Saturday, 14 April 2018

DNA Diary: Pointing to the O'Hara line

This week’s post reaches far into the upper echelons of my family tree, to my fourth great-grandparents, Paul Doyle and Catherine O’Hara. They married in St Catherine’s church, Meath Street, in Dublin city, on 23 August 1828, witnessed by Patrick and John O’Hara, presumably Catherine’s relatives.[1] 

Descent from Paul Doyle and Catherine O’Hara 

As might be expected, given they died over a hundred years ago, no one alive today remembers hearing of Paul and Catherine, and everything we now know about them has been gleaned from old documents. Ironically, much of what we learned about their lives came from records created on Paul's death.

Paul Doyle died on 21 January 1872, at his home in Kevin Street, Dublin. He died as a ‘result of an accident and hernia’, having suffered for eleven weeks without medical attention. Unfortunately, no mention of his accident was found in the newspapers of the day, so we may never know what happened to him. 

When Catherine registered his death, she claimed he was seventy-two years old and working as a weaver. When she organised his burial at Glasnevin Cemetery, she said he worked as a dyer.[2] Weaving, spinning and dyeing was a once lucrative industry in the Liberties area of Dublin, where the Doyle family lived, but the industry was all but destroyed when tariffs were introduced centuries earlier, so the Doyle family probably lived from hand to mouth. 

Potential DNA match on the O'Hara line
Anyway, my cousin Myles recently drew my attention to a DNA match he shares with two siblings Mary and Tom, and a lady named Barbara.  Myles, Mary and Tom and my mother are all third cousins, descended from the various children of Myles McGrane and Margaret Doyle. Margaret Doyle was born in Dublin city in 1831, the eldest daughter of Paul Doyle and Catherine O'Hara. And, Barbara's great-great-grandmother was Alicia O'Hara, who lived in Texas, in the U.S.

Ancestry, our DNA testing company, predicted Barbara and the McGrane descendants are fourth cousins. Their relationship is not necessarily on the O'Hara line, and they may even share two separate lines of descent, but given they have a surname in common, it makes sense to start there. Except, if the connection is via the O'Haras, they must be more distantly related than fourth cousins. The closest relationship feasible is if Catherine (O'Hara) Doyle and Alicia's father were siblings, making Barbara a fifth cousin to my mother and her known cousins.

Alicia O'Hara married John Morrison, a stevedore, in Galveston, Texas, on 8 October 1868, naming her parents as John O'Hara and Catherine McDonald, from Dublin.[3] So, i
t was only a matter of finding John O'Hara in Dublin and linking him to our O'Hara/Doyle family! 

But, as it turns out, there was a likely John O'Hara and Catherine McDonnell in St Catherine's parish, at the right time. (T
he surnames McDonald, McDonnell and McDaniel were often used interchangeably.) They baptised their daughter Margaret in St Catherine's in 1834, and their daughter Rose in 1836. Then the family moved to St Paul's parish, on the other side of the River Liffey, where they baptised Joseph in 1838, John in 1841, Alicia in 1843 and Mary Jane in 1846.  Often, family relationships can be ascertained by examining the names of the children's Godparents, but in this case, there was no obvious O'Hara/Doyle connection.[4] 

It is likely Catherine (O'Hara) Doyle had a sister Ellen O'Hara. Ellen was Margaret Doyle's Godmother.  She married John Mullen in St Catherine's parish, on 4 November 1836. Paul Doyle, not a common name then, and Patrick O'Hara witnessed their marriage. Catherine Doyle had sponsored their daughter Mary Anne's baptism, in April 1836. And, later, in 1853, John and Mary Anne Mullen were Godparents for Paul and Catherine's youngest daughter Ellen Doyle. This all smacks of a close family bond.[5]  

Baptism of Eliza Mullen, SS Michael and John’s parish, March 1841

John and Ellen Mullen also christened a son Andrew in 1837, and a daughter Eliza in 1841.[6] 
And, although John O'Hara (living in St Paul's parish?) sponsored Eliza Mullen's baptism, his was a fairly common name in Dublin, so, on its own, could not be taken as indicative of a relationship between our two families.  

Then, Barbara obtained the burial register for a grave at Glasnevin Cemetery. The occupants of the grave included Margaret O'Hara, buried in 1834, Rosanna O'Hara, aged five years, buried in 1841, John O'Hara, aged seven months, buried in 1842, Mary O'Hara, aged nine months, buried in 1847, and Catherine O'Hara, aged thirty-five years, buried in 1847. The family were from West Arran Street, in St Paul's Parish and there's little doubt but it's the family of John O'Hara and Catherine McDonnell.[7] 

And significantly, Eliza J. Mullen, who died aged seven years in 1848, shares their grave.[8] 
Was this the Eliza Mullen whose Godfather was John O'Hara? It's hardly a coincidence! And, if Eliza Mullen was Catherine (O'Hara) Doyle's niece, I'd say we've found a 'connection'.

It's not proof, but that and the mounting number of 'O'Hara' DNA matches suggests we're on the right track.

[1] Doyle-O'Hara marriage, St Catherine's parish, 23 Aug 1828, Church records on
[2] Copy death register, Paul Doyle, 1872, Dublin South, General Register Office; Copy burial register, Paul Doyle, 1872, ($) Glasnevin Cemetery.
[3] Marriage no. 526, John Morrison and Alicia O'Hara, St Mary's Catholic Cathedral, Galveston, Texas, accessed on FamilySearch.
[4] Church records on; Free index, with image attached, Catholic Parish Registers on FindmyPast.
[5] Church records on
[6] Same.
[7] Copy of a listing of interments in grave L 152, Garden Section, Glasnevin Cemetery.
[8] Same.

© Black Raven Genealogy


  1. Wow! DNA pointing you in the right direction. Not a coincidence. Congratulations on adding new leaves to your family tree.

    1. Thanks Marian, it's great to know others are able to follow my logic and concur.

  2. Yes! I would say you are on the right track. Your research is great & I like the charts. Charts always help clarify our work.

    1. Thank you, Colleen, I agree about the charts - as they say, pictures are worth a thousand words.

  3. I live in Australia Hoping can get some help with> Michael Francis Walsh bp 29/10/ 1820 St Catherine Dublin to James Walsh and Julia Lawler/Lawlor. Margaret Walsh 28/04/1829 St Catherine Dublin. Thomas Walsh 30/09/1833 St NIcholas Dublin.Cant find any other children in between ??.nor marriage of parents?. Have you any suggestions . also Michael came to Australia as a convict he was burnt on one arm and stated on his convict records hence tried find if was house fire or candle and suggestion where to look. James Walsh was ship builder were there ship building in Dublin> Many Thanks Diane Hutson ..

  4. How did I miss reading this? I too love the charts. I am always jealous when I see bloggers creating nifty little charts, so I vow to do one but never do.

    1. Thanks, Wendy. and I'm always a little jealous of the bloggers with albums full of old family photos ;-)


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

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