Irish ancestry, or the lack of it

Earlier this year there was a genealogy idea doing the rounds online, tagged #MyColorfulAncestry. The suggestion, which originated with American genealogist J. Paul Hawthorne (GeneaSpy), was to create a five-generation pedigree/ancestry chart for your ancestors, using a Microsoft Excel template with the cells colour-coded according to each ancestor’s place of birth (U.S. state, or country).1

It’s an interesting way of showing the geographical spread of your ancestors over time. There were some very colourful examples – like this one – shared via social media, showing how people’s ancestors had migrated from many different lands and throughout the U.S.A.2

I joked that my own five-generation chart would not take long – every cell would be the same colour and would just read “England”. I could introduce more variety by labelling and colouring the cells according to the historic county of England in which each ancestor was born (over the last five generations, there would be nine: County DurhamDerbyshire, Lancashire, Leicestershire, Northumberland, Oxfordshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, and Yorkshire).

To reach my first non-English ancestor I would have to extend the chart to six generations so that it displayed my 32 great-great-great grandparents, including cordwainer (master shoe and boot maker) William Grady who was born in County Armagh in about 1830 or ’31.35 I am now fairly certain that William’s son Luke (O’)Grady (1867-????) was the mysterious absentee father of one of my great-grandparents.6 (I still don’t know what happened to Luke O’Grady after his child was born in 1888.)

This makes me about 3% Irish. When I started looking into my family history I had assumed – because of the extent of Irish immigration to Britain, and because my mother’s family name is an Irish surname (see below) – that I was going to find much more Irish ancestry, and more recently than the mid-C19th.

The #MyColorfulAncestry chart below covers seven generations. The top half is my ancestry back to three-greats grandparents; the bottom half shows my wife’s ancestors, who were also all born in England, making my children about 1.6% (1/64) Irish. Any lines that I have traced back further than my children’s four-greats grandparents have been wholly English. There may well be more Irish or other countries of origin in the lines I haven’t yet researched. There are Scottish names (notably Gray) amongst my paternal grandmother’s ancestors, but no proven connection to individuals born in Scotland.

Colour coded pedigree chart

Seven-generation pedigree chart colour-coded by birthplace
From an idea by J. Paul Hawthorne (GeneaSpy) #MyColorfulAncestry
Click on the image for a larger version.

I do not know when William Grady (or O’Grady) came to England. There are hundreds of people of that name in the 1841 + 1851 English censuses, including several Irish-born shoemakers of approximately the right age.7,8 The first definite sighting of William is at his marriage to Jane Spooner on 23 April 1859 at St George’s Church (C of E) in Wolverhampton, Staffordshire.9 According to the entry in the marriage register William was born around 1831 and that his father was James Grady, also a shoemaker. Later censuses (1861-’81) established that William was born in Ireland, in Armagh.35

There’s a good chance William left Ireland during the Great Famine between 1845 and 1852.10,11

St George's Church, Wolverhampton: now a branch of Sainsbury's © Copyright Roger Kidd and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

St George’s Church, Wolverhampton, where William Grady and Jane Spooner were married in 1859, is now a branch of Sainsbury’s. © Copyright Roger Kidd and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

The National Library of Ireland has digitised its entire collection of Catholic parish registers and made them available for free, at:

I have only found one baptism entry in that collection for a William, son of James Grady or O’Grady in the whole of County Armagh around the right time period. This William was baptised on 3 May 1830 in Armagh City. His mother’s name was Mary Fitzsimmons or -simons. The father’s occupation was not recorded.12

The same James Grady and Mary Fitzsimmons also had a daughter, Jane Grady, baptised in Armagh on 10 January 1829. I cannot find a corresponding marriage for James and Mary.12

The baptism records above may well not relate to the family of ‘my’ William Grady. I have no way of knowing how many potential candidate baptism records have not survived (notoriously, many Irish records have not), or even whether William’s family were Catholic (an even higher proportion of the records of the Anglican Church of Ireland were destroyed – by fire, in 1922).13

Baptism of William Grady

Entry in the register of baptisms for William Grady, 3 May 1830, Armagh.
National Library of Ireland, reproduced under licence.

