The family of Ann Mitchell nee Holmes

My paternal grandfather’s great grandmother, my fourth great grandmother, was a London woman named Ann Mitchell (1805 – 1831), a missionary’s wife. The bare facts of her life can be established, and it is possible to speculate with some confidence about her immediate family.

Here she is getting married:

On 5 January 1826 Ann Holmes, aged 20, of the parish of Saint George Bloomsbury, married Rev. William Mitchell of the Parish of Saint Mary Islington, clerk, bachelor, full age. William Mitchell had obtained a licence the day before from the Diocese of London. Since Ann was under twenty-one, her mother Susan Holmes, widow, gave her consent to the marriage.

On 7 January 1826 the marriage was noted in the Oxford University and City Herald:

Clergymen married: On Thursday last, at Islington, by the Rev. E. Bickersteth, the Rev. Wm. Mitchell, of Bombay, to Ann, youngest daughter of the late Mr. Thomas Holmes, of this city.

Soon after their marriage the Mitchells travelled to India, in connection with the work of the Church. There they had three children:

  • Annie born 1826
  • Susan Augusta, my third great grandmother, born 1828
  • William Owen born 1829

Ann became unwell, however, and the Mitchells returned to England.

On 23 March 1831, Ann died, just twenty-six. Her death was announced in the Oxford University and City Herald on
26 March:

On Wednesday evening the 23rd instant, died, after a painful and lingering illness, aged 25 years, Ann, Wife of the Rev. William Mitchell, late of Bombay, and youngest Daughter of the late Mr Thomas Holmes of this city.

What about her parents and siblings?

I looked for other newspaper notices concerning Thomas Holmes and his children. I found a notice for an Alice Holmes, probably Ann’s sister, in the Oxford University and City Herald of 1 February 1834:

On Saturday last was married, at Newgate-street, London, Mr Robert Stuckey, of Cheapside, to Miss Alice Holmes, fifth daughter of the late Mr. Thomas Holmes, of this city.”

Sadly, Alice Stuckey died a year later. The ‘Oxford Journal’ of 21 February 1835 has:

On the 2d inst. died, of consumption, in the 30th year of her age, Alice, the wife of Mr. Robert Stuckey, of Cheapside, London, and fifth daughter of the late Mr. T. Holmes. of this city.

It was possibly consumption that also killed Ann Mitchell, Alice Stuckey’s sister.

I also found a notice in the ‘Oxford University and City Herald’ of 19 November 1836 mentioning Ann’s brother-in-law:

On Monday last died, at Walworth, Mr Geo. Stanley, many years clerk in the Bank of England, son-in-law of the late Mr. Thomas Holmes of this city.

George Stanley married Elizabeth Holmes on 5 September 1814 at St Mary Magdalene, Bermondsey, England. Stanley was a widower. One of the witnesses was Susan Holmes, probably the mother of Elizabeth and Ann.

In 1852 Ann’s mother died. The ‘Oxford Journal’ of 27 November 1852 has:

Nov. 25, at New-cross, near London, in the 87th year of her age, Mrs. Holmes, widow of the late Mr. Thomas Holmes, formerly of this city.

Death and burial records confirmed that this Mrs Holmes was Susannah Holmes aged 86 who died at Newcross Surrey and was buried at Nunhead, Surrey.

I looked at parish records for Oxfordshire and found the baptism for Alice Holmes, daughter of Thomas and Susannah, baptised on 13 January 1804 at All Saints Oxford. There was a baptism for Ann, daughter of Thomas and Susannah Holmes, at All Saints Oxford on 8 January 1806. I found some other baptisms including for a daughter Catharine baptised 11 May 1788. I also found the marriage of Thomas Holmes and Susanna Burton on 17 January 1785 at Saint Giles, Oxford. I believe this is the marriage of Ann’s parents.

I found two death notices for Thomas, one on Saturday 14 March 1812 in the Oxford University and City Herald: “On Thursday died Mr. Holmes, shoemaker, of Bear-lane, in this city.” The other in the Northampton Mercury of 21 March 1812 “Thursday sennight, in the 49th year of his age, Mr. Thomas Holmes, of Oxford.” I think this Thomas Holmes is Thomas Holmes the father of Ann.

I also found the burial record for Thomas Holmes, aged 49 on 18 March 1812 buried at St Ebbe’s, Oxford.

Reverend William Mitchell married again, and returned to India. In 1838 he was appointed by the Western Australian Missionary Society to help supply the spiritual needs of the residents of the Swan River Settlement, in what was to become the new colony of Western Australia. The Mitchell family, including the three children by his first wife Ann Mitchell nee Holmes, arrived there in 1838.

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Z is for zeal

Helen Maria Bayly, my fourth great aunt, was the second youngest of the sixteen children of Henry O’Neale Bayley (1757–1826) and Anne Penelope Bayley nee Grueber (1762–1837). Helen married a famous mathematician and astronomer. Was this an unhappy union with a man who neglected his wife in a too-zealous pursuit of his career, or was it zany, zestful, and zingy?

Helen Bayly married William Rowan Hamilton (1805–1865) on 9 April 1833 at Ballinaclough, Ireland. The marriage was announced in the Belfast Newsletter of 16 April 1833:

At Ballinaclough Church on Easter Tuesday, William Rowan Hamilton Esq. Royal Astronomer of Ireland to Helen Maria, daughter of the late Rev. Henry Bayly, Rector of Nenagh.

