Author Topic: Irish Surnames  (Read 228 times)

Offline milpen26

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Irish Surnames
« on: Sunday 14 February 21 18:47 GMT (UK) »
Hello, I am interested in learning about Irish surnames in the 1800s. Did women in Northern Ireland sometimes keep their maiden name?  My great grandmother, Mary Jane McCoubrey married David Nelson in 1873. Her mother, Margaret McCoubrey, married James Fitzsimons in 1851. She appears to have kept the name McCoubrey, and it appears that her children were also named McCoubrey, not Fitzsimons. Is it possible that James Fitzsimons also changed his name to McCoubrey? Confusing.

Offline Maiden Stone

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Re: Irish Surnames
« Reply #1 on: Sunday 14 February 21 21:05 GMT (UK) »
The Registrar General of Ireland, Matheson, mentioned women's maiden names in a book published in 1901. A facsimile of the book is available to read for free on Internet Archive. An internet search for Matheson Registrar General Ireland should find it.
One thing to consider is that Ulster was settled by Scottish people. There was a tradition among Scottish women to retain their maiden surnames.
I doubt that James Fitzsimons would have changed his surname to that of his wife. Their children may have chosen to use either surname.
What records do you know of which show the children using their mother's surname?

There was no place called Northern Ireland until 100 years ago. There were 4 provinces in Ireland, one of which was Ulster. There are 9 counties in Ulster, not 6 as in the present state of Northern Ireland. Important to keep this in mind when researching ancestors pre-Partition.
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Offline Maiden Stone

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Re: Irish Surnames
« Reply #2 on: Sunday 14 February 21 21:21 GMT (UK) »
The book is "Varieties and Synonyms of Surnames and Christian Names in Ireland for the Guidance of Registration Officers and the Public in Searching the Indexes of Births, Deaths and Marriages" by Robert E. MATHESON, Registrar-General, published by HMSO, Dublin 1901. A short section at the end of chapter 3 is "Irregular use of maiden surnames". The practice of calling children by mother's surname wasn't confined to counties in Ulster. A registrar in County Galway, reported it in a district in Tuam. The custom of widows reverting to their maiden surnames was also mentioned in the chapter. 
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Online aghadowey

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Re: Irish Surnames
« Reply #3 on: Sunday 14 February 21 21:25 GMT (UK) »
Women keeping their maiden name after marriage is not something I've really come across in Ulster but don't think that's what happened in this case.

Starting with the 1873 marriage of Mary Jane Macoubrey to David Nelson- her surname is Macoubrey, father given as James Fitzsimons but mother listed as Margaret Macoubrey. Normally mothers aren't listed on marriage and father's of illegitimate children shouldn't be either.
https://civilrecords.irishgenealogy.ie/churchrecords/images/marriage_returns/marriages_1873/11277/8136418.pdf

Here's the 1851 marriage-
https://civilrecords.irishgenealogy.ie/churchrecords/images/marriage_returns/marriages_1851/09407/5408075.pdf

So, was Mary Jane born before or after 1851?
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Offline milpen26

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Re: Irish Surnames
« Reply #4 on: Sunday 14 February 21 21:56 GMT (UK) »
Based on a handwritten (by Maryjane Nelson) "Register of Family", and looking at Census records, I estimate that she was born about 1854 in County Down. The marriage registration records for Maryjane and David (1873) and Margaret McCoubrey and James Fitzsimmons (1851) are the records that make me confused about this paternal family line. In the past I recall my grandfather speaking of the family name McCoubrey as his mother's maiden name, but seeing the Fitzsimmons name clearly indicated has me scratching my head.
Thank you so much for all your ideas!

Offline Maiden Stone

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Re: Irish Surnames
« Reply #5 on: Monday 15 February 21 15:12 GMT (UK) »
Mary Jane claimed to be "full age" when she married in 1873. If that was true it means she was born 1852 or earlier.
Ages on census returns were often inaccurate, particularly for Irish people as birth registration didn't begin until 1864.
Where & when have you found Mary Jane on a census? Are there any people named McCoubrey or Fitzsimons nearby?
Who was the wedding witness James McCoubrey? Might he have been a brother? A cousin or uncle?
Which maiden surname was on birth registrations of children of David Nelson & Mary Jane? Who registered the births?
Have you looked for a death registration of Mary McCoubrey or Mary Fitzsimons?
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Online aghadowey

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Re: Irish Surnames
« Reply #6 on: Monday 15 February 21 15:20 GMT (UK) »
If Mary Jane was born before her mother married James Fitzsimons then she might have used (at various times) both her mother's maiden name and the Fitzsimons surname so you might find instances where she's known by one name in a record but the next record has the other name, etc.
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Offline milpen26

