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


  1. Those are an awful lot of coincidences for them not to be significant. I hope you find that missing piece that ties it all up. (And I like the "Quick Tips" at the end!)

  2. Thanks Michelle, and maybe something a little more conclusive will turn up one day.

  3. Nice Work Dara! You're right--all genealogists know, once you find an answer,it creates more questions. But that's the fun.

    1. and that's why genealogy is a life-long pursuit, Ellie :-)

  4. I love circumstantial evidence! And that's a lovely pile of it. I love the "Quick Tip" Especially as it's so on point for me right now.

    1. Thanks Jo, I often find I've nothing but circumstantial evidence, and while it can be rewarding to finally tip the balance of proof from possible to probable, I'd still love to have it all confirmed 'in writing'.


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