Saturday, 28 January 2017

The Wynnes of Dowdallshill

The one thing drummed into me since I first started learning how to 'do' genealogy is to start with myself and work backwards, carefully, one proven generation at a time. So, it goes against the grain to jump in and start researching this Wynne family of Dundalk, Co. Louth. Chances are they’re not my family!

But something brought my great-granduncle, John Wynne junior, from his home in Dublin city to Dundalk in Co. Louth, where he married Margaret Ward/Armstrong in 1876. And, I’ve exhausted all other clues regarding where his father, also John Wynne, might have originated. So, I may as well look at the Wynnes in Dundalk.

Last week, I identified James Wynne and Catherine Martin, a couple who lived in Dowdallshill, a townland in Upper Dundalk, three kilometres out of town. Some online trees claim they were my John Wynne’s parents. And, they did have a son John, baptised in Dundalk in 1832. Yet, I have my doubts - my great-great-grandfather claimed he was born in Dublin city about 1820. He married Bridget Hynes there in 1849, and this seems a stretch for a seventeen-year-old boy from Dowdallshill. Still…

Griffith’s property survey shows two Wynne households in Dowdallshill in 1854 - one headed up by James Wynne as expected and the other by a Mary Wynne, presumably a widow. James leased an old cottage from a James Kearney, shown at 24e on the below map, while Mary lived across the road from him, at 21c. These two Wynne families were probably related.

Excerpt Griffith’s Valuation, Dowdallshill, Dundalk, Co. Louth, 1854

Church records also reflect the two families in Dowdallshill:

i)   James Wynne, with an address in the townland, married Catherine Martin in 1831. They had nine children baptised in Dundalk – John, my would-be great-great-grandfather (1832), Thomas (1834), Cath (1837), Elizabeth (1840), Patrick (1843), Bridget (1846), Mary (1850), James, the builder, discussed last week (1852) and Valentine (1856); and  
ii)  John Wynne, also living in Dowdallshill, married Mary Treanor in 1834. They only had three daughters listed in the parish register - Catherine (1835), Elizabeth (1839) and Mary (1842). So, it’s feasible John died young, leaving Mary a widow. She rented her home in Dowdallshill from Nicholas Traynor - same surname - perhaps her relation.

In later years, a third couple, John Wynne and Bridget Kelly, lived in the townland. Their children Anne (1863), Owen (1865), Cath (1867), Mary (1869), John (1876) and Michael (1876) were all born in Dowdallshill. A so named couple also had a son James born in Forkhill, Co. Armagh, just ten kilometres away, in 1860. 

In this generation, John was a blacksmith. Occupations are often passed down from father to son, and I’ve found nothing to directly confirm he was the son of James, who was a mason. But, if he was James and Catherine’s son, he followed traditional naming patterns by calling his eldest son after his father and his second daughter after his mother. He could also have been a son of John and Mary, though not reflected in the baptism register, as he gave their names to two of his children also.

To me, it seems a better match that this chap was James and Catherine’s son John, born in 1832, especially when compared to my great-great-grandfather, a shop assistant living eighty kilometres away in Dublin city. My ancestor had sons John and James and a daughter Mary, but he did not have a daughter called Catherine. 

In truth, the available documentation has not resolved the issue, one way or the other. Yet, there is now another tool in a genealogist’s tool-box to help with such dilemmas. That tool is DNA testing. Maybe the best course of action would be to track down a descendant of James and Catherine and see if they’d consider doing a DNA test.

© Black Raven Genealogy 

See more on the Wynnes from Dowdallshill


  1. DNA could be the answer. That is how I found my Mary A. Vincent. My Dad has been tested, now working on his brother :)

    1. Maybe Ellie, my mam and my uncle tested, as well as some Wynne 3rd cousins. If there is a relationship it might prove it.

  2. Best of luck with this mystery. Sounds like DNA is probably your best tool in this case!

    1. Agreed, now I just need a candidate who will take the test :-)


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

Comments are visible publicly. You may also contact me privately by email - blackraven.genealogy [at] gmail [dot] com.