Monday, March 31, 2014

Fearless Females: 'The Woman with the Joie de Vivre!'

On this last day of Women's History Month, I remember Mary Catherine 'Mollie' Magee Halpin, a grand-aunt who in my opinion exemplified the phrase 'joie de vivre'. On our family tree Mollie is my father's aunt, sister to his mother, my grandmother Anne Mary 'Annie' Magee Geraghty. Although she was our grand-aunt, we addressed her in the same way my dad did, and called her Auntie Mollie.

When I was a child it seemed to me that Auntie Mollie was the tallest woman I had ever seen; she appeared to stand head and shoulders above all of the women around her, and even some of the men.

Taken on 25 August, 1930, the studio portrait of Mollie on an oversized hobby horse accentuates just how tall she was, and reminds me of the 'joie de vivre' — literally: 'joy of living' — Mollie had for life. Although I was not given this photograph until long after Mollie had passed away, I can well imagine her laughing at the sight of it, and then sharing a story about it. Mollie had a great sense of humour, and her raspy voice and deep throaty laugh played off the timbre of her lovely Dublin accent.

Since my grandmother died years before I was born, in some ways Mollie filled that role for me. Sometimes I would write to Auntie Mollie, tell her about my hopes and dreams, and share my little stories. Mollie understood my love for literature and history, and she encouraged me to explore my own creative talents. When she was a young woman Mollie used to write poetry. At parties and family gatherings, she often recited her latest creation from a book of her own verse which she always carried.

Auntie Mollie loved wearing hats, and in addition to her penchant for hats, Mollie loved costume jewellery, especially dress pins which she would affix either at her shoulder or at her décolletage. It seemed the bigger the pin, the better Mollie liked it. Whenever she gave you a hug, you might come away from her embrace with the imprint of the pin, or a slight nick, on your forehead.

When it came to revealing her age, Mollie liked to tinker with the numbers a bit, so hopefully she will not be spinning in her grave when I tell you that she was born 23 March 1905 and lived until the age of 91. Christened Mary Catherine, but all her life called Mollie, she was the fifth and last born child of Patrick Magee and Mary Dunne. Mollie grew up in Stoneybatter, Dublin, with her elder siblings Michael Francis, Anne Mary and Francis Leo.

Auntie Mollie once told me that she was immensely proud of all the members of her family. Her father Patrick and brothers Michael and Francis were employed by Jameson Distillery. All three were scribers, men who engraved the Jameson logo and other information on the barrels. Both Patrick and Francis became managers, with Francis and his family eventually living onsite and overseeing the entire Smithfield distillery. Mollie's sister Anne had been a member of Cumann na mBan — the women's branch of the IRA — and their brother Michael had lost his life during the War of Independence, as a member of the Irish Volunteers. In their memory, in 1966 on the 50th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising, Auntie Mollie donned the medals her sister and brother had earned for their service and proudly marched in the parade to the GPO.

My father used to say Mollie was fiercely independent, so much so that apparently some members of the family wondered if she would ever marry. Mollie’s independent inclinations were perhaps spurred on by the fact that when she was a young woman she helped to support her family by working outside the home. When Mollie was a teenager she was employed as a ‘tailoress’ by the Cork & Bandon Clothing Company on Bridge Street, Dublin. Records from 1924 show that, by the age of 19 years, Mollie was employed by Cork & Bandon for eight months out of each year. She earned 15 shillings per week, almost all of which she contributed to the household.

Mollie with her beloved husband Willie
Mollie did marry. In the summer of 1932, at the age of 27 years, Mollie married a lovely gentleman named William Halpin, the son of Robert and Kathleen Halpin, and ever after they were Mollie and Willie. To me, he was Uncle Willie, a gentle soul with a shock of white hair, who was very kind and soft spoken, and had a wonderful sense of humour.

Unfortunately Mollie and Willie were never able to have children of their own. In a predominantly Catholic country in which motherhood is enshrined in the constitution, it must have been difficult for a childless woman like Mollie. Although she and Willie had no children, they were a good support for their nieces and nephews. When my father and his brother Patrick were children, Auntie Mollie and Uncle Willie often took the two boys along with them when they went on holiday in the summertime.

After she was married, Mollie continued to work outside the home. Mollie was employed by the Irish Sweepstakes Office in Dublin, something which thrilled me on a visit when I was a teenager. I remember her giving us a guided tour of the place, including a look at the original big drum in which all the tickets were spun.

During their married life, Mollie and Willie lived in the artisan's cottage at #11 Swords Street in Dublin, a home which was very much like the cottage on Ostman Place in which she grew up, and only seven minutes walk from it. The cottage on Swords Street was a lovely little house which she kept neat as a pin.

Mollie and Willie loved to travel, visiting us on this side of the pond a couple of times, but mostly preferring to travel to continental Europe. One of Mollie's favourite destinations was the South of France. She loved the bright sunshine, the azure blue waters, and the gentle warm breezes wafting in off the Mediterranean Sea. For her it was a world away from rainy Dublin.

On 3 November 1996, Auntie Mollie passed away at the age of 91 years. Uncle Willie had died ten years before her on 5 March 1986. She is interred with Willie and his parents in Deansgrange Cemetery, Blackrock, County Dublin.

The first time I visited their grave, I felt my heart break a little. Auntie Mollie and Uncle Willie had always seemed to me as though they would live forever. From my perspective, both were such warm and happy people, it seemed a shame that the world should no longer have them.

