Wednesday, December 31, 2014

'Looking back as we move forward': The most popular posts on this blog: 2014

On this last day of 2014, inspired by Shelley Bishop's top 10 countdown on her blog A Sense of Family, I have decided to list the top 10 most popular posts on this blog for 2014. Truth be told, given the challenges that have come up for our family on both the living and the dying sides of life, I haven't done this sort of looking back for a while. Each year's end usually brought with it a desire to simply move ever forward. However, there is always something to learn in looking back, so I surveyed the statistics for this blog to see which posts emerged as the most popular over the past year, and have listed them below.

Interest in the first two posts on the list makes me very happy because they are two of my favourite posts. The first is about the dancing life my parents enjoyed in their younger days. Both of my parents have passed away — Dad in 2000 and Mom in 2012 — so it always makes me smile when I think about the fun they had back when they were 'footloose and fancy free'. The second post is a favourite of mine because it reflects on the long life of my mother's childhood home in Ringsend Dublin, a home that was part of the Ball family for over 80 years. As to the other posts on the top 10 list, I won't offer any commentary on them, and instead hope you'll stop by and read them to see if you agree with the statistics.

2. Within these walls, the life of a family: 80 years on Gordon St., Ringsend

3. Angels of Dublin: The Wingéd Victories & O'Connell's Monument

4. Tuesday's Tip: Finding 'lost' children: Revisiting the 1901 & the 1911 Irish Census

5. Mappy Monday: On a map, the fortunes of an ancestor

6. Sudden death in Bow Bridge: The Flu Pandemic in Ireland

7. Between the pages in a prayer book...

8. 'Ireland is not a leaving place': For ancestors who stayed

9. 'The big guns are coughing...': Commemorating Irish lost in World War One

10. 'Clip, clop & clatter': A driving life in Dublin City

There is one other post I would like to mention, one which I wrote at the end of 2012, entitled The 525,600 minutes of 2012: A season of love, loss and family history. It is a post I revisit often to remind me of the importance of celebrating all of the 'seasons' of life.

During this past year, because of this blog, I've had a couple of experiences that have frustrated me, but I've had far more that have delighted me. I really appreciate receiving comments and questions, and have loved engaging in discussion with readers over various post topics. So too, especially meaningful for me are the contacts I have been able to make and maintain with family members far afield in Ireland, England, Australia, and the United States. As well, I very much appreciate contact with the second, third and fourth cousins, and others who have contacted me after discovering this blog.

One of the most touching emails I received this past year is from a gentleman in Ireland, to whom I am not related, who wrote to thank me for writing about the Irish who gave their lives serving as members of the British military forces during the First World War. Like mine, his family lost three members on the battlefields of Europe. He wrote, “for far too long we have forgotten our brave Irish soldiers. They fought with the British but it’s time we remembered them all”. It is indeed time.

As to what 2015 will bring for me, I do not yet know. The two Irish history projects on which I am working absorb a lot of my time; however, I do hope to be able to keep researching and blogging about my Irish family history.

To each one of you who follows this blog, and have taken the time to read these posts, whether or not you write comments, I offer my deepest gratitude. Thank you so very much for your time and attention. I hope you know how much you are appreciated.

As the new year dawns, I wish for each and every one of you a year filled with peace, love and many family history finds.

Until we meet again,


Low tide at Murrisk, on the shores of Clew Bay, County Mayo.


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

William Cavenaugh and Mary Brien, 30 Dec 1798: a wedding near year's end

As we prepare to celebrate the dawning of a new year, I cordially invite you to travel back 216 years with me to the wedding of my maternal 4th great-grandparents, William 'Billy' Cavenaugh and Mary Brien. Of course, there are no wedding portraits, no paintings or pencil drawings of the event, nonetheless it is interesting to imagine what their wedding might have been like.

Married in the late 18th Century, the parish register reveals that William and his Mary took the plunge on Sunday 30 December 1798. Christopher Cavenaugh and James Brien stood as their witnesses.1 Who else was present as the couple pledged their lives to one another, I wonder. Were William's parents John Cavenaugh and Allice Howard among the congregation? Did James Brien and Catherine Harford witness the marriage of their daughter Mary?

Born in 1761, William was fourteen years Mary's senior when the couple wed; Mary was born in January of 1775. However, this age difference was not at all unusual in the period, nor was the fact that at the time of the marriage Mary was 'with child'. Their son John was born 21 April 1799, a little less than four months after their wedding.

