Saturday 31 March 2018

Who's in the picture?

Does anyone know this chap? 

He is probably related to me somehow. The photograph was found at 'Black Raven', Dad's ancestral home, in Yellow Walls, Malahide, so chances are he was connected to one of my grandparents - James Byrne or Lena O'Neill.  

Looks can be deceiving, but he doesn't resemble a typical Byrne to me. Nearly all Dad's paternal first cousins lived in or around Yellow Walls, where I grew up and I knew most of them. 

So, perhaps he was on the O'Neill side. My grandmother and her sister Joan were raised in foster care in Yellow Walls, but their older siblings lived elsewhere.  We didn't know them. 

The biggest clue to dating the picture is the photographer’s stamp on the back. It reads: 
‘The Franco Portrait Studios – 6 Nth. Earl Street, 85 Talbot Street, 39 Mary Street, 46 Harrington St., Sackville Studios, 15a Lr. Sackville St. – Dublin’  

A review of old Dublin Street Directories revealed the Franco Portrait Studios were a group of businesses, seemingly operated by photographer Harry Cowan. He worked in Dublin city during the first half of the twentieth century. 

The Directories show Harry operated under his own name at 15 Lower Sackville Street, under the name Franco Portrait Coy at 6 North Earl Street and 85 Talbot Street, and as the Franco-British Portrait Co. at 46½ Harrington Street. And, he must have had a relationship with Mark Rubenstein, who worked as a photographer at 39 Mary Street. 

Directory listings may be a year or two out of date, but we can still use them to help date the photograph, given Harry's various studios were in business at different times.  

6 North Earl Street was destroyed during the British bombardment of Dublin city in April 1916. It was not rebuilt until after 1919, and the Street Directory that year lists the address as 'destroyed in rebellion'. The Directories for 1920 and 1923 are not available online, but in 1921 and 1922, all five studios listed on the back of the photograph were in operation. The Talbot Street studio did not appear in the Directory for 1924, and we know Sackville Street officially changed its name to O’Connell Street that year anyway. So our photograph must have been taken between about 1920 and 1923.[1] 

I'm not good at estimating ages, but based on this timeline, I'd say the lad in the picture was born at the turn of the twentieth century, give or take a few years. How old would you say he was when this picture was taken?

My grandmother Lena was the baby of the O'Neill family, born in 1895, eliminating all her older brothers as potential candidates. Perhaps it was one of her nephews, except which one? 

We can rule out Lena's sister Teresa, who had no children, and Joan who only had a daughter, and Mary Agnes whose eldest son wasn't born until 1916. And, we can rule out her brother Arthur too, as he did not marry until 1917. 

This leaves Lena's brother Robert, whose eldest son, also Robert O'Neill, was born in August 1909. He'd have been fourteen years old in 1923 - too young to have been the boy in the photo? Robert grew up in Navan, Co. Meath, anyway. 

So, perhaps it was Lena's nephew, Charles O'Neill, the eldest son of her brother John, born in December 1907. He grew up in Dominick Street, in Dublin city, not far from the Harry Cowan studios. 

We cannot rule out Lena's eldest siblings, Charles O'Neill born in 1875 and Catherine O'Neill born in 1876 - they've not been spotted since their respective baptisms, and may have perished as infants, but they could have gone on to have families of their own, and may have kept in touch with my grandmother. 

Maybe someone out there recognises the boy? If you do, please send me an email or leave a comment below. 

Update 5 August 2018: Mystery solved - here

[1] The Post Office Dublin Directory and Calendar for 1918, vol. 1-3, Alex. Thom & Co., Limited, Dublin, 1918, accessed at FamilySearchThoms Irish Almanac and Official Directory - the years 1919, 1922 & 1924 accessed at ($) Ancestry, and 1921 & 1925 accessed at Ask about Ireland

© Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday 24 March 2018

John James Donovan, upholsterer

Recently, I recommenced the search for Dad’s granduncle, John James Donovan, the second son of John Donovan and Maryanne Coyle, from Dublin city. John was probably the only boy in his family to reach adulthood. His siblings, excluding the youngest Teresa Anne, and my great-grandmother, Mary Agnes, all died in infancy and were interred in the family plot at Glasnevin Cemetery

John James Donovan was born on 18 November 1855 in Great Britain Street, now Parnell Street, in Dublin city. He was christened five days later at St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, on Marlboro Street. It’s quite possible his Godparents, Thomas Donovan and Bridget Coyle, were also his grandparents - they shared their names, at least. His baptism register is the only document so far found directly linking John with my family.[1] 

John's father, my great-great-grandfather, was an upholsterer, and although there is no corroborating evidence, when he was young, John probably worked with him and trained as an upholsterer too. The surname Donovan is predominantly a Co. Cork name, so his birth in Dublin city, together with this relatively uncommon occupation, might render him somewhat recognisable in future records, should any ever arise.

