Saturday 30 April 2016

A case of murder and a genealogical near-miss

This week, as I continued my genealogy research into the lives of Laurence and Bridget Coyle, I came across the most disturbing case of murder ever perpetrated in the city of Dublin. Even today, although the case is now long forgotten, it likely remains one of the most fiendish atrocities ever to have shocked the country.

The victim, Thomas Maguire, was a handsome boy with dark curly hair, about ten years of age. He was found by children at play in a stable lane to the rear of Pembroke Road. His throat was cut from ear to ear. It was five days before Christmas in 1841.

A man named John Delahunt went to the police, claiming to have witnessed the murder. The police became suspicious, arrested him and placed him in custody. At the inquest, Delahunt claimed he saw a woman wearing a large red and green plaid shawl kill the child.

During the trial, John Delahunt continued to deny any responsibility for the attack. He tried to put the blame on the child’s mother, except that poor woman had an air-tight alibi. She was giving birth to a new baby at the Lying-In-Hospital, leaving no one to mind her son.

Sadly for John Delahunt, it was his own family who presented much of the evidence against him. Margaret Delahunt, his sister-in-law, testified Delahunt called to her home in Little Britain Street on the afternoon in question, with the child in tow. The boy, who she swore was the victim, told her his name was Tommy Maguire. Elizabeth and Anne Weldon, her sister and mother, testified they were present that evening when Delahunt returned to the house and they heard Margaret asking him where he had left the child.

Margaret Delahunt also confirmed the murder weapon as her property - her only knife. It had gone missing that day and she had seen Delahunt sharpening it the Saturday before. Other witnesses placed Delahunt near the scene of the crime. The jury deliberated for only twenty minutes before returning a guilty verdict and Delahunt was sentenced to death.

The only motive put forward, and the only one mentioned in Delahunt’s eventual confession, was financial. He had previously presented evidence, later discredited, in the trial of a tinker charged with the murder. He had also testified, again unconvincingly, against some coal porters charged with assault. In both cases the prosecution had paid a fee to their witnesses. Delahunt admitted he had killed the child in the hope of obtaining a financial reward when he helped the prosecutor convict an innocent party of murder. His was probably not the sharpest of minds.

So how are we related to John Delahunt? Not closely, I’m relieved to say. Ten years after the trial, Joseph Coyle, Laurence and Bridget’s eldest son and Dad's great-granduncle, married Elizabeth Weldon. Elizabeth was a sister of Margaret Delahunt, the key prosecution witness who was married to John Delahunt’s brother. Elizabeth served as a prosecution witness herself. While this is a genealogical near-miss for our family, I’m sure none of them ever forgot their close association with the notorious culprit who lost his life in the first public hanging in more than forty years.

At noon on 5 February 1842, John Delahunt was hung in front of a large gathering at Kilmainham Gaol. The assembled multitudes, appalled at the abhorrent crime, numbered well in excess of 10,000 people. Another account of the awful ceremony put the crowd closer to 60,000 people. All the buildings facing ‘the drop’ were full of spectators who had paid dearly for the view.

In the end, death came quickly for the young man who was paralysed with fear as he faced the revulsion of the crowd. Surprisingly, the only sound John Delahunt heard during his final moments was the gentle hum of prayer seeking mercy for his unfortunate soul.

John Delahunt, Murderer, 1842
 Dublin Evening Post, 5 February 1842, p. 3

Sources: The Dublin Weekly Register, 24 December 1841, p. 6; The Clare Journal, 20 January 1841, pp 1,4; Dublin Evening Post, 5 February 1842, p. 3; Freeman’s Journal, 7 February 1842, p.3; The Vindicator, Belfast, 9 February 1842 – accessed

© Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday 23 April 2016

Genealogy Saturday: Examining the possibility…

When I first began my quest to untangle the records relating to my paternal great-great-grandparents, John and Maryanne Donovan, I would happily have concluded upon finally confirming Maryanne’s maiden name was Coyle. But now that I know that, as is the want of all genealogists the world over, I need to know Maryanne’s parent’s names as well.