After William Grady and Jane Spooner were married in 1859 they moved initially to Lock Street in the city of Worcester.3 From 1867 onwards they were living back in Jane’s home town of Wolverhampton, at number 80, Temple Street.4,5,14,15 They had six children:

  • Ellen (b. 1860, Worcester – d. maybe 1900, Birmingham?)
  • Mark (b. 1862, Worcester – d. 1889, Newport, South Wales)
  • Martha (b. 1864, Worcester – d. ????)
  • Luke (b. 1867, Wolverhampton – d. ????)
  • Agnes (b. 1871, Wolverhampton – d. ????)
  • Winifred (b. 1876, Wolverhampton – d. 1930, Newhaven, Sussex)

Jane Grady née Spooner died in Wolverhampton in 1878 – William passed away five years later. He was fifty-three.14

You can see from the number of question marks in the list above that William and Jane’s children have a habit of disappearing without trace…

  • By 1891 Ellen was living in Camberwell, London, with her daughter Kathleen Turner (1887-????) and her sister Winifred (Winnie). I cannot find a marriage of Ellen (O’)Grady to Mr Turner. She may have died in Birmingham in 1900.14,16,17
  • Mark became a railway policeman with the G.W.R. and was posted to London then to Cardiff, Newport, and Crosskeys. He died in South Wales in 1889, aged twenty-seven.5,14,18
  • Martha was living in Lambeth, London in 1881, working as a professional dancer and lodging in the home of Edward Owden, clown(!) – she then disappears.5
  • Luke fathered a child in January 1888 – then disappears.6
  • Agnes was in Lambeth in 1891, working as a general servant. However ten years later she appears in Westminster, occupation: professional dancer (the same as her sister Martha twenty years before) – she then disappears.5,6
  • Winifred (Winnie) was living with her sister Ellen in 1891; six years later she married master grocer Austin James Horsley, settling down in Lambeth. They had a daughter, Elise Mary Horsley (1899-1993). Winifred died in Sussex in 1930.14,16,19,20

I have also traced the ancestry of my mother’s family name, Corr. My great grandfather Frank Corr was born an O’Grady (above)6 but used the name Corr throughout his life, giving it to his eleven children and thirteen of his grandchildren. Corr was the surname of Frank’s mother’s late husband, Edward Corr (1853-1887). Edward was also the first cousin of Frank O’Grady/Corr’s biological father, Luke O’Grady.

Edward was born in Wolverhampton in 1853 and worked as a machinist/turner and fitter in Birmingham before his early death.3,4,5,14 He married (Frank O’Grady/Corr’s mother) Emily Farley on 14 July 1872.21 Edward’s parents were Felix Corr (1834-1874) and Harriet Spooner.22

Harriet Spooner was the elder sister of Jane Spooner the wife of William Grady (above). On 27 December 1852 at St Peter’s Church in Wolverhampton she married file maker Felix Corr.23 Felix was born in about June 1834 in St Neots in Huntingdonshire and had moved to Wolverhampton to be apprenticed to a file maker, Elihu Price. His parents were another Felix Corr (about 1806-1838) and Emma Hancock.3,4,8,22

It’s very likely that Felix Corr, senior, was from Ireland – again, probably from Armagh. The surname Corr (Ir. Ó Corra) is particularly common in Ulster generally and in counties Tyrone and Armagh in particular.24

In Bradshaw’s 1819 Directory for Armagh City there is an entry for Felix Corr, huxter (i.e. hawker), of Castle Street.25

St Mary at Quay, Ipswich

St Mary at Quay, Ipswich, where Felix Corr (senior) and Emma Hancock were married in 1834. Now in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust and home to a corporate events and ‘complementary therapies’ centre.
© Copyright Robert Edwards and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

