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?

© 2015 Black Raven Genealogy


  1. Bridget may have been her mothers middle name. In my Naughton Family, Bridget was my great grandmothers name but none of her grandchildren were named after her either, I had never thought of that till I read this post.

    Was there some scandal involving a woman named Bridget at that time in Ireland? Now, you have set me thinking,,,

  2. Claudia, I don't know about any scandals, but I started thinking maybe you're on to something and the name fell out of fashion for whatever reason - and checking the BMD index, there were nearly twice as many Bridgets born in Ireland between 1870 and 1880 (60046) as there were between 1900 and 1910 (34975). So there might be something in it - not sure it fully explains it though.

  3. That's an interesting puzzle you have there. I hope you find the answer, because now I want to know too!

  4. hello saw your Blog on Geneabloggers. I wanted to Wish you a Happy Blovgiversary! Best Wishes for your Blog. I'll stop by soon.