Saturday, 29 March 2014

Some truth in our family lore
Melbourne (including the Sandridge Bridge), by Nathaniel Whittock, 1855

Family lore:  In the second half of the nineteenth century, some of the Radcliffe brothers left Ireland for Australia, where they became wealthy and successful. They were even said to have founded a town there and named it after themselves, or at least a major highway.  Supposedly, one of the brothers, my third-great-grandfather, John Radcliffe, had no other children and Mary Carroll, a granddaughter in Ireland, kept all sorts of papers to prove that she was an heir, so that she could inherit the fortune. However, the story goes that it was John’s wife's family that inherited all their property in Australia.

So, I have finally tracked the Radcliffe brothers in Australia.  John, born in Malahide, Co. Dublin in 1827 and Thomas, born there in 1829, both settled in Melbourne, in the colony of Victoria. John arrived in Melbourne about 1857, possibly in the hopes of capitalising on the Victorian gold-rush, but, by January 1859 at least, he had resorted to his primary trade, that of plasterer. It seems business boomed for the brothers, and John, who became a building contractor, was mentioned regularly in the Melbourne newspapers between 1861 and 1865, as earning many valuable building contracts in the area. In September 1865, John applied for a publican’s license in respect of his new hotel in Bay Street, Sandridge [now Port Melbourne], where he resided with his wife, Bridget Flanagan, whom he had married in 1861. John built the hotel himself, having bought the site for £150 in 1863 and spent £1,000 on building costs. He named it the ‘President Lincoln Hotel’, after the U.S. president, assassinated only a few months previously. Coming from a small rural townland in county Dublin, the Radcliffes certainly believed that they had it made, so much so that John even titled himself ‘gentleman’ in this license application.
John Radcliffe, The Argus, 25 September 1865, p. 8

All changed within a year, however, and by July 1866, John Radcliffe, of the ‘President Lincoln Hotel’, a publican and contractor, claimed insolvency arising as a result of heavy losses on contracts and ill-health. His liabilities amounted to £1,495 and his assets only £439. The insolvency case is an interesting story in itself, suffice to say here that John, knowing that he was seriously ill and about to die, and with the help of the Flanagans, still managed to provide for his wife’s future. The mortgaged hotel and a £600 life insurance policy were left for her benefit.  John and Bridget had no children when John died, aged only 39 years, on 30 October 1866. Bridget did not survive him by very long, but died in March 1869. It appears that in this instance, family lore rang true and the Flanagan family inherited the remaining wealth, but before my poor grandaunt Mary was even born.

John’s brother, Thomas, lived until he was 75 years old and died at his residence,Annagh House’ on Dynon Road in West Melbourne, on 25 June 1905. He was survived by his widow Mary and two sons, Peter and Thomas, to whom he left property valued at nearly £6,300. Interestingly, Google Maps shows a Radcliffe Street, now running off Dynon Road in West Melbourne. Again, we may have found truth in the stories passed down through the generations, if this little street represents the fabled town, or highway, named after the Radcliffes.
Radcliffe Street, Dynon Road, West Melbourne

Sources: The Argus, 28 January 1859, 19 October 1861, 25 September 1865, 9 August 1866, 10 October 1866, 1 November 1866, 3 August 1867, 18 December 1867, 27 March 1869, 26 June 1905, 12 August 1905; South Australian Advertiser, 1 February 1862 (all accessed on Trove); Victoria copy death register, 1866; Victoria marriage index, 1861. Drawing of Sandridge Bridge, 1855, available on Wikimedia Commons.

© 2014 Black Raven Genealogy 

Saturday, 22 March 2014

What happened to John Radcliffe – Answered

Last week, I wrote about the search for my illusive great-great-great-grandfather, John Radcliffe.  This week you will be delighted to know that he has been located - all thanks to our cousin Phyllis, in California. Phyllis carried out a quick search on and found a record of his death. It’s hard to fathom how my numerous fruitless searches missed this record, but here it is, now painfully apparent.
John Radcliffe, death register index, 1866, Victoria, Australia.

