Saturday 2 December 2017

Branching out to find my Mahon roots

When you hit a dead-end in the search for your ancestors, like I did pursuing the parents of my GGG-grandfather, Patrick Mahon, it’s often helpful to branch out, and follow the trail of their siblings instead. Their siblings may have left additional clues as to the identity of the previous generation, providing a way around the genealogy impasse. 

Trouble is, in this case, Patrick’s siblings are also unknown!

They were probably all born within a decade or two of Patrick, i.e. around 1784. But, unfortunately for us, this coincides with a significant gap in the church registers for Swords parish, where Patrick lived, and was presumably baptised. So, if Patrick’s siblings were born in Swords parish between June 1777 and May 1804, there’ll be no record of their baptisms, either. They probably won’t appear in any surviving records until after they’ve left their parent’s home, married, and started families of their own.   

The earliest reference to my GGG-grandfather was in Swords parish, in 1819, when he married Jane Cavanagh, and where their children were later baptised. People often ask their brothers and sisters, or perhaps their nieces and nephews, to sponsor the baptism of their children. So, the Catholic parish registers for Swords, where Patrick, and hopefully his siblings worshipped, likely contain the only remaining evidence of their relationship.

Several other Mahon individuals, who also married in Swords in the early decades of the nineteenth century, were reflected in the parish registers. Any or all of them could have been related to Patrick. There was John Mahon who married Anne Gilsenan, probably about 1800; Henry Mahon who had a son out of wedlock with Sally Fitzgerald in 1808; William Mahon who married Elizabeth Owens in 1810; Mary Mahon who married Thomas Cave in 1816; Michael Mahon who married Mary Walsh in 1817, and subsequently lived in the neighbouring parish of Donabate; and Thomas Mahon who married Eleanor Farrell in 1821.

The parish registers also reveal Patrick and Jane selected James Mahon and Eleanor Mahon as Godparents for their eldest son, James, born in 1823, while Margaret Mahon was Godmother for one of their younger sons, Michael, in 1835.  It’s hard to know exactly how James, Eleanor and Margaret were related to Patrick, but it’s possible, Eleanor was born Eleanor Farrell, the wife of Thomas Mahon.

And, it seems Thomas and Eleanor Mahon had quite a close relationship with my GGG-grandparents. They asked Patrick and Jane to sponsor the baptism of their eldest daughter, Margaret, in 1822. This Margaret was old enough in 1835, to have been the Godmother of Patrick and Jane’s son, Michael. Margaret was conceivably Patrick’s niece. Patrick and Thomas were probably brothers.  

Baptism of Margaret Mahon, 1822, Catholic Parish Registers, Swords

There was a James Mahon associated with Thomas and Eleanor, too. He was Godfather to their son Pat, in 1828, and the same man, or maybe another of the same name, sponsored the baptism of their daughter, Eleanor, in 1830. Perhaps Thomas and Patrick had a brother called James. But if they did, there’s no apparent record of him, with a wife and children, in the Swords parish registers.

Patrick and Thomas Mahon married within two years of each other, so perhaps they were closest in age. This may account for the number of 'connections' between them, found in the parish registers. Not, that theirs was the only hint of a familial relationship between the Mahons of Swords parish. Thomas was Godfather for John’s son James in 1812, while Mary Mahon sponsored the baptism of his daughter Alice in 1804. 

Next week, hopefully a trawl though the records of the Valuation Office, will provide evidence some of these men were close neighbours of Patrick, in the townland of Yellow Walls, Malahide.

Source: Catholic Parish Registers for Swords, Co. Dublin, at the NLI

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