Given that today is the 216th anniversary of their marriage, what do you imagine might be the appropriate anniversary gift?

From the Donabate Parish Register, 30 December 1798: The marriage entry for William and Mary,
and the baptismal entry for Catherine Luttrel for whom they stood as sponsors.
And the bride wore...

Historically, with respect to the fashion of the day, Mary may have been wearing Regency period clothing (think Jane Austen). To be strictly accurate 'Regency' refers to the period from 1811 to 1820 in Great Britain, of which Ireland was still a part on William and Mary's wedding day. During this period the Prince of Wales ruled as Prince Regent, the proxy for his father, the insane King George III. However, when focusing on the fashion of the day, the term Regency more loosely applies to the period from about 1790 to 1820.2

It is possible that Mary's dress may have been blue, or green, or even pink; however, it is more likely that the dress was fashioned out of fabric in a colour such as brown or burgundy. Unlike the wedding dresses of today that are boxed up for storage like museum pieces, the wedding frocks of women like Mary were recycled, so that she might have worn her dress for many years to come.3 Dark colours were much more practical for a bride like Mary, because such colours would be more suitable for a woman as she went about her daily duties. A darker coloured dress would not show dirt at the hem as readily as one made from a lighter coloured fabric. It is likely that the dress featured minimal embellishment.

The romantic in me likes to imagine Mary wore a beautiful green frock that day, such as the one in the image below; however, since Mary was a very active lady, a darker colour would likely have better suited her needs.

According to the memoirs of Andrew J. Kettle, brother to my 2nd great-grandmother Mary Kettle Fitzpatrick, in addition to being a healer renowned for her medical skill, Mary was very much involved in her family's business, as a messenger and a buyer, and allegedly took part in the procurement of arms in the time leading up to the 1798 uprising.4 Seemingly not the sort of woman who would be running around in a frilly frock.

A good match for two people from well-established families...

According to Kettle's memoir, his grandparents William Cavenaugh and Mary Brien each came from a family who had wealth, so both sides likely viewed the match as a desirable one. Mary Brien's family owned an carman-stage (sometimes written as carmen's stage) of considerable size at Turvey, in north County Dublin. William Cavenaugh's family owned a similar enterprise, but the exact location of it is not mentioned in the memoir.

A carman-stage was an establishment usually found on the outskirts of Irish towns along the turn-pike system of roads in the period.5 Such establishments catered to the needs of 'carmen', that is coachmen and carters who passed through the town delivering people and goods via horse-drawn coaches and carriages. At a carman-stage the travellers could purchase meals and sleeping accommodation for themselves. As well, the carman-stage was outfitted to sell feed and offer accommodation in stables for the horses of their guests. We might think of it as an 18th century version of a Bed and Breakfast, or an inn, with services for horses rather than automobiles.

The happy couple were wed by Reverend Luke Teeling. Was there a reception or any sort of celebration held at one of the family carman-stages? Perhaps, but I have no evidence of such an event. One thing the happy couple did do on their wedding day was stand as godparents. The parish register shows them as baptismal sponsors for a daughter, Catharine, born to Stephen Luttrel and his wife Mary.

A wedding and a baptism all in one day. Sounds like something Jane Austen would have liked. I hope it was a wonderful day for all concerned.



1. With respect to the witnesses to the marriage, since Mary's father was named James, and she had a brother named James, I can hypothesize that the witness James Brien might be either her father or her brother. Also, since William had a brother named Christopher, the witness Christopher Cavenaugh could be that brother. However, I do not have definitive proof as to the identity of either one of these witnesses to the marriage.

2. Arnold, page 56.

3. Arnold, page 60.

4. Kettle, Chapter 1, pp. 2, 3.

5. Broderick.


Donabate Parish Register: marriages 1761-1805, on microfilm P.6618, The National Library of Ireland, Dublin. Retrieved August 2010.

Arnold, Janet. Patterns of Fashion: Englishwomen's Dresses and their Construction, 1660-1860, MacMillan, United Kingdom, 1989.

Broderick, David. The First Toll Roads: Ireland's Turnpike Roads, 1729-1858. Collins Press, Cork, 2002.

Kettle. L. J., editor. The Material for Victory: Being the memoirs of Andrew J. Kettle C.J. Fallon Ltd., Dublin, 1958.

Thank you to The Graphics Fairy for the Regency dress image.
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