This surely was our John Radcliffe, with his parent’s names correctly listed as Peter Radcliffe and Ann Sarsfield.  We know he was baptised in June 1827, so the estimated birth year given was out by a couple of years, but that was not unusual. He did travel to Australia, just like family lore recalled, but more than a decade prior to when we had suspected. Tragically, he died so very young, not having even reached his fortieth birthday.  

This record opened up a whole new waft of questions. Did his daughter, Anne Radcliffe, travel to Australia with him, only to return to Ireland before her marriage in 1869? More likely she was left behind in Malahide. What about Anne’s mother, Mary? Did she go with him? When exactly did he set off and where in Victoria had he lived?  Why did he die so young? Did he leave a family behind?

Next, I searched the Australian newspapers for an obituary.  Australian newspapers, which have been digitalised and are freely available online, are full of family history information and the notice of John’s death was easily located in a Melbourne paper, The Argus, on 1 November 1866.
John Radcliffe, death notice, 1866, Victoria, Australia

This adds additional comfort that we have located the correct person. John Radcliffe, who died on 30 October 1866, had connections to Dublin and was a builder – our John had been a plasterer in Dublin. It gives his former place of residence as Bay Street in Sandridge, [now Port Melbourne, a suburb of Melbourne].

The death register itself then answered many of my remaining questions:
Details from the Australian death register, 1866, John Radcliffe

It confirmed John’s origins as Malahide, Co. Dublin. He had traveled to Australia nine years previously, so in about 1857. He had married a Bridget Flannagan in Victoria, in about 1860 and they had settled in Melbourne, but had no children. His brother-in-law, Samuel Nobel, the husband of Bridget’s sister, did not recognise John’s daughter, my great-great-grandmother Anne, so presumably John went to Australia without her. She would have been about eight years old in 1857. Perhaps Anne's mother, Mary, had died beforehand, as we still do not know what happened to her. John died of meningitis, having suffered from the illness for two years.

The Argus also gives us John’s final resting place. He was buried in the Melbourne General Cemetery at 2 o’clock p.m. on Thursday, November 1, 1866.
John Radcliffe, funeral notice, 1866, Victoria, Australia

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam / Rest in Peace.

Sources: Ancestry,; The Argus, 1 November 1866, pp 4, 8, accessed Trove, 16 March 2014; Deaths in the district of Sandridge in the colony of Victoria, 1866, accessed 17 March 2014.

© 2014 Black Raven Genealogy.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

What happened to John Radcliffe?

John Radcliffe was my 3rd great-grandfather, Kevin Wynne's maternal grandmother's father. Got that? I cannot find what happened to him! But, first, to summarise what I already know about the Radcliffes.

Peter and Anne (Sarsfield) Radcliffe (often spelt Ratcliffe, both variants with and without the ‘e’) set up their home in Yellow Walls, Malahide, Co. Dublin, in the early nineteenth century. Peter seemingly had steady employment at Malahide Castle, where, by 1876, he claimed he had worked as a painter and plasterer for over seventy years.  They rented about four acres of land and a cottage in Yellow Walls, from Lord Talbot of the Castle. (For those that remember, I think the cottage may have been on the Swords Road, where Chris Mahon lived) Presumably, they supplemented Peter’s income by farming this plot for potatoes and other foodstuffs, and maybe even had chickens and a goat.

The baptisms of their seven children, six sons and a daughter, have been found in the records of St Colmcille’s Church, in the nearby town of Swords. In the Roman Catholic division, Malahide formed part of the parish of Swords until well into the twentieth century, so it is not surprising to find these records there.