In Memoriam card for Mollie.
On my paternal family tree, my grand-aunt Mary Catherine 'Mollie' Magee Halpin is one of the women who best exemplifies 'joie de vive', the joy of life. Auntie Mollie not only dealt with what life gave her, but also used her talents to the best of her ability, and sought to live life fully, making her one of my fearless females.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Fearless Female: Anne Mary 'Annie' Magee Geraghty & The Cumann na mBan

Today, on this 26th day of March, I remember my paternal grandmother Anne Mary 'Annie' Magee Geraghty on the sixty-first anniversary of her death. With deep gratitude to Lisa Alzo, who created the series Fearless Females, in honour of Women's History Month, I am once again posting the remarkable history of my grandmother Annie as a member of Cumann na mBan — the Council of Women — a history I first shared in 2010.

Anne Mary 'Annie' Magee Geraghty, 1900-1953.
When I think about all of the women on my family tree, I would describe each and every one of them as courageous, but Annie's courage revealed itself in a way which was quite different from many of my other female ancestors. Annie first revealed herself to be a fearless female when she was only a teenager, aged sixteen.

To me, grandmother Annie is máthair Chríona (MAW her KHREE un na), a very old Irish name for grandmother which translated means 'mother of my heart'. My grandmother died long before I was ever thought of, and for a child who has never known either of her grandmothers, it is only within the heart and on the pages of history that grandmother Annie can exist. Like so many ordinary Irish women of her generation much of her story went with her to her grave.

As is the case in many families whose daughters were in the ranks of what Eamon DeValera referred to as the 'unmanageable revolutionaries', in my family the story of Annie's connection with the Irish women's military organization Cumann na mBan was one not easily shared. For some families it was a mark of shame that their daughters should engage in what might be viewed as unfeminine activity, for others it was not a point of pride until long after the hostilities had ended.

When I was a young child, during a gathering my parents had with their fellow immigrant Irish friends, the topic turned to Irish politics. Although I was long supposed to have been in bed, I sat at the top of the stairs listening to the conversation, and heard my father say that his mother had been in the IRA. My mother quickly countered, saying that his claim was untrue, and turning the conversation to something more benign.

A couple of days later I asked my mother about my grandmother and the IRA, and she said talking about Ireland's political past makes some people very uncomfortable, so you have to be careful about what you say. I pushed the matter, and asked again, was the claim about my grandmother true? Mom's answer was to scold me for eavesdropping on adult conversation, and to warn me not to do it again.

Over the years of my growing up little glimpses of grandmother Annie's history revealed themselves. There was the story about my grand-aunt Mollie marching in a Dublin parade bearing the service medals of Annie and their brother Michael. There was more talk about Ireland and politics in which the subject of my grandmother was still not openly discussed, but there was the encouragement of my father when I was in university, bidding me to learn more about Irish history.

In March of 2000, with the death of my father imminent, his sister Kathleen travelled from England to visit with him and say goodbye. During her visit we talked about their family. Both Aunt Kathleen and my dad confirmed that yes it was true, long ago their mother Annie, my grandmother, had been a member of Cumann na mBan, the women's wing of the IRA, and had in fact earned a small pension for her service during the Irish War of Independence. Beyond that, they knew very little. As my dad said, their mom did not discuss her history with them; theirs was not that sort of family. It was then that I began the search in earnest for the history of Dad's mother, my grandmother, Annie Magee Geraghty, a history within Ireland's history of revolution.

Armed with evidence of my status as next-of-kin to Anne Magee Geraghty, I applied to the Military Pensions branch of the Irish government for access to Annie's file. Almost a full year later, I received a copy of most of the file 1. Before I received these documents, which would detail Annie's history in Cumann na mBan, I had made a habit of searching through the indexes of the texts I studied which detail Irish history in the early twentieth century. Time and again I hoped to find the name Anne Magee in those books, but never did it appear. 

Replica Cumann na mBan Brooch
Annie & the Cumann na mBan

Life would change in a marked way for Annie early in September of 1917 when, at the age of sixteen, she joined the women’s organization Cumann na mBan. Although in her later life she did not tell her children exactly why she joined, it is clear from her pension record that she worked in support of her older brother Michael, who had been a member of the Irish Volunteers since 1913.

After the 1916 Easter Rising, Michael was incarcerated in Stafford Prison in England and in Frongoch Internment camp in Wales for the part he played as a Section Commander with the First Battalion, Dublin Brigade, under the command of Commandant Edward 'Ned' Daly in North King Street and the Four Courts, Dublin.

Perhaps, like her brother, Annie believed that their lives would really improve if Ireland were not under British rule, or maybe it was just an adventure. In No Ordinary Women, Sinéad McCoole writes, “Young women found independence and adventure in their work, and the sense of freedom in an era when women’s social life was highly restricted.”

Anne 'Annie' Magee remained in the service of the Colmcille branch of Cumann na mBan until the Truce of July 1921. According to her military pension record, Annie was a member of 'A' Company, First Division, IRA Brigade, Colmcille Hall, Division No. 5, Blackhall Street. Her Cumann na mBan company mirrored that of her brother’s IRA company, and through her membership she would become intimately acquainted with the sort of work her brother did. Annie's brigade commanding officers were Captains Sally and Josie Neary; her Battalion commander was Bridie O’Reilly, and her company Commandant was a woman named Kennedy.

Cumann na mBan companies marching on the north side of the quays.
On her medal application Annie describes her service quite simply as “anything I was required to do”. On page after page Annie outlines her duties as a girl in the Cumann na mBan. Of her activity during the period from 1917 to 1918 she writes,

"I attended all the parades of the Cumann. During that period I helped in such activities as the preparing and dispatching of comforts to the 1916 prisoners then incarcerated in various prisons in Britain. I marched with the Cumann on orders at the funerals of the late Thomas Ashe and the late Frank Cullen."

