In my previous posting, I told you that I’d follow up by providing a summary of what I think I know of John Ryan and his family apart from what’s to be found in the records of Templeorum Catholic parish in County Kilkenny, Ireland, which document the baptisms of five children born to John and wife Margaret Oates from 1805 to 1815. What we know of John from sources other than the Templeorum records is, in truth, not much at all — not much that’s solidly proven, that is. It’s a set of suppositions that, in my view, are plausible, given what evidence we have about his and his family’s whereabouts from 1805-1815, as captured by the Templeorum baptismal records.
These records supplementing the parish ones point to a John Ryan who lives in the same place in which we find John with wife Margaret Oates when we first catch sight of him in 1805 in the Templeorum register. But whether the John Ryan documented in these other non-parish records is the man whose wife was Margaret Oates and who had those five children from 1805 to 1815 I cannot say with absolute certainty — hence my use of the word “suppositions.”
The situation I’m describing here is not unusual for those researching Irish families in this period. In tracking your Irish Catholic family lines, your very best bet to find information, especially if you’re working in 19th-century records, is parish registers. Once you’ve located quite specifically the parish in which your folks were living, the records of that parish will almost always turn out to be your best — and sometimes your only — source of information about these ancestral lines.
It’s exceptionally difficult to track most Irish families prior to around 1800, due to the lack of records for many Irish folks in the pre-1800 period. In fact, it can be very difficult to track an Irish family line back even to the early 1800s, if a family lived in a parish whose baptism, marriage, and death records are not extant for the early 1800s. When the family name and given name are not at all uncommon, as with John Ryans in southern County Kilkenny in the time frame in which we’re looking at John Ryan with wife Margaret Oates, it can be very difficult to ascertain whether records other than parish ones — which at least often provide a wife’s name, allowing you to separate one man from another — are records of your ancestor or of someone with the same name.
John and Margaret Oates Ryan’s Children: Records After their Baptismal Records
Before I discuss the records I find beyond the Templeorum parish registers for a John Ryan who seems to me likely to be the John Ryan with wife Margaret Oates, I want to sketch for you what I think I know of John and Margaret’s five children, the two Valentines, Judith, Mary, and Daniel (see the previous posting, linked above, for a discussion of their baptismal records).
As my last posting tells you, after the first Valentine was baptized on 6 May 1805, he disappears from Templeorum records and John and Margaret then had another son Valentine baptized 3 October 1811 — the Valentine Ryan who married Bridget Tobin in 1836 in Mullinavat. The fact that a second son was given the name of the first son suggests to me that the first Valentine died between 6 May 1805 and 3 October 1811.
I have concluded that John and Margaret’s daughter Judith Ryan, who was baptized 3 August 1806, is a Judith Ryan whom I find in the records of the Mullinavat/Kilbeacon parish married to William Holden. As did her brothers Valentine and Daniel, it appears that John and Margaret’s daughter Judith settled in Mullinavat after her marriage. The Mullinavat parish registers show a William Holden and wife Judith Ryan with a daughter Catherine baptized 21 April 1843, with John Costello and Catherine Holden as sponsors. The baptismal record states that the family lived at Mullinavat. This Catherine Holden is, I think, the same Catherine Holden who was a sponsor for Valentine Ryan and Bridget Tobin’s daughter Margaret when she was baptized in the Mullinavat parish on 2 August 1838. And note the Costello name as a baptismal sponsor, too — a name that, as I have told you in preceding postings, is connected to the family of Valentine and Bridget Ryan in Mullinavat.
William Holden and Judith Ryan had another son, David, baptized in the Mullinavat parish on 26 April 1845 with Pat Sheehan and Ellen Ryan as baptismal sponsors. Again, this baptismal record states that the couple were living at Mullinavat when David was baptized.
I find no record of Judith in the Mullinavat register after the baptism of her son David, and I wonder if she died after April 1845 and her husband remarried — or if the family emigrated from Ireland. On 2 April 1849, Margaret Holden, daughter of William Holden and Johanna Ryan, was baptized in the Mullinavat parish. Sponsors were Patrick Holden and Bridget Ryan. The baptismal record states that the family lived at Mullinavat. The Bridget Ryan acting as baptismal sponsor here is undoubtedly Bridget Tobin Ryan, wife of Valentine Ryan.