Peter and Anne Radcliffe were my 4th great-grandparents. Peter died in 1887, at the stated age of ninety years, while Anne predeceased him in 1866. We descend from their son John, who remains somewhat of a mystery. John was baptised on 15 June 1827.
St Colmcille’s baptism register, June 1827

John’s daughter and my great-great-grandmother was Anne Radcliffe. Anne, aged twenty years, with an address in Yellow Walls, married Maurice Carroll in Swords in 1869. Her marriage certificate confirmed her parents as John and Mary Radcliffe. Mary’s maiden name was not stated. John was recorded as being a plasterer by trade, like his father.

No trace of John and Mary’s marriage, Anne’s baptism, or the baptism records of any other children have yet been found. However, the family may have made a brief appearance in Rainhill, Lancashire, England in the 1851 census, where there was a John Ratcliffe, born in Ireland about 1827, who was a plasterer, living with his wife Mary and their daughter Ann, born about 1849. This matches exactly all the little information already known about my great-great-grandmother’s parents.
Enumerator’s Book, Rainhill, 1851, John Ratcliffe and family

Interestingly, John’s ten year old sister-in-law, Ellen Slanety, was living with them. This theoretically provides Mary’s maiden name, but while ‘Slanety’ may sound Irish enough, it does not appear to be a valid surname. Perhaps the enumerator had difficulty understanding the Irish accent – ‘Slaney’ maybe?  If indeed, it is them at all.

I may be wrong, but Anne’s marriage record suggests to me that John was alive in 1869 and possibly living in Yellow Walls, as Anne was stated as being a ‘plasterer’s daughter’ living there. I have some further work to do in the Valuation Office to see if I can spot a listing for John's holding in the Irish Cancellation Books. Family lore remembers that the Ratcliffes went to Australia after ‘the court case’ in the 1870s. Peter and Anne Ratcliffe died at Malahide, so perhaps it was John who ended up in Australia. No further record of him has yet been found.

Sources: Irish Times, 7 Oct. 1876; Griffith’s Valuation; Parish records, National Library; Copy marriage certificate, General Register Office; Census of England and Wales, 1851 on

Update 22 March 2014: John Radcliffe was found in Melbourne, Australia. See 'What happened to John Radcliffe - Answered'.

© 2014 Black Raven Genealogy

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Fearless Females: Kate Tucker’s letter

In honour of National Women’s History Month in the U.S., Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Ggenealogist created a series of 31 great blogging prompts, designed to celebrate the ‘fearless females’ in our family trees. Today, Lisa asks ‘Did one of your female ancestors leave a diary, journal, or a collection of letters?’ So, I thought I would share an excerpt, all that remains, from a nineteenth-century letter sent by Kate Tucker to her niece Mary (Wynne) Finnegan.

Letter from Kate Tucker c. 1895
It is another treasure that I received from Mary's great-granddaughter, Phyllis. Mary Wynne was born in Thomas St., Dublin, in 1850, the sister of my great-grandfather, Patrick Wynne. Mary and Patrick were both children of John Wynne and Bridget Hynes. In the closing decade of the nineteenth century, Mary and her family left Ireland and made their home in Colorado Springs.

Circumstantial evidence had long suggested that Catherine (Kate) Hynes, who married James Tucker in Dublin in 1857, was a sister of Bridget Hynes and hence my great-great-grandaunt. Given this letter confirms that Kate Tucker was Mary's aunt, it pretty much proves her connection to Bridget.

The surviving excerpt from Kate’s letter reads:

 ‘… knocked about.  He seems to have no one to look after him. I know it is very hard. It is so expensive.  He comes to see me very often.  I do my best for him. I am sure Bella [Mary’s sister, Isabella] is kind to him to [sic].  I would advise you to write to your father in regard of your boy - You need not say I told you to do so – as you left him in his charge.

Dear Mary, I will conclude with love from Tom, Jim, Joe, Maggie, Sissy and myself. I remain your fond Aunt, [signed] Kate Tucker. 

P.S. Give my love to Mick and the children. I will go into further details about your family when I write again.’