Annie also took "an active part in election work which secured the return of Mr. Michael Staines" in the 1918 election. With the defeat of John D. Nugent, Staines became Sinn Féin MP for the Dublin North constituency of St. Michan’s.

Cumann na mBan women were active in the campaign against the British enactment of the conscription of Irish men for service in World War I. Annie describes her duties in this campaign as,

“I helped in making first aid outfits in view of the fact that Britain declared her intention of enforcing the Act and grave danger of hostilities existed.”

As many rank and file members of Cumann na mBan did during this period, Annie Magee was ordered to conduct a campaign of house to house collections of monies to augment the funds of the IRA.

Throughout 1919 and 1920 Annie remained with the Colmcille Branch of Cumann na mBan. Annie’s assigned duties included carrying ammunition to and from the dumps in St. Michan’s Park and Halston Street. (‘Dump’ is the name which was given to a place where guns and ammunition were stored so that they could be easily accessed for use by members of the IRA.) Annie writes,

“All of these activities were undertaken on orders from the c o of the branch, then Mrs. Josephine Flood, a sister of the late Mrs. Sally Henderson”.

In a letter written to me after the death of my father, my Aunt Kathleen said she had been told by Annie's sister Mollie that during this period her mother Annie wore a shawl and the sort of very long and full skirts you might see on a Connemara woman, not her usual style. Apparently Annie did this so she could more easily conceal guns and ammunition within the folds of her clothing, to ensure ease of transport to and from the dumps. In No Ordinary Women Sinéad McCoole writes, “[The women] acted as lookouts and scouts, hid weapons and documentation, and when the need arose, they formed guards of honour at funeral processions.”.

In the fall of 1920 and into 1921 the violence of the guerrilla war escalated exponentially, and of this time Annie writes,

“About this period ambushes were of frequent occurence [sic] and my brother, the late Michael Magee was under constant observation due to his many activities. On instructions from him I carried his short Lee Enfield rifle from 20 Ostman where we resided to a dump in St. Michan’s Park Green Street. I left the rifle there for safe keeping and called for the rifle when occasion demanded.”

From April of 1920 until the Truce of July 1921, Annie continued to serve as a member of Cumann na mBan at the Colmcille Branch, then under the command of Mrs Brigid O’Reilly. During this time her duties became ever more dangerous, as she continued to aid her brother in his actions until his death in January of 1921, and afterward until the truce in July. Of this she writes,

“My late brother being a member of the ASU, any operation undertaken by me on his behalf was of necessity deemed active service”.

 Annie describes what was to be the last meeting with her brother on 15 January 1921:

"On the Saturday previous to my brother’s death in action...I carried his .45 automatic by appointment to him leaving him at Findlater Lane. This action was done under instructions from my late brother who at this period was a member of the ASU and in constant danger."

Annie & her brother Michael c. 1919/20
Annie's brother Michael, or Mick as he was better known in the Dublin Active Service Unit, died 22 January 1921, as a result of gunshot wounds he sustained in the abortive ambush at Drumcondra, 21 January 1921. Despite the loss of her brother, Annie continued her service to Cumann na mBan, at great personal risk. She notes,

“Owing to my brother’s activities and subsequent death in action, all of my service at this period was dangerous for me”.

Annie continued to carry arms and ammunition to the arms dump in St. Michan’s Park for safe keeping. She often carried ammunition from the home of Mr. Michael Kelly of 6 Manor Street, “as Mr. Kelly’s house was being constantly raided at this particular time”. In their own household Annie and her family learned what it was to be raided when, after the shooting and capture of her brother Michael, British soldiers turned up to search and ransack their little cottage on Ostman Place, on the afternoon of 21 January 1921.

Annie engaged in a particularly dangerous and remarkable action in March of 1921. She describes it as follows,

"During a raid by British forces of the 1st Battalion H.Q. at Colmcille Hall on or about the 14th March 1921, I succeeded in obtaining about 40 rounds of ammunition from members of A company 1st Battalion which I transferred to a house in Anne Street."

The house to which Annie transported the 40 rounds of ammunition was a considerable distance from Colmcille Hall. Annie was travelling on foot, and would have been in great danger. British soldiers were on duty throughout the city, and ordinary citizens were regularly being stopped and searched. Given the proclamation of Martial law of 12 December 1920 — which stated that it was a crime punishable by death for any unauthorized person caught with arms or ammunition — I cannot imagine what might have become of her had she been caught on her way to Anne Street.

At no time was Annie Magee ever absent from duty. Annie’s service to Cumann na mBan ended with the Truce of July 1921. There is no information in her pension record about any activity by her during the Irish Civil War, so initially I did not know on what side of that conflict her loyalties lay. However, in the pension application for her brother Michael — submitted by their father Patrick Magee — Patrick indicates that Annie "will continue to do all in her power to help on the good work of upholding the policy we all believe in and will vote to maintain, that's the Free State government which my son Michael died to bring about."2


On 15 February 1928, at the age of twenty-seven, Annie married John Geraghty, a man eleven years her senior. By all accounts it was not a happy marriage, but perhaps the only way in which to reign in the spirit of a revolutionary. Annie and her husband John had seven children together, all of whom survived to adulthood.

In 1944 Annie applied for the Service Medal (1917-1921) in respect of her duties in Cumann na mBan, Dublin. The Medal was awarded and issued to her on 11 May 1945. On 22 May 1945, she applied for a pension under the provisions of the Military Service Pensions Act 1934. Despite the fact that each and every claim in her application was supported by affidavits from her own commanding officers, as well as other high ranking officials, including Joe Dolan, a member of Michael Collins' notorious 'Squad', Annie's application was unsuccessful.