So, I thought I would fill you in on the candidates currently deemed best fitting the role.  They were Laurence and Bridget (Corcoran) Coyle, with a one-time address in Cole's Lane, Dublin. Cole's Lane was part of a labyrinth of little streets and laneways in the Henry Street area of the city. It ran parallel to Moore Street, between Henry Street and Parnell Street. Sadly, the whole area was levelled in the 1970s to facilitate the construction of the Ilac Shopping Centre.

Laurence and Bridget Coyle first appeared in the church records for St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral in November 1823 when their son Joseph was baptised. Twins Michael and Mathew were born in Great Strand Street in that parish in 1826, followed by Mary in 1828, Anne in 1829, Catherine in 1832 and George in 1835.  The first baby Anastatia, who was born in 1837, died when she was only two years old and the Coyles used the name again when their next little girl, Anastasia Mary, was christened in 1843.

Anastatia Coyle acted as Godmother for John and Maryanne’s son Thomas Laurence, baptised in 1857. This is surely significant; first, their selection of the name Laurence for their son’s middle name and secondly their association with Anastatia, both suggest the Donovans were related to Laurence and Bridget Coyle.  You can be sure there weren’t too many girls named Anastatia Coyle running around Dublin city at that time.

But, these were not the only connections joining this Coyle family with my John and Maryanne.

Laurence Coyle worked as a wood turner, running his business from Cole's Lane. The trade and street directories list him at this address, consistently, between the years 1836 and 1863. From 1845, Robert and Denis Newport, perhaps another father and son affair, operated as a cabinet-maker right next door to Laurence Coyle. Denis Newport was a witness at John and Maryanne’s wedding in February 1851. It’s great when these little things start falling into place!

Cole’s Lane, Pettigrew & Oulton's
Dublin Street Directory, 1845

John Donovan was an upholsterer and likely worked for a cabinet maker. So, if he worked for Denis Newport and if Denis was a neighbour of our Coyle family, this may be how he came to marry Maryanne. Likely, if I have the right Coyle family, John and Maryanne knew each other already anyway as John was born in Great Strand Street, around the same time the Coyles lived there. Now, maybe that’s a lot of ‘ifs’, but I’m starting to think this is a valid connection.

In 1852, Joseph Coyle, Laurence and Bridget’s eldest son, married Elizabeth Weldon. He also worked as a wood turner and began to appear in the Dublin street directories, at Abbey Street, from 1854. Maryanne Donovan was Godmother to their son James in December 1859 and in March the following year Elizabeth Coyle was Godmother to the Donovans' daughter, Catherine. Joseph Coyle's two daughters were named Maryanne and Anastatia. There is no doubt the families were connected somehow.

The bigger question remains, though, was Maryanne the daughter of Laurence and Bridget Coyle? And if so, where exactly did she fit in?  When she died in May 1873 Maryanne was said to have been forty years of age, so born about 1832-33, making her about the right age to have been born into this family.

Was she the Mary Coyle baptised in 1828?  From the time of her marriage, I’ve only ever seen her referred to as Maryanne, or a version thereof, never as just Mary. Perhaps her baptism was not recorded. If that was the case, it is potentially also feasible Mary and Anne, the children born in 1828 and 1829, also died as infants, only for both their names to be used again when Maryanne was born.
Genealogy Quick Tip:
Irish naming patterns are well known and often provide clues to those attempting to identify an earlier generation. But, bear in mind, naming conventions were not always followed and if they were, parents rarely stuck to the suggested order. Taking into account the lack of variety in first names in Ireland in the past, it is often far more suggestive of a familial relationship when an unusual given name connects the generations.

Sources: Church baptism and marriage registers on IrishGenealogy.iePettigrew and Oulton's Dublin Almanac and Thom's Irish Almanac and Official Directory, accessed on Findmypast.

© Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday 16 April 2016

Origin of our surnames

The documented ancestral trail in Ireland often goes cold around the end of the eighteenth century, but, on many of my lines, I don’t even get back that far. Surely, I could squeeze out another generation, or two, if I knew where to look. The trick is finding out where to look.

So, for starters, I thought I’d check out what the Irish surname expert, Edward MacLysaght, had to say about the surnames of my eight great-grandparents. Maybe, his insights can provide a few pointers on where to pick up my lost lineages.
Byrne, Mahon, O’Neill, Donovan, Wynne, Carroll, Byrne (again) and Devine
(O) BYRNE, Ó Broin in Irish, from bran, meaning raven. This was a leading sept in east Leinster. It is now one of the most common names in Ireland, especially in Co. Wicklow.

