Saturday, 21 January 2017

The Wynne Family of Dundalk

No one alive today remembers where my great-great-grandfather, John Wynne senior, came from. He was first recorded in Dublin city about 1848, the year prior to his marriage to Bridget Hynes. Also, nobody today knows why their son John Wynne junior migrated to Dundalk in Co. Louth. But he did. He married Margaret Ward, a.k.a. Armstrong there in 1876 and that’s where they raised their family.

Dundalk was more than fifty miles north of Dublin city, a fairly significant journey in nineteenth-century Ireland, and well out of the range of everyday visits from family in Dublin.  It’s hard to imagine why John junior might have moved there.

There were a number of other Wynne families in and around Dundalk at the time. And one of my reasons for researching my Dundalk cousins was to find out if there was a connection between my Wynnes and these other families.

There is a suggestion, although I’ve no idea where it originated, that John senior was a brother of the once well-known Irish church builder, James Wynne of Dundalk. I’ve never been able to find anything indicating if this was true, but I thought I’d take another look again now.

James Wynne, the builder, was born at Dowdallshill, Dundalk in August 1852. He was much younger than my great-great-grandfather, even younger than his son, John junior. James was the eight of the nine children born to James Wynne and Catherine Martin, as  listed in the baptism register for the parish. His father was described as a mason and a tradesman on the marriage documents of two of his children and young James went on to become a successful building contractor in the area. 

The Dundalk Club, Roden Place, Dundalk

In 1886, he built ‘the Dundalk Club’, a red-bricked, end-of-terrace, former gentleman’s club in Roden Place. But, he specialised in building Roman Catholic churches. Prof. Google credits him with having built St Patrick’s Church in Donaghmoyne, Co. Monaghan in 1901, the tower of St Patrick’s Church in Dundalk in 1903, and the Church of the Assumption of our Blessed Lady, in Tullamore, Co. Offaly in 1906, amongst others.

Surely, memory of such a successful relative would have survived in my direct line – if indeed he was a relative.

It is true though, James had a much older brother named John, baptised in Dundalk in 1832. This is the chap some online family trees claim was my great-great-grandfather. But nearly everyone in Ireland had a brother called John then. The 1901 census suggests one in five males were named John. And, this same census indicates our John Wynne was born about 1820, in Dublin city. So, I have some doubts.

Plus, to me, it seems a tad unrealistic that a sixteen-year-old boy would leave his home in Dundalk and move to Dublin city, only to marry and start a family within a year or two. Our John was a shop assistant, at least in later years. Would a teenager have had the means to head up a household in Dublin city, without the support of his parents living nearby?

Perhaps it’s time to build a better picture of the Wynne family from Dowdallshill and maybe rule out this theory once and for all. And, you never know, I might find my family in the process.

© Black Raven Genealogy


  1. I can relate to 2 points in particular from this post: the name John, for one. It's a great name that sounds good and "modern" in every time period. I still like it, but every time I find John So-n-so in my tree, I know it's going to be trouble. Second, the popular theory whether passed down through the family or on every other tree at Ancestry. Oh how nice it would be, how easy, if the popular theory turned out to be fact, but more often that not, it just doesn't make sense. Looking forward to seeing you work on this one!

  2. Wendy, I agree about the name John, though, in Ireland at least, few parents were adventurous in choosing the names of their children, the same ten names tended to crop up in every family, in every generation. At least in this case Wynne was not a overly common surname - not that that's making my job any easier, yet.

  3. Perhaps it was work that lured him north? Maybe he was able to score a job with Wynne cousins - distant though they may have been? Was there a particular trade or industry taking off at that particular time frame in that area? Good luck building out the picture of that family.

    1. Thanks Michael, you're right, I should start again with my proven great-granduncle, and see if his 'FAN club' can tell me anything further, especially now that we have so many new freely available records.

  4. It's definitely worth building a parallel tree for the Dundalk Wynnes. I've started to do that with some surnames in my family where I have a dead end ancestor. I've made 4 trees for various families. None of them have yet shown a definitive link but they definitely show whether it's possible or not, and it all adds to your general knowledge and experience. Still waiting to get together with you & A for a good chinwag, by the way!

    1. I've recently started to build a tree, Claire, more like a little bush really, growing beside my main tree on Ancestry. I was hoping to someday link it in. And yes, it would be great to meet up and talk genealogy - we'll have to organise something, soon. :-)

  5. You're right to be leery of those online trees, not everyone is as careful as you are. Building a tree for the other Wynnes is a great idea, that's how I've disproved several relationships. Best of luck.


I look forward to reading your comments, even more especially if you're related to someone mentioned in this post.

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