They had three children:

  • William Edwin Hamilton 1834–1902
  • Archibald Henry Hamilton 1835–1914
  • Helen Eliza Amelia Hamilton 1840–1870
Dunsink Observatory was established in 1783. On the right is the main building. On the left is the dome housing the 12″ Grubb refractor. William Rowan Hamilton was a director of the observatory and lived here with his family from 1827 to 1865. Photograph retrieved from

William Rowan Hamilton’s biographer, Robert Perceval Graves, wrote in the 1880s of the Bayly family: “The lady whom Hamilton married in the year 1833 was a daughter of the Rev. Henry Bayly, Rector of Nenagh, in the county of Tipperary, a member of the family whose head is settled at Debsborough in that county : she was in this way connected with Lord Dunalley and with Dean Head, Dean of Killaloe, who were neighbours in the country, took an interest in the marriage, and were subsequently Hamilton’s acquaintances and correspondents. Miss Bayly’s mother, whose maiden name was Grueber, and who by her letters appears to have possessed a bright mind and amiable disposition, was at this time a widow and resided at Bayly Farm, near Nenagh. She (Anne Grueber) had many children, two of whom were married to brothers, Mr. William and Mr. Henry Rathborne, whose country-houses, Scripplestown and Dunsinea, were in immediate neighbourhood to the Observatory. With the elder of these sisters, Mrs. William Rathborne of Scripplestown, Helen Bayly was often a guest.”

There seems to be considerable disagreement among biographers of William Hamilton about the success or otherwise of his marriage.

In their “Math and mathematicians: the history of math discoveries around the world” Lawrence Baker and Leonard Bruno, portray it as a dismal failure:

[Having had two marriage proposals rejected, in 1833] “Hamilton married Helen Marie Bayly, a country preacher’s daughter. Although they had three children together, his wife proved not only to be chronically ill but extremely pious, shy, and timid. Since she was also unable to run a household, Hamilton’s married life was both difficult and unhappy.”

Retrieved through (requires free registration)

On the other hand, Anne van Weerden, a Dutch researcher, disagrees strongly with the description of Hamilton by various biographers as “an unhappily married alcoholic”. She notes that his own account of the discovery of the quaternions [an extension of the complex numbers], “…which he made when he was walking with his wife, breathes such a peaceful atmosphere that it became the inducement to investigate how an alleged unhappy marriage could lead to such a circumstance.” In her “A Victorian Marriage : Sir William Rowan Hamilton” (Weerden, Anne . A Victorian Marriage: Sir William Rowan Hamilton. 2017. Internet Archive BookReader.), she argues that “…he did have a good marriage, and that according to current standards he was by no means an alcoholic.”

Images of Sir William Rowan Hamilton and his wife Helen, Lady Hamilton retrieved from

Anne van Weerden was surprised by part of a letter Hamilton wrote to his son Archibald on the 5th of August 1865 while “the hand which penned it was at the time tremulous with approaching death.” The letter triggered her research and she argues that the dark view on this marriage as having been an unhappy one, or even a burden for Hamilton, does not seem to fit in with Hamilton’s recollection of how he found the quaternions:

But on the 16th day of the same month – which happened to be a Monday, and a Council day of the Royal Irish Academy – I was walking in to attend and preside, and your mother was walking with me, along the Royal Canal, to which she had perhaps driven; and although she talked with me now and then, yet an undercurrent of thought was going on in my mind, which gave at last a result, whereof it is not too much to say that I felt at once the importance. An electric circuit seemed to close; and a spark flashed forth, the herald (as I foresaw, immediately) of many long years to come of definitely directed thought and work, by myself if spared, and at all events on the part of others, if I should even be allowed to live long enough distinctly to communicate the discovery. Nor could I resist the impulse – unphilosophical as it may have been – to cut with a knife on a stone of Brougham Bridge, as we passed it, the fundamental formula with the symbols, i, j, k; namely, i² = j² = k² = ijk = −1 , which contains the Solution of the Problem, but of course, as an inscription, has long since mouldered away. A more durable notice remains, however, on the Council Books of the Academy for that day (October 16th, 1843), which records the fact, that I then asked for and obtained leave to read a Paper on Quaternions, at the First General Meeting of the Session: which reading took place accordingly, on Monday the 13th of the November following.

Broome Bridge (also known as Broom Bridge and called Brougham Bridge by Hamilton, perhaps in jest) on the Royal Canal in 2007. Renowned as the location where, in 1843, the Irish mathematician, physicist and astronomer William Rowan Hamilton came up with an important mathematical equation.  He was walking from the observatory to
Dublin, because he had to preside the monthly meeting. Apparently, his wife had joined him when he was walking along the canal, he had not noticed where she came from. He scratched the formula on the stone work, perhaps to celebrate it. Photograph retrieved from
The plaque on Broome Bridge commemorating William Rowan Hamilton’s discovery. The the fundamental formula for quaternion multiplication reads i² = j² = k² = ijk = −1 .
Dunsink Observatory is about 10 kilometers north-west of Dublin City centre.
There is an annual Hamilton Walk on 16 October from the Observatory to Broome Bridge to commemorate the discovery of the non-commutative algebraic system known as quaternions.

Having read Anne van Weerden’s essay and her other writings I am convinced by her arguments that William Rowan Hamilton was happily married to his wife Helen. William Rowan Hamilton’s zeal for his work was not interrupted by his wife. She ran her household around him and did not interrupt him with demands to come to dinner. Perhaps this was the foundation of their zero-problem marriage. Each had their zone; one zigged, the other zagged.

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Y is for Youghal

James Patrick Murray (1782 – 1834), my first cousin eight times removed, was born at Leghorn (Livorno), Italy to James Murray, a Scottish army officer, then Governor of Menorca.

James Patrick Murray joined the British Army in 1797 as an ensign with the 44th Regiment of Foot and subsequently served as an aide-de-camp with his first cousin Sir James Pulteney. He took part in the 1799 Anglo-Russian invasion of Holland and in the 1800 Ferrol Expedition, an unsuccessful British attempt to capture the Spanish naval base and shipyard there. In 1802 Murray was placed on half-pay. After a period training at the Royal Military College, in 1804 he was appointed a major in the 66th Regiment of Foot.  From 1804 to 1809 the second battalion of the regiment was stationed in Ireland. 

