Saturday, 12 December 2015

Another attempt to outfox an elusive great-grandfather

Michael Byrne was my great-grandfather, my Dad’s paternal grandfather. He is one hard fella to track down. And, I’ve tried! Really, I’ve tried!

According to his own assertions, he was born in county Dublin, about 1870. So, I obtained copy birth registrations for every Michael Byrne I could find in civil and church records, if the parents were named as John and Elisabeth Byrne. But, didn't find him!

And, when the ‘traditional’ records failed to yield a match, I tracked him through the local court records. I checked out his Fan (friends and neighbours) Club. I knew he kept greyhounds, so, I even attempted to trace his origins in the national dog licence registers. I found him there too, from March 1892, three months before his marriage to my great-grandmother in Malahide, Co. Dublin, but no earlier. The man left no clues behind.

Who was he?

Recently, I received some new information about him. This account came from a first cousin of my Dad – also Michael’s grandchild.  Her father had told her, Michael once had a brother. Granted it’s not the first time we’ve heard that ‘there were two of them’, but this time the brother came with a name – Tom – and a story. Sadly, young Tom died when he was a child. He was said to have fallen out of a tree, while at school in the neighbouring town of Swords, and died. Poor lad.

If he’d died as a child, it would certainly explain why I could find no trace of the rumoured brother in later marriage registers. But, some record of his tragic death should survive today, you’d think.

Well, there was no mention of the accident in the newspapers of the day, at least, none I could find.

So back I went to the civil indexes, searching for every child named Thomas Byrne, who might have died between 1864 and 1890. And, there were two potential deaths recorded in the Registrar's District of Balrothery. Balrothery represents the whole region of north county Dublin, including the town of Swords.

One was a child, only seven years old, who died in 1876. Was he too young to have been at school, climbing trees? – Maybe, maybe not.

The second was Thomas Clarke Byrne, aged fourteen years when he died in 1874. Except, this young Thomas was gentry.  I found a memorial inscription for him on a fancy tomb, in the parish of Ballyboghil, Co. Dublin. The tomb was ‘a large sarcophagus over a vault, with inscriptions on three sides’.[1] Interred were:
  • Thomas Byrne, Esquire, Casino, Malahide, died 13 March 1851, aged 65.
  • Anastasia (Relict [widow] of the late Thomas Byrne of Casino), died at 73 Upper Gardiner Street, Dublin, 25 May 1859, aged 63 years.
  • Emily Frances Byrne, died 12 July 1864, aged 32 years.
  • Thomas Clarke Byrne, son of Joseph Byrne, Esquire, Casino, Malahide, died 8 August 1875, aged 14 years.
  • Morgan Joseph Byrne, son of John Byrne, Esquire, J.P., Gardener Place, Dublin, died 27 April 1879, aged 18 months. 

Now, my grandmother Lena, Michael’s daughter-in-law, once lived in ‘Casino’. It is a beautiful, large, thatched cottage in the village of Malahide. Lena was the housekeeper there, for the Dickie family, at the time of her marriage.

But, our Michael’s father was named as John, not Joseph, and in Michael’s marriage record, the only document ever found mentioning his father, he was said to have been a butler. A butler is a far cry from being a ‘J.P.’ [Justice of the Peace]!

Anyway, if we’d been part of this prestigious Byrne family, some rumour of that fact would have survived, and my grandfather would surely not have worked as a labourer.

Nevertheless, I’ve ordered copies of both death registers, and I’ll let you know if either one of these boys died of a broken neck.

[1] Journal of the Association for the Preservation of the Memorials of the Dead in Ireland, 1894, accessed Ireland Genealogy Projects Archives. 

Continued further at: A glimpse over the brick wall.

© 2015 Black Raven Genealogy


  1. Although I don't wish a broken neck on anyone, I do hope one of these young lads is yours. Is it too much to ask for a little relief in the hunt?

  2. Something has to give, Wendy. Thanks for your support.


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