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 


  1. Thank you for your wonderful writing and research, Dara! We are privileged to have you documenting our family history !

    1. It's my family history too, Holly :-)

    2. Yes, of course, I refer to "Our family history" as including you --How fortunate to have a 3rd cousin who is so capable in this area!! :)

  2. I will have to look for him to see if he was a neighbor to any of my relatives. Maybe they heard him sing. Wouldn’t that be something!?

  3. Dara, I love the poster of the ship. Did you find it online?

  4. Hi Colleen, yes, it's a public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.

  5. I love this poster,too. Great find! So, was the story that he swam to shore passed down in your family?

  6. Thank you. Our family lore only followed this branch as far as Dundalk, Ireland, Dana - the story of him swimming to shore was passed down via Joseph's direct descendants.

  7. This description could be several male members of my family also! Couldn't carry a tune in a bucket as they say, but that never stopped them.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on this!