DURING the early spring of 1804, the 2nd Battalion of the 66th Regiment, under command of Lieutenant- Colonel Peter, embarked for Ireland, and landing at Cork in the month of March, went into quarters at the Geneva Barracks. 

During the years 1805-6-7, the battalion was stationed in the South of Ireland. In June 1808, it was encamped on the Curragh of Kildare; and when the Camp at the Curragh broke up, it marched to Dublin, and there remained until the spring of the following year.  [Groves, John Percy. ”The 66th Berkshire Regiment”. Reading : J.J. Beecroft ; London, England : Hamilton, Adams and Co., 1887. page 28 retrieved from ]

In 1809 the 2nd Battalion with a strength of 720 bayonets under the command of Major Murray was deployed to Portugal. Major Murray was wounded at the Battle of the Douro; he lost the use of his right arm. He was subsequently employed in Ireland. 

MURRAY, Colonel James Patrick, C.B. — Obtained an Ensigncy in the  44th regiment, 1796, and a Lieutenancy in 1797. He was employed on regimental duty until May, 1798, when he was appointed Aide-de-camp to General Don, with whom he continued until June, 1799, when he joined Lieutenant-General Sir James Pulteney, and  served as Aide-de-camp to that officer during the campaign in  North Holland. He was present in the actions of the 27th August, 10th and 19th September, 2nd and 6th of October. On the 26th December, 1799, he obtained a company in the 9th Foot. He next served in the expedition to Ferrol. At the peace of 1802, he was placed on half-pay, and after studying for some time at the Royal Military College, was appointed to a company in the 66th Foot. The 9th February, 1804, he obtained a Majority in the latter corps : the 25th May, 1809, he received the Brevet of Lieutenant-Colonel, and was appointed Assistant-Quarter- Master-General in Ireland; and in November, 1809, Lieutenant-Colonel, 6th Garrison Battalion. He also served in Portugal, and received a severe wound at the passage of the Douro (see page 33) ; in 1813, 14 he was Assistant Adjutant-General in Ireland. The 12th August, 1812, he received the Brevet of Colonel. [Groves. pages 151-2 retrieved from ]

In 1803 James Patrick Murray married Elizabeth Rushworth (1783 – 1865), daughter of the Reverend Edward Rushworth of Yarmouth, Isle of Wight. James and Elizabeth had 6 sons and 6 daughters all born in Ireland:

  • Catherine Ann Murray 1804–1895
  • James Edward Ferguson Murray 1806–1834
  • Pulteney Murray 1807–1874
  • Harriet Elizabeth Murray 1809–1872
  • Mary Johanna Murray 1810–1875
  • Jane Susan Murray 1810–1841
  • Charles Murray 1814–1848
  • Elizabeth Murray 1817–1904
  • Henry Patrick Murray 1819–1855
  • Cordelia Maria Murray 1822–1909
  • Douglas Alexander Murray 1824–1866
  • George Don Murray 1826–1857

On 6 April 1809 their fourth child, Harriet Elizabeth Murray, was born in Youghal, County Cork. Harriet’s father was away fighting in Portugal where he was wounded on 12 May and lost the use of his right arm. 

On 25 May 1809 James Patrick Murray was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and employed in the Quarter-Master-General’s Department in Ireland. On 2 November 1809 he was appointed Lieutenant-Colonel of the 5th Garrison Battalion. 

From 1811 to 1819 he was Assistant Adjutant-General in Ireland, stationed at Athlone, on the border of County Roscommon and County Westmeath. In 1819 he received brevet promotion to colonel.

In 1830 he was promoted to Major-General. He was then on half-pay serving with the 5th garrison battalion.

On 5 December 1834 Major-General James Patrick Murray, 52, died at his house Killeneure, near Athlone, after a few days illness. He had fallen victim to a cold caught on a morning when two Officers of the Royals were drowned in the River Shannon. They had been returning from his house to Athlone.

Naval & Military Gazette and Weekly Chronicle of the United Service 13 December 1834 page 889 retrieved through FindMyPast

Obituary in the Gentleman’s Magazine June 1835 page 660
Dec. 5. At Killeneure, near Athlone,
In his 53d year, Major-General James
Patrick Murray, C.B.

This gallant officer was the only son of General time Hon. James Murray, (fifth Son of Alexander fourth Lord Elibank,) distinguished by his persevering defence of Minorca in the years 1781.82. It was at that period that the subject of this notice was born, on the 21st Jan. 1782, at Leghorn, to which city his mother had retired from the siege. She was Anne daughter of Abraham Whitham, esq. the British Consul-general at Majorca. He was educated at Westminster School; and, having determined to follow his father’s profession, obtained an Ensigncy in the 44th regiment in 1796, and in the following year was promoted to a Lieutenancy in the same corps. In May 1798 he was appointed Aid-de-camp to General Don, with whom he continued in the Isle of Wight until June 1799; when he joined his relation and guardian Lt.Gen. Sir James Pulteney, and served as Aid-de-camp to that officer during the campaign in North Holland. He was present in the actions of 27 August, 10 and 18th Sept. 2nd and 6th Oct. and was in one of them slightly wounded. On Dec. 26, 1799, he was gazetted to a company, by purchase, In the 9th foot. He next accompanied Sir James Pulteney to the Ferrol, and was intrusted, by both the General and the Admiral in that expedition, with some important and confidential transactions. At the general election of 1802 he was returned to Parliament as one of the Members for Yarmouth in the Isle of Wight; but vacated his seat in the following March. At the peace of Amiens he was placed on half pay; and after studying for some time at the Royal Military Academy, was re-appointed to half pay in the 66th foot. In 1803 he espoused the amiable object of a long attachment, Elizabeth, eldest daughter of Edward Rushworth, esq. of Freshwater House, Isle of Wight, and granddaughter of the late Lord Holmes, by whom he has left twelve children. In Feb. 1804, he obtained by purchase, a Majority in the 66th, with which he was stationed in several parts of Ireland; and subsequently was appointed to the staff of that country as Assistant Quartermaster-genera1 at Limerick, which situation he relinquished in order to accompany his regiment on foreign service. With the same regiment he also served in Portugal; where, at the passage of the Douro, he received a severe musket wound, which not only completely shattered and deprived him of the use of his right arm, but ever after impaired his general health. His gallant conduct, on this occasion, is honourably recorded in the public despatch of Sir Arthur Wellesley, who, shortly after he had received the shot, came up to him on the field, and, taking him by the hand, said, -” Murray, you and your men have behaved like lions; I shall never forget you”. On the 25th May 1809, Major Murray was promoted to the rank of Lieut. – Colonel; and on his return home, he was employed in the Quartermaster-general’s department in Ireland. From 1811 to 1819 he was Assistant Adjutant-general, stationed at Athlone. In 1819 he received the brevet of Colonel, and in 1830 that of Major General.