It’s possible the parish register has erroneously recorded the name of William Holden’s wife Judith as Johanna. It’s also possible Judith had died and William Holden had remarried to another Ryan woman, Johanna. I don’t find indicators of more than one William Holden in the Mullinavat parish registers at this time. The William Holden who was married to Judith Ryan seems to be the man of that name leasing a house, office, and yard from David Holden in Mullinavat, along with Lawrence Forrestal and David Holden, on Griffith’s Valuation in 1850.
For a number of years, I’ve been in touch with Mary Alice Holden, who farms at Red Acres in County Kilkenny (Mary Alice is also an accomplished local historian with a university degree in Irish history and culture). Red Acres is a townland in Killahy civil parish, the civil parish in which Valentine Ryan and Bridget Tobin and their family lived before they left for America in 1852-3. It is, in other words, more or less attached to Mullinavat, as is Buckstown, the place in Killahy civil parish in which Valentine and Bridget settled from 1846 to 1853.
Mary Alice tells me that all the Holdens in the vicinity of Mullinavat trace their ancestry to the Holden family of Red Acres, and that the Holden family has long spoken of a connection to the Ryan family in Mullinavat. She also tells me that she’s in touch with Holdens in Newfoundland who tell her that a William Holden and his family left Red Acres shortly after 1850. It’s not clear to me if this family went to Newfoundland or to somewhere else.
Letters saved by the Red Acres Holden family include one written 30 September 1889 by James Holden of St. Louis to Bishop Brownrigg of Ossory, stating that he had left his home in Mullinavat for America 36 years previously (that is, in 1853 — the same year that Valentine Ryan’s wife Bridget apparently brought their three children to America). The Holdens at Red Acres also have correspondence from the 1840s from a Thomas Ryan of Lapeer County, Michigan, who had emigrated from Mullinavat, and who wrote, in several letters, of a James Kelly and John Holden who were also from Mullinavat and had settled near him in Michigan.
The 1850 federal census shows this Thomas Ryan born about 1783 and living in the town of Lapeer in Lapeer County, Michigan. Thomas’ son Thomas, who was born about 1803 in Ireland (and who has a wife Julia also born in Ireland), is living next to his father on this census, and next to the younger Thomas is the family of John Holden. John is the same age as the younger Thomas Ryan.
About John Ryan and Margaret Oates’ daughter Mary Ryan, who was baptized in Templeorum parish 8 May 1814: I find no clear record of what became of her after May 1814.
Daniel Ryan, son of John Ryan and Margaret Oates, whose baptism on 11 December 1815 is recorded in the Templeorum records, married Mary Fitzgerald in Mullinavat on 13 February 1838. The entry for Daniel and Mary’s marriage in the parish registers says they were living in Buckstown at the time of their marriage. Witnesses to the marriage were John Smyth and Margaret Weston. As I noted in a previous posting, when Valentine Ryan and Bridget Tobin’s daughter Ellen was baptized 7 May 1840 in Mullinavat, with the baptism record stating that her parents lived in Buckstown, a Margaret Smyth was one of the baptismal sponsors along with Walter Costello. I’ve also noted that Daniel Ryan was one of the baptismal sponsors when Valentine, son of Valentine Ryan and Bridget Tobin, was baptized on 1 December 1839.
The Mullinavat parish registers show Daniel Ryan and Mary Fitzgerald having the following children baptized between 1839 and 1857: Bridget, John, Mary, Thomas, Patrick, and another Mary. I don’t find a record of this family in the Mullinavat parish registers after 1857. Did they emigrate?
Non-Templeorum Parish Records (of John Ryan with Wife Margaret Oates?)
In my previous posting, I told you that when we first catch sight of John Ryan and Margaret Oates in the Templeorum parish register, they are living in a place called Loughreagh or Logriach in the townland of Belline and Rogerstown — part of Piltown in southwest County Kilkenny. I also told you that the spot at which John and Margaret were living in May 1805 when their first son Valentine was baptized is closely associated with the major landholders in that area at that time, the Ponsonby family, who owned the Bessborough estate. Belline House in the townland of Belline and Rogerstown was for many years the residence of agents of Bessborough. Finally, I told you that there are a number of good indicators that Margaret Oates’ family hails from Tybroughney, which adjoins Belline and Rogerstown on that townland’s south side.
