Sunday 23 September 2018

The Wynne family in the newspapers x 3

My first cousin recently gave me a subscription to the $ Irish Newspaper Archives, so I thought I'd use it to find her something new about our Wynne family.  This post is for you, Aileen 💝

1. Agnes (Wynne) Fegan
Agnes Wynne was born at 10 Christ Church Place, on 7 July 1877, the youngest daughter of our great-great-grandparents, John Wynne and Bridget Hynes. She married John Fegan, a salesman, on 1 March 1905. They made their home at 24 Halliday Square, in Dublin city, where they raised a large family. Sadly, Agnes died young, on 3 October 1921, aged only forty-four years. Five years after she died, her husband placed this 'In Memoriam' notice in the newspaper:

In Memoriam, Agnes (Wynne) Fegan, Evening Herald, 2 October 1926, p. 2

Do you think she went by the name Winnie, or was the intention to include her maiden name, Wynne, in this notice?

2. John Wynne (junior)
John Wynne was baptised on 1 June 1851, in St Catherine's parish, in Meath Street. He was Agnes (Wynne) Fegan's eldest brother. He married Margarita Mary Ward/Armstrong in July 1876, in Dundalk, Co. Louth, where they made their home.  After his wife died and his children were all reared, John came back to live in Dublin for a few years. Records show him in the city in 1911 and 1916. But, until now, his last known address was in Glasgow, Scotland, sometime between 1916 and 1918, and I've never been able to find a record of his death, anywhere. Now, I know he returned to Dublin, where he died on or around 20 July 1923.

Death notice, John Wynne, Evening Herald, 23 July 1923, p. 4

Here's the relevant excerpt from the copy death register:

Copy death register, John Wynne, Dublin, 20 July 1923

The register states he was fifty-one years old when he died. He was really seventy-two years of age, which is why I never paid any attention to this record in the index before now, but there are enough correct details to be comfortable this was our great-granduncle. It's true, he was the eldest son of John and Bridget Wynne, Dublin; he was a widower; his occupation was cork-maker; and his given residential address - 2 Nelson St - was the known address of his sister, Isabella (Wynne) Perrody. 

3. Bridget (Hynes) Wynne
And, saving the best for last - who'd have thunk there'd be a newspaper death notice for our great-great-grandmother, Bridget (Hynes) Wynne, herself - in 1895! 

But, voilà!

Death notice, Bridget (Hynes) Wynne, 
Irish Independent, 19 December 1895, p. 1

Most interesting, apart from the fact the notice was published in the first place, is the sentence 'American and East Indian papers please copy'. We already know Bridget's daughter, Mary (Wynne) Finnegan, emigrated to America and was living in Colorado Springs, when Bridget died. But who in 'East India' was concerned with Bridget's passing? This is a new clue.

Sunday 16 September 2018

An impostor in my DNA?

This week, rolled out enhanced ethnicity estimates for everyone who has taken their DNA test, and the genealogy world is awash with stories about their 'increased precision'. I got my update several months ago, but as I’ve never been a fan of DNA ‘ethnicity’ tools, I didn’t find reason to mention it before now. I’m Irish, so these tools never seemed to add much to the understanding of my ancestors.

Originally, Ancestry had me down as 66% ‘Ireland, Scotland and Wales’, and 34% ‘Great Britain’. Granted, you might think they pinned it down nicely to the right corner of the world… but 34% British! Hmph!!! To an Irish person, that’s bordering on a major slur. And, there's no supporting documentation for this statistic! What happened to innocent until ‘proven’ guilty?   

My pre-June 2018 Ethnicity Estimate from

Their new release seems to be going in the right direction, in my perhaps somewhat prejudiced opinion. They’ve broadened the geographic scope, yet homed in more precisely on Ireland - 21% more precisely to be exact. But that still leaves 13% ‘England, Wales and Northwestern Europe’ in my DNA.  That’d be the equivalent of one great-grandparent being of 'the old foe’.

My post-June 2018 Ethnicity Estimate at

MyHeritage reports a similar ethnic background to Ancestry’s original estimate, with me supposedly being 40% ‘English’. But, although these figures came from a separate, independent test, I didn’t believe them either. My parent’s test results were also uploaded to MyHeritage, and they both showed 0% ‘English’. That's more like it. 😅 So, where did my ‘English’ supposedly come from? I didn’t lick it off a stone. It was obviously bogus. Right?

My Ethnicity Estimate at MyHeritage (based on FTDNA test results)

Plus, my parent’s results were far too exotic for our tiny, historically subjugated island, on the fringes of western Europe. Dad showed 9% Italian and 8% Eastern European. My mother showed 20% Scandinavian and, with 1% ‘Central American’, she could even claim a mythical ‘Indian Princess’ among her distant ancestry. It’s all just too far-fetched to be taken seriously, especially if you ever met my parents.

Mam's Ethnicity Estimate at MyHeritage (based on FTDNA upload)

Dad's Ethnicity Estimate at MyHeritage (based on FTDNA upload)

But, with everyone singing the praises of Ancestry’s revised results, I’m having second thoughts. As reference populations increase and become more dependable, the results are bound to become more accurate, someday. Has that day arrived? Am I letting historic sensitivities get in the way of tracing my real ancestors? 

I do have one great-grandfather whose origins cannot be proven – Charles O’Neill, born about 1849, the son of John and Margaret O’Neill. He sounds Irish enough. Was he descended from the ancient High-Kings of Ireland, as his name suggests… or was he an impostor? 

That may be the real question here!

P.S. to all my lovely English friends, I’m only joking… sort of.😀

Saturday 8 September 2018

Aunt Tessie, Uncle Jack and the Mafia

‘Aunt Tessie, Uncle Jack and Mafia’ - Amusingly, this is exactly what it says on the back of a photograph, purporting to be my Dad's O'Neill family. The down-arrow is labeled on the back as 'Aunt Tessie', with 'Uncle Jack' named as shown, implying the rest of them are the 'Mafia'.

Aunt Tessie, Uncle Jack and Mafia, c.1934

I recently received this picture from Marie, my granduncle's step-granddaughter. She got it from her step-aunt, May O'Neill. May was Arthur O'Neill's daughter, and my Granny Lena's niece.

Initially, I didn't know anyone in the picture. Lena did have a sister called Teresa, known as Aunt Tess in our branch of the family. And, like nearly everyone else in Ireland then, she also had a brother John. He went by the name Jack. Tess and Jack were May O'Neill's aunt and uncle, so it all fits. 

When I showed the picture to my mother, she immediately spotted my grandfather, James Byrne, in the back row, on the far left.😍 Mam also thought 'Aunt Tessie' looked like my grandmother, Lena. And, she would know. While my paternal grandparents passed away long before I was born, Mam knew them all her life.

Once pointed out, I could easily identify my Granda. Or, more specifically, I recognised the outfit he was wearing, especially the badge on his jacket. I'd seen it before... in my grandparent's wedding photo. 

Comparing James and Lena, c. 1934, to the couple in the ‘Mafia’ picture

It's definitely my Granda in both pictures, though I'm not completely sure the second picture shows my Granny. The two ladies do look very similar, but their hair is parted differently. May O'Neill may have been correct, and the lady in the second photo is her Aunt Tessie, and not her Aunt Lena. 

Granda was a farmer. He probably only had one suit, for Sundays and special occasions, which lasted for years, but these pictures were unquestionably taken around the same time, perhaps even on the same day. It's even possible, they were both taken on my grandparent's wedding day.

My grandparents married on 11 February 1934, in St Sylvester's church, Malahide, and the celebrations were held at her sister Tess's house, at 19 O'Neachtain Road, Drumcondra. Tess lived there with her husband Richard Greer, her step-children, including Thomas, Richard, Patrick, Mary and Eileen Greer, and her mother, Mary Agnes (Donovan, O'Neill) Ellis. Mary Greer was Lena's bridesmaid.

Mary Agnes Ellis was an accomplished musician, playing both piano and violin. She entertained my grandparent's guests, on the evening of their wedding. They had a great big hooley that night, according to our family lore. All four of my grandparents attended. It would be wonderful if this was a picture memento of that occasion. 

Images on Google Street View suggest it's quite possible the photo was snapped at O'Neactain Road. House number 19 has since been completely remodeled, but number 11 still bears a striking resemblance to the house in our photo. They both have similar shaped windows, cobble-dashed walls, and a cute little flower garden in the front, immediately under the windowsill. Do you see the resemblance below?

So, chances are our photograph was taken at Tess Greer's house, making it more than feasible the man standing behind her is Richard Greer, and the two girls are her step-daughters, Mary and Eileen. That's my theory for now; perhaps someday we'll know for sure. 

In the meantime, it's great to have another picture of my Granda. Thanks again, Marie.