Saturday, 28 February 2015

An Unexpected Prisoner

This week, as we were watching the mid-week movie on television, I was also entering the names of my Wynne ancestors, one by one, into the search field of the genealogy website, FindMyPast. I was doodling really, only half paying attention, just to see if anything new turned up. 

Well, you are never going to believe who I found in their Irish prison registers! 

I started with Grandad Kevin, born in 1909, but found only a few BMD (birth, marriage and death) indexes and a census index, all readily available elsewhere. Next, I entered the name of Kevin's father, Patrick Wynne, remembered as being a bit of a Fenian, so it would not have come as a major surprise to find him mentioned in the prison registers. However, Patrick migrated to England about 1915, before getting into trouble, and his name only appeared as next-of-kin to his elder brother Joseph, discussed previously here

It seemed opportune to search, yet again, for Kevin's grandfather, my elusive ‘brick-wall’ ancestor, John Wynne, born about 1820, but I found nothing new. I entered the name of John's wife, Bridget Wynne, certainly not expecting to find anything on her – after all, married women were notoriously absent from the official records of the nineteenth century. At least, most married women were.  Yet, the prison registers are full of women - prostitutes and drunkards and vagrants - all signs of the widespread destitution of the era. 


I stumbled upon a record for a Bridget Wynne, aged fifty. She was imprisoned for ten days, in Grangegorman Female Prison, on 27 March 1884 - the charge was ‘Abusive and threatening language.’ I was merely going through the motions, not expecting it to be my ancestor, so you can imagine my surprise when it transpired this Bridget lived at ‘4 Christ C. Place’. My great-great-grandmother, of the same name, resided at 4 Christ Church Place at the time of her death in 1895. Her daughter Mary Wynne lived there too, when she married Michael Finnegan in 1885.

This was hardly a coincidence.

What did we already know about our Bridget? She was said to have been born Bridget Hynes, from Co. Limerick. She was remembered as having been a midwife, though no proof of this has been found. Her marriage to John Wynne, in 1849, was listed in the register for St Catherine’s Parish, Meath Street.  She was named as the mother of ten Wynne children, all born in the Liberties area of Dublin, between 1850 and 1877. Her father was John Hynes, with an address in Limerick City, named when her sister Catherine married James Tucker, in 1857. Her mother, Margaret Hynes, died on 20 November 1884, the widow of a carpenter and shared Catherine’s grave in Glasnevin Cemetery. When Bridget died from phthisis in 1895, her youngest daughter Agnes Wynne registered her death and estimated Bridget’s birth as having been about 1831. Her baptism record has not so far been identified. 

So, now we also know Bridget was no shrinking violet!
The prison records provide, previously unknown, details about her physical appearance: In 1884, in her fifties, she was 5 feet, 2 inches tall, with black hair, grey eyes and a sallow complexion. Is this where our typical ‘Wynne-look’ comes from? 
Her birthplace was confirmed as Limerick.

This was not Bridget's only brush with the law.  She also served two short prison sentences in 1889. It was undoubtedly the same woman, although by 1889 her hair was described as being dark grey. Her weight was given as 106 Ibs. She still resided at 4 Christ Church Place, just across from the Cathedral, in the heart of what was once medieval Dublin. On the second offence her address was listed as ‘4 Church St.’, most probably in error. On 6 November 1889, Bridget was committed to serve seven days for being drunk. The following month, on 27 December, she was again sentenced to four days, for the same offence.

It's sad - poor Bridget - her life was obviously no picnic.


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© 2015 Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Grandad and the Metropolitan School of Art

As a genealogist, I just love finding my ancestors in new (to me) record sets!

National Library and Metropolitan School of Art, Dublin 

Since my request, a couple of weeks ago, for those ‘in the know’ to tell me more about my maternal grandfather, I've not been disappointed. Many new snippets of information, mostly about his paintings, have come to light, but one little titbit stands out - maybe because I have already found the independent documentary evidence to prove it. Kevin Wynne attended the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art, deemed to have been Ireland’s premiere art college (thank you, Anne, for letting me know). While, I was well aware of his artistic leanings, this I did not know (or, perhaps, had forgotten). 

Granted, the supporting evidence has long been available online, but I hadn't come across it before. In 2005, the National Irish Visual Arts Library indexed and digitised copy images of the student registers of the Metropolitan School of Art. These date from 1877 to 1936. In 1936, the School became the National College of Art and Design and the registers, for its first fifty years to 1986, were also published online. I easily found my grandfather's name in their database. He was mentioned in twelve separate documents, providing such information as to his age, address, occupation and his semi-annual fee payments.