On 1 April 1834 in the church of St Mary at Quay, Ipswich, Suffolk, Felix Corr and Emma Hancock were married. The witnesses were Emma’s sister Sophia Hancock and her future husband Shadrach Chaplin. (Sophia and Shadrach are ancestors of the actor Charlie Chaplin.)2628

Emma and Felix had two sons: Felix junior, and John, who died in infancy.14

Felix Corr, licensed hawker, died in Ipswich aged only thirty-two, of “decline”.29 His widow remarried in 1839; her new husband Peter McDonald was originally from Dundalk, County Louth and was also a hawker.7,8,14 Emma and Peter had a son, Michael McDonald, in 1840.14 The whole family including Emma’s son Felix Corr spent the next decade travelling round East Anglia, presumably engaged in hawking their wares.7,8

Michael McDonald later joined his half-brother Felix in the industrial West Midlands.5,17,19,20 The extended Corr/McDonald family were typical in one sense – huge numbers of Irish people migrated to Wolverhampton and Birmingham in the C19th, and Birmingham still has a large Irish community – but were unusual in coming to the West Midlands via rural East Anglia, which never had a big Irish population, and in their parents having been in England well before the huge wave of immigration from Ireland in the 1840s.30

Hancock sketch family tree

Sketch family tree of the Hancock, Chaplin, Corr, (O’)Grady and Spooner families.
Click on the image for a larger version.


  1. Hawthorne, J. Paul, “A Little Thing That Went Viral… #MyColorfulAncestry,” GeneaSpy, 26 March 2016 ( : accessed 3 October 2016).
  2. Last, Jana, “My Five Generation Birthplace Pedigree Chart,” Jana’s Genealogy and Family History Blog, 24 March 2016 ( : accessed 3 October 2016).
  3. “1861 England Census,” digital images, Ancestry Library Edition ( : accessed 18 December 2015); The National Archives, Kew.
  4. “1871 England Census,” digital images; The National Archives, Kew.
  5. “1881 England Census,” digital images; The National Archives, Kew.
  6. England and Wales, birth certificate (certified copy); General Register Office, Southport.
  7. “1841 England Census,” digital images; The National Archives, Kew.
  8. “1851 England Census,” digital images; The National Archives, Kew.
  9. St George’s Church (Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, England), parish registers; digital images, Findmypast ( : accessed 3 December 2014).
  10. Swift, Roger, editor, Irish migrants in Britain, 1815-1914: a documentary history (Cork University Press, 2002).
  11. Neal, Frank, Black ’47: Britain and the Famine Irish (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1998).
  12. St Patrick’s Cathedral (Armagh, County Armagh, Ireland), parish registers; digital images, National Library of Ireland ( : accessed 3 December 2014).
  13. “‘All Irish genealogical records were destroyed in the 1922 fire’: Myth or fact?” Irish Genealogy Toolkit ( : 5 October 2016).
  14. “FreeBMD,” digital images, FreeBMD ( : accessed 29 March 2016); General Register Office, Southport.
  15. Birmingham Post, 20 July 1880, p. 5.
  16. St Mark’s Church (Kennington, London, England), parish registers; digital images, Ancestry Library Edition ( : accessed 25 April 2016).
  17. “1891 England Census,” digital images; The National Archives, Kew.
  18. “UK, Railway Employment Records, 1833-1956,” digital images, Ancestry Library Edition ( : accessed 26 April 2016); The National Archives, Kew.
  19. “1901 England Census,” digital images; The National Archives, Kew.
  20. “1911 England Census,” digital images; The National Archives, Kew.
  21. All Saints’ Church (Hockley, Warwickshire, England), parish registers; digital images, Ancestry.
  22. St Mary’s Church (Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, England), parish registers; digital images, Findmypast.
  23. St Peter’s Church (Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, England), parish registers; digital images, Findmypast.
  24. Grenham, John, Irish Ancestors – Irish Surnames ( : accessed 5 October 2016).
  25. Brown, Sharon Oddie, “Bradshaw’s 1819 Directory for Armagh City,” transcription, 23 June 2008, The Silver Bowl ( : 20 March 2015).
  26. Church of St Mary at Quay (Ipswich, Suffolk, England), banns; Suffolk Record Office, Lowestoft.
  27. Church of St Mary at Quay (Ipswich, Suffolk, England), bishop’s transcripts; Suffolk Record Office, Lowestoft.
  28. Suffolk Record Office, research service report, 5 October 2015, ref. 9/1/S/KEM.
  29. England and Wales, death certificate (certified copy); General Register Office, Southport.
  30. Swift, Roger and Gilley, Sheridan, editors, The Irish in Victorian Britain: the local dimension (Four Courts Press, 1999).