In 1950, Annie made a petition under the Military Service Pensions Act 1949 for a re-investigation of her application. Subsequently Annie was awarded a pension under this act; however, despite the fact that she served in Cumann na mBan for approximately 4 years, she was only allowed 2 years service for pension purposes 3.

After the passage of five years, numerous letters, and witness testimony on her behalf, in November of 1950 Annie finally received a pension. She was given £10 per year for her service in Cumann na mBan. During the years she fought to receive this paltry pension Annie Magee Geraghty lost much of her eyesight, and was almost totally blind by the time it was awarded to her. By the time of her death she had received £20 in total.

Anne Mary 'Annie' Magee Geraghty died 26 March 1953 at Sir Patrick Dun Hospital, Dublin. Annie is interred with her elder brother Michael and their parents Mary and Patrick, 'with her own people', as my mom used to say.

During her short life of 52 years Annie not only supported the fight for Ireland, but she was also a daughter and a sister, a wife, and a mother. Each and every morning as I sit down at my desk to work, I look at the photograph of my grandmother Annie which hangs above my desk. I think about her and her brother Michael, and the sacrifices their family made in the fight to free Ireland from British rule 4. I remember them and keep them alive in my heart, my Máthair Chríona and her kin.



1. The government of the Republic of Ireland redacts some of the content of those military pension application records which have not yet been released. Next-of-kin are not given access to referee's notes and affidavits, nor to other materials attached to the file. Exceptions to this policy have been made, but only for a privileged few, such as American actor Martin Sheen.

2. from letter written by Patrick Magee to General Richard Mulcahy, 8 August 1923, Military Pension Record of Michael Magee, Register #1/D/73, PB 21, Bureau of Military History Archives.

3. The denial of a pension application, and the veteran asking for a review of such a denial was not unusual in the period. Although initially it might appear that such an application should be a straight forward matter, the pension application process was very complex, subject to strict and sometimes evolving standards, which must be understood within the context of the social and political history of the period in which pensions were awarded. See Military Service Pensions Collection on the Bureau of Military History Archives website.

4. Consideration of the participation of Annie and her brother Michael in the independence movement also brings me to the service of their maternal uncle William Dunne, who was killed on the battlefield in Belgium 20 November 1914. William had served with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers for 14 years prior to his death. During his time with the RDF William lived with Anne and Michael and their parents and siblings whenever he was on leave from duty. This sort of blurring of the lines — some members of a family fighting for the British while others fought against them — is very much a part of the history of many Irish families. (see The big guns are coughing...


McCoole, Sinéad. No Ordinary Women: Irish Female Activists in the Revolutionary Years, Dublin, 2003.
Military Pensions Records: Mrs. Anne Magee Geraghty (Held Privately).

All images are from a private family archive and may not be reproduced by anyone in any format without prior written permission.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

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

At the heart of Dublin City centre, at the head of what was in 1882 called Sackville Street — the name was changed to O’Connell Street in 1924 — stands the monument to the glory of ‘The Great Liberator’, Daniel O’Connell.

The monument is replete with figures and symbols of Irish history, and is composed is in three distinct sections of stone and bronze sculptures, with the statue of Daniel O’Connell standing at the very top. The middle section comprises a collection of nearly thirty individual figures in a three-dimensional frieze. Represented here are persons from all walks of life including the peasantry and the professions, the arts and the trades, and of course the Catholic Church.

At the forefront of the ring of figures in the frieze is the Maid of Erin. Her left hand holds a parchment bearing the 1829 Act of Catholic Emancipation, and her right arm is poised above her head with her finger pointing to the Great Liberator, Daniel O’Connell.

Although the monument stands 12 metres tall (40ft), with the cloaked bronze figure of O’Connell taking up 3.65 (12ft) of those 12 metres, it is the angels — wingéd victories, as they were called at their inception — to which I have always been most drawn. From their places seated around the base of Daniel O'Connell's statue, they have fascinated me since I first laid eyes on them on my first trip to Dublin when I was a child. I feel a special sort of connection to them, because of the memories they evoke in my mind, and because they have stood witness to landmark events in Irish history.

Each one of the angels was crafted to represent a virtue most readily associated with Daniel O’Connell — courage, eloquence, fidelity and patriotism. It is said that each one also represents an individual province in Ireland, the provinces being Munster, Leinster, Ulster, and Connaught.

Three of the angels bear bullet holes — one in its left arm, two with a wound in the chest — markers of the 1916 Easter Rising and the Irish War of Independence. The figure of fidelity has an Irish Wolfhound at her feet, a breed of dog which has existed in Ireland since at least the 4th century. Irish Wolfhounds often appear in nationalist images, possibly because the breed is prized for its noble bearing, intelligence and keen ability to recognize the difference between good and evil.

Great fanfare accompanied the unveiling of the monument on 15 August 1882. Thousands of Irish had already descended on the capital for various celebrations. Over 250,000 came to attend the Industrial and Agricultural Exhibition in the Rotunda Gardens, the principal focus of which was Irish products and industry, while others were in Dublin to mark the centenary of Grattan’s Parliament.

It is said that not only did a great roar rise up from ‘ten thousand throats’ as the veil was pulled revealing the monument, but that rain ceased and the sun broke through the clouds to light the monument and reveal it in all of its splendour. Interestingly, none of the winged victories bronzes was present at the time of the unveiling of the monument. Two had already been cast, but the decision was made not to add them until all four were complete. Finally in 1886, the four angels took their rightful place around the base of the plinth.

