Saturday 24 September 2016

Shocking Revelations ~ Philip Augustus Wynne

With some dismay, this week I solved another long-time genealogy mystery - what happened to my mother's granduncle, Philip Wynne?

Philip was born Philip Augustus Wynne on 26 May 1870. He was the youngest son of John Wynne and Bridget Hynes, then living in Thomas Street, Dublin. His mother registered his birth on 21 June.  And, that was the only record of Philip ever found, until now.

We do ‘know’ he survived infancy. His first cousin, Pat Fegan, referred to him as Augustin. Two of his brothers may have named a son after him. John called his eldest John Augustin. And, after he died young, the next boy born was named Philip. James chose the name John Augustin for his son too, though he was also known as Augustin.

My search for Philip, or Augustus, or Augustin, took me all over the world, virtually speaking. There was no sign of him. Whenever a relevant new database came online, his was one of the first names entered, just in case. Then, this week, an entry in the recently published civil registers brought my search to a conclusion.

'Philip Wynne' was not a common name in Ireland. The marriage and death index for the entire country included only fourteen possibilities, each record seemingly less likely than the last.  But it now cost nothing to check them out. One record related to a Philip Wynne, who died in Balrothery (a district covering north county Dublin) in 1931. He was said to have been sixty-five years old. Our Philip was only sixty at that time, and his family had no connection with north county Dublin. Nonetheless, it turned out to be my missing great-granduncle.

And what a shocking discovery it was!

Philip died in the Portrane Mental Hospital, Donabate, known and perhaps often feared locally as merely 'Portrane'. Poor Philip!

A hundred questions immediately flashed through my mind. Was he mad? What was wrong with him? How long was he there? Why did his family not take care of him?  Did they lock him up - throw away the key, so to speak - and never see him again? Why did Pat Fegan not mention his fate? Was it all kept hush-hush and brushed under the carpet?

Death of  Philip Wynne, Portrane Mental Hospital, Donabate, 1931
Death of  Philip Wynne, Balrothery, 1931 (click on image to enlarge)

Philip’s death certificate revealed nothing new, other than his cause of death – cardiac failure having suffered myocardial degeneration for years. It did show his former residential address - 4 Christ Church Place - which instantly confirmed this was our man.

Philip’s sister Mary lived at 4 Christ Church Place when she married Michael Finegan in 1885. The family still lived there when Philip’s mother died ten years later. Thus, the address indicates the timeframe Philip entered the hospital. And, as they only had this old address, it suggests the family, although fond of him, did not keep in touch.

Philip’s stay in 'Portrane' spanned at least thirty years, probably much longer. How sad is that?

Of course, once I knew where to look, I easily found him in the 1901 and 1911 census of Ireland. The hospital completed a form called the Return of Lunatics and Idiots in Public Institutions and Private Lunatic Asylums. Like prisoners and police officers, etc., patients were recorded using only their initials, which was why Philip had been so hard to trace in the first place.

The 1901 census showed Philip was thirty years old and born in the city of Dublin, which is correct. He was single and able to read and write. He’d even worked as a brush-maker, just like most of his elder brothers. Sadly, Philip suffered from his illness for a long time, from when he was a boy aged only about sixteen years.

He had a condition called ‘Melancholia’, presumably some form of depression. You won’t believe what they said caused it.  The cause, according to the hospital, was put simply as ‘Masturbation’.


In the 1901 census the handwriting was unclear, but in 1911 there is no doubt but that this was the cause. Dr Google confirmed Philip was not alone - other people suffered this same illness for the same reason. Now that is madness!

I wonder if I can access his medical records. Maybe, I'll give 'Portrane' a call.

Source: Deaths, 1931, Philip Wynne, Balrothery, Civil Records,; P.W., Portraine Demesne, Donabate, Dublin, 1901 and 1911 Census, National Archives of Ireland

© Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday 17 September 2016

Filling in the blanks just got way easier

Only last month I published a chart summarising all I knew about the children of my great-great-grandparents, Francis Byrne and Margaret McGrane. Many blanks remained, despite it being the product of over five year's genealogy research. Then, just last week, the Registrar released our copy birth, marriage and death registers - for free, online - and look at all the blanks now filled!

