Saturday, 27 February 2016

Escape to the Country

I’m from Dublin, and even though I now live in ‘lilywhite’ Kildare, I consider myself a ‘true blue’ Dub. As far back as I’ve managed to trace, all my direct ancestors lived in Dublin, either the city or the county. It’s not that they didn’t like to travel. Many of them did. They headed to the four corners of the globe, but they always left us, their descendants, behind in Dublin.

Oh, some of them hinted at being from ‘down the country’, as we say. On Mam’s side, the Hynes family have reported connections to Co. Limerick and the Carrolls to Co. Tipperary. Dad’s great-grandmother, Elizabeth Mahon’s mother, was said to have been born in Co. Meath. And, my DNA matches show a distinct bias towards Co. Clare. But, it’s not been possible to find any actual documentary proof of anyone, anywhere, prior to their arrival in Dublin.

Until now, that is.

When my Dad’s great-grandfather John Byrne married his first wife, Mary Markey, in Dublin city, in 1860, his parents were named as Andrew Byrne and Anne Clinch, from Newbridge. Then, when he married my second great-grandmother, Alicia Leahy, in 1867, his parent’s address was further defined as Athgarvan, in Kildare.[1]

Athgarvan today is a small village on the River Liffey, about two miles from the town of Newbridge, and coincidently not five miles from where I now live.  In the nineteenth century, it was a tiny settlement near an extensive flour mill. It’s hard to imagine why anyone would live there, unless employed at the mill, and Andrew Byrne was said to have been a gardiner [sic].[2]

But, Athgarvan is exactly where I found them. John Byrne was baptised in the Catholic parish of Newbridge, in the diocese of Kildare and Leighlin, on 14 February 1841. His parents were Andrew (Andy) Byrne and Anne Clinch/Clynch from Athgarvan. They married, not far away in the parish of Suncroft, on 11 November 1833. The Newbridge parish register confirms the family made Athgarvan their home.[3]

Children’s baptisms                        Baptism Sponsors [4]
Garrett, Sep 1834, Athgarvan            Michael Burne and Anne Burne
Garreth, Jun 1835, Athgarvan            Michael Burne and Ann Burne
Thomas, Aug 1838, Athgarvan            Edward Clynch and Mary Byrne
John, Feb 1841, Athgarvan                 Laurence Byrne and Anne Salmon
Andrew, Nov 1843 , Athgarvan           John Clynch and Mary Clynch
Mary, Oct 1846, Athgarvan                 Charles Neile and Julia Bernes
Anne, Oct 1846, Athgarvan                 James Darcy and Ann Byrne
Edward, Nov 1850, Athgarvan            Thomas Bernes and Ellen Kealy
Anne, May 1853, Athgarvan                James Byrne and Rose Darcy
Andrew, Mar 1855 , Athgarvan           David Bruce and Bridget Kelly

In September 1853, when Griffith published his property tax survey for the area, Andrew Byrne was found living at Athgarvan Cross. He leased a house and a small garden at 2e on the map below.

Excerpt Griffith’s Valuation, Athgarvan, Co. Kildare, 1853

It’s quite likely this Andrew Byrne was my third great-grandfather. Many of his neighbours sharing the eight little cottages at plot 2 on the map were present at his children’s baptisms: Laurence Byrne of 2g was John’s Godfather; Charles Neill of 2h was Mary’s and the Darcy family lived at 2d. Patrick Clynch, also likely a relative of Andrew’s wife, lived at 2a.[5]

So finally, I’ve found my roots outside of Dublin. Maybe that’s why the Kildare countryside always felt so much like ‘home’.

[1] Church records on
[2] Copy Marriage Register, Byrne-Leahy, 1867, General Register Office.
[3] Catholic Parish Registers at the NLI, Newbridge, Baptisms, Jan 1834 – Oct 1846, p. 76; Suncroft, Marriages, May 1805 – Aug 1881, p. p. 81. 
[4] Catholic Parish Registers at the NLI, Newbridge, Baptisms, various.
[5] Griffith’s Valuation, 1853, Blackrath and Athgarvan, Greatconnell, Co. Kildare.

Image Credit: Griffith’s Valuation, Athgarvan, Ask about Ireland.

© Black Raven Genealogy

Update: See here for 'further reflections' on where Andrew Byrne was really living in 1853.


  1. Congrats on finding roots outside of Dublin! (And, I love that map.) I can't imagine having family in one place for so long. My family is from various states in the US and they came from various countries.

  2. Thank you, it is exciting and grants me the opportunity to learn more about Kildare genealogy and history.

  3. Hi Dara, I included this post in Interesting Blogs at
    Thank you.


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