Saturday 26 March 2016

Best day for a wedding

“Monday for health,
Tuesday for wealth,
Wednesday the best day of all,
Thursday for losses,
Friday for crosses,
And Saturday, no day at all”

Did you ever wonder what day of the week your ancestors chose as their wedding day? A young pupil from Coolmoyne, Co. Tipperary, my newly discovered ancestral home, recited this old rhyme, as part of her contribution to the ‘Schools’ Collection’ of Irish Folklore.[1] So, I thought I’d see if it held true in practice. I hoped not as I got married on a Friday – not a very good omen, seemingly.

The Happy Couple
Wedding Day
Thomas Ratty and Mary Cullen
Tuesday, 29 June 1790       
Patt Mahon and Jane Cavanagh
Sunday, 12 September 1819
Thomas Donovan and Catherine Flood
Tuesday, 20 November 1821
Peter Radcliffe and Anne Sarsfield 
Sunday, 3 July 1825
Paul Doyle and Catherine O’Hara
Saturday, 23 August 1828
Andrew Byrne and Anne Clinch
Monday, 11 November 1833
Jeremiah Keogh and Jane Crosbie  
Friday, 26 April 1833
Francis Byrne and Jane Daly
Sunday, 11 October 1846
John Wynne and Bridget Hynes
Sunday, 16 September 1849
Myles McGrane and Margaret Doyle
Sunday, 26 January 1851
John Donovan and Maryanne Coyle
Sunday, 9 February 1851
John Devine and Maryanne Keogh  
Sunday, 18 September 1859
James Mahon and Margaret McDonnell
Sunday, 27 May 1866
John Byrne and Alicia Leahy
Sunday, 27 January 1867
Maurice Carroll and Anne Radcliffe
Sunday, 22 August 1869
Francis Byrne and Margaret McGrane
Sunday, 17 September 1871

Of the records available to me, three-quarters of my great-great-grandparents or their forefathers married on a Sunday. So, it's easy to conclude, in times past, in Ireland, Sunday was the wedding day most favoured by the betrothed. Yet, it is not even mentioned in the old rhyme.

Tying the knot – a pagan Irish wedding tradition

Sunday’s popularity as a wedding day is not surprising - it was probably the only day of the week the couple and their guests had free from work and could enjoy the celebrations.

What day of the week did your ancestors decide to tie the knot? 

[1] Kathleen Mackay, ‘Marriage Customs’, Coolmoyne, Co. Tipperary, p. 61, Schools’ Collection, DĂș  

© Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday 19 March 2016

Genealogy brickwall busting with Catholic parish registers

Last July, the National Library published copy images of Catholic parish registers from all across Ireland. More recently, commercial genealogy companies built an index to these registers, thus allowing the whole country, or at least all the parishes in the collection, to be searched at once.  So, if you know your ancestors’ names, even if you don’t know where exactly they came from, you might still be able to find them.

That was my plan this week anyway.

I already ‘knew’ quite a bit about Maurice Carroll, my great-great-grandfather. I traced his life in Dublin from 1857, when his first son was baptised, until 1906 when he died. He said he was born in Co. Tipperary about 1838, though I've never been able to 'prove' this.[1] 

I did know the family’s association with Tipperary was strong. Maurice’s son Robert, born to his first wife Mary Anne Frazer, also claimed Tipperary as his birthplace.[2] Yet, he was baptised in Donabate, Co. Dublin and likely born nearby at Balheary, where Maurice worked as a coachman.[3]  Mary Anne’s parents lived in Clonmel, the largest town in Tipperary, so it’s feasible Maurice originated somewhere near there.
At some stage, presumably after Maurice Carroll’s formative years, his parents moved to Co. Limerick. They lived there in 1859 when Maurice married Maryanne Frazer. At the time of his marriage, Maurice named his parents as David Carroll and Catherine Cummins, but they have remained elusive. Limerick was a big place.[4]

Excerpt, Marriage of Maurice Carroll & Mary Anne Frazer, 1859, St Nicholas

Sadly, there is still no sign of Maurice's baptism in the newly indexed Catholic parish registers, so I had to keep digging.

Mary Anne died young and Maurice married my great-great-grandmother, Anne Radcliffe, on 22 August 1869. This marriage helpfully narrowed down his parent’s address to Castleconnell, Co. Limerick.[5]

Excerpt, Marriage of Maurice Carroll & Anne Radclife, 1869, Swords Parish

In February 1852, a taxation survey found five men named David Carroll in Co. Limerick. Two of these were in Castleconnell. What are the chances? One leased a fairly sizable ‘house, office and garden’ on Castle Street and sublet four adjacent properties to tenants. Another, or perhaps the same man, leased over seven acres of land nearby. Our David Carroll was a carpenter and probably not quite so ‘well-to-do.’ Plus, a carpenter would hardly have needed so much land. Still, they were worthy of further investigation.[6]

Castleconnell Castle, Co. Limerick, 1833.