At the top of this posting is an interesting map of these locations dating from 1656-8. It’s one of many maps produced by the Down Survey project of those years, the first major survey of Ireland, a project undertaken as large portions of Irish land were transferred to English landowners after Cromwell’s invasion. As you’ll note, this map gives much more prominence to these ancient places – Baleene, as the map spells Belline, Rogerstown, and Teighbraghine/Teighbraghny — than to Piltown, which is a tiny afterthought at the top of this map. The map also shows you the River Suit, the squiggly green line marked with hatching, on which Tybroughney verges. Today, all of this area has been subsumed into the town of Piltown, which grew into a town of some size around the Bessborough estate — a Ponsonby town, that is — only in the latter part of the 1700s.
I also told you in my previous posting that the places to which John Ryan and Margaret Oates moved or where they had their children baptized in the period from 1806 to 1815 included another Ponsonby estate village, Harristown, which is listed as the Ryan residence when their last two children Mary and Daniel were baptized. There was a pattern to the Ryan family’s movements in this period, if, indeed, the family was moving about in these years and if the children’s baptism records document where they were actually living: they were moving from Ponsonby estate village to Ponsonby estate village.
The following map in Leslie J. Dowley’s “The Dowleys of Carrick-on-Suir” article on the Dowley history website maps for you the Briscoe villages around Mullinavat. As I noted in my previous posting, and as Leslie Dowley’s article explains, the Briscoe and Ponsonby family trees connect from the time the Ponsonbys acquired their estate in southern County Kilkenny: the first wife of Sir John Ponsonby, founder of the Bessborough estate at Piltown, who was a Cromwellian soldier rewarded by Cromwell with extensive landholdings in southern County Kilkenny, was Dorothy Briscoe.
Here’s why I’m reminding you of all of this boring old history now: in the Tithe Applotment books for County Kilkenny, which were compiled in the period 1821-1851 to apportion the tithes that landholders in Ireland were required to pay the Church of Ireland, I find a John Ryan renting land from the Earl of Bessborough in the civil parish of Fiddown in Banaher, Logriach, and Piltown. (The Tithe Applotment list spells Logriach as Logriah and Piltown as Pilltown; Banaher, which is on the Down Survey map to which I pointed you above [“Bannagher”], appears in indexed transcripts of this Tithe Applotment record as both Danahen and Danaher.) This list was compiled in 1828.
The Tithe Applotment listing shows John Ryan renting 1 rod and 5 perches from the Earl of Bessborough. One household removed from him is a Patrick Ryan renting the same amount of land from the Earl of Bessborough. If you scan the list for Banaher, Logriach, and Piltown above, you’ll see among those in the vicinity of John Ryan who were also renting from the Earl of Bessborough Philip Oats, Simon Tobin, and Michael Dalton. Oates/Oats is, of course, the maiden name of John Ryan’s wife, and it seems to me very likely that Philip is related to Margaret Oates Ryan. Tobin is the maiden name of the wife of John and Margaret’s son Valentine. In my previous posting, I noted that when John and Margaret Oates Ryan’s daughter Judith was baptized 3 August 1806 in the Templeorum parish, her baptismal sponsors were Watt Dalton and Mary Manning — hence my interest in the name Michael Dalton here.
I don’t have proof positive that the John Ryan of this 1828 Tithe Applotment listing is the same John Ryan who married Margaret Oates, and I have found no record of when that John Ryan died, but it’s tempting to think that this Tithe Applotment record points us to that very same John Ryan. No record that I’ve found tells us when John Ryan was born, either. Given that his first son, the first Valentine, was baptized in 1805, it seems likely that John Ryan and Margaret Oates were both born before or around about 1785. A man born in or somewhat before 1785 could certainly have been living in 1828.
The John Ryan of the 1828 Tithe Applotment listing is renting land in exactly the same place in which we see John Ryan with wife Margaret Oates living in 1805 when their first son Valentine was baptized — Logriach. His neighbors include someone who is likely a relative of Margaret Oates Ryan, a Tobin man who may be related to the woman his second son Valentine married, and a Dalton man who is probably connected to the Watt Dalton who was a sponsor for the baptism of John and Margaret Oates Ryan’s daughter Judith.
