Saturday 29 October 2016

Reading between the lines

My great-grandfather, Michael Byrne, lost his mother, in January 1869, when he was barely a year old. Michael and his little brother Thomas were reared by their maternal aunt, in Malahide, Co. Dublin. John Byrne, the boys’ father, worked as a servant in Monkstown, on the other side of Dublin. It is not known if he kept in contact with his sons, following their mother's death. 

Did John Byrne ever visit his boys in Malahide? Did he send money towards their keep? Did Michael and Thomas spend holidays at the Byrne family home, situated in Athgarvan, in Co. Kildare? These are not the type of questions normally answered by standard genealogy documents – unless, perhaps, you can read between the lines.

As mentioned previously on this blog, John Byrne was married before he met Michael’s mother. His first wife was Mary Markey. Mary moved to Athgarvan, shortly after their marriage, presumably taking their infant daughter with her. We know John, who worked and lived in Monkstown, visited her often, as further children were born there at regular intervals. 

Andrew was baptised in August 1862, followed by John in August 1863, James in August 1864 and Mary Anne in November 1865. These were my great-grandfather’s half-siblings. I wondered what happened to them after their mother died in December 1865, and if any of them survived her passing.

And this week, I found out Mary Anne, the youngest girl, born only two months before her mother died, did survive. She married Michael Hickey in the parish church, in Newbridge, on 12 July 1886. Perhaps she was raised by her Granny Byrne, or maybe by her aunts and uncles, in Athgarvan, while her father worked in Dublin.

Marriage 1886, Michael Hickey, Rathilla and Mary Anne Byrne, Athgarvan
Hickey-Byrne, 1886, Naas, Copy marriage register, General Register Office

Anyway, by the time of Mary Anne’s marriage, John Byrne was working as a butler. He was only a mere servant when she was born, so this represented quite a promotion. It’s interesting - he was also down as a servant when Michael and Thomas were born, and when their mother died in 1869. But, when Michael married Elizabeth Mahon in August 1892, they also claimed John was a butler. 

So, reading between the lines, Michael knew of his father’s subsequent career advancement, suggesting they obviously did keep in touch over the years.  Now, isn’t that good to know!

© Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday 22 October 2016

The Hayes Theory

Many people researching their genealogy trace their ancestors with relative ease, backing up their findings with reams of supporting ‘proof’. Our family history, on the other hand, is an ever-broken jigsaw. First, every piece must be painstakingly found and, even then, there’s little certainty it truly belongs in our ancestral puzzle.

Take my great-great-grandmother, Bridget Hynes, for example. When I first started researching her family, I knew nothing about her. She married John Wynne on 16 September 1849, in Dublin, but their marriage document contained no information about her family. Tracing her life forward revealed little else. One major clue - her granddaughter’s claim she was from Co. Limerick - was verified by the Irish prison registers. And, when she died in December 1895, she was said to have been 64 years old, so born about 1831. That’s everything I could find out about her origins.

And, Limerick was a big place. It was far too big to start looking for a Bridget Hynes - any Bridget Hynes - baptised there, probably in or around 1831. How would I know if I came upon the right child?  ‘Bridget Hynes’ seemed like an insurmountable dead-end!

Now, after years of research, I’ve gradually pieced together a picture of her family. She had a sister Catherine (Hynes) Tucker and a brother Edward Hynes. They proved to be the key to unlocking some of the secrets of Bridget’s past – including her parent’s names.

We know for sure Bridget and Catherine were sisters. The Tuckers and the Wynnes often acted as Godparents for each other’s children, providing evidence of a close relationship. Plus, a letter to Bridget’s daughter Mary, in Colorado, was signed ‘your fond aunt, Kate Tucker’. 

When Catherine married James Tucker on 1 June 1857 in Dublin, her father, John Hynes, had an address in Limerick city. And, Margaret Hynes, of about the right age and presumably her mother, shares Catherine’s grave at Glasnevin Cemetery.

There’s also little doubt Edward Hynes was Bridget and Catherine’s brother. When he married Bridget Rodgers in February 1868, in Dublin, his parents were said to have been John and Margaret Hynes. At the time, Edward lived at 104 Thomas Street, the same address where Bridget’s son Patrick Wynne was born just one month earlier. And, Catherine’s husband, James Tucker, witnessed their marriage. Frustratingly, no record was kept of his mother’s maiden name. 

Their marriage register showed the bride’s parents were ‘dead’, while Edward’s lived at 104 Thomas Street. So, at least one of Edward’s parents left Limerick for Dublin and was alive in 1868. And, we know Margaret Hynes, the widow of a carpenter, died in Dublin in 1884, but we do not yet know when or where John Hynes died. He was not found in the burial register for Glasnevin Cemetery, suggesting he may have died back in Limerick.

Still, as the names of five people in Bridget’s immediate family are now known, it makes her a tad more recognisable, should her baptism be found. And, a search of the main online church registers across Ireland yielded only one child named Bridget, daughter of John and Margaret Hynes, baptised within ten years of 1831. Plus, her baptism took place in St Mary’s Parish - in Limerick city - on 6 July 1830. Her mother’s maiden name was Margaret HAYES.

Were these my ancestors? It is certainly a close match – right names, right time, right place and nothing to rule it out.