His death was occasioned by a cold caught in his humane exertions to save the lives of two young officers, who were drowned in the lake in front of his residence (see p. 220). He possessed an accomplished and a benevolent heart; and was characterized by the highest honour, integrity, and worth.

Page 220 Nov. 29. Drowned by the upsetting of a boat on the Upper Shannon, near Athlone, Ensigns James R. Byers and Wm. J. Kerr, (see p. 110), both of 1st regt.

Killinure House in Westmeath is now part of the Glasson Country House Hotel & Golf Club.

On 14 July 1834 Harriet Murray, who was born at Youghal, married Reverend Henry Hodges at Benown Church, Glasson, County Westmeath. Henry Hodges was her first cousin. They lived at Alphamstone, Essex, and had at least five children. She died in 1872.

Wikitree: James Patrick Murray (1782 – 1834)

X is for X-DNA

Mary Hickey (1819 – 1890), my third great grandmother, came to South Australia in 1840 on the “Birman” with her sister Julia (1817 – 1884) and brother Michael (1812 – 1840) and Michael’s wife and their two young children. Michael died on the voyage; his wife and children returned to Ireland. In 1843 Mary Hickey married Gordon Mainwaring, a farmer.

Although I have found records for Mary Mainwaring nee Hickey in Australia I have not been able to trace her origins in Ireland. It is possible however that DNA may provide clues to more information about Mary Hickey and my Hickey forebears

My father has a DNA match with JW on They share 21 centimorgans of DNA across 2 segments. JW is my father’s sixth cousin once removed. Their most recent common ancestors are Godfrey Massy (1711 – 1766), a clergyman, and his wife Margaret Baker; Godfrey and Margaret are my father’s sixth great grandparents. The amount of DNA shared is rather a lot for such distant cousins but not impossible. However, there may be a closer connection.

My father and JW uploaded their DNA to GEDMatch, a site that enables users to analyse and compare their DNA results. AncestryDNA uses algorithms to remove components of a match in cases where the company believes that the shared DNA may be due to general population inheritance rather than a genealogical relationship. On GEDMatch my father and JW share three segments of DNA on chromosome 3 totalling 37.6 centimorgans. They also share 49.4 centimorgans across two segments on chromosome 23, the X chromosome.

Shared segments of DNA reported by GEDMatch for my father and JW illustrated using DNAPainter. The purple bars highlight the lengths of the shared segments.

My father inherited his X chromosome from his mother, and a Y chromosome from his father. My father’s mother inherited her two X chromosomes from each of her parents but her father inherited his X chromosome only from his mother. Inheritance on the X chromosome thus has a distinctive pattern.

Godfrey Massy is shown on the fan chart highlighted in purple with an arrow pointing to his position. When the fan chart is overlaid with the X DNA inheritance path it can be seen that Godfrey Massy can not be the source of the DNA shared between JW and my father on chromosome 23.

My father’s X-DNA inheritance path is highlighted. The area with black X’s represent the X DNA inheritance paths for a male being the only possible ancestors who could be sources of X DNA. Charts generated using DNAPainter.

JW’s great great grandmother was Ann Hickey born in County Limerick in about 1823 who married James Massy in about 1841. James Massy was the great grandson of Godfrey Massy. James and Ann had a son Michael (1842 – 1888) and a daughter Margaret born 1844. Ann Massy nee Hickey died about 1845 and James remarried to a woman called Mary. In 1847, by his second wife he had a daughter they called Mary. James Massy, his second wife and his three children emigrated to Queensland on the Florentia, arriving in April 1853. James’s wife Mary died during the voyage. The shipping record states that James Massy was aged 30 (born about 1823), was born in Limerick, was a carpenter, a Roman Catholic, and could read and write.

The X DNA inheritance for JW shows that she could have inherited some of her chromosome 23 from her great great grandmother Ann Massy nee Hickey. My father and JW also both share DNA with matches who have Hickeys from Limerick in their family tree.

Ann Massy nee Hickey, JW’s great great grandmother, is indicated with orange and marked with the black arrow. Godfrey Massy, JW’s fifth great grandfather, indicated with light orange and a green arrow.
JW’s X-DNA inheritance path includes Ann Hickey highlighted with the orange arrow; Anne Hickey is a source of 25% (on average) of JW’s X DNA. Godfrey Massy, shown with the green arrow, is not a source of X DNA for JW. While there are certainly many other possibilities of sources for X DNA for JW, shared DNA matches with my father point to the Hickey line.

While exploring records for Hickeys of County Limerick I came across a series of records for a woman called Bridget Hickey of Sallymount who had applied for a Poverty Relief Loan. One of the  guarantors was a James Massy, the other was named William Kennedy. It could be a coincidence, but perhaps Bridget was related to Ann Hickey, the wife of James Massy.

