Saturday 21 October 2017

Popular Names in Ireland

Previous generations in Ireland had little imagination when it came to choosing names for their children. The limited variety poses a serious challenge in my genealogy research, so much so, I almost dread the search for yet another John, or Mary. It’s a huge relief when the pursuit centres on someone with a more unusual name. Even familiar names like Andrew or Alice, for example, can greatly enhance the prospects for success.

So, I thought I’d examine my family tree to see just how popular the leading names really were. And, it’s true, John and Mary topped the list, each being held by about one in every ten people. Further, the top five names accounted for nearly a third (32%) of all males, with a similar number (30%) for females. 

Given Names Family Tree
Total males

Total females

Most Popular Male Names

1.   John
2.   James
3.   Thomas
4.   Patrick
5.   Michael
Most Popular Female Names

1.     Mary
2.     Margaret
3.     Catherine
4.     Elizabeth
5.     Anne
Based on analysis of my family tree software

Roman Catholic priests may have contributed to this confusion – they seemingly refused to baptise a child except with the name of a saint. However, traditional naming patterns undoubtedly played a part. Families mostly named children after the grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, such that the exact same names were passed down, generation after generation, and replicated by each member of the family.  

This absence of diversity, which occurred throughout Ireland, can be proven by analysing the data available in the 1901 census.[1] A similar list of five names, swapping only Michael for William, was held by a whopping 50% of the male population overall, with Michael coming in a close sixth.

Given Names 1901 Census
Total males

Total females

Most Popular Male Names

1.   John
2.   James
3.   Thomas
4.   Patrick
5.   William
Most Popular Female Names

1.     Mary
2.     Bridget
3.     Margaret
4.     Ellen
5.     Anne
Based on analysis of 1901 Census of Ireland

You may think there was more variation in the female names, with the top five  accounting for ‘a mere’ 43% of the female population. But, these figures exclude nicknames like Maggie and Annie, themselves also being listed among the top ten. And, the names Catherine, Kate and Elizabeth were way up there too.

My family tree may have beaten the odds slightly. Still, it’s no wonder, it’s far easier to track someone fortunate enough not to have a name mentioned here! 

[1] Census of Ireland, 1901, National Archives of Ireland (the census data is known to contain errors, though, it provides a good overall indication of the position).

© Black Raven Genealogy

Sunday 15 October 2017

Wynne family: Taking the search to Co. Tipperary #6

John Wynne, the potential ‘DNA cousin’ of my great-great-grandfather, died in Melbourne, Australia, in 1872, having emigrated from his home in Dublin city, twelve years previously. On his death certificate, it was claimed he was born in Co. Tipperary, about 1798, though the names of his parents were ‘unknown’. If he was from Co. Tipperary, and if we were related to him, there’s a good chance our Wynne family originated in Tipperary, too. Right?

Sadly, the chances of finding John Wynne in Co. Tipperary are slim. Unlike, our family, these Wynnes were Protestant. And, Protestant church registers, for that time in Irish history, are as rare as hen’s teeth. Plus, few of the registers that did survive the civil war are searchable online. 

Still, I had to check.

And, as I suspected, no likely Protestant Wynne family was identified in Co. Tipperary.[1] In fact, the entire county seemed devoid of any Wynne families at all, apart from one extended family, living in the townland of Twomilebridge, not far from Clonmel, in the Roman Catholic parish of Powerstown, in South Tipperary, close to the border with Co. Waterford.

Was this where we came from, originally?

The John Wynne living there was a blacksmith cum farmer. Occupations often run in families, but my John Wynne worked as a sales assistant in Dublin, while John Wynne, his prospective ‘DNA cousin’, was a slater by trade. So, no match. Then again, the amount of shared DNA suggests the relationship occurred a few generations prior, allowing time for a change in occupation and religion.    

The Catholic parish registers for Gambonsfield, a parish neighbouring Powerstown, show John Wynne married Maria Mangan, in 1841. Their surviving daughters - Johanna, Mary, Honora, and Anastatia – were all baptised in Powerstown.

Richard Wynne lived in Powerstown too; his daughter Anastatia was christened there, in 1839. John Wynne was her Godfather, suggesting John and Richard may have been brothers. They may also have had an elder sister Mary, who married James Carroll, in the parish, in 1833.

Catholic Parishes, Registers held by the NLI

The Powerstown registers date to the first decade of the nineteenth century, and show two older Wynne women, both undoubtedly from the same family, though it’s difficult to determine their precise relationship to John and Richard. Joanna Wynne married Denis Hunt in 1811, thirty years before John’s marriage, and Anastatia Wynne married Mathew Grady in 1824. Perhaps they were their elder sisters, or maybe their aunts. It’s even possible one was their widowed mother remarrying.

Unfortunately, there is nothing much to connect this family with our ‘DNA cousins’, just one tenuous and probably coincidental link - the name Richard Wynne was not a common name, but it was shared by members of both families.

There’s absolutely nothing connecting them with my own Wynne family.


Previously, I found the baptism of a John Wynne, in the registers of Saints Michael and John's parish, in Dublin city, dated 1822. There’s an outside chance it’s my great-great-grandfather’s. It meets all the known criteria – albeit, everything ‘known’ stems from the 1901 census, when John claimed he was born in Dublin city, about 1821.

