Irish family names from a certain era

I’ve been reading a biography of Bl. Solanus Casey to my older boys, and loved some of the namey things I discovered — I know you will too!

Father:
Bernard James (Barney) (born 1840, Castleblaney, Co. Monaghan); sister Ellen and brother Terrence

Mother:
Ellen Elizabeth (née Murphy) (born 1844, Camlough, Co. Armagh); mother Brigid (née Shields), sister Mary Ann and brothers Patrick, Owen, and Maurice

Barney and Ellen came to this country, separately, around the time of the potato famine (in fact, Ellen’s father died during it), which was from 1845-1850. They met here.

Children (Fr. Solanus and siblings) (middle names weren’t included in the book — I found them via a google search):

1. Ellen Bridget (referred to as Ellie at least once in the book)
2. James Michael (Jim)
3. Mary Ann (died at age 12 of “black diphtheria”*)
4. Maurice Emmett (would become Fr. Maurice Joachim! Sometimes called “Fr. Maurice J” ❤ )
5. John Terrance/Terrence
6. Bernard Francis (Barney, referred to as Barney Jr. in the book, born 1870) (would become Fr. Francis Solanus Casey, OFM Cap. [Order of Friars Minor, Capuchin — the OFMs are the Franciscans; the Capuchins are a branch of Franciscans], after St. Francis Solano)
7. Patrick Henry (Pat)
8. Thomas Joseph (Tom)
9. Martha Elizabeth (died at age 3 of black diphtheria, just a few days after Mary Ann) 10. Augustine Peter (Gus)
11. Leo McHale
12. Edward Francis (Ed, would become Msgr. Edward Casey)
13. Owen Bonaventure
14. Margaret Theresa Cecilia
15. Grace Agatha
16. Mary Genevieve (Genevieve)

These are pretty amazing names (you know how heart eyes I was over discovering Maurice’s religious name was Fr. Maurice Joachim! Augustine Peter and Owen Bonaventure particularly jumped out at me as somewhat surprising, given what I know of Irish naming at that time), but one of the things I was amazed by was how much overlap there was with both sides of my Irish ancestry (my paternal grandmother’s line and my maternal grandfather’s line). Check this out:

My paternal grandmother’s line (came here from Ireland mid-nineteenth century, specific place unknown but we think they sailed from Waterford):

James and Mary–> Patrick and Anne–> Patrick Francis and Mary Cecelia (nee Ward)–> Leo Ward and Mary Agnes (nee Sweeny) (her mother was Bridget Casey! Same last name as Bl. Solanus!) –> Mary Loretta (my grandmother, born 1920)

My maternal grandfather’s line (he and his siblings were all born in Ireland — Cobh [then called Queenstown], Co. Cork):

Francis (Frank) and Anne (Annie) (nee Lawless)–>
1. Francis (Frank)
2. Mary (my mom always refers to her as Aunt Mae)
3. Ellen (my mom always refers to her as Aunt Eileen)
4. William (Will)
5. John
6. Michael
7. David Xavier (my grandfather, born 1904 and worked his way to American on a ship in 1920)
8. Maurice (said mo-REECE, though I know MO-ris [like Morris] is a common Irish pronunciation, and the way I said it when I read Bl. Solanus’ brother’s name, because I think it sounds better with Joachim)

All three families (Bl. Solanus’ family, and my grandparents’ two families) can be roughly placed in the same time period (latter half of the nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth century), and all three were Irish (Fr. Solanus’ parents were both from Ireland; my paternal grandmother’s family came here from Ireland in the mid-nineteenth century; my maternal grandfather and his siblings were all born in Ireland, and came over here after WWI). Names in common include:

Ellen
James
Mary
Patrick
Francis
Maurice
Patrick
Leo
Anne
John
Brigid/Bridget

I know they’re not crazy-out-there names, but I was kind of amazed by how much overlap there was! Especially with names like Maurice and Leo — I don’t think they’re names that people typically think of as having a lot of usage in Irish families? But if these three families are decent representatives of the naming patterns at that time (especially since they were from all over Ireland and not concentrated in one area), Maurice and Leo aren’t unusual at all!

Another thing I loved seeing was how the family names got passed down (grandparents and aunts and uncles showed up in the names of the grandchildren and nieces and nephews) and *how* they got passed down (both first and middle names were made use of, and maiden names were given to sons).

What are your reactions to reading this? Are you are fascinated by this overlap as I am, or do you think I’m making a lot of not much?

I have more info to share (this book is a treasure trove of beautiful names of our faith!), but it will have to wait for another post!