John Hynes and Margaret Hayes baptised two other children in St Mary’s Limerick - their son John on 13 June 1833, followed by their son Edmond on 25 August 1835. There was no sign of a daughter named Catherine, our Bridget’s known sister, but, the name Edmond was a common variant of Edward, her brother.  Another match!

John Hynes and Margaret Hayes married in St Mary’s in Limerick on 5 February 1826, leaving a gap where other children may have been born. Although nothing links them definitively to our known Hynes family in Dublin, they remain the couple deemed most likely to have been my ancestors. I’m still waiting to find that one crucial piece of the jigsaw that proves they belong in this picture.  
© Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday 8 October 2016

James Wynne – a man of music

Blogging about your ancestors hugely increases the chances of connecting with their other descendants, and this year has been no exception. I love meeting new cousins and swapping ancestor stories with them. Plus, they usually have far more surviving family photos than my direct line.

And, so it was when I ‘met’ my third cousin from Australia. She’d gathered together quite a few tales about her great-grandfather, James Wynne. Like all family lore, these stories may have become a little distorted in the retelling, and they were likely prone to some exaggeration here and there, but undoubtedly they contained a kernel of truth, nonetheless.

James Wynne was my great-granduncle, born on 25 November 1857, in Thomas Street, Dublin city. He worked as a brush-maker, probably at the Varian Brush Factory in Talbot Street, just like most of his brothers. In 1892, he married Christina Kavanagh and together they had five children - John Augustin, Nora Isabel, James Percival, Moira J, and Edward Patrick.

Supposedly, James Wynne (1857-1935)

The above picture, thought to be of James Wynne, was found among his grandson’s possessions. Do you see a resemblance to either his brother Patrick or to his sister Mary, below? I’ve only found pictures of two of his siblings, so far. 

Patrick Wynne (1868 – 1937) & Mary (Wynne) Finley (1860 – 1934)
Patrick Wynne (1868-1937) & Mary (Wynne) Finley (1860-1934)

According to the information passed down via James Wynne’s grandson, James was ‘a very fine singer’.  Supposedly, he even became choirmaster for the Palestrina Choir of St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral. There’s no doubt we should take this claim with a pinch of salt, but another account makes him choirmaster of a Dominican choir in Dublin. Somewhere within this family lore lies the truth, and it’s fairly certain James was a man of music, with associations to a church choir. 

A third story, also originally told by James Wynne’s grandson, again refers to his musical talents. James died of bronchitis on 15 March 1935, twelve years after the death of his wife, Christina.  His grandson recollected, immediately after his funeral, ‘Lily [the wife of James Percival] put all his music, including his own compositions, under the copper and burnt it, which particularly upset Nora [his mother, and James Wynne’s daughter] and the whole family’.

That is the type of calamity that would probably have happened in our branch of the Wynnes too.

Image credits: James Wynne, courtesy of his great-granddaughter Kerry in Australia; Mary Wynne, courtesy of her great-granddaughter Phyllis in California; Patrick Wynne, author’s own collection.

© Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday 1 October 2016

Was Bridget Wynne a Midwife?

Bridget (Hynes) Wynne, my great-great-grandmother, was a midwife from Co. Limerick. At least, that’s what Pat Fegan, Bridget’s granddaughter, told us, and her claims usually turn out be true. In fact, there is already ‘evidence’ she came from Limerick - Bridget even said so herself on admittance to the Grangegorman Female Prison in 1884. Now, for the first time, I may have found documentary support for the theory she was a midwife. 

Although it was not unusual at the time, Bridget’s occupation, if any, was omitted from her death register. Married women were normally said to have been the wife or widow of whatever their husband did for a living, even when they worked themselves. And, Bridget’s case was no exception. When she died in 1895, her daughter Agnes reported her as the ‘wife of a shopman’ and her burial register shows she was ‘a shop assistant’s wife’. There is no mention anywhere Bridget worked outside the home.

This week, I was searching for the copy birth registrations of Bridget’s grandchildren. I found one for John Joseph Vaughan, the only son of John Vaughan and Margaret Wynne. Margaret was Bridget’s eldest daughter. John Joseph was born at 10 Christ Church Place in Dublin, on 25 March 1882. The following month, Bridget registered his birth, confirming she was present when he was born. She lived nearby at 4 Christ Church Place.

But it was the entry in the register immediately preceding John Joseph’s that caught my attention. Mary Anne Howard was born on 4 April 1882, the daughter of James Howard, a tailor, and Margaret Lightfoot.[1] Mary Anne was born at 10 Christ Church Place, same as John Joseph. This house was probably a tenement building, shared by numerous unrelated families, and as far as I know, the Howards were not related to the Wynnes.

Even so, when Bridget registered the birth of her grandson, she also registered the birth of Mary Anne Howard. She claimed to have been present when Mary Anne was born as well. Does this indicate Bridget was the midwife? Well, maybe not on its own, but it's a good first step. And, it certainly suggests she was handy to have around during childbirth. 

Birth Register, 1882, Dublin South, Mary Anne Howard and John Joseph Vaughan

[1] Surname was given as Proudfoot on the baptism record on 
Source: Civil records on; Burial Register, Glasnevin Trust.
Click on image to enlarge.

© Black Raven Genealogy