The Irish Reproductive Loan Fund was a micro credit scheme set up in 1824 to provide small loans to the ‘industrious poor.’ In November 1843 Bridget Hickey, shopkeeper of Sallymount, received £4 principal on which 20 shillings interest was payable. Six years later, in 1849, Bridget Hickey, James Massy, and William Kennedy were served with a notice stating that Bridget had neglected to pay most of the amount owing . They were obliged to appear in the Sessions-House of Castle Connell.

Irish Reproductive Loan Fund, T91 (The National Archives, Kew) Security notes of borrowers and sureties for loans Archive reference T 91/178 Retrieved through FindMyPast

On the reverse side of the notice it is noted that Bridget Hickey was dead and was the sister of James Massy and of William Kennedy. I interpret this to mean she was the sister-in-law of James Massy, the sister of Ann Hickey.

overleaf from above notice

In a return to the Clerk of the Peace signed 5 March 1853 – a document associated with Bridget Hickey’s loan – James Massy, a fishing rod maker, is reported as having left for Australia in November last. This fits with his Australian arrival on the Florentia in April 1853; the Florentia departed from Plymouth on November 22. The trade of fishing rod-maker, of course, is not too distant from that of carpentry. In that time and place, fishing pole manufacture was not an ordinary trade.  Fishing could be an upper class pursuit and a maker of fishing poles could have an intermediate status in the class structure, like an estate agent or a gamekeeper.

In the same return Bridget Hickey is stated to be a pauper last seen about November in the City of Limerick. The report of her death in 1849 seems to have been incorrect.

Ireland, Poverty Relief Loans 1821-1874 Returns to the Clerk of the Peace [dated on next page 5 March 1853] Source Irish Reproductive Loan Fund, T91 (The National Archives, Kew) Archive reference T 91/180 number 1034 retrieved through FindMyPast

I am reasonably confident that James Massy, husband of Ann Hickey, is in some way connected to Bridget Hickey. Ann and Bridget were probably sisters. Bridget Hickey and James Massy lived in either of the adjoining townlands of Ballynacourty and Sallymount, parish of Stradbally. Given the likely DNA connection between Anne Massy nee Hickey and Mary Mainwaring nee Hickey, I intend to look for the family of Mary Mainwaring nee Hickey in the adjoining townlands of Ballynacourty and Sallymount, parish of Stradbally.

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W is for Wexford

When in 1765 or thereabouts my 4th great grandparents Matthew Cavenagh (1740 – 1819) and Catherine Hyde Cavenagh nee Orfeur (c 1748 – 1814) were married, they first lived in Innishannon, a large village in Co. Cork. Sometime in the 1770s they moved to Wexford, a seaport on St George’s Channel, where they lived in Back Street, now known as Mallin Street, at that time a fashionable part of the town.

Like his father James (1702 – 1769) before him, Matthew Cavenagh held office in the Irish Customs as a ‘gauger‘ (excise inspector) and later as Surveyor of Excise Wexford. On his death the Accounts and Papers presented to the House of Commons, relating to the Increase and Diminution of Salaries, &c. In the Public Offices of Ireland, in the year ending he first of January 1820 recorded the death of Matthew Cavanagh the previous year. The diminution in salary paid to him as Surveyor of Excise Wexford was 46 pounds.

A family story has it that in 1793 when a large body of men demanding the release of two prisoners approached Wexford, Matthew Cavenagh accompanied the commander of the garrison in the hope of using his influence to prevent bloodshed. When, near the entrance to the town, the commander was piked by the insurgents, Cavenagh was at his side. While Wexford was in the hands of the rebels Matthew and his family were in danger of their lives.

They were hidden, however, by the Roman Catholic bishop and passed safely through the crisis. The 1793 rebellion is sometimes called the first Irish rebellion. In 1798 there was a second rebellion, centred on County Wexford, against British rule. In this rebellion the town of Wexford was held by the United Irishmen (republican insurrectionists). It was the scene of a ghastly massacre of local loyalists by the United Irishmen, who executed them with pikes on Wexford Bridge.

I do not know what role, if any, Matthew Cavenagh had in the 1793 rebellion. It is worth noting, perhaps, that there were Catholics among the United Irishmen and Protestants among the opponents.

Matthew’s oldest son James Gordon Cavenagh became a surgeon and joined the British army. He lived in Hythe, near Folkestone, at the barracks there. About 1837 he returned to Wexford, where he lived at Castle House.

James Gordon Cavenagh’s son – my great great grandfather, Wentworth Cavenagh (1821 – 1895) – was educated at Ferns Diocesan School in Wexford.

Extracts from the “Topographical Dictionary of Ireland” by Samuel Lewis, 1837(retrieved through Ireland Reaching Out):

WEXFORD, a sea-port, borough, market, post, and assize town, in the barony of FORTH, county of WEXFORD, and province of LEINSTER, 74 miles (S.) from Dublin and 30 ¼ (E. N. E.) from Waterford; containing 10,673 inhabitants. This town, which, as far as can be inferred from the earliest historical notices respecting it, was a maritime settlement of the Danes, is thought to have derived its name, which was anciently written Weisford, from the term Waesfiord (Washford), which implies a bay overflowed by the tide, but left nearly dry at low water, like the washes of Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire.

… the entry in the history of the town includes the following:

After the battle of the Boyne, the town declared for William III. and was garrisoned by his troops. In 1793, a large body of the peasantry proceeded thither to rescue some Whiteboy prisoners: on their approach, a detachment of the garrison was sent out to disperse them, the commander of which, Captain Valloton, having ridden in advance of his men, for the humane purpose of expostulating with the insurgents on their conduct, was cut down by a scythe: a monumental obelisk erected on the Windmill hill commemorates this deplorable event.