* The description of “black diphtheria” was eerily similar to what I’ve heard of the respiratory symptoms of Covid-19:

“A highly contagious disease seen often in this era, diphtheria was common in the United States and Western Europe. The upper respiratory system was typically affected, with a thick membrane forming up and down the air passages. Victims — usually children — ran high fevers, had sore throats, and sometimes died when the deadly membrane literally shut down their ability to breathe.”


My book, Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady (Marian Press, 2018), is available to order from ShopMercy.org and Amazon — perfect for expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady!

A May Crowning story 🌹

Don’t miss the consultation I posted last night! The baby’s arriving next week!

As this month of Our Lady winds to a close, I wanted to share this happy story with you all:

I’ve written before about my sister Molly (whose first name is a Mary variant, and whose middle name is Anne — Sancta Nomina’s two special-est ladies!) — you can read the story of her stillbirth and miraculous life here, and see photos of her participation in the beatification ceremony for Bl. Solanus Casey here (and swipe right). As noted in the article at that first link, she works at our parish school, which is the perfect place for her — it’s safe and sweet, and all the kids know her and get excited when they see her out of school, like at the grocery store (back when we all used to see each other at places like the grocery store).

The May Crowning at school is always done by the second graders, just a couple weeks after they receive their First Holy Communion. They wear their First Communion clothes to school, participate in the May Crowning, have a little reception hosted by the third grade parents, and are dismissed early from school on that day. It’s so special! It was so sad for our school that we couldn’t have the May Crowning in the same way this year! But our principal and pastor were determined to have a May Crowning anyway, and they asked Molly to be the one to crown Our Lady.

Oh my. Molly was totally wrecked over this request — in the best way! When she was telling me about it, she was all choked up and emotional over how this was the first time in her life she’d ever been given this honor. Lucky girl! May we always be so thrilled to love Our Lady! Happy Friday to you all!

Molly crowning Our Lady, and a better photo of her from Bl. Solanus’ beatification ceremony <3🌹


My book, Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady (Marian Press, 2018), is available to order from ShopMercy.org and Amazon — perfect for expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady!

 

Birth announcement: Paxton and Porter!

I did a private consultation for Lauren and her husband back in the fall — they were expecting twin boys, and Lauren has let me know that they’ve arrived! They’ve been given the awesome and significant names … Paxton and Porter!

Lauren writes,

Our babies were born on Friday, January 26, via planned cesarean. In the days leading up to delivery we became more anxious about not having settled on names, but eventually decided to wait until they were born and see what felt right. Upon arrival at the hospital, everyone asked what we’d chosen for names and we told them we were still undecided. In desperation, we told the nurses to take a poll amongst themselves and let us know what they liked best.

For so long, we’d shared name possibilities with just a few people, so speaking the names out loud didn’t happen very frequently. Once we started speaking the names aloud to the hospital staff, it became apparent how much of a tongue-tie it would be to go with Paxton and Payton. The names just sounded so similar and I kept getting confused every time I talked about the choices out loud. For me, it was starting to become obvious that Payton just wasn’t going to work.

After the babies were delivered, saying the names out loud continued to be confusing. Baby A turned out to be nearly a pound smaller than Baby B, which pushed me more toward the Paxton/Porter choice. Baby A was always the one that seemed less active in the womb and seemed generally more content even after delivery (that still holds true today). It became apparent that Baby A was to be named Paxton, leaning heavily on my desire to have a “peaceful” child. Since Baby B was so much larger, and also apparently more vocal (plus disliking the complexity of a Paxton/Payton combination), he became Porter. So while my husband was concerned about the “porterhouse” label, it actually held true at the time of delivery and even became a running joke between us.

These days, Paxton is still SUPER chill — he only cries when hungry and sleeps allll the time (the cyst in his brain may be to blame, but we’ll go with it). The gap in size is closing, but Porter still remains obviously larger than his “older” brother, and is certainly more demanding (though he happens to be breastfed while his brother is not … the two issues are related, perhaps?). As a family, we have found the transition from one to three much easier than zero to one, likely because our first was super high-needs and this time we are not combating that with the lack of experience as parents in general.”

I’m sure Lauren won’t mind me sharing that I’d suggested Porter with Bl. Solanus in mind, since he was the porter (doorkeeper) at his monastery, so I’m extra delighted that they named Twin B Porter! And Paxton, with its pax=peace connection, is so meaningful.

Please also pray for both of the boys — they both have medical concerns that are being addressed by doctors, and I know Lauren and her hubs would love be assured of your prayers.

Congratulations to the whole family, and happy birthday Paxton and Porter!!

Paxton and Porter with their family ❤