First World War centenary family history

In commemoration of the centenary of the start of the First World War, here are my notes on my ancestors and their immediate family members who served in the British armed forces between 1914-1918. I know of two immediate relatives who lost their lives in WWI, plus three relatives of my wife’s:

  1. John Wears Gray (1894-1918)
  2. Francis “Frank” Stainthorp (1886-1918)
  3. George Mabbott Black (1891-1915)
  4. Arthur Black (1897-1915)
  5. William Bassett Foster (1889-1915)
  6. I have also included brief notes on other relatives who served and survived the war

Paul Harland Stainthorp ( Version 1.0, updated 14th August 2014.

1. John Wears Gray (1894-1918)

Private John Wears Gray, 5132 Royal Scots, later 350197, "D" Company, 9th (Glasgow Highlanders) Battalion, Highland Light Infantry.

Private John Wears Gray, 5132 Royal Scots, later 350197, “D” Company, 9th (Glasgow Highlanders) Battalion, Highland Light Infantry. Died aged 25 on 29th September 1918. Buried at Targelle Ravine British Cemetery, Villers-Guislain, France. Family photograph, © all rights reserved

My great-great-uncle John Wears Gray was born in 1894 in Newcastle upon Tyne, the second son of corporation rent-collector Charles Gray and his wife Sarah née Wears. In the census of 1901, John, aged 7, was with his parents at the family home at 14, Dene Terrace, South Gosforth – at the same address in 1911 he was recorded as a 17-year-old grocers’ apprentice with the Newcastle Co-operative Society (John’s father Charles had died four years earlier, at the age of only 42, leaving five children and his wife Sarah expecting twins).

It appears that John Wears Gray enlisted sometime in 1915. Although his WWI military service record has not survived, John’s medal card records his rank (Private), regimental number (5132) and that he initially served in the Royal Scots regiment.

At some point, John was transferred from the Royal Scots to the 9th Battalion, Highland Light Infantry and given a new regimental number (350197); possibly he was one of the men who joined the H.L.I. near Mametz Wood in the Somme in northern France in July 1916 – this fresh intake of men was recorded in the regimental diary.

At 4.40am on Sunday 29th September 1918, “D” Company of the 9th Glasgow Highlanders moved out of their trenches behind the front line in the small French commune of Villers-Guislain, south of Cambrai. An hour later they charged the German lines in thick fog.

At Targelle Ravine, some 60 men led by Lieutenant Douglas Fountaine Brodie found themselves too far forward and cut off from the rest of the brigade. They dug in and sent a message asking for instructions (the order to withdraw given in reply was intercepted – the messenger was taken prisoner). Most of the men at in Lt D. F. Brodie’s isolated party at Targelle were captured. Lt Brodie escaped capture by feigning death, but was killed in action a month later.