Those who donated money in order that the monument might come to fruition ranged from the requisite Esquires and Very Reverends to ‘a true Irishman’ and ‘a Liberal Protestant’, as well as a number of benefactors who wished to remain ‘anonymous’. The subscription list in the Report of the O'Connell Monument Committee is a marvellous document to peruse, and is a great little census substitute, so be sure to have a look at it if you are in search of ancestors. Although many entries fall under 'miscellaneous', quite a number include not only the amount donated but also the name and address of the donor.

Especially striking are those donations made by children, with a donation of one penny being given by ‘a widow’s mite’, and a donation of six pence made by “a little boy, it being his Patrick’s Day Contribution”. Members of the Chimney Cleaners’ Association and the Pawnbrokers Assistants’ Association of Dublin are among those who gave monies, along with Bootmakers, Cabinet Makers, school boys and those in the Silk Trade. The subscriptions listed cross all social classes and income levels, and were drawn from all over Ireland, from townlands and counties near and far, and even from beyond Ireland’s shores.


The Campaign for Catholic Emancipation, 1823-1829, University College Cork Multitext History Project, University College Cork.

The Freeman's Journal, Dublin, 16 August 1882.

The Very Rev. John Canon O'Hanlon, P.P., The Report of the O'Connell Monument Committee, J. Duffy and Co. Ltd., Dublin, 1888. (via the Open Library)

Thanks to Postcardy for suggesting the theme of statues and monuments for this Sepia Saturday #220. Be sure to stop by the Sepia Saturday blog to see how others have interpreted today's theme, and perhaps you'll be inspired too.

Click on images to view larger versions.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Falsehoods, fibs, & other fabrications: re: Four Courts fire, GRO and '26 Census

On this Tuesday’s Tips, it is once again time to deal with falsehoods, fibs and other fabrications, and correct some of the misinformation about Irish records that is floating around internet land. In each case I have stated the false or misleading claim that has been made, and followed it with information which explains the truth of the matter. In addition, I have included a number of informative online sources which may assist you in your search for your own Irish ancestors.

The Four Courts, western aspect.

'All the records in The Four Courts were destroyed during the 1922 Rebellion'.


First off, there was no 1922 Rebellion. Second, not ‘all’ of the records were destroyed.

Brief details on a timeline:

24 April 1916: The 1916 Easter Rising begins in Dublin. It is quashed by the British in six days. It is referred to as the Easter Rebellion, but is widely known as the 1916 Easter Rising, or simply The Easter Rising.  

1919-1921: The Irish War of Independence took place from 1919 until the truce of July 1921. The Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed by Britain and Ireland in December of 1921, and ratified in January of 1922, resulting in the formation of the Irish Free State. However, not all involved parties in Ireland were happy with the result. The divide was so deep that it led to the Irish Civil War.

1922-1923: June of 1922 saw the start of the Irish Civil War which lasted until May of 1923.

It was in 1922 — during the Irish Civil War — that the Public Records Office in the Four Courts complex was destroyed.

On 28 June 1922, the first shots of the Irish Civil War rang out. Two days later, 30 June 1922, the west wing of the Four Courts complex was very badly damaged by a huge explosion and fire. At that time the Irish Public Records Office was located  in the west wing at the rear of the building.

See this post —> Going to the bookshelf to find family history for a couple of suggestions of books you might want to read in order to make a start toward learning more about this period in Irish history.

Also, be sure to visit the National Library of Ireland's excellent online exhibition:
The 1916 Rising: Personalities & Perspectives.

From my collection of ephemera: A 'postcard' view of the damaged Four Courts.

'There are no extant Church of Ireland parish registers, because they were ALL destroyed by the fire in The Four Courts'.


The blast and ensuing fire in the Four Courts resulted in significant losses, that is true, with official estimates saying well over 500 Church of Ireland parish registers were destroyed, as well as some other records of genealogical import; however, it is estimated that over 600 parish registers survived the destruction.

Ironically, concern over the safe storage of such records led to an 1875 amendment to the Public Record Office Act of 1867 (PRO 1867). The change in law required that all Church of Ireland (COI) parish registers, as well as other parochial records, be sent to Dublin for safe keeping in the new Public Records Office in the Four Courts. You can read the amended act —> here.

Changes to the PRO Act in 1876 gave the COI parishes the option of having their registers returned to them, so those registers could be kept in local custody, so long as they could prove they would provide safe storage, and a number of parishes exercised this option. If you want answers about exactly which Church of Ireland parish registers are extant, then you need to visit The Representative Church Body of Ireland website.

Members of the church are currently engaged in The Anglican Record Project, an ongoing programme to transcribe and digitize extant parish registers. A number of registers are already available online, not only for viewing but for downloading too. These registers hold records of Baptism (with many including birth date), Marriage and Burial, with some dating to as early as 1666.

Here is a fine example of the kind of information you will find in the transcriptions of the parish registers, this one from Christ Church, Delgany, Diocese of Glendalough, County Wicklow.

In the registers for the Cloghran Parish, Diocese of Dublin, County Dublin, there are some Roman Catholic burials noted — denoted by the 'RC' in the entry. The transcription of the Cloghran parish registers has Baptism records from 1782-1864, Marriage records from 1732, and 1782-1839, and Burial records from 1732-1864.

'There are no pre-1922 civil registration records of birth, marriage and death, because they were all completely destroyed in the fire at The Four Courts'.


Civil registration records of birth, marriage and death were NEVER stored in the Public Records Office at The Four Courts.

The ongoing confusion over this appears to stem from the fact that some researchers believe the Public Records Office (PRO) and the General Register Office (GRO) are one in the same. In fact, they are separate entities. See this —> Madness Monday post for further explanation.