Finnegan family lore recollects that Mary’s eldest son, John was ill in 1892, when Mary was due to travel to Colorado Springs to join her husband, Michael Finnegan. The child was therefore left behind in Dublin with Mary’s father. It is true that John did not travel to the US with his mother and younger brother Frank, as he was not listed with them arriving at Ellis Island in March 1892. The US federal census confirms that John had joined the family in Colorado Springs by June 1900, but no record of his journey has yet been found.  The 1910 US Federal census stated that John traveled to the US in 1892, but it is unclear how the then six year old child could have made this journey and it may well have been later. In her letter, Kate sends her love to the ‘children’ and in 1892 Mary had only one child, other than John.  

This letter is wonderful, not only because it is one of the few remaining nineteenth-century documents relating to our family, but also because it proves Kate’s relationship to Bridget Hynes.  I only know the names of my great-great-great-grandparents, Bridget’s parents, because of Kate Tucker. Kate’s father, John Hynes, with an address in Limerick City, was recorded on her marriage register and her mother Margaret Hynes (c.1808 – 1884), the widow of a carpenter, shares Kate’s grave in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin.

Sources: Church records at; Church records at (subscription); Ellis Island register at; US Federal Census, 1900 and 1910 at (subscription); Glasnevin Trust  at (subscription).

See also the previous post about Mary: Mary Wynne – a woman of many names

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Sibling Saturday - The Finley brothers

These boys were the children of Michael J. Finnegan (abt. 1860-1917) and Mary Agnes Wynne (1860-1934). They were Kevin Wynne's first cousins.
The Finley Boys (John, Frank, Joe and Gerald), Pueblo, Colorado

John James Finley, the eldest, was born in Dublin, Ireland on 8 October 1886. He followed his parents to Colorado Springs in the 1890s, having been too ill to travel with his mother in 1892. John served as a private in the US Army between 26 May 1918 and 9 August 1919, but worked with the railroad for most of his life. He married Fannie Golden, in Pueblo on 19 October 1926, and they had one son, George (1928-2003). John died on 2 February 1962 and was buried at Valhalla Memorial Park, Pueblo, Colorado.

Francis Edward O’Brien (Frank) Finley was born in Dublin, Ireland on 5 April 1889. He was also known as ‘Cotton’ because of his fair hair. When he was three years of age, his mother brought him to Colorado.  Frank was a salesman. On 1 September 1917, he married Mabel Schwarzkopf but they divorced in the 1930s and by 1943, he had married Rosalie Henigsman.  Frank died on 3 March 1957 and was buried in Roselawn Cemetery, Pueblo, Colorado. Rosalie died on 14 March 1984 and was buried next to him. It seems that Frank had no children.

Joseph Augustin Finley was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado on 9 April 1895. He worked as a boilermaker with the railroad. He married nineteen-year-old Mildred Lindgreen, on 13 Aug 1917 in Colorado. Joseph died in Natrona, Wyoming on 31 August 1988, aged 93 years and was buried in the Greenhill Cemetery, Laramie, Wyoming. Mildred died on 2 May 2000, at the age of 101, and was buried next to him. They had one daughter Yvonne, who died in Wyoming, aged about 84 years, on 25 July 2003.

Gerald Bryan Finley was born in Colorado Springs on 6 May 1898. He worked as a bread salesman. Gerald married Rosa Rosky on 10 Mar 1921 and they had four children between 1921 and 1929, three daughters and a son. Tragically, Rosa died of a ruptured appendix on 8 March 1930, when her youngest child was only six months old. Gerald was married twice more. First, he married Gladys Seever on 3 November 1930, but they divorced shortly thereafter. He then married Genevieve Ferguson on 26 January 1935 but this marriage too was short-lived. Gerald caught a bad flu and died on 22 November 1935, aged only thirty-seven years. He was buried in the Roselawn Cemetery, Pueblo next to his first wife, Rosa.

The boys were all born with the surname Finnegan (or a variant thereof), but after the family moved from Colorado Springs to Pueblo, about 1904, they changed their name to Finley.  

Sources available. The photographs are courtesy of my third cousin, Phyllis, granddaughter of Gerald.