Students of a life class at work in the Metropolitan School of Art, Dublin

In October 1927, Kevin Wynne, then with an address at 21 Upper Rutland Street, enrolled for a drawing or a figure drawing class at the Metropolitan School of Art, where he paid 6s/6d to attend three evenings a week. He signed up again for the academic year 1931-32. The College was situated in Kildare Street, between the National Library and Leinster House (now the seat of the Irish parliament).

Not that I'm name dropping, but William Orpen, Harry Clarke and Kevin's friend Evie Hone, all attended the school at various points over the decades - as well as about 25,000 other budding artists. Even the renowned Irish poet William Butler Yeats, having spent a term or two studying at the school, is listed amongst its alumni.

Kevin Wynne, Student 562, Register 1938, National College of Ireland, NIVAL

In October 1938, two years after his marriage to my grandmother, my grandfather returned to pursue his studies at the school. By then, it had been designated the National College of Art and Design. Painting, sculpture and design classes had been added to the curriculum and, in the previous year, Sean Keating was named the Professor of Painting. Maurice MacGonigal was appointed as his assistant. These accomplished Irish artists became my grandfather's teachers. 

While living at 3 Buckingham Cottages, Kevin attended the college three or four evenings a week, for four years. He started in October 1938 for three years, took a break for the year 1941-42 and returned for a final year commencing in October 1942. I wonder why he took the year off. Perhaps he had not the heart to enroll in 1941, following the death of his two-month old son, Kevin, in April that year.

Image sources:

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© 2015 Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Destined to be together...

When I saw this week's Sepia Saturday prompt, I immediately thought of my mother and father, for theirs is a proper Valentine’s Day story. Born one day short of a year apart, they've known each other their entire lives and really never had eyes for anyone else. Well, it sounds so much more romantic than how I met my own husband - in the basement at work, while having a sneaky cigarette - don’t you think? (for those of you who may have forgotten, I've long given up smoking) 

My father’s family were farmers, from the then small village of Malahide in north county Dublin. My mother’s family were true Dubs, from Dublin’s inner-city. They were, perhaps, unlikely to have met, if it wasn't for their fathers’ long-time friendship.  As a child, Mam often spent her holidays in Malahide, beside the sea, visiting with Dad’s family. Mam had ancestral roots in Malahide, which were probably the source of the bond between the two families. Yet, the length of their association, over many years, came somewhat as a surprise. The families’ friendship spanned six generations, before finally culminating in my parent’s marriage in 1966.  It may date to even earlier times, but this is as far back as available evidence confirms.

Walking out

My grandfathers were close friends - close enough for one to have been the best man at the marriage of the other. When my granddad James Byrne married my grandmother Lena O'Neill in Malahide, in 1934, he asked my granddad Kevin Wynne to be his best man. Now, that is one best man speech I would dearly love to have heard! 

Kevin Wynne was born in Dublin city in 1909, the son of Patrick Wynne and Teresa Carroll, both also born and bred in the city. However, as mentioned last week, my grandfather Kevin was raised by his maternal aunt, Mary Carroll, not by his parents. Aunt Mary was born seventeen years before Kevin’s mother, at a time when the Carroll family lived in Balheary in Swords, barely a stone’s throw away from Malahide. The family did not move into Dublin city until the late 1880s, so Mary grew up in Balheary and, despite the eight mile distance, she maintained close ties with her friends in Malahide. Mary likely brought Kevin with her on visits ‘home’, and thus he met and became pals with James Byrne.

At the dance

It was Anne (Radcliffe) Carroll, Mary’s mother, who had the actual connection to Malahide. Born about 1849, Anne's mother died when she was an infant, supposedly in April 1853, and her father migrated to Australia soon afterwards. We know nothing about her mother, other than her name Mary, so it may well have been her paternal grandparents, Peter and Anne Radcliffe from Malahide, who raised her. Anne certainly had a close relationship with her paternal uncles, Peter and Joseph, who lived in Malahide, as they became Godparents for her children, Aunt Mary, born in 1871, and Thomas Carroll, born in 1873. 

The earliest evidence of a relationship found between my parent's families far predates even Anne (Radcliffe) Carroll's time. It goes all the way back to her grandfather, my fourth great-grandfather, Peter Radcliffe.  This now gets a wee bit complicated, so bare with me. First, my grandfather, James Byrne's mother was Elizabeth Mahon. Elizabeth’s grandparents were Patrick and Jane Mahon. They were contemporaries of Peter Radcliffe and they asked Peter to be Godfather at the baptism of their son John, Elizabeth Mahon's uncle.  John Mahon was baptised in August 1823, proving the friendship between my mother's and father’s families dated as far back as then. 