Child’s Name
Birth date
Death date
Spouse, marriage year
Myles Byrne
15 Jan 1873
2 Nov 1928
Elizabeth Bethel, 1897
James Byrne
18 May 1874
29 Jul 1948
Christina Devine, 1897
Francis Byrne
21 Feb 1876
14 Dec 1950
Maryanne Drennan, 1896
Charles Byrne
6 Mar 1878
12 Apr 1879
Margaret Byrne
15 Nov 1879
25 Jul 1932
James Fay, 1920
Mary Ann Byrne
about 1882
6 Mar 1960

William Vickers, 1901   
Jane Byrne
3 Aug 1883
17 Mar 1919
James Fay, 1916
John Joseph Byrne
21 Dec 1885
15 Jan 1930
Margaret Burke, 1910
Michael Byrne
21 Oct 1887
10 Jan 1889
Patrick Byrne
10 Mar 1890
26 Jul 1923
Catherine Mills, 1916
Paul Byrne
18 Sep 1891
8 Feb 1959
Kathleen McDuff, 1916
Kate Byrne
13 Jul 1893
11 Jun 1931
Ben Byrne
21 May 1896
Annie Porter, 1918

before 1911

Birthdates for Jane, John, Patrick, and Kate are known. However, baptism records are available for the older children and it's clear the Byrnes sometimes delayed registering their newborns' births. For example, at Francis’s baptism on 28 February 1876, his birthday was said to be 21 February. 21 April was the date later registered. He was certainly not baptised before he was born, so the register must be wrong. And, if it's wrong for Francis, it may be wrong for the younger children too. Bear in mind, a penalty was charged for late registration, which the family could ill afford to pay. Maybe it was easier to give the wrong date and avoid a fine.

I also found out what happened to Patrick, the son who died young and shares his parent’s grave. He was born at the Rotunda Hospital, Dublin, on 10 March 1890 - likely a more accurate date, given the hospital registered his birth. On 3 September 1916, he married Catherine Mills in the Pro-Cathedral. They lived in Upper Rutland Street. Patrick died of heart failure at St Vincent's Hospital in 1923, following an intestinal stricture. 

Historic Irish death registers contain little identifying information, other than the deceased's name and last address, and the possibility the informant might be recognised as a relative. With common names, it is often difficult to know when you’ve found the correct record. Myles Byrne, Francis's son, registered his death. Our Francis had a son called Myles, born in 1903, so this record probably relates to my great-granduncle. Kathleen Byrne, an unmarried soap maker, just a year off our Kate's age, died at the Mater Hospital, Dublin, aged just thirty-six years. She gave her last residential address as Lower Jane Place, where our Byrne family lived. This was probably my great-grandaunt, though further research may prove me wrong.  

© Black Raven Genealogy

Sunday 11 September 2016

All about Nora

There was huge excitement in the world of Irish genealogy this week – millions of our historic copy birth, marriage and death registers were published onlinePlus, they are available for free. Just think how many family mysteries I’ll be able to solve now! The first record I consulted was the marriage of my grandfather’s first cousin, Nora Wynne.  Nora’s granddaughter and I are currently swapping stories and photographs by email, so she was on my mind.  

John Fogarty and Nora (Wynne) Fogarty, Dublin, 1927
John Fogarty and Nora (Wynne) Fogarty, Passport issued in 1927

Nora was born on 27 September 1895, at 14 Heytesbury Street, Dublin, the eldest daughter of James Wynne and Christina Kavanagh. By the time of the 1911 census, she was living with her mother and four siblings in Sycamore Street, in Dublin. Her father had already moved to England where he worked as a brush maker, while Christina remained in Dublin to raise the family.

Pat Fegan was the source of much of our knowledge about the Wynne family. She was Nora’s cousin. She told us that when Nora grew up, she married a tailor and moved to Australia. I had not found proof of this. But, like so much of our family lore, for the most part, Pat's story turned out to be true. Pat said Nora was the daughter of her uncle John, rather than her uncle James, but I’d already suspected this wasn’t the case

John Fogarty & Nora Wynne, Dublin, 1920, Copy Marriage Register
John Fogarty & Nora Wynne, 1920, Copy Marriage Register

On 12 September 1920, Nora married John Fogarty, a tailor, in St. Kevin’s church on Harrington Street. They had two children in Dublin, a boy and a girl, before applying for their passport to leave the country. On the eve of Christmas in 1927, the young family boarded the steamship ‘Orvieto’ at London docks, and embarked on a long journey towards their new life. No doubt, it was a fiercely exciting time, but one also tinged with a deep sadness. One thing was certain - where they were going - Nora would likely never see her family and friends again.