Which is why I was particularly drawn to the following census extract, enumerated in 1881, in Birkenhead, near Liverpool, in England:

John J. Donovan, 1881 Census, Birkenhead, Cheshire, England, FamilySearch

It shows John J. Donovan, a single man, aged twenty-five years, lodging in a house at 25 White Street. John J. was born in Dublin about 1855-56 and worked as a ‘practical upholsterer’. He fits exactly the expected description of my great-granduncle. His move to England would also explain why no further trace of him was found in Dublin.

Except, this is the only mention of John J. Donovan found in England, too.

The U.S. City Directories make reference to several upholsterers called John J. Donovan, as you might expect. These men lived in places like New York, Massachusetts, and San Francisco - all places Irish immigrants might make their home – but none of them have panned out so far.

I hoped our DNA results might contain the answer and introduce us to a living descendant of John himself. It’s practically a given such a close cousin would share DNA with us, especially with Dad, but nothing has turned up on that front, either. There are Donovan matches all right, but they seemingly stem from much earlier ancestors, far earlier than our Donovan brick wall. 

My Donovan brick wall

So, if you think you may be related to John J. Donovan, born in Dublin, in 1855, please send me an email or leave a comment. I’d love to know what happened to him.

[1] Baptism register, St. Mary's, Dublin city (20 Jun. 1853 to 2 Jan. 1858), line 4400, NLI.

© Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday 3 March 2018

Papa Joe

Today, I'd like to introduce you to Joseph Wynne, better known as Papa Joe to his grandchildren. Joseph was a first cousin of my grandfather, Kevin Wynne. 

In 1907, when he was twenty-four years old, Joseph left home in Dundalk, Co. Louth, and made his way to America. He signed on as a trimmer onboard the Carmania, an ocean liner serving the Liverpool-New York route, but on arrival in New York, he deserted ship and supposedly swam to shore.[1] 

Joseph was born on 24 May 1883, in Mary Street, Dundalk, the second son and fourth child of John Wynne and Margarita Armstrong, a.k.a. Ward. He was baptised four days later. His Godparents were Joseph Wynne and Julia Hoey.[2] 

On leaving school, Joseph served an apprenticeship with a carpenter in Dundalk, an occupation that would serve him well in New York City.

On 31 July 1910, he married Catherine McDonald, a girl he knew from home. Catherine was born on 22 June 1888, at Jocelyn Street, Dundalk, the daughter of John McDonald, a fireman on the steamships. Her mother Mary died of tuberculosis in 1891, when Catherine was an infant, and the children were said to have been raised in an orphanage in Dundalk.[3] 

Joseph and Catherine raised a family of eight children in New York City. Seemingly, however, Joseph was not the ideal husband or father, spending far too much time in the pub, drinking the family budget. Perhaps he took after his granny Bridget Wynne in that regard; she had a problem with alcohol too, an illness that even saw her spend a night or two in jail. 

But, this wasn't the only trait Joseph may have inherited from his ancestors. He had black hair and blue eyes, same as my granda, and same as many others in our extended Wynne family. And, just like his siblings, and his Uncle James Wynne, Joseph could sing. As a young man, he sang solo at concerts in his native Dundalk, and, according to his granddaughter, he was known to entertain the neighbours in the evenings, singing out on his front porch, in Brooklyn, New York.[4]  

Joseph was eighty-five years old when he died in March 1968, in Lynbrook, Nassau County, New York. Catherine survived him by nearly nine years. They were buried next to each other in the Cemetery of the Holy Rood, in Westbury, Nassau County, New York.[5]

[1] 'Liverpool, England, Crew Lists 1861-1919' accessed on ($)
[2] Copy birth register, Joseph Wynne, Dundalk, 1883, accessed; transcription of the baptism register, Joseph Wynn, Dundalk, 1883, accessed ($)
[3] 'New York, New York, marriage index 1866-1937' accessed on ($); copy birth register, Catherine McDonald, Dundalk, 1888, copy death register Mary McDonald, Dundalk, 1891, accessed
[4] Dundalk Examiner and Louth Advertiser, 21 November 1903; 'World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918' accessed on ($)
[5] Burial of Joseph C. Wynne, 1968, and Catherine Wynne, 1977, Cemetery of the Holy Rood, Westbury, Nassau County, New York, accessed on Find A Grave
[6] Family anecdotes, as told by Joseph's granddaughters, Pamela and Holly. 

Image: Carmania poster accessed via Wikimedia Commons.

(c) Black Raven Genealogy