In the same parish of Fiddown, in the townland of Dowling between Piltown and Mullinavat in 1828, a Thomas Ryan is renting 41 acres 2 rod 16 perches of land from the Earl of Bessborough. This Thomas Ryan and the Patrick Ryan found close to John Ryan on this Tithe Applotment record, all three living in the civil parish of Fiddown and all renting land from the Earl of Bessborough, certainly catch my eye. Remember that Patrick Ryan who shows up as a baptismal sponsor when Valentine and Bridget Tobin Ryan’s son William was baptized on 12 September 1841 in Mullinavat, whom I told you in a previous posting I cannot place?
And remember that Thomas Ryan I discussed in that same posting who left a will written 5 January 1865 showing him as a prosperous farmer of Mullinavat and Buckstown, with a son Patrick? I suspect that these Ryans are closely related to John Ryan with wife Margaret Oates. I suspect John may have had brothers Patrick and Thomas, and that the Ryans associated with John’s children in Mullinavat whom I haven’t been able to place may descend from either the Patrick Ryan or the Thomas Ryan found in Fiddown civil parish in 1828, both renting land from the Earl of Bessborough. It’s certainly worth considering, though there’s not nearly enough solid evidence in these records to reach a conclusive deduction about any of these suppositions.
The Templeorum parish registers show a Thomas Ryan and wife Catherine Finnessy having a daughter Judith/Judy baptized 22 July 1817 with the parish register noting that they lived in Tybroughney. Is this the Thomas Ryan of that 1828 Tithe Applotment listing in the townland of Dowling in Fiddown civil parish?
You may also recall that I told you in my previous posting that I wonder if the reason John Ryan with wife Margaret Oates appears to be moving from Piltown (from Belline and Rogerstown, specifically) to Milltown and then Harristown in the period 1806-1815 is that he was doing work of some sort for the Ponsonby family. This would make sense of his relocation in this time frame from one Ponsonby-Briscoe place to another. It also makes sense to think, it seems to me, that if John was doing some kind of skilled labor, possibly stone-cutting, for the Ponsonby family, he kept a pied à terre for his family in Piltown as he was moving about in the early 19thcentury — and this is another reason I’m inclined to think it’s very possible that the John Ryan listed on the Tithe Applotment in Fiddown parish in Banaher, Logriach, and Piltown is John Ryan with wife Margaret Oates.
The presentments of the grand jury of County Kilkenny for spring 1824 show a John Ryan in Iverk Barony paid along with Michael Cox, Henry Briscoe, and John Walsh, Esqs., for repairing ruts in the road from Carrick-on-Suir to Kilkenny. This same John Ryan was paid at the same jury session, along with Peter Walsh and H. Briscoe, Esqrs., and with Patrick Walsh, for repairing the road from Carrick to New Ross, between John Henebery’s house and Clarke’s forge. A John Ryan appears in the county grand jury presentments books through the 1820s and 1830s as a deputy supervisor of the county for public works. Are the John Ryans of these county court records the John Ryan of the 1828 Tithe Applotment listing in Fiddown civil parish?
I should conclude this discussion of records beyond the Templeorum parish records that may refer to John Ryan with wife Margaret Oates by noting that a John Ryan appears on Griffith’s Valuationin 1850 in the townland of Belline and Rogerstown renting land 3 rods of land from the Earl of Bessborough, and another (or the same?) John Ryan is in Piltown, renting a house, office, and yard 35 and 37 from the Earl of Bessborough. If either of these is John with wife Margaret Oates, he would seem to be very advanced in years at this time, given his probable date of birth based on when his first son was baptized.
This record alone illustrates the difficulty of concluding with any certainty that a man with a common name whom you happen on in Irish records of this period, who seems to be living in the vicinity in which you have definitely placed your family, is definitely your ancestor. As I hope the preceding discussion has shown you, the best way you can try to sort the people you’re researching is by combining research in the registers of the Catholic parish in which you know your family lived — paying careful attention to who shows up as witnesses to marriages and sponsors for baptisms, and where the parish record says your family lived — with research in extra-parish records that may or may not contain information about your family.