In this baptism, the child’s parents were named as John Wynne and Honora Minor. A couple, spelling their names John Wynn and Honora Minihan, quite possibly the same couple, christened their son Robert, in the same parish, in 1831.

I had also, previously, linked this couple with their namesakes in St Mary’s Parish, Clonmel. John Wynn and Honora Minehan had a daughter Mary, baptised there in 1820, and a daughter Catherine, in 1828. Was this the same family, alternatively living in both Dublin and Tipperary? It’s only two and a half hours drive now, but, in the 1820s, it was a long journey by horse and coach, and maybe a tad expensive for most pockets.

Clonmel is only two miles from Twomilebridge, so proximity alone suggests a relationship between the Tipperary Wynnes, not to mention the similar family names. Nonetheless, while it’s curious the same corner of the country cropped up twice in my own family research, there’s still nothing actually linking us there.

[1] Transcription of parish registers, online at (€), 19 Sep. 2017.

See first post in this series: DNA Diary: Seeking to demolish a brick wall.

© Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday 7 October 2017

Identifying the 'Australian’ Wynnes, back in Dublin #5

With all the information garnered from Australian records, it was easy to locate our target Wynne family - the potential DNA cousins of my great-great-grandfather back in Dublin. And, like many semi-skilled workers in nineteenth-century Ireland, this ‘cousin’, also named John Wynne, moved from one tenement dwelling to another, while remaining in the same general area of the city.

His identified addresses between 1821 and 1851 are reflected by the red stars on the map below.

John Wynne (c.1898-1872) (married to 1) Anne Doyle 2) Mary Brodie
Wynne residences, Dublin City, 1821 – 1851 (click on image to enlarge)[1]

We know from the record of John Wynne’s death in Australia in 1872, he married Ann Doyle, in Dublin, about 1823, and had six children with her – James (dead), Richard (1826), Henry (1828), Thomas (dead), Edward (1835) and Jane (dead). Other sources indicate, John married a second time, to Mary Brodie, with whom he had a son, John William, in Dublin, about 1841.

And, for the most part, although some dates were misremembered, there is supporting evidence of this in the records of Dublin city.

John and Anne Wynne lived in Werburgh Street in 1821, when their son James Thomas was baptised. Then, the family spent some years in St Mark’s parish, just over a mile to the east, where Richard, Elizabeth and Jane were born. Henry, Thomas and Edward were probably born in St Mark’s parish too, but their baptism records have not been found. The register of Jane’s baptism provides the family’s address as Denzille Street, as well as confirming John Wynne’s occupation - as a slater - increasing the likelihood this is the right family.

While most sources indicate the family were of the Protestant persuasion, Elizabeth and Jane were also baptised in St Andrew’s Roman Catholic church, suggesting their mother may have been Catholic. This view is perhaps confirmed by the insertion of the letters ‘R.C.’ in the burial register next to Anne Wynne, who died aged forty-two years, in August 1840. (St Andrew's R.C. parish covers much of the same district as St Mark's Church of Ireland parish.)

Burial register, Anne Wynne, 1840, St Mark’s Parish, Dublin

In 1841, 1842, and 1843, John Wynne, a slater, was recorded as living at 8 Peter Street. Only the fairly well-to-do were named in the Dublin city street directories, so perhaps John's business was doing particularly well around this time. But, from 1844 onward, he was no longer listed, suggesting he probably returned to tenement-type accommodation.[2]

Although no record of the event has been found, it would seem, soon after Anne’s death, John married Mary Brodie. No record of John William was found, but the baptism of a James Wynne, son of John Wynne and Mary Broody [sic], took place in St Nicholas R.C. parish on 2 September 1844. Nearly three months later, on 26 November, the three-month-old James Wynne died at home, in Whitefriar Street, and was buried in St Peter’s COI parish.

Sadly, it seems, John Wynne lost his second wife at an early age, too.  Mary Wynne of Whitefriar Street, aged thirty-six years, was buried in the graveyard at St Peter’s, on the 5 January 1846. Within a week, a second infant, James Wynne of Whitefriar Street, was buried in the same graveyard. And, in 1851, a surviving extract from the Irish census confirms John Wynne headed the only Wynne household in Whitefriar Street.[3]

John Wynne of Whitefriar Street was the only man of that name recorded as resident in Dublin’s south city, in 1851, apart from my own great-great-grandfather, who lived in Thomas Street.

[1] Excerpt from map of Dublin City, Pettigrew & Oulton, Dublin Almanack & General Register of Ireland, 1840, accessed at SWilson.Info.
[2] Pettigrew & Oulton, Dublin Almanack & General Register of Ireland, 1840 to 1844, various online sources.
[3] David Chart, ‘Dublin city, Head of household extract from 1851 census of Ireland’, National Archives, accessed on (€) 
[4] Dublin birth and death details from the church baptism and burial registers, accessed on

Note: The Wynne surname, although spelled consistently in this article, was subject to numerous spelling variations (including Wynne, Wynn, Winne and Winn) in the nineteenth-century records.

See start of discussion about this DNA match, here

© Black Raven Genealogy