The civil registration of non-Catholic marriages began in 1845. In 1863, bills were introduced in Parliament in order to change the law governing civil registration in order to include Catholic marriages, along with all births and deaths. Thus, beginning in 1864, civil registration included ALL births, marriages, and deaths on the island of Ireland. The Irish were legally compelled to register, and subject to fines if they failed to do so; however, this does not mean that everyone followed the law. Sometimes registrations were late, with dates of events changed to avoid fines, and some people simply did not register these life events.

If you are interested in acquiring copies of civil registration records for births, marriages and deaths visit the General Register Office website for full details. This link —> The History of Civil Registration will bring you to the GRO's full account of their history of registering births, marriages and deaths.


'The 1926 census is going to be released any day now. They’re working on it.'


Current Official Status: The 1926 Census Returns will be released to public inspection in January 2027.

Although the 1926 census returns are held in the National Archives of Ireland, the records are under the control of the Central Statistics Office (CSO). Not even the staff of the National Archives are permitted to view the returns, and the CSO has indicated the census will not be released until January 2027

Pádraig Dalton is the Director General of the Central Statistics Office, and as recently as 28 January 2014, he was in a committee meeting in the Dáil Éireann, the Assembly of Ireland, to discuss “a plan to capture the full value of our genealogical heritage”.
You can view the transcript of that meeting here on The Houses of the Oireachtas website.


Never let it be said that officials cannot be persuaded to change their minds. Even the most intransigent politicos and chief civil servants might sometimes be swayed, but we have to do our part.

Continuing the push for the release of the 1926 census is very important.

Visit the website of the Council of Irish Genealogical Organisations (CIGO) for more information and links to sign the petition asking for the opening of the census.

If you are interested in statistics — numbers and percentages, no names — for 1926, as well as other census years, then visit the website of the Central Statistics Office. There are a number of interesting statistics pages on this site that will whet your appetite for the 1926 census. For example, on the pages about jobs in 1926 in the Irish Free State, 9 women are counted among the 2, 599 persons who worked in Mining and Quarrying occupations. Also, 114 women are counted among the 47, 671 persons working in 1926 as builders, bricklayers, stone workers and contractors. Out of 5, 333 persons claiming the occupation of painter and decorator, 5, 298 of them are men and only 35 are women. Lots of interesting information for your consideration.

As always, the Best of Luck to you with your research!


Click on images to view larger versions.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Remembering Dad

Today, on the 14th anniversary of his death, I fondly remember my father, Michael Francis Geraghty.

It is hard to believe it has been fourteen years since my dad drew his last breath. Sometimes I feel as though he is still with us, especially when I am alone driving my car. There are little moments when — just for a split second — I catch a glimpse of him in the rear view mirror, or suddenly the scent of his tobacco is in my nose, and memories come rushing in.

Dad was a hard-working man who had simple tastes. He was a straight-shooter who disliked haughty people. He loved his family and his home, liked to play golf, and loved to travel. His last holiday — just a few months before his death — took him and Mom once again back home to Ireland. On that trip they visited some of the places that had meant the most to him during his life. Although at the time of the trip we had no inkling of his illness, Mom used to say that when she thought about it after he died, it seemed as though on that trip he was saying goodbye to the land he loved.

In the past few weeks, recollections of small but special moments have come back to me:
Walking with Dad at dusk through a cow field to get to an abandoned ruin in the Irish countryside;
Driving with Dad through the Twelve Bens, while he shared stories with us of cycling through the mountains;
Dad catching, as my brother Mike hit the hurly ball to him, one beautiful and bright afternoon on the shores of Dingle bay.

Sometimes I get lost in little glimpses:
Dad's hands, smoothing his hair, or moving through the air as he spoke.
Dad standing in the kitchen on a Sunday morning with bacon, eggs and black pudding on the cooker.
Resonances of the deep sigh Dad used to make when he was very frustrated, and the sound of the quiet way in which he laughed, have visited me of late.

The passage of time makes these small recollections ever more precious.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Sepia Saturday #219: Within this plain facade...

Viewing the simple exterior of the Church of St. Nicholas of Myra on Francis Street in the Liberties area of Dublin City, Ireland, you would never imagine its interior would hold such an array of beautiful colour, texture, and light, in the architecture and iconography.

According to church history, there has been a place of worship on this site since the 11th century, and the original church was built in 1265. The building of the church in its present incarnation began in 1829. It was opened in 1834 and dedicated in 1835. In addition, extant church registers hold all baptismal records for Catholics born at the original site of the Coombe Hospital between 1783 and 1967, as well as some baptismal records for children born on the Isle of Man.

For more information about the church, visit their website via this link The Church of St. Nicholas of Myra. For full information about acquiring records and about how to access a small number of password protected transcribed records, which are available for online viewing, visit this link.

Thanks to Wendy Mathias for the inspiration image for today's post. Be sure to stop by the Sepia Saturday blog to see how others have interpreted this theme, and perhaps you will be inspired too.

Click on images to view larger versions.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Between the pages in a prayer book...

In addition to the prayer cards, In Memoriam cards, and numerous obituaries my mother kept between the pages of her prayer books, I found this news clipping. It was folded up very small and tucked into the very centre of a prayer book.

The article is from the Irish Press, dated 5 July 1951, and entitled 'They Become Blue Sisters'.  The clipping details in images the ceremony of receiving the habit of congregation, which joined these young woman, as nuns, to the community of the Little Company of Mary, popularly known as the Blue Nuns. The ceremony took place in Rome, Italy. The image in the bottom right, with the nuns in full habit, was taken in the garden of the Mother House, Via San Stefano Rotundo, Rome.