… under schools of the town:

The Diocesan School for the See of Ferns, situated to the north of the town, on the road from Ferry-Carrigg, was built in 1800, at the expense of the county, on a piece of ground leased by the late R. Neville rent-free for 30 years, with a right reserved of charging it with a rent not exceeding £50 per annum at the end of that period, which has not since been demanded by the present proprietor, Sir W. R. P. Geary, Bart. The school has accommodation for 40 boarders and 6 daily pupils, and has a large play-ground attached: the master receives a salary of £70, paid by the bishop and the beneficed clergy of the diocese: an additional salary of £100 was paid by the corporation until the discontinuance of the payment of tolls.

About 1840, when he was 18 years old, Wentworth Cavenagh travelled to Canada, Ceylon, and Calcutta. From Calcutta he came to Australia.

Matthew Cavenagh, his son James Gordon, and some other members of the Cavenagh family are buried in a family vault in the ruins of St Patrick’s Wexford.

My cousin Diana Beckett kindly shared with me her photographs of Castle House, the family vault, and some watercolours by Wentworth Odiarne Cavenagh dating from 1905 and 1906. Castle House was pulled down in the 1930s. Some parts of its wall remain.

1906 sketch by Wentworth Odiarne Cavenagh of Castle House, Wexford
The Castle, Wexford, from the Lawrence Photograph Collection in the National Library of Ireland. Image Courtesy of the
National Library of Ireland.
Wexford city walls by the former Castle House; the shed was built over the wall of the house.
1905 sketch by Wentworth Odiarne Cavenagh of the family vault at St Patrick’s Wexford
The Cavenagh family vault in the ruins of St Patrick’s photographed in 1998 by Diana Beckett
In 1998 Diana and her mother cleaned up the tombstone but it is probably overgrown again now.

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V is for volume

One of my 5th great grandfathers was James Cavenagh (c. 1702 – 1769), a gauger [exciseman] at Graiguenamanagh on the River Barrow, ten miles or so southeast of Kilkenny.

View of Graiguenamanagh and the church from the River Barrow. Photograph taken 1997 by Andreas F. Borchert, CC BY-SA 3.0, retrieved from Wikimedia Commons.

Researching James Cavenagh led me to ‘Postscript to a Graiguenamanagh gauger’s stockbook’ by Edward J Law, which appeared in the 2012 “Old Kilkenny Review, pp. 61–65.

The article was not online, so I wrote to the Kilkenny Archaeological Society, which kindly emailed me a copy. Law’s Graiguenamanagh gauger was indeed James Cavenagh. Much of the information for the article, based on research by Wentworth Odiarne Cavenagh in the early 1900s, had been provided by my cousin Diana Beckett. The 2012 article was a follow-up to ‘An eighteenth-century Graiguenamanagh gauger’s stockbook’, published in the Old Kilkenny Review in 2011, also by Edward Law. The Kilkenny Archeological Society librarian also kindly sent me a scan of this. (Edward Law was the Society’s honorary librarian in 2011 and 2012.)

The notebook, of two hundred pages, is in the archive of the Kilkenny Archeological Society. The first 30 folios of the stock book were used for the intended purpose and contain notes relating to the Excise service. The rest of the book was used by James Cavenagh for personal memoranda.

Kilkenny District Thos Town Walk 1737

This stock book containeth 92 pages is for the use of the Division
Com[mencing] March 19th & ends ye 24th of March following 1737

Signed Jas Cavenagh gaugr and per Mark Usher surveyr

“Excise duties were imposed by acts of Parliament and collected in accordance with the regulations. The officers employed in collecting the inland excise, the main revenue in a district, were the collector, surveyor and gauger. Each district was divided into ‘walks’, with a gauger assigned to each walk. The gauger went round his walk twice a week taking account of all brewing activity, and the quantity and type of liquor being brewed. He measured all brewed substances in gallons, by which measurement duty was charged to the brewer. Once a month the surveyor visited each gauger’s walk, taking account of the brewings, and the quality and quantity, which he compared with the gauger’s accounts. If the accounts tallied, the gauger and surveyor signed and returned them to the collector, who assessed the duty payable per gallon, and charged the duty upon the brewer.” [McGrath, Charles Ivar Vincent. ‘The Irish Revenue System: Government and Administration, 1689-1702.’ PhD thesis, University of London, 1997.]

The notebook has readings three times a week for the town of Graiguenamanagh. Barrels, probably of beer, were counted as were stocks of tobacco. Permits were issued to carry wines and spirits to various towns and villages, individuals, houses, and fairs. The permits were for brandy, rum, French wines, Spanish wines, sack [white fortified wine], shrub [a fruit liqueur], canary [from the Canary Islands], and claret [red Bordeaux wine]. Sometimes the permits mentioned vinegar and sugar. The quantities were in:

  •      Hampers of up to six dozen bottles
  •      Jars of 2 ½ gallons
  •      Caggs [kegs?] of 9 – 18 gallons
  •      Casks 43 – 94 gallons
  •      Hogsheads 68 – 103 gallons
  •      Tierces [an old measure of capacity equivalent to one third of a pipe, or 42 wine gallons] for vinegar
  •      Roules [rolls] for Irish tobacco of 12 to 24 pounds
  •      There were also bags 100 – 224 pounds and hogsheads of 400 – 920 pounds

On folio 25 of the notebook, James Cavenagh recorded some notes about his family:

  •      Elizabeth Lindsay born 16.1.1717 was married to her 17.10.1732 she died 17.4.1734
  •      I was married to Ann Lane 20.7.1735
  •      Kildare born 24.4.1736
  •      Mary Cavenagh born 21.8.1737
  •      Matthew Cavenagh born 22.10.1738
  •      Wentworth born 18.6.1740
  •      Jane born 20.4.1741
  •      Margaret born 30.4.1742
  •      Ann Cavenagh died 9.6.1742
  •      I was married to Elizabeth Archdekin 12.2.1747
  •      Langrishe Cavenagh born 26.11.1748
  •      Ann Cavenagh born 15.2.1750
  •      Wentworth born 17.11.1752 new stile

Some of these names and dates are new to me. I look forward to researching my new relatives and adding them to my family tree.