In Conclusion, Some Bits and Pieces About the Oates Family
There are two intriguing clues that appear to point to Tybroughney as the place in which the family of John Ryan’s wife Margaret Oates may have lived at the time she and John Ryan married. First, the ancient graveyard at Tybroughney, which was attached centuries ago to a long-since-ruined religious foundation and church with a holy well, contains a monument whose inscription reads,
“Erected by John Oats in memory of his wife Eleanor Thompson who died June 10th 1815, aged 63, and 7 of her children, also her father Henery Thompson died Dec. 4th 1820 aged 89, and her sister Mary.”
John and Maura Ryan took me to this cemetery on my visit to Piltown in 2001, and I saw this monument for myself. The site also has a famous ancient carved pillar stone, of which this photo by Jim Dempsey at the Megalithic Ireland website shows us the east face, with the concentric swirls typical of early Christian Celtic art in Ireland.
The death of this Eleanor Thompson is recorded in the Templeorum parish register, which gives her name as Eliza, and notes that she died in Piltown on the same date as the date recorded on the tombstone erected by her father.
Because of the very close proximity of Tybroughney to Logriach, where John Ryan lived with wife Margaret Oates, and given the date of Eleanor/Eliza Thompson Oates’ birth (1752, the tombstone indicates), John Ryan, my longtime correspondent-friend in Piltown, thinks that it’s very likely John and Eleanor/Eliza Thompson Oates are the parents of Margaret Oates Ryan. Margaret appears to have born, as I’ve suggested, near or somewhat before 1785. I have no proof of her connection to John Oates and his wife, of course, but it’s certainly worth pursuing, though records to test this deduction are well-nigh nonexistent.
About a decade ago, I was in touch by email with a descendant of the Oates family of Piltown, John Walsh, who was then living in England. John told me that his aunt Mary Walsh, who was born in Harristown in 1912 and was alive when John and I began corresponding in 2008, had told him that her grandmother Mary Oates was born in Tybroughney in 1837, and married Richard Walsh of Piltown. Like his aunt Mary Walsh, John was born and grew up in Harristown.
John also told me that, according to his aunt, the Oates family had long spoken of its connection by by blood and marriage to the Ryans of Piltown and Harristown. The branch of the family in Harristown owned a shop there up to about 1965, when the Willie Ryan and his sister who were then operating it died. In an email she sent me in September 2007, Mary Alice Holden had also told me that an elderly Ryan relative of hers in Piltown had told her that a branch of the Piltown Ryans had had a store in Harristown which belonged to a Willie Ryan up to his death.
According to John Walsh, there is only one Oates family Piltown (this the spelling the family has used for a number of generations now). The Oates family of Piltown worked, John told me, for the Briscoes, and because of that connection, members of John’s Oates and Walsh families are buried in the Ponsonby family graveyard at Piltown.
The Briscoes of Harristown and the Ponsonbys of Bessborough were basically the same family as they intermarried. In Harristown, they were the Protestant landlords controlling that part of the Bessborough estate. My grandfather, for example, paid ground rent to Briscoe for his little piece of land.
The Briscoe family still live in what we used to call “the big house” in Harristown. “Young” Rivers Briscoe is the current head of the clan and he has about 8 children most of whom live locally in that area.
All of this sounds familiar, doesn’t it, after my survey above of what I think I know about John Ryan, father of Valentine Ryan. The pattern John Walsh describes for the Oates family of Piltown seems to emerge, too, as we look closely at the records of the Ryan family in Templeorum parish from which Valentine Ryan descends. I would not want you to think as you read about these places like Logriach and Tybroughney, by the way, that they are separated by any great distance. From the house of my generous hosts in Pilltown John and Maura Ryan house at Kildalton — the current name of what used to be the Bessborough estate in the past — it’s only a short walk to the Tybroughney graveyard and the bit of land that was once called Logriach.
And here ends my probing of my Ryan roots in southern Kilkenny. This series of postings provides a complete picture of all I know about those roots up to the present — and of all I may ever learn, given the paucity of records for Irish families in the period in which I’m digging for those roots. There is one other resource that I have not yet explored, however, which could well have further information about my Ryan family in the Piltown area: these are the records of the Ponsonby family of the Bessborough estate. The National Library of Ireland has a collection of that family’s records, with ledgers of rental fees and who paid them, fees paid to workers and tradespersons, etc. If John Ryan did work for the Bessborough estate, as I suspect he did, these papers may contain further information about him and his family — and perhaps one day I’ll have a chance to peruse them.
