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


  1. Dara, I know that putting together our families is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle but your puzzle must have very tiny pieces! You are certainly skilled to have assembled what you have so far. Good luck with finding more.

    1. Thanks Colleen, maybe more dogged-minded than skilled!

  2. Knowing how difficult it is to identify the right "Bridget," I'm impressed at the level of detail you were able to assemble! Good luck with the last crucial piece of the puzzle.

    1. Thank you, Marian. Someday, something will give, I'm sure.

  3. This is a healthy reminder that when we think there is NOTHING on a particular ancestor, there really is SOMETHING. I have to keep reminding myself.

    1. I have to keep reminding myself that too, Wendy, though for some ancestors, it's certainly harder than for others.

  4. Sounds like you're on the right track, hope that last piece shows up soon for you.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on this!