Sunday, 10 May 2020

On the far side of a brick wall #6 ~ The hunt for DNA cousins

Probably the only greatest chance of finding 'proof' of the relationship between my known Radcliffe family and the Radcliffe/Leonard-Riley-Slatterys in Liverpool/Manchester is with DNA. But first, there'll need to be living descendants on both sides to test.

My second great-grandmother, Anne (Radcliffe) Carroll, has numerous descendants and many of them have already taken a DNA test, my mother and two of her siblings included. So, on this side, we're all set. But on the Radcliffe/Leonard-Riley-Slattery side, living descendants so far appear thin on the ground.

Anne (Radcliffe) Carroll was an only child. Her mother Mary Radcliffe (hypothetically born Mary Leonard) died young. Her father John Radcliffe married again, but had no children with his second wife. John himself was one of five surviving brothers. Yet, our branch is the only one remaining. A curse, supposedly put on the Radcliffe family to prevent them having children, has already been discussed more fully here. Mary Leonard was seemingly an only child too, apart from her half-sisters Rosanna and Ellen Slattery. So, Rosanna and Ellen are the only known source of DNA cousins.

Ellen disappeared completely after 1851, so continuing the search for James and Rose Ann (Rosanna Slattery) Corcoran, who I lost track of just after the 1861 census in Manchester, England, seemed the best bet. They'd been living at 10 Smith Street in 1861, with their two children James born in 1857, and Mary born in 1859. This week I continued the search, and they weren't easily found, I can tell you - even though they hadn't actually moved far at all. They were eventually found just across the tracks from Smith Street, at 6 Gaylors Court, off Hewitt Street.

Excerpt from Manchester and Salford, Sheet 33, Ordinace Survey, 1851

The family had changed their surname from Corcoran to Cochrane. And Cochrane is not a recognised variant of Corcoran in online genealogy search engines. So they remained hidden, in plain sight.

Then, rereading MacLysaght's Surnames of Ireland, the Scottish surname Cochrane was highlighted as a variant of Corcoran, in Ulster. It seemed irrelevant to this situation. Still, a specific search for Rose Ann Cochrane in Manchester revealed her, and her growing family (Additional children - Catherine Cochrane, born about 1866, Ann Cochrane, born about 1868, William Cochrane, born about 1871 and Ellen Cochrane, born about 1877), living at 6 Gaylors Court, Manchester, in 1871 and 1881.

Cochrane household in the 1881 census of England, Manchester

Evidence the Corcorans and the Cochranes were one and the same family was hard come by too. Oh you’d think it would be easy enough, with four children born after 1861 - just a quick check of England's birth index online should have them all listed, with their year of birth, place of birth, surname and mother's maiden name showing as Slattery. Thank you very much, that would have been proof enough for me, at this stage. Except these births were apparently not registered - not with a recurring mother's maiden name anyway.

Then commenced an extensive search of online family trees... and James and Rose Ann were listed in numerous trees online, both under the name Corcoran and the name Cochrane. Except it always turned out, with a little bit of scrutiny, the tree owners had misappropriated our James and Rose Ann, and none of the listed descendants were actually their descendants at all.

At least that explains why NONE of the tree owners share DNA with any of us.

It must be said though, as half fifth cousins, the chance of James and Rose Ann's true descendants sharing any discernible DNA with us is slim, too.

Next up, the Manchester rate (property tax) books are available online. James Cochrane was included in 1881, living at 6 Gaylors Court. He paid rates each year at this address all the way back to 1865. He missed a year in 1864, or maybe I did. Then, in 1863, 1862, 1861 and 1860, Jas or James Cochrane paid rates for 10 Smith Street, the same house where our James Corcoran lived at the time of the 1861 census. Q.E.D. (quod erat demonstrandum)!

The Manchester rate books show James Cochrane continued paying rates for 6 Gaylors Court until 1885. Then he upped and completely disappeared again! Checking the deaths index online, Rose Ann Cochrane, aged forty years, died in Manchester, in the last quarter of 1884. Granted, this would be a life-shattering event for any family, but what happened to the rest of them? James, and at least six children! They just vanished! Again!

God, tracing this family is like pulling teeth.

  1. Corcoran household, Deansgate, Manchester, Lancashire, Enumerators' Book, 1861, England Census, accessed $
  2. Manchester & Salford, Sheet 33, Ordance Survey 1849-1851, 1 : 1056, Maps of Manchester, Old Maps Online.
  3. Edward Mac Lysaght, The Surnames of Ireland, 6th ed. (Sallins, Co. Kildare, 1985).
  4. Cochrane household, Hewitt Street, Gaylors Court, Manchester, Lancashire, Enumerators' Book, 1871, England Census, accessed $ FindMyPast.
  5. Cochrane household, 6, Gaylors Court, Manchester, Lancashire, Enumerators' Book, 1881, England Census, accessed $ FindMyPast.
  6. Manchester, 1861-1871, GRO Online Index, accessed HM Passport Office.
  7. Various online family trees, accessed $
  8. John Cochrane, Manchester Rate Books 1706-1900, accessed $ FindMyPast.
  9. Death of Rose Ann Cochrane, 1884, D Quarter, Manchester, GRO Online Index, accessed HM Passport Office.


  1. 1885! I don't know how it is with Irish records but for the US this is a black hole period since the 1890 census is lost. If you assume the possibility of their emigrating to the US - or at least some of the children - you'll also have to consider Cochrane could be Cockram or any other variation. I know because I have a line with this surname and am seeing hundreds of matches with many spelling variations.

  2. The 1891 copy enumerators' books of the England census survive, I just can't find them. :-( I'll have to look at the possibility of emigration next. Thank you for the heads-up on the surname variations.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on this!