The notebook also includes the placing out of James’s children as apprentices or servants. For example, on 15 June 1747 Margaret was placed with Mrs Richmond at 2s 0d per quarter. Matthew was entered for a second time with Mr Richmond on 27 August 1744 and with Mr Connors 17 July 1750.

The notebook also records income from the letting of property, details of his tenants, and sales of hay and grass. It has details of female employees, presumably maid-servants, with names, commencement dates, and payment It also records payments for shoes, clothing, and various goods and services.

The document is very interesting and I am pleased it has been preserved and researched by the Kilkenny Archaeological Society.

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Wikitree: James (Cavanagh) Cavenagh (abt. 1702 – 1769)

U for Unregistered

This genealogy blog is mostly about people. Even where the topic is broadened to cover family history generally, the subject is human events. Pets are not often remembered, and our much-loved companions of other species seldom get a mention.

In a small way, under ‘U for Unregistered’ I have a chance to put this right.

Tyrell Other William Champion de Crespigny (1859 – 1946), my 4th cousin 3 times removed, was a much-decorated soldier who fought in the Second Anglo-Afghan War of 1878 – 1880, the Boer War of 1880 – 1881, and the Anglo-Egyptian War of 1882. He rose to the rank of Brigadier-General in the Great War of 1914 – 1919.

I do not know if Tyrell de Crespigny was a fire-eater; he certainly sounds fierce enough. However, he seems to have had a soft spot, for on 26 April 1890, Captain de Crespigny of the 15th Hussars, deployed with his regiment to Cahir in Tipperary, licensed his grey terrier.

I like to think that it was from affection for his dog that Captain de Crespigny submitted to the dog-registration rules of Tipperary’s civil authorities. Even a grey terrier may have its fond guardian and protector.  However, the Petty Sessions Court Registers of 24 April 1890 for Cahir, County Tipperary recorded that Captain de Crespigny of the 15th Hussars had an unlicensed dog in his possession at the Cahir Barracks on 23 April 1890. He was fined and directed to take out a license. A number of men of the 15th Hussars appeared that day in the Court Registers for the same offence and on 26 April 14 men from the 15th Hussars registered 18 dogs.

In 1891 Captain de Crespigny of the 15th Hussars licensed a white and tan fox terrier and in 1892 again licensed a white and tan fox terrier. I wonder if the first dog was misdescribed in 1890 or replaced with a puppy by 1891.

Gatsby, a wire fox terrier. Photograph from Flickr by AHLN CC by 2.0

The 15th Hussars, a British army cavalry regiment, had been deployed to Cahir between 1889 and 1893.

The Captain was Tyrrell Other William Champion de Crespigny (1859 – 1946), third son of the third baronet, Sir Claude William Champion de Crespigny, and a younger brother to the fourth baronet, Sir Claude (1847 – 1935).

His military career, as summarised when his medals were sold in 2008:

[Tyrell Other William Champion de Crespigny] was commissioned a Lieutenant in the Limerick Artillery Militia in 1876. He was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the 15th Hussars in 1879 and was promoted to Lieutenant in 1881. He served in the Afghan War in the relief of Kandahar, 1880; in the 1st Boer War, 1881, and the Egypt War, 1882, serving at Kassasin and Tel-el-Kebir. He was promoted to Captain in 1888; was Adjutant in 1889, advanced to Major in 1896 and Lieutenant-Colonel in 1902. Placed on Half Pay in 1903, he served as Inspecting Officer Eastern Command and London District; Staff Officer for Imperial Yeomanry, and Colonel in Charge of Cavalry Records, 1905. He was granted the local rank of Colonel in 1905 and promoted to that rank in 1907. During the Great War he attained the rank of Brigadier-General with 8th Army Corps.

Lot 561, 25 June 2008.” Dix Noonan Webb,

Related post

Wikitree: Tyrell Other William Champion de Crespigny

T is for Trinity College

Trinity College, properly the College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Queen Elizabeth near Dublin, was founded in 1592. It was the first Irish university. At the time England had two universities, at Oxford and Cambridge. Scotland had four, at St Andrews, Aberdeen, Glasgow, and Edinburgh.

Until the 1830s the undergraduate curriculum was a prescribed general course, embracing classics, mathematics, a limited exposure to science and some philosophical texts.

The Library of Trinity College Dublin began with the founding of Trinity College. It now occupies several buildings but the building built between 1712 and 1732, now the oldest library building, is particularly magnificent. It houses 200,000 of the Library’s oldest books. In 1860, the Long Room’s roof was raised to accommodate an upper gallery; my forebears would have known the Long Room as a single-story gallery.

The Long Room of the Old Library at Trinity College Dublin. Photo by DAVID ILIFF retrieved from Wikimedia Commons. License: CC BY-SA 3.0
Trinity College Library: The “Long Room” in the 18th century, watercolour of James Malton. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

In 1924 a list of those who had attended Trinity College Dublin was published. Four of my direct forebears attended the university. They were:

  • My sixth great grandfather Arthur Grueber was a pupil of the well-known Anglican divine Thomas Sheridan, a friend of Jonathan Swift. Grueber studied at Trinity College, Dublin, gaining his MA in 1737 and DD in 1757. He was ordained as a deacon in 1736.
  • Michael Furnell, another of sixth great grandfathers, was admitted as a pensioner at the age of 18 in 1750. He was the son of Patrick, Generosus [well-bred or gentleman], born County Limerick. He appears not to have graduated.
  • Henry Bayley, one of my fifth great grandfathers, was first educated by a Mr Brown of Castlelyons.  In 1774, at the age of 17, he enrolled at Trinity College Dublin, graduating with a Bachelor’s degree five years later.
  • William Mitchell, one of my fourth great grandfathers, was admitted as a pensioner to Trinity College Dublin on November 3 1823 aged 22, son of William defunctus [deceased], born Monaghan. He did not receive a degree.