As a brief footnote to the preceding discussion of the Oates family of Piltown, I’d like to point you to some fascinating information about a James Oates who worked as a surveyor and engineer on several projects in the vicinity of Piltown in the 1780s and 17901, including the constructin of the Grand Canal and the Barrow and Nore Navigations. The Irish Architectural Archives’ website has an online Dictionary of Irish Architects 1720-1940 with a brief biography of James stating that his origins are not known.
Is this James perhaps the James Oates whose house in Fiddown parish is mentioned in the Lenten assizes of the grand jury of County Kilkenny for Iverk Barony in 1806? If his roots are in Fiddown, then it would seem he is probably closely related to the John Oates whose wife was Eleanor/Eliza Thompson. The Tithe Applotment shows James Oats renting 28 acres 1 rod 30 perches in Fiddown from the Earl of Bessborough in 1828, with his land lying next to that of a Thomas Oats.
The James Oates in Fiddown is likely the James Othes with wife Nelly or Ellen Ready who had a daughter Betty baptized 22 March 1809 in Templeorum parish, and a son Andrew baptized on 27 May 1812. The latter record shows the family living in Jamestown, across County Kilkenny near the Wexford border, a move that might be consistent with James Oates’ having an occupation that was causing the family to move about in this period. When Andrew, son of James and Nelly/Ellen Ready Oates was baptized, one of the baptismal sponsors was Judy Ready.
The surname Ready stands out in these Oates family records, since as you may recall, when John Ryan and Margaret Oates’ second son Valentine was baptized 3 October 1811, the baptismal sponsors were James Kelly and Biddy Ready. Biddy/Bridget Ready was also a sponsor for the baptism of William, son of Richard Costello and Honor Ready of Knockdrungileoan, on 24 January 1806 in Templeorum parish. The other sponosr for this baptism was Patrick Holden.
This posting is the fifth and last in a series of postings tracing the Irish roots of Valentine Ryan and Bridget Tobin. The fourth posting in this series is here.
The Mullinavat parish register also shows a Judith Ryan of Mullinavat marrying Richard Frisby of Mullinavat on 2 March 1842, with marriage witnesses Thomas Cassin and Mary Sinitt. Nothing in the parish records regarding this couple suggests to me that this Judith is daughter of John Ryan and Margaret Oates.
Note, too, that Judith, daughter of John Ryan and Margaret Oates, would have been 43 years old in 1849 — that is, reaching the end of her child-bearing years.
Richard Griffith, General Valuation of Ireland: County Kilkenny, Barony of Knocktopher, Parish of Kilbeacon(Dublin, 1850), p. 35.
William Carrigan, History and Antiquities of the Diocese of Ossory, vol. 4 (Dublin: Sealy, Bryers & Walker, 1905), p. 173.
1850 federal census, Lapeer Co., Michigan (town of Lapeer, 2 October; the Ryan families and John Holden’s family are dwellings 1197-9 and families 2005-7). The birthplaces of John Holden’s children suggest that he left Ireland between 1843 and 1849.
See Kathleen Laffan, The History of Kilmacow Parish (Kilmacow: GK Print, 2005), p. 401.
The Templeorum parish records show Walter Dalton with a wife Mary Reade and children Johanna and Thomas baptized in the parish, Johanna on 4 July 1804 and Thomas on 7 March 1807. Both records show Walter and Mary Reade Dalton living in Milltown, where the Templeorum records show John Ryan and Margaret Oates living when their second son Valentine was baptized on 3 October 1811.s
See The Presentments of the Grand Jury of the County of Kilkenny at Spring Assizes 1824 (Kilkenny: Abraham Deroche, 1824), p. 20.
Richard Griffith, General Valuation of Ireland: County Kilkenny, Barony of Iverk, Parish of Fiddown (Dublin, 1850), p. 15, 13.
The Templeorum parish register shows a Margaret Thompson of Templeorum dying 7 April 1809. Could she have been Henry Thompson’s wife?