Recent successes traced Dad’s line back to my third great-grandfather, Andrew Byrne, who married Anne Clinch in Suncroft, Co. Kildare, in November 1833, and far more speculatively to Andrew’s baptism, as the son of Edward and Elenor Byrne, in that parish, in 1805. I’ve more work to do on this line, though I doubt it will lead all the way back to Co. Wicklow and the Kings of Leinster.

My mother’s documented Byrne lineage has been traced only as far as Francis Byrne, who married Jane Daly, in St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, in October 1846. Francis worked as a stoker, probably in the engine rooms of a steam-ship. Was he born in Co. Wicklow?

(Mac) MAHON, Mac Mathghamhna in Irish, from mathghamhan, meaning bear. This surname cropped up in numerous places in Ireland at various times. One sept, related to the Irish king Brian Ború, originated in Co. Clare and another in what is now Co. Monaghan. The name remains common in these counties. Two other unrelated septs of the name Mohan, or Ó Mócháin in Irish, also adopted Mahon as their surname, and are common in Galway and Sligo. 

The earliest record of my Mahon family was found in Swords, Co. Dublin, in September 1819, with the marriage of my third great-grandparents, Patt Mahon and Jane Cavanagh. They lived nearby at Yellow Walls, Malahide in Co. Dublin, but left no clue as to where they originated.

My family tree on Ancestry

O’NEILL, Ó Néill in Irish. This is another surname with more than one origin. The prominent sept descended from the legendary Niall of the Nine Hostages, originating in Co. Tyrone. The surname is now common all over Ireland, especially in counties Tyrone, Antrim, Down, Carlow and Waterford. 

My great-grandfather, Charles O’Neill, remains my most persistent genealogy brick wall. The earliest record found was his marriage to Mary Agnes Donovan in April 1874. Here, his parents were named as John and Margaret O’Neil, with an address in Lower Dominick Street, in Dublin city.

I don’t think the surname origins will help with this one.

(O) DONOVAN, Ó Donnabháin in Irish. Originating in Co. Limerick, the sept became prominent in south-west Cork. A branch also settled in Co. Kilkenny, but today remains most common in Cork.

Our Donovan family has been traced back to the marriage of Thomas Donovan and Catherine Flood, in Dublin’s Pro-Cathedral, in November 1821. This couple also sponsored the baptism of Joanna Flood in that parish in 1816 and Elizabeth Donovan in 1817. Ok, so we now know where they originated, but I wonder how many generations lived in Dublin city. 

WYNNE, as a Gaelic surname, is a synonym of numerous names containing the sound ‘gee’, from gaoithe, meaning of wind.

First found living in Dublin city in 1848, John Wynne said he was born in the city about 1820. I investigated the origins of the name previously, here, and concluded, although it might have originated anywhere in Ireland, DNA clues suggest east-Leinster.

(O) CARROLL, Ó Ceirbhaill in Irish. Again, this was the name of several Irish septs originating throughout Ireland. The most prominent were of Ely O’Carroll in Munster (Offaly and Tipperary) and the O'Carrolls of Oriel (Dundalk), as well as two lessor septs in Kerry and Leitrim. 

I’ve recently traced my Carroll family roots as far as Coolmoyne, near Fethard, in Co. Tipperary, in the 1840s, suggesting we descend from the Kings of Munster or, more likely, their servants. 

(O) DEVINE, Ó Daimhin in Irish, from damh meaning stag. The Devines were a branch of the MacGuires, who rose to power in Co. Fermanagh in the fifteenth century. The name is now found mainly in Co. Tyrone. 

My great-great-grandfather John Devine married Maryanne Keogh, on 18 September 1859, in St Laurence O’Toole’s parish in Dublin city. His parents are fully named in the copy marriage register. Sadly, it’s illegible. L L Their address reads Longford, I think. 

Excerpt from St Laurence O’Toole’s parish register

If anyone wishes to see if they can make out their names (I’d be so happy), the record is on the NLI website, second marriage down, on page 8 (link to register). Christian names are given in Latin. Maryanne’s parents, known from other sources, are Darby Keogh and Joanna Crosby.