When I first found the clipping I had no idea why my mom had kept it. My mother had celebrated her 20th birthday in May of 1951, so I wondered if she was connected to one of the young women in the photograph. When perusing the names, I noticed two from Dublin, and wondered, had my mom known either of these two women, or any of the other women in the picture, and thus kept the clipping as a remembrance of this special time?

Founded in 1877 by the Venerable Mary Potter, whose own mother Mary Martin was Irish born, the Blue Sisters' first community was in Nottingham, England. The vocation of the Blue Sisters is the nursing of the sick and the dying. The name 'Blue Sisters' finds its origins in the fact that their original traditional habit — tunic, veil and wimple — was partially blue, specifically the veil. The article gives a list of the branches of nursing for which nuns were qualified, as follows:

All the Sisters study for the State Qualification in the various countries in which their hospitals are established, and all branches of nursing are included: General, maternity, mental, public health, infant welfare, mothercraft, etc. The Sisters are also trained in X-ray, pathology, occupational therapy and bookkeeping.

By 1951, when this article was published, the order had five convents in Ireland — Limerick, Fermoy, Abbeyleix, Carlow and Dublin — as well as foundations in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, South America, the United States, South Africa, Rhodesia, and Malta.

A couple of days after I found the clipping, I did a little research to find the Mother House of the Little Company of Mary in Ireland. After locating their address, I sent an email, along with a copy of the clipping, and asked if it could be passed along to anyone featured in the article who might still be connected to the community. After the passage of so many years, I wondered if seeing the clipping might spark memories in those who viewed it, and in particular any recollections of my mother. Whether or not I could make a connection, I imagined seeing the article might evoke happy memories for someone.

A little while later, I received a lovely email from the Mother House sending me blessings, thanking me for the clipping, and saying they would pass it along. A few days after that I received another message. This message is from one of the nuns in the images. In part it reads:

Dear Jennifer,

Firstly I would like to start by offering you my very sincere sympathy on the death of your beloved mother, may her gentle soul rest in peace.

Unfortunately Jennifer I did not have the pleasure of knowing your dear mother, at least not to my knowledge unless I had dealings with her on the medical field as I was a nurse in my younger days. I feel she must have been a very special Lady and the fact that she kept the pictures in her prayer book she no doubt said the occasional prayer for all of us which I am deeply grateful for, as it would have helped me in my vocation.

I was so excited on receiving the pictures as they brought back many happy memories of the various stages of my noviciate days!

My sincere thanks Jennifer for the trouble you went to and for the pleasure you gave me.
God Bless

Although Sister did not know my mom, her reply completely uplifted me, for which I am very grateful. Perhaps I will never discover exactly why my mom kept this article, but I am very glad she did.

Maybe there is someone else out there for whom these names and images will be meaningful. Perhaps one of your family members is among them. Here are the names and place of origin for those included in the photographs, along with their religious name:

Collette White (Liverpool): Sister Collette White
Mary Butler (Kilcommon, Thurles, [Tipperary]): Sister Agatha Butler
Kathleen Fleming (Edinburgh): Sister Catherine Fleming
Nora Fitzgerald (Killarney): Sister Gabriel Fitzgerald

Noreen Fitzgibbon (incorrectly identified as from Dublin; actually from Limerick): Sister Michael Fitzgibbon
Carmel Kidd (Dublin): Sister de Montfort Kidd
Maria [no surname given] (Rome): Sister Maria Goretti

Two other women are included in the image on the bottom right of the article. They are:

Sister Fidelis Mullins (near Gort [Galway])
Sister Antoinette (Argentina)

Below I have posted the article in parts, so that you might get a better view. As always, click on the images to view a larger version.

Are there any Blue Sisters on your family tree?


Saturday, March 8, 2014

Sudden death in Bow Bridge: The Flu Pandemic in Ireland

When I viewed the theme for today's Sepia Saturday post, I was reminded of a discovery made when I expanded my search for information about my paternal great-grandparents Patrick Geraghty and Margaret Toole Geraghty, and their children. In the course of my research, not only did I look for information about them, but I also looked at what was going on in the neighbourhood in which they lived, in their own backyard, so to speak. 'Contextualizing our ancestors' within the place and time in which they lived, may give us a more well rounded idea of what life was like for them.

In the course of searching through newspapers, I came across an In Memoriam notice which sparked my curiosity.  In truth, it was more than a spark, but rather like something akin to a fire.  The notice memorializes Elizabeth Cassidy and her son Thomas. Their deaths occurred within two days of one another, in the home of the Cassidy family, a family who were near neighbours of my paternal great-grandparents.

With a little more searching I found an obituary for one of the victims to whom the memorial notice referred. Oddly enough, the obituary is only for Thomas and mentions his mother as "the late Elizabeth Cassidy". I found it curious that there was no obituary notice published for Elizabeth, so I continued to search.

By 1919, my great-grandfather Patrick Geraghty was a 'car' proprietor (car meaning fly carriage, funeral cortege, barouche, and hansom cab.). His family and his business were both housed in the building at #6.5 Bow Bridge, in close proximity to their neighbours. Right next door, at #7, lived the family of Mr. John Cassidy, a dairyman. Just like Patrick Geraghty, John Cassidy had his family and his business in the same building.

The sudden deaths at home of two of the Geraghty family's close neighbours had my mind racing about what had happened on Bow Bridge on those two days. Was it murder that felled Elizabeth and her son Thomas Cassidy, or did they perish because of a house fire? Was there some sort of terrible accident? The answer to their end was much more shocking than any of these. Elizabeth and Thomas succumbed to the 20th century plague which was the Influenza Pandemic.

After finding these newspaper notices, along with a number of memorials published in the years following their deaths, I retrieved the civil registration death records of Elizabeth and Thomas Cassidy from the General Register Office reading room in Dublin. The records make clear the facts of the matter.