The Alumni Dublinenses can be viewed at the Trinity College website and searched through FindMyPast.

Burtchaell, George Dames & Sadleir, Thomas U., Trinity College (Dublin, Ireland) Alumni Dublinenses : a register of the students, graduates,professors and provosts of Trinity College in the University of Dublin (1593-1860). Williams and Norgate, London, England, 1924.

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S is for William Snell

When I planned this series of posts about my Irish forebears I had in mind S for Snell, my 6th great-grandfather William Snell, born Ballymoney, County Antrim, the son of William Snell of Coleraine, County Londonderry.

Ballymoney and Coleraine are in the north of Ireland

S for Scanty might have been better. I didn’t expect to find so few documented facts about him. But that’s genealogy, I suppose: sometimes we’re overwhelmed by information, sometimes there’s almost nothing.

The source for William Snell’s place of birth – and his father’s name – is Stephen Isaacson Tucker (1884), ‘Pedigree of the family of Chauncy’, privately printed, with additions, p. 25. (This can be read at Google Books.) I have been unable to locate any other records of my Snell family in Ireland.

Sometime during or before 1749, William Snell moved to London, and from this point his story is comparatively well-documented. On 12 December that year he married Martha Chauncy, at St Margaret Lothbury, in the City. They had three sons: William, Charles, and Nathaniel.  Martha died in 1765. On 8 November 1766, William married a second time, to Mary Snell, daughter of Reverend Vyner Snell, at St George’s Bloomsbury. William and Mary had a son John.

In his London years William Snell made a career as a merchant and slaver in the West India trade. He died in 1779 aged 59.

William had been left property in Liffey Street Dublin by his uncle Robert Shaw. This he passed on to his own son William.

While his later career is interesting, it has been frustrating not to be able to find a William Snell associated with Coleraine, County Londonderry, nor a marriage of a William Snell to the sister of Robert Shaw, and although I have found some deeds from the right period mentioning Robert Shaw of Dublin I cannot confirm that this Robert Shaw was William Snell’s uncle.

Wikitree: William Snell (abt. 1720 – 1779)

R is for Rockville

My third great grandmother Mary Cudmore née Nihill (1811 – 1893) was born near Adare, County Limerick, Ireland, to Daniel James Nihill (1761 – 1846) and Dymphna Nihill née Gardiner (1790 – 1866). Mary was the oldest of their eight children, seven of whom were girls.

Mary’s father Daniel James Nihill was a schoolmaster at Cahirclough (Caherclogh), Upper Connello, about ten miles south of Adare. His father James, Mary’s grandfather, owned ‘Rockville’, a large stone farmhouse, near Adare.

Daniel and his family lived with his father James, caring for him until his death in 1835. The house and its associated estate, Barnalicka, were then passed to the daughters of Daniel’s older brother Patrick Nihill, who had died in 1822.

(Until recently Rockville House, now known as Barnalick House, was recently operating as bed-and-breakfast tourist accommodation. The sketch by Mary Nihill is recognisably the same house photographed more recently to advertise the business.)

On 15 January 1835 Mary married Daniel Michael Paul Cudmore from Manister, a village near Cahirclough.

The Limerick Chronicle of 24 January 1835 reported the marriage:

At Drehedtarsna Church, in this County, by the Rev. S. Lennard, Daniel Cudmore, Esq. son of the late Patrick Cudmore, of Manister, Esq. to Mary, eldest daughter of Daniel Nihill, of Rockville, near Adare, Esq.

In 1835 Daniel and Mary, Mary’s parents and siblings emigrated to Australia.

Mary’s grandfather died in July 1835 after Mary had left for Australia. His death was announced in the Limerick Chronicle of 29 July 1835 : “At Rockville, near Adare, James Nihill, Esq. at the advanced age of 84 years.” Some years earlier on 23 March 1831 the Limerick Chronicle posted a notice “We are requested to contradict the death of James Nihill Esq.of Rockfield near Adare.”

After Mary’s father, Daniel Nihill, died in South Australia in 1846 the death notice in the Limerick Chronicle of 29 May 1847 said he was of “late of Barnalickey Rockville, near Adare”.

The following information about Rockville House is from a 2009 posting to an message board concerning the Vokes family:

Barnalick House … was built shortly after 1784 when a James Nihill leased all 272 acres of “Baurnalicka” from Mary St. Leger. Nihill was a wealthy man who had leases for over 900 acres in Co. Limerick and Co. Clare. He built the house in the shape of a letter “T”. He called the house “Rockville House”. His eldest son Patrick lived on some family land in Co. Clare with his wife Prudence Dickson and their two daughters, Anne and Jane. Patrick died before his father in 1822 and when James died in 1831 the two daughters became heirs to all the lands including Barnalick. Anne married in 1814 a William Dodd and Jane married in 1829 a Thomas Davenport. Patrick had a younger brother, Daniel, who married in 1810 a Dymphna Gardener. He lived with his father James and no doubt looked after him in his old age. However when James died, Daniel had to move out of Barnalick and he and his family departed to Australia in 1835.
A survey done in 1840 gives an Anthony St. Leger as the owner of Barnalick estate with a Thomas Davenport and a Mrs. Dodd as the leaseholders under a Col. John Dickson as middleman.
Samuel Dickson is the middleman in 1850 in Griffith’s Valuation and it must have been Samuel Dickson who employed Simon Vokes as Land Steward and placed Simon in residence in Barnalick House.

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