John Wears Gray was one of more than 350 men killed in the fighting at Villers-Guislain on this single day in September. He was 25. Next morning’s entry in the regimental diary begins:

30 September 1918: front line at Villers Guislain.
The morning stand to was unusually quiet.
—Diary of 9th Battalion, Highland Light Infantry. WO 95/2431/1. Kew: The National Archives

Screenshot from the Ian Hislop episode of the BBC's 'Who Do You Think You Are?' programme, showing John Wears Gray's headstone at Targelle Ravine British Cemetery

Screenshot from the Ian Hislop episode of the BBC’s ‘Who Do You Think You Are?‘ programme, showing John Wears Gray’s headstone at Targelle Ravine British Cemetery, Villers-Guislain. Broadcast on Yesterday, 14th November 2013

350197 Private John Wears Gray, the son of Sarah Gray, of 14, Dene Terrace, South Gosforth, Newcastle upon Tyne, and the late Charles Gray, is buried in Targelle Ravine British Cemetery, Villers-Guislain, Nord, France.

David Murdoch Hislop, the paternal grandfather of the journalist & broadcaster Ian Hislop, served in the Highland Light Infantry alongside my great-great-uncle John Wears Gray, and also fought at the battle of Targelle Ravine. In the first series of the BBC’s family history programme ‘Who Do You Think You Are?‘, Ian Hislop travelled with his family to Villers-Guislain and retraced the footsteps of his grandfather in the battle on 29th September 1918. In a sequence filmed at the Targelle Ravine cemetery, the camera pans along the line of white Commonwealth gravestones, and John Wears Gray’s own headstone can be clearly seen on screen.

John Gray was posthumously awarded the standard Victory and British campaign medals which presumably were sent to his widowed mother Sarah. His name is inscribed on a memorial plaque at St Nicholas’ Church, South Gosforth – images of the memorial are available on the North East War Memorials Project website.

John’s elder brother, my great-grandfather David Gray, also served in the war (see below).

2. Francis “Frank” Stainthorp (1886-1918)

Another two-greats uncle, the son of butcher/publican William Stainthorp and Margaret Anne née Harland. Francis Stainthorp was born on 19th January 1886 at the Crown and Anchor Hotel, Main Street, Redcar, Yorks., where his father William was landlord. By 1891, William Stainthorp had taken over the licence at the New Inn, Skelton-in-Cleveland, and the 4-year-old Frank was listed there on the ’91 census.

By 1901, the Stainthorps had moved to 57 Castlereagh Street, New Silksworth, a mining-village suburb of Sunderland, and William had returned to the usual Stainthorp family occupation of butcher. Frank married Mary Lena Mason in Sunderland in 1910, and by 1911 the newlyweds had set up home in a three-room tenement on Burdon Lane, Ryhope, County Durham – Frank having followed his father into the butchery trade. One daughter, Margaret, was born in Ryhope on 14th January 1911 – a second, named Mary Lena after her mother, followed on 31st March 1913, after the family had moved to nearby Seaham.

Francis Stainthorp enlisted in the army on 9th September 1914 at Seaham Harbour, County Durham, joining the 14th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry with the rank of Private; regimental number 21653. He was 28 years old – his attestation papers recorded that he had previously served in the Northants (or possibly Northumberland – the handwriting is not clear!) Hussars, a Yeomanry regiment. He gave his occupation as butcher; his medical record shows that he was 5′ 9¼” tall and weighed just over nine stone.

While undergoing basic training at Halton Park near Tring in Hertfordshire, Frank was promoted to Lance Corporal. (He was stripped of this rank in 1915 after being picked up drunk and absent without leave, having overstayed his pass. He further marked his card in 1916 when he was arrested and tried by Field General Court Martial for “conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline” – Confined to Barracks for 10 days. He was eventually reappointed L/Cpl on 12th February 1917.)

In February 1918 Frank was among 200 soldiers transferred from the 14th to the 19th Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry while the latter was encamped behind the front lines at Poelcappelle in Flanders.

Ordnance Survey / British War Office (G.S.G.S.), First World War Trench Map showing Avelghem and Kerkhove, October 1918. National Library of Scotland

Ordnance Survey / British War Office (G.S.G.S.), First World War Trench Map showing Avelghem and Kerkhove, October 1918. National Library of Scotland

By 31st October the same year—in the final “Hundred Days” offensive of the war—the 19th D.L.I. were in the front line north of Avelghem. At 5.35 on the morning of the 31st, the Faithful Durhams attacked along with two battalions of the Lancashire Fusiliers. By 10.30am they had taken all objectives along with 350 German prisoners, and the British Army controlled a stretch of country to the east of Avelghem as far as the small village of Kerkhove with its church dedicated to Saint Amand (Sint-Amandus).