Sources: Edward MacLysaght, The Surnames of Ireland, 6th ed. (Dublin, 2012); ‘Catholic Parish Registers’, St Laurence O'Toole's, Dublin city, microfilm 06611/03, p. 8, l. 67, National Library Ireland.

© Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday 9 April 2016

Buried at sea

Women that lived prior to the twentieth century are far more difficult to trace than their husbands. Often, we hear genealogists refer to them as the invisible ancestors. Or, at least, that’s the common complaint. But, the opposite is true in the case of my third great-grandparents, Francis Byrne and his wife Jane Daly, who married in Dublin, in October 1846.[1]

From the time Jane immigrated to New York in September 1887, till her burial there in 1901, she has featured in the available sources. Francis, on the other-hand, left precious little trace behind. Fourteen years after his marriage, when his daughter Catharine was christened, his name made a second appearance in the church registers.
[2] At least, this ‘proves’ he was alive and well in the spring of 1860. 

Then - nothing - all subsequent reports find him dead.

His daughter Hannah married John Comiskey on 5 December 1869. At the time, her parent’s address was given as Kingstown (now called Dun Laoghaire), in County Dublin.
[3] Yet, when the marriage was registered with the authorities, Francis was reported 'dead'.[4] Presumably, it was Jane who lived in Kingstown. Throughout the 1870s, when his other children - Francis, Charles and Jane - each married, they all confirmed their father was deceased. 

But, we do not know exactly when he died. Nor do we know when or where he was buried. Perhaps it was before 1864, when such events began to be registered in Ireland. Or, perhaps he died somewhere other than Dublin city or Kingstown, where I’ve concentrated the search. Perhaps he died at sea and his death was not registered.

You see, Francis worked as a ‘fireman’ or a ‘stoker’ when he was alive, i.e. someone who tended the fire of a steam engine - for example, on a steamship.  I had hoped this clue might be enough to help distinguish him from all the other men sharing his name and living around Dublin, to see if something could be found of his life (or death).

And, the English census of April 1861 includes a man matching all the meagre details known and suspected about ‘our Francis’, except his surname was said to have been ‘Byrns.’ He was married, born about 1828, from Dublin city, and worked as a fireman on a steamship, so I’d be happy to overlook a small spelling irregularity.
[5] Chances are our Francis was illiterate anyway.

On the night in question, Francis Byrns was aboard the screw steamer, Torch, moored for repairs at Trafalgar Dock, Liverpool. There is little certainty we have the right man, but it could easily have been my third great-grandfather.

When I tried to trace what happened to Francis Byrns, I came across the tragic story of the Torch’s demise.
[6] On 1 March 1873, albeit a few years after our forefather’s first reported death, the screw steamer was in a disastrous collision with a large sailing ship called Chacabuco.

The tragedy occurred at Great Ormes Head, off Wales. Both vessels were lost and twenty-five men drowned.

Chacabuco, with her crew of twenty-six hands, plus the captain, was returning from San Francisco, laden with wheat. The vessel Torch operated as a passenger and cargo ship between Dublin and Liverpool. She was on her usual return trip back to Dublin, with a crew of sixteen men under the command of Robert Cullen, when the terrible collision occurred. It was pitch dark, at two o’clock in the morning, in the middle of a snowstorm, with raging winds. 

A tug boat, out in the storm hoping to pick up a job, rescued all the passengers and the crew of Torch, except for one man, reportedly, a bullock-driver named James Loran. Poor Loran became jammed in the wreckage on deck and could not be cut free. Tragically, just before the steamer went down, he was heard to cry out ‘Goodbye, God bless you all!’ 

I only hope my third-great-grandfather met with a more peaceful end.

Harrington Fitzgerald, The Wreck, 1901, 
Smithsonian American Art Museum, accessed DPLA

[1] Marriage register, St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, Dublin, October 1846, p. 288, accessed National Library
[2] Baptism register, St Laurence O'Toole, Seville Place, January 1861, p. 71, same.
[3] Marriage register, St Laurence O'Toole, Seville Place, December 1869, p. 40, same. 
[4] Copy marriage register, General Register Office.
[5] Census Returns of England and Wales, 1861,
[6] The Sydney Morning Herald, 10 May 1873, p. 5; The Argus, 27 May 1873, p.6, accessed Trove

© Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday 2 April 2016

Roots in Tipperary

In a recent post, I mentioned the potential discovery of my Carroll family in county Tipperary, the same county Maurice Carroll claimed as his birthplace. The actual record of my great-great-grandfather’s baptism is still ‘missing’, but it seems his younger sister Mary was christened in the parish of Fethard, in South Tipperary, in November 1841. Her parents were David Carroll and Catherine Cummins, the same names Maurice gave for his parents.[1] 

Coolmoyne, Co. Tipperary on Google Maps

When Mary was baptised, the family lived in Coolmoyne, a rural townland situated between the towns of Cashel and Fethard. The family was still there in August 1850, when, according to a mid-nineteenth-century taxation survey, David Carroll leased a small house and a tiny garden. For tax purposes, the rateable valuation of the property amounted to only eleven shillings a year, a sure sign the family was poor.[2]

Although there were Carroll households in Fethard town in 1850, David’s was the only one in Coolmoyne or its adjoining townlands. Apart from an unknown Ellen Carroll acting as Mary’s Godmother, there is no indication they had Carroll relatives in the area.

David Carroll’s holding was supposedly situated at plot ‘5b’ on the below map of Coolmoyne, but '5b' is not apparent. Probably, the map was re-drawn after the tax survey was published and after David Carroll had left the area. Perhaps properties were renumbered and plot ‘4b’ marks the spot where the family once lived. A future visit the Valuation Office in Dublin may clarify this. [see update below] I do know David Carroll moved to Limerick before February 1859, by which time Maurice Carroll was in Dublin city, marrying Mary Anne Frazer. 

Coolmoyne, Co. Tipperary, 1850 (Griffith’s Valuation Map) [2]

Identifying a couple named David Carroll and Catherine Cummins living in the right place at the right time, is surely a step in the right direction. Yet, the possibility of it all being a big coincidence also crossed my mind. I wanted to find something directly linking my great-great-grandfather, the man living in Dublin, back to Fethard. 

Then, I discovered the baptism of his first wife, Mary Anne Frazer - she was born in Fethard too. It’s unlikely this was another chance occurrence. I'd found a link.

Robert Fraser and Mary Mara christened their daughter Mary in Fethard parish, in March 1829.[3] When she married Maurice Carroll, she went by the name Mary Anne and her parents were named as Robert Frazer and Mary Meagher (pronounced Mar), of Clonmel, Co. Tipperary.[4] The surname Frazer was not at all common in Tipperary. Plus, Mary Anne was said to have been forty years old when she died in March 1868, a variance of only one year.[5] So, chances are good these were Maurice’s in-laws.  

Robert Frazer had a small taxable holding in Fethard in 1828 and a trade directory shows he operated as a boot and shoe maker in Main Street in the town, in 1846.[6] However, no further mention of my David Carroll was found anywhere, apart from the baptism record of his son David, in 1847.[7] No one with the Carroll surname held taxable property in Fethard in 1828. Perhaps our Carroll family was poor enough to fall outside the tax net, or maybe they were living elsewhere.

Update 4 May 2016 - The first Cancelled Valuation Book in the Valuation Office is dated 1860, after David Carroll had left Coolmoyne. Mary Daly was named as the occupier of his house and garden of 38 perches. She was listed at plot 6b in the new book, but this plot is not immediately obvious on the map, either.

[1] Mary Carroll, Baptisms (1 Mar 1835 to 30 Jan 1847), Parish of Fethard, p. 73, Catholic Parish Registers at the NLI
[2] David Carroll, Tullamain, Tipperary South, Griffith’s Valuation, Ask About Ireland
[3] Mary Fraser, Baptisms (1 Jun 1828 to 27 Feb 1835), Parish of Fethard, p. 16, Catholic Parish Registers at the NLI
[4] Marriage register, Parish of St Nicholas, 1859,
[5] Copy death register, Balrothery, 1868, General Register Office.
[6] Robert Frazier, Tipperary, Tithe Applotment Books 1823-37, National Archives of Ireland; Robert Frazer, Munster, Fethard, Slater's Commercial Directory of Ireland, 1846, FailteRomhat
[7] David Carroll, Baptisms (1 Mar 1835 to 30 Jan 1847), Parish of Fethard, p. 129, Catholic Parish Registers at the NLI

© Black Raven Genealogy