So, it was a long time coming, but they were obviously destined to be together.

Happy St Valentine's Day, Mam and Dad!

To get your fill of the rose-mantic stories, dreamed up by other Sepians this Valentine’s Day, see here. 

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© 2015 Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Snippets from the life of a Grandfather I never knew


Sepia Saturday prompts bloggers to share family history with old photographs. Their suggestion this week featured a classroom of pottery students, painting their ceramic pots, reminding me of my maternal grandfather, Kevin Wynne, who loved to paint. 

Even as a child, Kevin was interested in painting. In March 1926, aged sixteen years, he entered a colouring competition, advertised in the Irish Independent newspaper. The next week, Kevin Wynne, with an address at 22 Upper Rutland Street, Dublin, was announced as one of their six winners. He joined-the-dots and artistically coloured the following picture. 

Kevin Wynne, Winner, reported 21 March 1926
Irish Independent 14 March 1926,
Kevin Wynne, Winner, reported 21 March 1926

In later life, Kevin became a talented artist. His daughters remember him painting wonderful murals on their bedroom walls. Some of his best works featured the champion Irish show-jumper, Iris Kellet, and her much-loved chestnut gelding, Rusty.  Sadly, none of my grandda’s paintings survive today.

Luckily for Kevin, he earned his living doing what he enjoyed most – painting. Here is one of his Business Cards from the 1950s, depicting him as an ‘Aero-Painter’- an expert painter in ‘Spray, Plastic, Sign & Mural.’  It also contains a sample of his signature.

Kevin Wynne (1909-1960), Dublin
Business Card, Kevin Wynne (1909-1960), Painter

Until I saw the following picture, I never knew my Grandda smoked a pipe. Truth be told, I never knew my grandfather at all. He died years before I was born. (It strikes me that there are people reading this blog who did know my grandfather. Wouldn't it be great if they each shared with me another little snippet about his life?)

Kevin Wynne (1909-1960), Dublin
Kevin Wynne, Whit Sunday, June 1933

This snapshot was taken on Whit Sunday, 4 June in 1933, probably on a day out with my grandmother, Annie Byrne. 

My grandda was born on 16 December 1909, in the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin, the third son of Patrick Wynne and Teresa Carroll. His two elder brothers were Maurice, then aged three, and Brendan, aged 18 months.  When Kevin was born, the family lived at 16 St. James Avenue off the Clonliffe Road in Dublin, but within two years of his birth, his father went to Australia. The intention was he would send for the family when he became established. It seems his mother took their three boys and followed her siblings to Newcastle upon Tyne in England. They never made it to Australia. One of my Wynne cousins told a story, passed down from Teresa (Carroll) Wynne herself, that following the sinking of the Titanic in 1911, Teresa was too afraid to risk the lives of her family on the long sea journey and she requested Patrick return home. He came back about 1915. 

It was around this time that little Kevin’s life changed dramatically. Not because his father came home, but because his parents, bizarrely, left him behind in Dublin to be raised by his mother’s elder sister, Mary Carroll, and they returned to live in England with the two older boys.  Kevin’s Aunt Mary never married. She had no children and undoubtedly, Kevin had a very lonely childhood, missing his parents and brothers. He was a little boy, with an English accent, left alone in Dublin, just as the Irish War of Independence was breaking out. Really, what was his mother thinking? The family were fairly successful in Newcastle, so, they hardly left him behind for economic reasons. Kevin only got to visit them in the holidays.

Kevin Wynne (1909-1960), Dublin
Kevin Wynne, cyclist, c. 1930

My grandparents married in St Laurence O’Toole’s Roman Catholic Church, Dublin on 10 August 1936. It was a glorious sunny day, a welcome change from the unusually wet and stormy weather of the previous month. No doubt, my granny looked lovely, in her pale-pink, satin wedding dress. Their witnesses were Kevin’s brother, Brendan, who came over from England, and Annie’s sister Kathleen. Afterwards, the newly-weds sailed to Rhyl in Wales, where they spent their honeymoon.  It was not long, only ten months later, before their eldest daughter was born. They had nine children in total, although two died in infancy.

Kevin Wynne (1909-1960) and Dympna Wynne (1956-2007)
Kevin Wynne with his daughter, Dympna, c. 1957

Kevin suffered from a heart condition for many years and, on 16 January 1960, it finally stole him from his wife and children. He was only fifty years old when he died. His youngest daughter, Dympna, was only three at the time.  Kevin was interred in Mount Jerome Cemetery in Harrold’s Cross in Dublin, a grave he shares with his Aunt Mary and his infant son, Kevin.