However these gains came at a heavy cost. 102 British soldiers were killed on this day at Avelghem.

21653 L/Cpl Frank Stainthorp, aged 32, died of his wounds on 31st October 1918 near the village of Kerkhove; he was buried in the churchyard at Kerkhove Sint-Amanduskerk. In November 1922, as part of a programme of ‘concentration’ of scattered individual British and Commonwealth war graves into larger cemeteries, his body was exhumed and moved to the huge Bedford House Cemetery near Ieper (Ypres).

Awaiting photograph…

Awaiting photograph…

Frank’s campaign medals were sent to his widow, Mrs Mary Lena Stainthorp of 15, Hill Street, Seaham Harbour, Co. Durham. In 1919, Mary was awarded a widow’s pension of 25s. 5d. a week.

Frank Stainthorp’s name was added to a memorial plaque which was erected at Chester-le-Street Wesleyan Methodist Church in June 1922. However, the plaque was lost when the church was later converted into a private house. Details of the memorial are available on the North East War Memorials Project website.

I have not yet been able to trace what happened to Frank’s family in County Durham after the war. His daughter Margaret may have married Reginald S. Godfrey in Middlesex in 1934.

N.B. this Francis Stainthorp (1886-1918) was the 2-greats grandson of Francis Stainthorp (1765-1822), weaver of Hutton Rudby, whom I have written about here.

3. George Mabbott Black (1891-1915)

4. Arthur Black (1897-1915)

My wife’s great-uncles George and Arthur Black were brothers: two of the thirteen children of agricultural labourer William Black and his wife Mary née Pask of 35, Hope Street, Lincoln.

George Mabbott Black was born on 30th November 1890 in Sturton-by-Stow, Lincs.; his middle name “Mabbott” was the maiden name of his maternal grandmother. A farm waggoner, he joined the Royal Navy and by 1915 was a Stoker on the destroyer HMS Wolverine. He died on 27th August 1915 in the Eastern Mediterranean, presumably while on active service as part of the Dardanelles Campaign. He was 24. George is commemorated at East Mudros Military Cemetery on the Greek island of Lemnos (Λήμνος).

Lincoln War Memorial and St Benedict's Church

Lincoln City War Memorial and St Benedict’s Church 
The names of George M. Black, Arthur Black, and William B. Foster are inscribed on the High Street memorial 
© Copyright Tom Bastin and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Arthur Black—the younger brother by 6 years—was born on 2nd May 1897 in the City of Lincoln itself. He became a Private in the 1/4th Battalion, the Lincolnshire Regiment; his service number was 1824. He died on 13th October 1915, at only 18 years of age, in the “useless slaughter of infantry” of the Battle of the Hohenzollern Redoubt. His name is inscribed on the Loos Memorial in northern France, one of the 3,643 Allied casualties of the battle.

5. William Bassett Foster (1889-1915)

William Bassett Foster was my wife’s great-great-uncle (two greats). He was born in 1889 in Lincoln: the son of house painter Thomas Foster and Hannah Cass née Bassett, of 63, Burton Road. Like Arthur Black, he was a Private in the 1/4th Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment; service number 2783. He was killed in the same battle on 13th October 1915, aged 26, and is also commemorated on the Loos Memorial.

William Foster’s name—along with George and Arthur Black’s—can be seen on the city war memorial on Lincoln High Street.

6. Other relatives who served and survived the war

This list will grow as I discover more service records.

*I am greatly indebted to my distant cousin Nigel Butterfield who provided the information on the four Curry brothers who were my three-greats uncles.

Stone of Remembrance, Tyne Cot

Stone of Remembrance, Tyne Cot
© Copyright Mark Kilner and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence