-seven years old and born in Dublin.[2] Finding he had aged only one year in the ten years to 1911 did little to establish his credibility, so, I turned my attention to his father.[3] 

In Richard's marriage record, his father was named as Stephen Perrody. Stephen was a merchant tailor by trade. In 1854, he leased a house at 8 College Street, across from Trinity College Dublin.[4] The city’s trade directories show him working as a ‘tailor, draper and shirt maker’ at this address in 1855 and 1856.[5] 

In 1856, for whatever reason, Stephen Perrody of College Street was declared bankrupt and, as was customary then, the resulting court case was played out in the newspapers of the day. During the proceedings, Stephen was described as a ‘French tailor’, the first documentary hint that he might have been French or, at least, of French descent.[6] 

In April 1858, Stephen went to work at the ‘City House’ on Mary Street, advertised as being the 'largest woollen warehouse in Dublin'. He was going to manage their newly established tailoring department. A newspaper announcement for this venture described him as:
‘the celebrated French cutter, inventor and professor of that peculiar method of cutting, by which every kind of figure is fitted with the greatest advantage. Mons. P. has been very much appreciated on the Continent, where he has practiced for ten years. He is the credented agent of Mons. Lassus Taileur, Place des Italians, Paris, from whom he reserves and forwards patterns of the newest styles.’[7]
An old advertisement for Stephen’s tailoring business in College Street revealed his alternative given name – Etienne – the French equivalent of Stephen.[8] Under this name, I found newspaper coverage of another court case, in 1854, where Mr. and Mrs. Perrody sued a George and Henry O’Brien for assault. It was an exceedingly nasty case arising out of a dispute with a tenant, one Signor Foroni, their lodger of seven months.

The court heard, on the day in question, Signor Foroni was moving out. He invited George and Henry O’Brien into his room before asking for his final bill. Mrs. Perrody added on a charge for damages to the carpet, which Foroni refused to pay. The O’Brien lads then started breaking bottles around the room and when Mrs. Perrody complained they laughed at her. 

They were in the hall on their way out when her husband arrived home. When he too asked for compensation for damages,
‘the defendants collared him, dragged him about and pushed him against his shop window, forcing his head and shoulders through a pane of glass and his neck was cut by the broken glass.’  
Even more bizarrely, it seems, a policeman was standing nearby but did not intervene. The case concluded with George and Henry O’Brien being fined ten shillings each, plus ten shillings costs.

Most interesting, for our immediate purpose though, was Mrs. Perrody’s testimony that her husband could speak no word of English.[9]  He was definitely a Frenchman!

Then, inserting the name ‘Etienne Perrody’ into Google helped place him back in Paris. Etienne Perrody, a merchant tailor, was residing in rue de Richelieu, in Paris, when, in February 1837, he established a tailoring business, operating from his home.[10]
1838, French Fashions

The first record of the Perrody family in Ireland was the baptism of John Joseph, the son of 'Stephen and Maria Perredi', on 1 August 1851.[11] It seems likely John Joseph was Richard's elder brother. His baptism was in St Andrew's church in Westland Row, not far from College Street, although there is no sign of Richard’s later baptism there. 

There is some evidence Stephen and Maria moved to County Cork after the bankruptcy debacle, and had family there, although I am not sure how this was compatible with Stephen taking the job in City House. I don't know about this Cork branch, but it seems our Dublin branch of the Perrody family died out with Richard and Isabella's children. None of whom seemingly had a family. 

[1] Copy marriage register, General Register Office.
[2] Richard Perrody, Ranelagh Road, Dublin, 1901 Census of Ireland.
[3] Richard Perrody, Brunswick Street, Dublin, 1911 Census of Ireland. 

[4] Stephen Perody, College Street, Griffiths Valuation, 1854, FindMyPast (subscription site).
[5] Stephen Perody, College Street,Thom's Irish Almanac & Official Directory, 1855 and 1856, FindMyPast.
[6] Saunders's Newsletter, 30 August 1856, p. 3, FindMyPast.
[7] The Advocate: or, Irish Industrial Journal, 24 April 1858, p. 1, FindMyPast.
[8] Saunders's Newsletter, 19 January 1856, p. 3. 
[9] Saunders's Newsletter, 24 May 1854, p. 3. 
[10] Gazette des Tribunaux, Paris, 5 March 1837, p. 4, accessed Google Books.

[11] John Joseph Peride, Baptism register, 1851, St Andrew's, Dublin, accessed

Image Credit: Gazette des Salons, 49, 5 September 1838, p. 860. 

© 2015 Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday 19 September 2015

Genealogy Saturday: Nora

This week, as I was trying to piece together the story of Bridget (Hynes) Wynne – a task not made easier by the fact she died more than one hundred years ago – I came across another lady. I've no idea where she fits in our family tree. In fact, there's nothing to document her existence at all, per se and no memory of her has survived through the generations. 

Yet, I believe her name was Nora.

Bridget was my great-great-grandmother. She had at least ten children. Margaret, her eldest, was born in 1850, in Dublin, and twenty-seven years later her youngest daughter, Agnes, was born. In between there was John, James, Joseph, Mary, Isabella, Patrick (died in infancy) Patrick (my great-grandfather), and Philip – but no Nora.

Family lore remembers Bridget was a midwife - a capable woman you might imagine. She lived until Agnes was eighteen years old. However, there is an indication she may have, on occasion (and for all I know the occasion was rare), been a little too fond of the demon drink. And, Nora, I'm thinking, just might have played a motherly role in the family. 

At least, as far as the traditional Irish naming patterns suggest, that is.

In Ireland, at this time, often the eldest daughter was named after her maternal grandmother, with the second daughter being named for her paternal grandmother, or perhaps vice versa. Bridget named her eldest daughter Margaret after her own mother, though whether she named another after her husband’s mother remains to be seen.

This naming custom was broken as often as not, but generally speaking, in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, it's very strange to find not a single child, in a family of ten, named a daughter after their mother. Not one of my great-great-grandmother's nineteen known granddaughters went by the name Bridget. 

But three of her granddaughters were called Nora. Now, do you see where I'm coming from?

Actually, in fairness, Margaret, who married John Vaughan, christened her first-born ‘Mary Bridget’ in 1880. The child's middle name was presumably chosen out of respect for her granny, but she was known in the family as Mary, so it didn't really count.  

It was Bridget's three sons, John, James and Patrick who each named a daughter after my hypothetical Nora:

  • John, the eldest son, had five daughters. None of them were called Bridget, but the fourth was christened Nora Mabel. She was born in 1886, in Dundalk, and married Valentine Warren there in 1913;
  • In 1895, James Wynne named his eldest daughter Norah Isabella. This Norah was the girl I suspect Agnes's daughter, Pat Fegan, once mentioned married a tailor and went to Australia. But, no actual trace of the girl has been found since she was about fifteen years old;
  • And finally, my great-grandfather, Patrick Wynne, named his second and youngest daughter Nora Teresa. She was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in England, in 1920, and married Norman Skelton in 1945.

Of Bridget's remaining children - Joseph had no children of his own; Mary only had boys; Isabella and Agnes both had girls, but none of them were called Bridget, and I still have no idea what happened to Philip.

There is another possibility for the preponderance of the name Nora in the family.  Perhaps, John's daughter, Nora Mable, who was born first, was the eponymous cousin, giving her name to the other two. This proposition is not without merit. In 1905, Isabella christened her youngest daughter Clarissa Mary – a rare enough name in Ireland – and John's youngest daughter, born twelve years earlier, was also Clarissa Mary.

So ok, maybe the ghostly presence of Nora in the lives of the Wynne family is the figment of an over-zealous imagination, but, nevertheless, given the customs of the time, it begs the question - why were none of Bridget's grandchildren called Bridget?

Update September 2016 

  • James Wynne's daughter Norah Isabella was traced to Australia, see here.
  • And, it was discovered my poor great-granduncle Philip had been committed to a lunatic asylum, here.

© 2015 Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday 12 September 2015

Genealogy Saturday: Using Y DNA to find our Wynne ancestors

John Wynne, my second-great-grandfather, poses the most vexing genealogy brick wall, on my mother's side. He is a challenge to research, despite the evidence placing his birth in Dublin city, about 1820.1

It's not that the search is demanding, like say with the Byrne lines – shared discretely by two of my four grandparents – where the surname is just too common to see the wood for the trees, so to speak. The problem with John Wynne is that nothing at all is known about his parents or the family of his childhood.

So, I wouldn't recognise them, even if I stumbled upon them in Dublin in 1820 and they invited me in for tea!

Thus, changing track, I thought I'd investigate where the Wynnes came from, generally, and it seems the surname is usually of Welsh origin. From Gwyn, meaning ‘white’, the Wynnes first came to Ireland as sixteenth-century immigrants to Connacht. For example, the illustrious Wynne family from Hazelwood in Sligo was of Welsh origin. There is also some evidence the name arrived here with the Huguenots, during the reign of Louis XIV.2 And, of course, the surname is known to have had some Gaelic roots too.

I have reason to suspect our Wynne surname was one of Gaelic origin. You see, Uncle Colm took a DNA test on his Y chromosome – just one of the legacies he left for us to continue our genealogy pursuits.

Down through the millennia, the Y chromosome is copied and passed from father to son, with only occasional copying errors, or mutations as they are known. Surnames, in this part of the world, typically follow the same path - from father to son. So, Y DNA can help trace their origins back to when they were first adopted and in Ireland, hereditary surnames were taken from about the eleventh century onward.

By honing in on specific mutations, experts can associate the DNA signature, and hence the surname, to specific places and time periods in the past.

Ireland, c. 900 AD, with Kingdoms & Viking towns
Colm tested positive for a mutation known as Z16950, which at this point appears synonymous with the DNA signature of the Byrne clan from the kingdom of Leinster.3 In the early eleventh century, this sept, then known as the Uí Fáeláin, was driven from the rich plains around Naas, Co. Kildare to the mountains in Co. Wicklow.

And, because our DNA signature matches that of the Byrne clan, it seems feasible to conclude our Wynne family also originated around Kildare/Wicklow.

The Gaelic name ‘Wynne’ was derived from the Irish word gaoithe, meaning ‘of wind’, and the surname cropped up, independently, all over Ireland. When Gaelic names were then anglicised during the second half of the sixteenth century, Wynne became a synonym for some of the surnames derived from gaoithe.4

Coincidentally, or maybe not, one such surname was ‘Gahan’ and the Gahan family were ancient chiefs of Síol Éalaigh, or Shillelagh, a district close to the Byrne chief’s historic home in Co. Wicklow.4 Not that there's any proof we're actually ‘related’ to this Gahan family - at least, not yet.

But, in theory, and given the surname is not as common as Byrne, it's possible we should start picking up our Wynne family in Wicklow (somewhere between Dublin and Wexford, on this map), from 1650 onward. 

In truth, there are a number of reasons why surnames would not follow the same path as DNA. One of our Wynne ancestors may have been fathered by someone other than a Wynne, like in an adoption, or if a child took his step-father's surname, or kept his mother's name, or for any other reason you might imagine.

Remember we are talking hundreds of years, and only one such event need have occurred to throw the surname out of sync with its DNA signature.

Nevertheless, and notwithstanding the fact DNA science is still in its infancy, this provides a clue and we need all the help we can get to find where John Wynne came from.

We can only pray we're not dealing with yet another Byrne lineage that merely assumed the Wynne name in the more recent past!

1 John Wynne, DED North City in 1901 and Arran Quay in 1911, Census of Ireland, National Archives of Ireland. 
2 John O’Hart, Irish Pedigrees, ii, 5th ed. (Dublin, 1892) pp 459, 478.
3 Paul Burns, The Clan O'Byrne of Leinster as defined by its DNA’ Genetic Genealogy Ireland Lectures, 2014, on YouTube.
4 Edward MacLysaght, The Surnames of Ireland, 6th ed. (Dublin, 1985); Patrick Woulfe, Sloinnte Gaedheal is gall: Irish Names and Surnames (Dublin, 1922); Irish Ancestors/Surnames, The Irish Times.

© 2015 Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday 5 September 2015

Genealogy quest: Niggling Doubts

Having finally identified John and Maryanne (Coyle) Donovan as the parents named by my great-grandmother on her marriage to Charles O’Neill in 1874, I find myself still harbouring some niggling doubts?  Don't get me wrong, I'm happily convinced that Mary Agnes considered this couple to have been her parents, but, well, could they have been her real parents? Would they, at least, have been the parents named on her baptism record, if only I could find a copy of it!

In Irish genealogical research, a missing baptism record is not that unusual, even when the search location is known. Maybe she was born sickly and baptised at home, or maybe there was once an entry in a baptism register, but it has since been lost, or is now illegible. Maybe I have just not found it yet. Either way, the parents of some of my other direct ancestors have been ‘proven’ only by establishing their relationship to a sibling, and with far less angst. So, why do I have such lingering uncertainty, in this case?

I keep coming back to the church records located for John and Maryanne and their children and wondering where Mary Agnes fits in.1

            Marriage of John Donovan and Maryanne Coyle on 9 February 1851
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

Not for the first time, I see the three-year gap between their marriage and the birth of Thomas Joseph. It's not unreasonable to believe a child, or maybe two, were born in this period, and I'm not even taking into account the possibility of a premarital pregnancy.  

Then I realised the cause of my concern. Mary Agnes said that she was a minor (less than 21 years of age) at the time of her marriage.2 And I believed her. This therefore gave her birth-date as after 19 April 1853 – less than twelve months before the birth of Thomas Joseph – a very small window of opportunity, maybe not impossible, but certainly tight.

In truth, however, the Donovan sisters have given no indication they were worthy of such trust when it came to reporting their ages. In the 1901 census, Mary Agnes estimated her age as 38 (which would imply she was eleven years old when she married by great-grandfather - not), while the census ten years later indicated she was 45 years old  so we can see she was definitely prone to ‘losing’ time.3 The 1901 census for her sister, Teresa, says she was born about 1876, when we know for a fact she was baptised in 1862.4 I cannot think of a reason why Mary Agnes would say she was a minor if it was not true, but maybe she truly did not know how old she was. Age was not of as much concern in the nineteenth century, as it is now.

So, I suppose it really is feasible that John and Maryanne were her real parents.

Perhaps, I will never be able to consider closing this this case, without Mary Agnes' baptism record.   

1 Church registers, St Mary's Pro-Cathedral, Dublin,
2 Copy marriage register, Agnes Donovan, Dublin North, 1874, General Register Office.
3 Mary Agnes Ellis, Mountjoy, Census of Ireland, 1901 and 1911, National Archives of Ireland
4 Theresa Corless, Manchester, Census of England, 1901,

Image from Pixabay. 

© 2015 Black Raven Genealogy