Wynne headstone, Mount Jerome Cemetery, Dublin
Wynne headstone, Mount Jerome Cemetery

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.


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© 2015 Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Clutching at straws

http://blackravengenealogy.blogspot.com/
Searching for the origins of an elusive Byrne ancestor in Ireland is like searching for a needle in a haystack. Who am I kidding? These days, there are tools to make that search easier. Searching for my Byrne ancestor is more akin to searching for a specific blade of hay in the haystack - one with little to distinguish it from any other blade of hay. To make matters worse, my paternal great-grandfather was blessed with the popular name Michael and his parents with the even more fashionable names, John and Elizabeth. When that last clue came to light, an ancestral sleuth with any sense might have chosen a new hobby!

Michael’s occupation was of little help in narrowing the field of potential candidates, for, like so many of his contemporaries, he worked as a labourer, and sometimes as an agricultural labourer. The only saving grace, if indeed anything can rescue this search from near-certain failure, was his father’s occupation – John Byrne was said to have been a butler. I’m not suggesting ‘butler-ing’ was an uncommon profession then – just not as common and, together with everything else, it possibly could serve to shorten the list of potential candidates. 

If the 1901 and 1911 census returns are anything to go on, Michael was born between 1868 and 1870, or, as early as 1866, if you believe Peter Dignam, Michael’s son-in-law, who registered his death in 1927.  But, in my experience, Irish people in the past were very prone to ‘losing a few years’ off their age, especially as their lives progressed. I’d have happily lost a fair few years by now too, if the modern-day preoccupation with form-filling wasn't constantly reminding me of my true birth date. So, using the RootsIreland index to identify all (as in, all those in their index) the potential baptism records for my great-grandfather, I set the search parameters to include those born, in all Ireland, between 1856 and 1876. 

A list was made of all those Byrne (+variants) children, with names beginning with the letters ‘MI’, born to a father whose name began with ‘JOHN’, ‘JON’ or ‘JOA’ and a mother whose name commenced with ‘ELI’. Surprisingly, this resulted in only five Michaels, three baptised in Co. Wicklow, one in Co. Dublin and one in Co. Carlow. Perhaps one of these Michaels was my great-grandfather.

Date               Birth Place                            Father                      Mother
Feb 1858        Kiliney, Co. Dublin               John Byrne                Eliza [not recorded]
Oct 1862        Bagenalstown, Co. Carlow    John Byrne                Elizabeth Byrne
Oct 1863        Killaveney, Co. Wicklow      John Byrne                Elizabeth Kavanagh
Oct 1865        Arklow, Co. Wicklow           John Byrne                Eliza Dempsy
Sep 1868        Bray, Co. Wicklow               John Byrne                Elizabeth Toole

Although the father’s occupation was seldom recorded in Irish Catholic baptisms, it was normally available from the child’s birth certificate. Unfortunately, birth registration only commenced in Ireland in 1864, meaning the birth of at least three of these five children was not registered. If the father happened to be a butler by trade, it might only be confirmed by checking the birth register of one of his younger children - born after 1864. Laurence Byrne was the son of John and Elizabeth (Kavanagh) Byrne, baptised in Killaveney, Co. Wicklow in 1868, and was likely the younger sibling of the Michael baptised there in 1863. However, it is far more difficult to identify a sibling for Michael Byrne of Killiney, 1858, without the maiden name of his mother, so I’ll have to skip him for now.  I’ll also have to skip Michael Byrne of Bagenalstown, 1862. His parent’s marriage seemingly took place in that parish in 1861, confirming his mother’s maiden name was truly Byrne, but no subsequent children were found born to this couple in Co. Carlow. 

When I was checking the online birth indexes for the details necessary to order the copy birth registers from the General Register Office, a sixth potential candidate was identified. This Michael Byrne was born in Finglas, Glasnevin, on 15 June 1864, to John and Eliza (Kilbride) Byrne.  Glasnevin is only about fifteen kilometres from Malahide, where our Michael married my great-grandmother Elizabeth Mahon in 1892, and is in agreement with Michael’s own assertion that he was born in Co. Dublin.  So, I ordered a copy of his birth registration, along with those for the Michael born in 1865 and 1868 and the Laurence born in 1868… and guess what… the fathers’ occupations were gatekeeper, dairyman, labourer and labourer - not a domestic servant in sight! 

… so, back to the drawing board… or maybe… could a gatekeeper have been promoted to butler in the twenty-eight years between his son’s birth and my great-grandfather’s marriage? This was the Michael born in Glasnevin.

Sometimes, it feels like I’m clutching at straws!

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© 2015 Black Raven Genealogy