6 March 1919, Elizabeth Cassidy, aged 54 years: cause of death: Myxoedema Influenza Certified.

8 March 1919, Thomas Cassidy, aged 29 years: cause of death: Influenza Septic Pneumonia Certified.
Toward the end of the Great War of 1914-1918, with the onset of the Influenza Pandemic, relief over the end of the war changed once again to despair for many families, not only across Europe, but around the world. Commonly called the Spanish Flu, because it was thought to have had its greatest impact in Spain, it spread across the globe with alarming speed, killing as many as 50 million people worldwide. Although many in Spain died as a result of this flu, the moniker 'Spanish Flu' was likely the result of the fact that there was no newspaper censorship in Spain in the period. Without censorship, reportage about the numbers of those who succumbed to influenza was quick and thorough; therefore, initially Spain was thought to have been the country of origin [1].

Fear made face masks an accessory.
Ireland had already lost almost half of its population to famine deaths and emigration, during the period of the Great Famine of 1845-1852. The prospect of a flu pandemic must have been terrifying, although with little coverage of it in the Irish news of the day, the average citizen may not have been fully aware of the true extent of the pandemic until after all was 'said and done'.  Still in all, whispers of  a fatal illness would have spread just as quickly as a pandemic.

According to annual reports of the Registrar General for Ireland, the official death toll from influenza during this pandemic was 20,057; however, other sources say it is likely to have been closer to just over 23,000. With the population of Ireland around 4.3 million in 1918, this means that at least one in every 200 persons was felled by influenza, during a period of just over one year.

This type of influenza was remarkable for a number of reasons, not the least of which was its impact on young, otherwise healthy, individuals. Without effective treatment, it was a difficult disease to manage, and unlike previous flu outbreaks, this one brought with it sudden savage changes. An individual might seem as though he or she was recovering, only to suddenly die. While flu might at first seem like a cold, with sneezing and coughing, the onset of Spanish Flu was marked by sudden weakness and pain. Most deaths would occur on or about the tenth day of sickness, with pneumonia as the principal complication, and often the attributed cause of death. The manner of death was also quite horrific.

In 1919, the progression of this influenza was described in graphic detail in a medical journal article. Persons suffering 'typical' cases of flu during the pandemic would cough up quantities of blood-stained expectorant or sometimes thick dark blood alone. With the progression of the disease, the lungs of patients would fill with blood, their faces and fingers would become bloated and blue, and their tongues would become dry and brown. In fatal cases, active delirium would come on, with myxoedemic madness — psychosis and hallucinations — sometimes resulting. As a patient's body temperature rapidly fell the whole surface of his/her body would turn blue. Patients literally drowned in their own blood. It must have been an awful sight to behold.

Of course, one can only imagine what the reaction of the Geraghty family might have been at the deaths of their neighbours, but it is easy to think the sudden nature and manner of these deaths might have been met with shock, and some level of fear. I find myself wondering to what extent these deaths affected the Geraghty family. Although all of the Geraghty children survived to adulthood, was anyone in the family ill with the flu at this time? Did the Geraghty family assist or ignore their near neighbours? Did Mr. Geraghty's car proprietorship provide the funeral cortege which took Elizabeth and Thomas Cassidy 'by road' to the New Cemetery, Naas, County Kildare for interment?

As an addendum to this story, it is interesting to note oddities in the memorial notices published in the years following the deaths of Elizabeth and Thomas. While the year of death is correct in the 1920 first anniversary memorial, in a 1922 notice only Elizabeth's death is memorialized, and her year of death is incorrectly noted as 1920 instead of 1919. In 1923, there were two memorials placed in The Freeman's Journal, one in March which gives the correct dates of the deaths as 6 March 1919 and 8 March 1919 respectively, and one in May which again acknowledges only Elizabeth's death and gives her date of death as 6 May 1920. In a 1924 notice in The Irish Independent newspaper, the year of death given for both Elizabeth and Thomas is 1918. Perhaps the errors in those notices were accidental or perhaps whoever placed those inaccurate notices wanted to forever erase any connection between the flu pandemic and the deaths of Elizabeth and Thomas Cassidy.

References and Note:

Civil registration records:
Cassidy, Elizabeth. Jan-Mar 1919, volume 2, page 763. GRO Research Room, Dublin, Ireland.
Cassidy, Thomas. Jan-Mar 1919, volume 2, page 763. GRO Research Room, Dublin, Ireland.

1918 Annual Report of the Registrar General For Ireland, released in 1919.
Annual report of the Local Government Board for Ireland for year ended 31 March 1919, 1920.
Canadian Medical Association Journal. 1919 May, Volume 9, number 5, pp. 421–426.
The Freeman's Journal Newspaper via the Irish Newspaper Archives, March 1919-1924.
Irish Independent Newspaper via the Irish Newspaper Archives, March 1919-1924.

Foley, Catriona. The Last Irish Plague: The Great Flu Epidemic in Ireland 1918-19, Irish Academic Press, 2011.
Taubenberger Jeffrey K., Morens, D.M. 1918 influenza: The Mother of all Pandemics. CDC Emerg. Infect. Dis. [serial on the Internet]. January, 2006.
Thompson, William J. ‘Mortality from influenza in Ireland’ Dublin Journal of Medical Sciences 4th Series #1, 1920, pp. 174

Image source:

Note: [1] Current scholarship supports the theory that the point of origin for the Spanish Flu was most likely China. See this link for a brief synopsis of the work of Dr. Mark Humphries of Memorial University, Newfoundland.

[This post originally appeared in January of 2013]
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