Byrne, baby, Byrne… Wicklow inferno!

OK, my blog titles are getting worse not better! Welcome, nonetheless, to another Irish genealogy post.

Earlier this week, I was contacted by my fourth cousin, Stephen Macken. Like myself, Stephen runs a family tree website on Stephen worked out, through the SmartMatch system, that we share a set of great-great-great-grandparents. Thomas Boyd, whose first name I hadn’t known until now. married Mary Fields in November 1841. (Until now, I hadn’t known any details about her at all, so I’ve just found my 20th of 64 surnames at the 3-times-great-grandparents!) One of their daughters, Catherine, married a German migrant, Philip Mannweiler, and they had ten children including my great-grandfather, while her elder sister, Mary Anne Boyd married Michael Kinsella, and their son John was Stephen’s great-grandfather.

It made me focus a little more on my Wicklow roots, which had suffered from a bit of neglect as I was busy chasing my Cork and Tyrone roots. In particular, I’m interested in finding out how surnames like Boyd and Fields crop up in seemingly earnest Irish Catholic families in Wicklow in the mid-19th Century. Part of the reason, I guess, is that if a Protestant man married a Catholic woman, while the surname came from the father, the mother would typically pass on the religion, turning previously Protestant names into Catholic ones!

The very useful Failte Romhat website has lots of data on Griffith’s Valuations, the best Census substitute for Ireland for the mid-19th Century. In Wicklow, the valuation was taken in 1852-1853, so it’s a good post-Famine snapshot of Wicklow. Taking the data for the various civil parishes in Wickow, the most common surname – by a good Wicklow mile – is Byrne. Don’t take my word, here’s the by now customary word cloud:

Given that I’m looking for Boyd and Fields, it’s interesting to see that pretty much all the top surnames are Irish Gaelic surnames – Byrne, Toole, Kavanagh, Cullen, Kelly, Murphy, Doyle… (If I’m honest, I do actually have a Farrell and a McGrath, more than likely Wicklow-based, in the same neck of the family tree woods.) I think you’ll agree that Byrne is a little overbearing, though! So I did the cloud again, this time without Byrne. It allows a slightly better perspective of some of the medium tier surnames – in particular some non-Gaelic surnames like Wilson and (if you’ve got your glasses on!) Hopkins, Gilbert and even Powerscourt!

Wicklow Griffiths Valuations, excluding Byrne

Wicklow Griffiths Valuations, excluding Byrne

The good news for those like myself looking into North Wicklow for their roots is that the Catholic records in Bray, for example, go back well beyond what’s typical for Ireland – to before 1800. For those with Protestant ancestors, the news is even better – records for Bray and Delgany go back to 1667! And while it looks like those records are probably not on, they will be on the Irish Family History Foundation’s site ‘soon’, to quote their site.

So who knows where we’ll end up – or rather what surnames we’ll end up with – soon?!

6 Responses

  1. Cool theme for site! Where can i download it?

  2. Hi Yakub, thanks for the comment. I’m using the Digg 3-column theme, available from the Admin part of my wordpress blog.

    In Design – Themes – Custom Image Header, I changed the image header (the wp-admin/admin.php?page=custom-header part of my site) to a photo I took of Clew Bay, County Mayo (Ireland). I can send that photo on to you, if you’d like.

    Thanks for stopping by,


  3. Hi

    My Grandmother was Sadie Manweiler, from Dublin. I have (somewhere in the atic) a family tree that she made for one of my school projects (about 25 years ago). I also have a copy of a letter from the decendants of philip manvieler, who was a bigamist with a family in germany. There is a cottage still standing in Wicklow where he lived with his irish family, the story goes that at his funeral his eldest son stood at the doors of the protestant church and would not let any of his catholic siblings enter.

  4. My grandmother, Elizabeth Manweiler, left Greystones in about 1920 at age 16 and came to Australia. Her father was William Manweiler and her mother was Mary KInsella. I have been trying for about 20 years to contact my relatives in Greystones. When my grandmother came to Australia she was accompanied by either an aunt or uncle who moved further on in Australia and changed their name to Boyd to avoid post-WW1 stigma of a German last name. Now I have some idea as to why the name Boyd was chosen. MY family olst contact with them many years ago. My grandmother had abrother named Phillip, my father’s name is Phillip, and my legal first name is also Phillip. It seems that I have inherited the first name of the German immigrant. Could it be that your great grandfather and mine (William Manweiler) were brothers. I have photos of William Manweiler with either his parents or his wife’s parents.

  5. […] who’ve checked out/had to put up with my many word clouds on various different topics from Wicklow genealogy to Barack Obama will testify, I’m always looking for new ways to present data and […]

  6. Hi Geoff

    I knew your grandmother, she was my great aunt Lizzie, she is my grandma’s sister, (Susan Manwieler) I could have met you in the seventies, Was in NSW for a while. I have a lot of history on my family tree that could be of interest to you.


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