Tithe (taxation) records dating to the 1820s and 1830s show David Carroll had property in Castleconnell village, as well as in the wider townland, as far back as then. So, the man, or men, I’ve found in Castleconnell probably lived there before Maurice Carroll was even born and likely earlier than our family arrived in the area.[7]

Yet another doubt crept in when an 1846 trade directory, covering the town of Castleconnell, revealed the David Carroll in Castle Street was a baker. The daily car to Limerick picked up passengers outside his shop each morning at nine, and returned there each evening at six. My third great-grandfather was not a baker. He worked as a carpenter, supposedly.[8]

And, I ruled out the second candidate too. According to the town's Protestant church registers, a lady named Mary Carroll married Stephen Hall, in 1852. Her father was David Carroll of Castleconnell. Theirs was presumably a mixed marriage as they baptised their first son in the Roman Catholic faith. However, her father turned out to have been a farmer, and maybe the man leasing the seven acres.[9]

So, it seems our David Carroll arrived in Castleconnell after 1852 and did not appear in the Limerick taxation survey.

I'm not finished yet though. Thanks to the newly released index of Catholic parish records, I may have just found our man, and in Co. Tipperary too. Seeking all Carroll baptisms, with Catherine Cummins as the named mother, two entries caught my attention. On 21 November 1841, Mary Carroll from the townland of Coolmoyne was christened in Fethard parish, in South Tipperary. Mary’s parents, David Carroll and Cath Cummins, shared the same names as my third great-grandparents. Mary had a little brother named David, baptised in Fethard, five years later. 

Chances are this was my family. Maurice is still AWOL, but I’m off to see what else I can find out.[10]

[1] Census of Ireland, 1901, Maurice Carroll, Mountjoy, Dublin, National Archives.
[2] Census of Ireland, 1901, Robert Carroll, Royal Exchange, Dublin, same.
[3] Robert Carroll, baptism, 1860, Swords parish register, National Library.
[4] Carroll-Frazer marriage, 1859, St Nicholas parish register,
[5] Carroll-Radcliffe marriage, 1869, Swords parish register, National Library.
[6] David Carroll, Limerick, Griffith's Valuation, Ask about Ireland.
[7] David Carroll, Limerick, Tithe Applotment Books, National Archives.
[8] David Carroll, Munster, Slater's Commercial Directory of Ireland, 1846, Failte Romhat.
[9] Hall-Carroll marriage, 1852, Stradbally parish register, (subscription site); Copy marriage register, General Register Office.
[10] Ireland Roman Catholic Parish Baptisms, Fethard parish, FindMyPast, courtesy of the National Library. 

Image credits: Except from marriage registers courtesy of the National Library of Ireland; Castleconnell Castle, The Irish Penny Magazine, no. 24, v. 1, 15 June 1833, p. 1, JSTOR.

© Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday 12 March 2016

Sepia Saturday: Hats off to James Carroll

Sepia Saturday prompts bloggers to share their family history through old photographs. 

Their suggestion this week shows a British Grenadier Guard kissing a woman during a visit to Sydney in 1934, but the Guard’s towering bearskin cap hides most of the action. Indeed, hats of all kinds feature most prominently in this picture - nearly everyone is wearing one.

So today, as part of our family history, I thought I'd tell the story of James Carroll and share with you some of his photos. They feature a variety of great hats. James Carroll was Teresa (Carroll) Wynne’s older brother. Actually, he was her half-brother, the son of Maurice Carroll and his first wife, Mary Anne Frazer. That makes him my half-great-granduncle.  

James Carroll was born in Balheary, in Swords, Co. Dublin, 150 years ago, on 4 November 1865. His mother died of tuberculosis when he was only two years old, but, by the time he was four, his father had remarried. Anne Radcliffe was twenty years of age when she married Maurice and became mother to his surviving children. Although, five children have been identified in baptism records – David, Robert, Catherine, Thomas and James – some may have died prior to Maurice and Anne’s marriage. James probably had no memories of Mary Anne for he named Anne Radcliffe as his mother later in life.

Three days after his twenty-first birthday, James married Anne Molyneux in the Pro-Cathedral in Dublin. His bride was originally from Ballymore Eustace in Co. Kildare. The young couple had three boys born in Dublin city, Maurice in 1887, William in 1889 and James in 1891. Sadly, William died.  

James and Anne (Molyneux) Carroll in later life

About 1901, the family migrated to Newcastle upon Tyne, in England. During the census that year, James, Anne and their son James were living in a lodging house in Elswick, seemingly having just arrived in the town. James had found work as a general labourer. Their eldest son Maurice was temporarily left behind with friends in Ireland.

