Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Finding baby Jane: 'Daughter of a Box Maker'

My mother's middle name is Jane, a name she bears in honour of her paternal grandmother, Jane Early Ball. When I was a child, and my mother and I would talk about family of long ago, I would ask her why it was that no girl in our family was ever given the first name Jane.

Perhaps because of my penchant for the novels of Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters, I always thought Jane was a pretty name, so I did not understand why it had not been passed along. My mother explained that she did not know why the name was never again used as a first name, but it was not, end of story. After some research, I discovered that the name Jane had indeed been passed on as a forename, and no one in my family had any idea there had once been another girl named Jane.

The exercise of finding Jane is an interesting one because it demonstrates that you may find traces of ancestors who lived and died prior to the 1901 census and 1911 census by using clues you might find in those materials. 

If you have an ancestor who lived within the urban metropolis of Dublin, Ireland, then you may want to try the same kind of search.

Clue #1: The 1911 Irish census and lucky number five

In the 1911 census of Ireland, one addition which is a boon to family history researchers is the column in which the head of household was required to record the total number of children born alive, and the number who were still alive in 1911. Looking at this section on the Ball family census, you will notice the total number of children born alive is recorded as '5'.

In my research I had found records accounting for four of these five children, namely Patrick, Mary, Christopher, and Francis Joseph. Along with his siblings, Mary, Patrick, and Christopher, Francis had been accounted for in the 1901 census, but he had disappeared by the time of the 1911 census. Thus in 1911 the number of children still living is recorded as '3'. As I recount in this article Francis Ball 1893-1905: 'case maker's son' lost, I discovered that, at the age of only twelve years, Francis Joseph Ball had died 6 June 1905. However, the details about child #5 did not appear on either the 1901 or 1911 census, and if not for that number five, I would have never known to look for another child.

So, who was child #5?

Link to the 1901 and 1911 Irish Census materials via The National Archives website.
Link to the Ball Family Census of 1901.
Link to the Ball Family Census of 1911.

Clue #2: All of Child #5's siblings were christened in the same church

Discovering that there had been a fifth child led me back to the parish registers in which I found the baptismal records of the four other Ball children. Patrick Ball had been christened in 1885, and his sister Mary had been christened in 1886; however, there was a significant gap between Mary's christening and that of her brother Christopher in 1889. This gap signalled that it was highly probable I would find the record for child #5 in either 1887 or 1888.

In the 1888 register of St. Kevin's Church, Harrington Street Dublin, I found Jane Ball. Little baby Jane was born 22 May 1888, and was baptized 1 June 1888.

Baptism of Jane Ball, daughter of Francis Ball and Jane Early, 1 June 1888.
Teresa Early, sister of Jane Early was baby Jane's baptismal sponsor.
Click on image to view larger version.
These registers comprise part of the collection of Dublin parish registers which can now be viewed online for no charge on the Irish government website Irish Genealogy.

Clue #3: Birth and Death registrations at the G.R.O.

Birth registration of baby Jane.
Click on image to view larger version.
Since I now knew that Jane was born 22 May 1888, and I knew there was no record of her in the 1901 census, the likely assumption was that she had died sometime between June of 1888, when she was christened, and April 1901, when the census was taken. With this in mind, I began to search for a death registration in the reading room of the General Register Office in Dublin. I did not have to look for very long before I found her in the listings of 1889. Jane Ball died 28 August 1889, at only fifteen months of age. Her cause of death notation reads, 'Diarrhoea dentition, 9 days certified'.

Death registration of baby Jane.
Note her condition, i.e. marital status, Jane is referred to as 'Spinster'.
Clue #4: Her brother had been interred at Glasnevin

When their son Francis Joseph died in 1905, Jane Early and her husband Francis Ball had their son interred in Glasnevin cemetery; therefore, I decided to check to see if baby Jane Ball had been interred in Glasnevin as well. My idea found substance when I discovered a record for Jane in the register of Glasnevin cemetery. Jane Ball was interred two days after her death, on 30 August 1889; she is buried in the St. Patrick's section of Glasnevin Cemetery, not far from the St. Brigid's section in which her brother would be interred in 1905.

Extract from Glasnevin Burial Register 1889.
Click on image to view larger version.
Link to the genealogy research page of Glasnevin Trust in order to search the cemetery registers. The search is free; there is a fee for viewing the full record.
Click on image to view larger version.

I found child #5. She was baby Jane Ball, the second born daughter, and third born child of my maternal great-grandparents Francis Ball and Jane Early.

Of course, I am only left to imagine the impact Jane's birth and death had on her family. When Jane was born her family lived at 16 Montague Street in Dublin City. It would have been only a short walk to take the children to St. Stephen's Green to enjoy a summer's day. In the August of Jane's death only fifteen months later, the family was living at 16 Merchant's Quay in a tenement fronting the river Liffey.

At the time of baby Jane’s death, her mother Jane was carrying her third born son, Christopher. Since he was born in December of the year in which she died, Christopher would never know his elder sister Jane. Christopher was christened on the same day as his birth. I find myself wondering, was it the fear and pain of losing their baby daughter Jane that led Francis and Jane to have Christopher baptized on the same day he was born?

There are no answers to any of the questions which now remain, only these documents, the bare bones of a life. They must serve as remembrances of the life of baby Jane Ball, daughter of a box maker.

Click on all images to view a larger version.


  1. I'm glad you found baby Jane - the 1911 Census gives us more information than previous returns. I enjoyed following your train of thought as you researched too :-)

  2. Hi Jo,

    Thanks for your comments on this post. I really appreciate them. I find myself going back to the 1911 census time and again. Looking at it with fresh eyes even brings inspiration, occasionally.


  3. Thanks for a good tip re Glasnevin and a logical and clearly set out process...very helpful.

  4. Hi Pauleen,

    Thanks for your comments on this post. I am a big fan of Glasnevin because of the way in which they have digitized and given online access to their parish registers. It has certainly changed a lot from just a few years ago (2007) when you had to ask the somewhat cranky personnel in the tiny office near the front gate.



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