"Each has his own tree of ancestors, but at the top of all sits Probably Arboreal." - Robert Louis Stevenson

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

G is for Geoghegan

G was tricky, as I have two major G lines in my family – Geoghegan and Goulding – as well as a couple of smaller lines. Sadly for my Gouldings, however, it had to be Geoghegan; probably my favourite line in the entire tree and probably the most fascinating. It has proved incredibly difficult to keep this post to a reasonable length! As such, I have skimmed over where some of my information comes from, but should anyone be interested, please let me know and I’ll be happy to supply more detail.
My Geoghegan line begins with Kathleen Birchall Geoghegan, my 3x great-grandmother (straight down my father’s maternal line), and wife of Matt Hall. Kathleen was born to her unmarried mother Mary Ann Birchall in 1854. No father’s name appears on her birth certificate.
In fact, Mary Ann was the ‘mistress’ of Joseph Bryan Geoghegan. Joseph Bryan was born on April 13 1815, according to some sources, at either Barton Upon Irwell or Salford, Lancashire. You may have noticed my Twitter tribute to him a couple of days ago.
He already had a wife, Elizabeth Hopwood (m. 1833, Eccles, Lancashire), with whom he had nine children. Harriett, his eldest daughter with Elizabeth, was the same age as Mary Ann Birchall (b. 1835). His last daughter with Elizabeth would be born two years after Kathleen, in 1856. In fact, Kathleen wasn’t his first child with Mary Ann. She had given birth to a son, Henry Birchall Geoghegan, in 1853. Mary Ann and Joseph Bryan went on to have a further eight children: Thomas Birhall Geoghegan (b. 1856), Annie Birchall Geoghegan (b. 1859), John Birchall Geoghegan (b. 1860), May Birchall Geoghegan (b. 1863), Mary Birchall Geoghegan (b. 1867), Amy Birchall Geoghegan (b. 1868), Marion Birchall Geoghegan (b. 1870) and Ellen Birchall Geoghegan (1872).
This, in case you’ve lost count, gives Joseph Bryan a total of twenty children! (In fact, I have heard twenty-two quoted, so there may well be more!) Joseph Bryan married Mary Ann Birchall in 1871, just months after Elizabeth’s death.
I am compiling a descendancy of Joseph Bryan Geoghegan, in fact. It was something I had never tried before, and I thought it might be rather fun. It is still very much a work in progress and has a lot of gaps, but at present it has 148 people in it, including only direct line descendants and the associated spouses. It’s a very different ball game to going backwards!
His father was James Geoghegan, born in Ireland in about 1791. He worked as a Fustian Cutter, and died in 1862. His wife was Mary Ann, also born about in 1791. Besides Joseph Bryan, they had known daughters Ellen Geoghegan (b. 1826) and Martha Geoghegan (b. 1831). They may also have had a son named John Geoghegan, and it is likely that there were other children as well.
However, the most interesting thing about Joseph Bryan is that he was, if not famous exactly, certainly well-known in his field. He was a prolific writer of popular music hall songs, beginning in about 1841, and early in his career he styled himself ‘travelling singer’. He also worked in, and was later proprietor of, several music hall establishments:
‘Geoghegan’s itinerary can be traced esp. in The Era. From 1845 to 1858 he worked in the Star Hotel in Liverpool ... and from 1860 to 1864 in several music halls in Sheffield ... After that he moved to Manchester and Bolton where he worked as Chairman in the Star and as manager of the Victoria Variety Theatre. He finally bought his own music hall in Hanley.’
(From The Victorian Music Hall: Culture, Class and Conflict by Dagmar Kift)
Sadly, particularly given Joseph Bryan’s profession, several of his children are listed as ‘deaf and dumb from birth’ in various census entries. The exact numbers aren’t known, as there is a lot of variation across the censuses, and even some of Joseph Bryan’s children who aren’t noted as such in the census actually attended the Manchester School for the Deaf, according to newspaper features – though as far as I know Kathleen wasn’t affected.
It is also worth noting that he outlived many of his children. All of his sons, it would seem, died before their father. (*please note, this is not wholly verified)
Record hunting for Joseph Bryan was fairly straightforward for the most part, given his unique name and unusual occupation. There were a few hiccups though. For example, one of his children listed his father as Joseph Benjamin Geoghegan on a parish marriage record, which wasn’t particularly helpful. Furthermore, the entire family of Joseph Bryan and Mary Ann appeared to be absent from the 1881 census. Eventually it transpired (after I tried the address from the 1885 death certificate of their son Henry) that they were using the name Heyes!
There was abundant source material for his career, in particular. For example, this reference to a document in the National Archives, which I have yet to order:
Poem, printed c.1866 GEO GHEGAN'S/GUIDE TO BELLE VUE GARDENS... BY J.B. GEO GHEGAN SUNG ALSO BY ALBERT DE VOY. 6 Stanzas. G. Jennison's 'Season 1866' Pencil note Date To be had wholesale of J.B. GEOGHAN, Dog Inn, Deansgate, Manchester.
(Chetham's Library: Belle Vue Zoological Gardens [F.4.4 - F.6.9])
The National Archives also holds a photograph of Joseph Bryan Geoghegan, which you can see here. The copyright on this photograph was registered at the Stationers’ Company on 2 February 1889 by the photographer James Tildesley. This was just 13 days after Joseph Bryan Geoghegan’s death. My theory is that he was hoping to benefit from anyone wishing to publish the photograph in an obituary or similar.
Joseph Bryan Geoghegan’s funeral was held on 27 January 1889; he was buried at Heaton cemetery. The guests are reported as:  Mrs Geoghegan, Miss Amy Geoghegan, Mr and Mrs Barnes, Mr and Mrs Bennett (daughters and son-in-law), Mrs Hodson (daughter) – this information provided much of the starting point for my descendancy, though I haven’t yet ascertained who was Mrs Hodson. There was also Mr E. Abrahams, ‘missionary for the Bolton, Bury and Rochdale Adult Deaf and Dumb Society’.
After his death, the notice of his Will gives his personal estate as £518 7s 9d, which would today have the spending power of over £31,000. This doesn’t include his business interest or property. I have yet to order Joseph Bryan’s Will, which I’m sure will prove to be fascinating! His wife and one of his daughters, Dot (who turned out to be Ellen), took up the running of the Gaiety in Hanley, with Ellen becoming ‘the youngest directress in the profession’. Joseph Bryan’s widow died later that year.
Of Joseph Bryan’s descendants, some went on to theatrical careers – Kathleen’s husband Matt Hall, of course, was a Comedian and Theatre Manager. Others lived quieter married lives.
Happily, Joseph Bryan’s songs live on today. One was recently mentioned in a speech at the BBC Folk Awards, which took place on Joseph Bryan’s home turf in Salford. I nearly deafened my poor boyfriend by squealing ‘my ancestor wrote that!’ in his ear!
Researching this line, and Joseph Bryan in particular, has been one of my most exciting genealogical journeys. He was probably the first ancestor to lead me away from the traditional records and into unfamiliar territory, which has been incredibly rewarding and taught me to think outside the box in my research. Excitingly, there is still more to discover, I’m sure, and I hope one day to be able to tell an even more detailed story about his extraordinary life.
A massive thank you here to everyone who has helped me with the Geoghegan line, particularly the people at Mudcat
L x

1 comment:

  1. Fascinated reading this as he is my great great great grandfather! I think you've already chatted by email with my mum, Joy W. The mudcat links were certainly a big find for us both! I guess this makes us distantly related?!


Don't be shy...