Monday, 2 July 2012

Irish naming practices and our O'Donoghues

Irish naming practices and our O’Donoghues

By Rod O’Donoghue

The practice

The old Irish Catholic custom of naming children was as follows:

First born male child named after the father’s father
First born female child named after the father’s mother
Second born male child named after the mother’s father
Second born female child named after the mother’s mother
Third born male child named after father
Third born female child named after mother.

It does not always run true but it can be a very good guide for investigating further possibilities.

Repetition evidence

The evidence for this practice is certainly visible in many families in the nineteenth century where they tended to marry within a fairly narrow community.  The same names are repeated within the same area and appear across family groups.  The practice began to fade as people emigrated and married outside of their Irish community. 

Our family in Ballyduff

My ggggrandparents were James Donoghue and Julia(na) Boyle.  Their son Thomas (born 1806) was my gggrandfather.

He married Ellen Connor, who I think, but as you will see I have doubts, was born in 1808 to John Connor and Ellen Donoghue.  The parish register shows that they had five children: Ellen (b.1808), Daniel (b.1814), Mary (b.1815), Honora (b.1819), John (b.1822), James (b.1824), Margaret (b.1832).  Daniel and Honora do not recur in our family.

In the list above it seems unlikely that there would have been a six-year gap between John and Ellen’s first and second children, so some may be missing. 

Thomas and Ellen’s children were named as follows
Julia (b.1834): after her paternal grandmother
James (b.1836): after his paternal grandfather
John (b.1839): after his maternal grandfather
Catherine (b.1841): not after her maternal grandmother!
Thomas, my ggrandfather (b.1844): after his father
Ellen (b.1847): after her mother and maternal grandmother

A local historian has said to me that children were sometimes named after a deceased sibling, people to be impressed, a saint and that there were many other reasons to deviate.   Perhaps in this case because both mother and maternal grandmother were Ellens, they saved the name for later.
I have searched for an Ellen born to a John Connor and a Catherine in the right timeframe, and the only possible is John Connor and Catherine Scollard from Knockawaddra, south of Tralee.  Their Ellen was born in 1802, four years before Thomas.  This townland is well outside of the normal social radius from Ballyduff of 4-5 miles.  Scollards are found around Ballyduff in this period but very few.  I rather doubt that this is our Ellen.

Having searched the parish registers extensively for Donoghues and Boyles it is clear that not all marriages or births were recorded and so there may have another couple altogether not shown in the records.  I may never resolve this issue unless I find people living today who are also descended from our ancestors and have a family record.

Our family in Poplar

To evidence how the practice eroded after leaving Ireland, I have shown the recorded children of Thomas (my ggrandfather) and Mary Sullivan. Mary was born in 1845 in London to John Sullivan (b.1808) and Margaret Mahoney (b.1814) both of whom may have been from Cork.
Mary (b. & d.1866): after mother?
Catherine (b.1867): after aunt?
Thomas William (b. 1869 & d. 1871): after father, but no evidence of a William in our family; it is an uncommon name in our part of Ireland.
Margaret (b.1872): after maternal grandmother
James (b.1874): after ggrandfather or uncle?
Mary Ann (b. 1877): after aunt?
Gwendoline Anastasia Celina (b. & d.1880): have no idea but Anastasia as a name is found in our part of Kerry, shortened sometimes to Ansty

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