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Re: Irish Surnames
« Reply #7 on: Monday 15 February 21 19:43 GMT (UK) »
Thank you for the helpful questions. MaryJane (McCoubrey) Nelson's Death Registration lists her being 68 when she died in 1920, estimating her birth year as 1852. I found Mary Jane Nelson in the 1901 Census listed as the Head of Household, when my grandfather, Robert, was 6 years old. His father, David Nelson, was not listed in the 1901 Census; However he was listed as Head of Household in the 1911 Census, when my grandfather was 16. I did not find any McCoubrey or Fitzsimons names nearby on either census. There is a wedding witness, James McCoubrey, listed on their marriage registration. I think he might have been MaryJane's brother but I am not certain, as I have not yet found a definitive records indicating a family relationship. MaryJane and David had 9 children, my grandfather born in 1894, being the youngest. All 8 boy's birth registrations list "McCoubrey" as the mother's maiden name; However, the one girl born in 1880 named Margaret Jane Nelson (later referred to as Maggie) lists the mother's maiden name as "Fitzsimons". It appears that most of the births were registered by a registrar named Dickson and several list the name of an assistant (midwife?), most marked with an "X" whose names I did not recognize. In general, I noticed that most of the Fitzsimons names I researched were listed as Catholic, whereas all the McCoubreys and Nelsons are Protestant. Might this be a factor in some way? Also, I can't find  any Death Registrations on James Fitzsimons, but there is one on a James McCoubrey within the correct years. Puzzling. Thanks again for your input.

Offline Maiden Stone

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Re: Irish Surnames
« Reply #8 on: Tuesday 16 February 21 15:01 GMT (UK) »
MaryJane (McCoubrey) Nelson's Death Registration lists her being 68 when she died in 1920, estimating her birth year as 1852. I found Mary Jane Nelson in the 1901 Census listed as the Head of Household, when my grandfather, Robert, was 6 years old. His father, David Nelson, was not listed in the 1901 Census; However he was listed as Head of Household in the 1911 Census, when my grandfather was 16.

There is a wedding witness, James McCoubrey, listed on their marriage registration. I think he might have been MaryJane's brother but I am not certain, as I have not yet found a definitive records indicating a family relationship. MaryJane and David had 9 children, my grandfather born in 1894, being the youngest. All 8 boy's birth registrations list "McCoubrey" as the mother's maiden name; However, the one girl born in 1880 named Margaret Jane Nelson (later referred to as Maggie) lists the mother's maiden name as "Fitzsimons". It appears that most of the births were registered by a registrar named Dickson and several list the name of an assistant (midwife?), most marked with an "X" whose names I did not recognize. In general, I noticed that most of the Fitzsimons names I researched were listed as Catholic, whereas all the McCoubreys and Nelsons are Protestant. Might this be a factor in some way? Also, I can't find  any Death Registrations on James Fitzsimons, but there is one on a James McCoubrey within the correct years. Puzzling. Thanks again for your input.

Age on death registration was generally the least reliable. Best regarded as an estimate. The informant may not have known the person's age. An Irish relative by marriage of mine, born around the same time as your Mary Jane, was inconsistent about her age. I estimated a likely age taking into account when she married, had children and her ages on census. She survived into her late 80's but her son estimated her age as 70-something when he reported her death.

Did Mary Jane Nelson put her status as "married" on 1901 census ? Her husband may have been working away for an extended period, perhaps outside Ireland.

Have you looked for a marriage for James McCoubrey who might have been Mary Jane's brother around the same area? He may have been a cousin or another relative.

The surname prefix Fitz is Norman.  Fitz surnames are Anglo-Irish whose settlement of Ireland began in 12th century, 350 years before the Reformation. Some Anglo-Irish remained Catholic after the Reformation, some joined the Church of Ireland during the nearly 300 years post-Reformation when Catholics were dispossessed and discriminated against.   
Religious differences may have been a factor in delaying a marriage. I noticed that Fitzsimons and MCCoubrey fathers were both noted as deceased at the time of the marriage, so not able to object to the match.
The wedding was in a Presbyterian church. If James Fitzsimons was Catholic it may have taken some time to agree on whether to marry and where. Marriage law at the time in Ireland differed according to religious denominations of the people getting married. Civil registration of marriages began in 1845 except for marriages in  Catholic churches. A marriage in a Catholic church was legal only if both parties were Catholic and had been for the previous 12 months. A few Irish couples of mixed denominations had 2 wedding ceremonies, one in a Catholic church, which had no legal status, and a legal ceremony at another venue. Days, weeks, months or even years might elapse between the 2 ceremonies.
Considering the occupations of James Fitzsimons and Mary McCoubrey, farm labourer and house servant, other reasons to delay marriage, if it was delayed, may have been that James couldn't afford to provide financially for a wife and family and didn't have a home. Both of them may have lodged with their employers. A farmer's son may have delayed marriage until he could take over a tenancy when his parent died or became infirm.

Possible reasons why you can't find a death registration for James Fitzsimons:
He may have died before 1864 when civil registration of deaths began in Ireland.
He may have left Ireland, either for Britain or emigration to e.g. Canada, U.S.A, Australia, New Zealand. Emigration from Ireland was high in 1850's. A man might emigrate first and send for his wife and children when he'd earned enough to pay for their passage.
He may have moved elsewhere in Ireland to work.
Have you found a death registration for James' wife?
Cowban