Sir W. G. Armstrong, Whitworth & Co., Ltd, Newcastle
James Carroll in his fire officer’s uniform 

By 1911, James was well established  in Newcastle, where he worked for Sir W. G. Armstrong, Whitworth & Co., Ltd, then the largest manufacturing company in Britain.  James was a fireman in their fire department. Both his sons also worked for the company, Maurice as a ship joiner and young James as an apprentice electrician in their gun department.

The Armstrong Whitworth fire-engine

After James retired, he moved out of Newcastle with his wife Anne and they spent some years living in the Northumbrian countryside, first in a place called Twice Brewed and later at Tow House, near Bardon Mill. During the war years they moved back to Newcastle to live with their son James, who was known as Jimmy. James died on 22 December 1943. His wife did not survive him by very long and within six months, on 18 June 1944, she too passed away.

Anne (Molyneux) Carroll in later life

To see what stories other Sepians have under their hats this week, head over to Sepia Saturday.

Sources: Copy birth, marriage and death registers, General Register Officer; Church records on and; 1901 and 1911 Census of England and Wales, accessed on Ancestry; information after 1911 and Carroll family photographs received, with much appreciation, from the great-grandchildren of James Carroll in Newcastle. Thank you Rosalie, Brian and Rosemary. 

© Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday 5 March 2016

The way they were

One night this week ‘Storm Jake’ battered Ireland, bringing with it gale force winds and freezing temperatures. But with all the comforts of modern living – central heating, double glazing, a warm duvet, and even an electric blanket – it didn’t cost me a moment’s sleep. My nineteenth-century ancestors would not have been so lucky.

Andrew and Anne (Clinch) Byrne, my third great-grandparents, had two boys christened with the name Gareth, two christened Andrew and two girls christened Anne.  Such repeating names are testament to a high rate of infant mortality, more than likely caused by the wretched conditions in which they lived. 

Even, compared to my forefathers in Malahide, it seems those in Co. Kildare were poor. The little cottage where the Byrne family once lived, seen last week on a mid-nineteenth century map in Athgarvan, Co. Kildare, was probably built with clay and thatched with straw. Such dwellings survived in large numbers in this village until the very end of that century and well into the twentieth.[1]

Interior of a mud cabin at Kildare, c. 1870

A government inquiry conducted in the early 1830s makes for sobering reading. Labourers’ cottages in Leinster often had only two rooms, a kitchen and a bedroom, though the poorest only had one. The cottage floor usually comprised the unprepared soil on which the dwelling stood and the roof was often thatched so poorly it leaked in heavy rain.  The tiny windows were rarely glazed, being boarded-up in winter with straw or maybe a piece of old bagging. These homes were dark and gloomy.[2]

One redeeming feature might have been the fireplace, used for heating and cooking. Kildare boasts a large area of bog, so turf fuel was probably readily available. You can imagine the little cottage being cosy on a good night, when the neighbours gathered for the music and the craic… but in winter?  How did they endure the cold, and the damp and the drafts?

And, it’s not as if they had comfortable furniture and bedding.  There were probably a few stools, a rough table and possibly a dresser. Often, there was only one bed, shared by the parents and all their younger children. As the children reached about eight or nine years old, they typically moved to separate beds of straw on the floor, one bed for the boys and one for the girls. In poorer cottages there was no bedstead at all and everyone slept on the floor.  Can you imagine?  It’s hard to believe. This is how ‘our’ ancestors lived. It probably wasn’t even fit for my ponies.

Blankets were also scarce, seemingly. Many were comprised of a patchwork quilt of old coats or other coarse unwanted materials, stitched together. In some cases, the only blanket was the man’s ‘great-coat’ and the whole family huddled beneath it for warmth at night. On a wet day, you can imagine the kids thinking, ‘Dad, get in out of the rain’ as they contemplated another long damp night shivering in the dark.[3]

William Henry Carter, Esq, a gentleman from Kilcullen, just two miles from Athgarvan, described living conditions in his area in the early 1830s as: 
‘Generally miserable: mud houses, thatched with straw; badly furnished. Bedsteads not general; bedding would be wretched were it not for the blankets given from ladies’ associations, and private charity’.[4]   

I find myself seeking evidence that ‘my’ ancestors had a better life than this, but it’s doubtful. A taxation survey in 1853 placed a rateable valuation of only fifteen shillings a year on Andrew Byrne’s house and potato garden. There were worse hovels houses than this in the area, but only just.[5]

[1] House and Building Return (Form B), Blackrath and Athgarvan, Co. Kildare, 1901 Census, National Archives of Ireland.
[2] Poor Inquiry (Ireland), Appendix E, First Report of the Commissioners, 1836, pp 42-43, accessed Google Books.
[3] Same, pp 71-73.
[4] Same, Supplement to Appendix E, p. 60.
[5] Griffith’s Valuation, 1853, Blackrath and Athgarvan, Greatconnell, Co. Kildare, accessed Ask About Ireland.

Image credit: Print collection of Maggie Land Blanck, citing the Illustrated London News, 9 April 1870. 

(c) Black Raven Genealogy