Thirty-one days later they all arrived safely at the quarantine station in Freemantle, on the west coast of Australia. From there, they made their way to Melbourne, where John worked as a tailor and Nora was a homemaker. Two more sons were born in Melbourne, and the family settled into the Australian way of life.

But, like most families, the Fogartys had their up and downs. It seems they had a particularly hard time in the 1940s. John and Nora separated in the early years of the decade. Then, they lost their fifteen-year-old son, Terence, to leukaemia in 1944. And their eldest son was badly injured during World War II. It must have been a truly dreadful period for Nora, so far away from home.

After this, Nora moved to Sydney, where she spent the remainder of her days. She died in 1971, at the age of seventy-five years. She is remembered fondly by her grandchildren.

Image credit: Copy passport courtesy of Nora's grandchildren in Australia
© Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday 3 September 2016

Potential new ancestors hiding in our DNA results

I started out with such high expectations, but I have to admit, my DNA test results have not yielded any genealogical breakthroughs. We have hundreds of matches, most of them in the U.S. or Australia, but few have so much as a surname in common with us. Even among the top twenty or so people listed, there is no one with a paper trail to a mutual ancestor - other than my already known relatives, that is. It’s a little disappointing, though I’ve not given up all hope, yet.

So, when I received an email from a lady on my mother’s list, I decided to investigate it further. Our matching segment is not that big – for those ‘in the know’, it is 13 cMs over 1,965 SNPs. GEDmatch predicts our most recent common ancestor as being 5.1 generations ago. Thus, we could share my mother’s third great-grandparents with this match, though there's no way of knowing which ones. These ancestors are in the upper echelons of my documented family tree, or probably just beyond. They’re exactly the ones I’m hoping to discover.

The match looked promising, initially. First, this lady has already identified who she believes are her ancestors in Ireland. Second, her nineteenth-century ancestors were in Dublin, where many of my mother’s people also lived. Third, she has identified a match with a probable third cousin, and my mother shares the same matching segment with him too - i.e. it’s a triangulated match. So, if we all share the same DNA, and they inherited it from a suspected common ancestor, then there’s a good chance we received it via the same person, or from someone closely related to them at least. Or, so the theory goes.

And, both these matches claim descent from James and Alice Fitzgerald, one via a son William born in 1835 and the other via a daughter Eliza born in 1828. James and Alice lived in Coles Lane in Dublin in the 1820s. James worked as a cabinet maker. The couple had a large family, all baptised in St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral. There is a suggestion too that Alice was originally born in Dublin, in 1796. She was supposedly the daughter of Anthony and Mary Hicks, from across the Liffey in the parish of St Nicholas. They all lived close to where my mother’s family were hanging out when I pick them up in the early 1800s.

Sadly, though, try as I might, I could not find a single connection between the Fitzgerald family and my mother’s known ancestors.

But, if the account of the Fitzgeralds sounds vaguely familiar to some of you, it may be from when I wrote about Laurence Coyle. Laurence was a wood turner, running his business from Coles Lane, and was probably my third great-grandfather. BUT, the Coyles were on my Dad’s side. Laurence operated from Coles Lane from the mid-1830s onwards, next door to Denis Newport who was also a cabinet maker. In 1851, Denis Newport witnessed the marriage of my second great-grandparents, John Donovan and Maryanne Coyle. And, James Fitzgerald’s daughter Alice married Denis Newport’s son Robert in 1858.

So, I’ve found a connection to James Fitzgerald, except it’s on the wrong side of the family. Perhaps, when more of our more recent cousins take a DNA test, I might be able to hone in further on which line these matches occur.

Have you found any new ancestors hiding in your DNA test results? 

River Liffey, Dublin

© Black Raven Genealogy