Railways and genealogy: Some thoughts, but many more questions

Ken Lennan

12K .jpg image of DWWRA post-D&KR company with some names

In this contribution, I seek to weave together my two particular hobbies, genealogy and railways, and how these strange bed-fellows might allow a researcher to use material built up in one hobby, to cast a little light on the problems of the other.

The simple link.

The two interests have already complemented each other. My mother recalled many years ago that her uncle, Willie Casey, had been a train driver on the Great Northern Railway. I also remembered, as a very young child, visiting "the relations" in Dundalk. These reminiscences were filed away until, in later life, family trees began to be constructed. Railways were always an interest and I had been a member of the Irish Railway Record Society (IRRS) since the late sixties. I discovered that the IRRS held the staff records of the GNR. This link in interests, produced the following precious information from the IRRS records (provided by the late Ernie Shepherd - author of several railway works, including the definitive book on the Dublin and South Eastern Railway):

W. Casey (also shown as W.J) - date of birth 11.8.1885, deceased 7 June 1940
To Belfast as a driver 5/7/1919
To Dublin do. 31/7/1920
To Dundalk do. 23/9/1922
do. as a fireman 20/5/1933
do. as a driver 3/3/1934
do. as a fireman 20/3/1937
do. as a driver 16/10/1937

As a by-product, the career in the GNR of his son, another William, b. 6.12.1916, d. 22.3.1947, from Temporary Cleaner at Cootehill, to fireman at Dundalk was also provided.

So not only were my searches in the GRO in Lombard St. narrowed down, but colour has been attached to the stark dates. In addition corroborating evidence had emerged for hearsay. Reputedly, when on the late Dublin run, Willie would stay at his brother's house in Ranelagh, tapping on the window late at night to be let in. With the benefit of the IRRS data, the date was identified as 1919-20, when he was on the Belfast run. GNR timetables have been consulted and the late run identified. A locomotive type can be associated with this and photos will grace the family tree. Unfortunately, some knowledge of railway liveries precludes the use of the impressive GNR blue (which came quite a bit later). But even genealogists may cheat a little! At least, wearing my railway hat, an authentic GNR luggage label from his son's station at Cootehill can be delivered to the family tree maker. No tickets yet, but one will undoubtedly turn up.

I was also able to identify the house where my grand uncle had lived by putting together a memory of Dundalk works at the end of the garden and my subsequent understanding of where exactly this was.

I understand from others that I was probably lucky, in that the records of other companies, either had been destroyed long ago, or, since they have not been computerised, individuals could not be traced. Perhaps, if I had been living in Ireland, this might have been my lifetime project.

A current conundrum.

However, the merging of these interests has not resulted in the same success story for my current preoccupations, despite a possible railway interpretation. My Lennan family research is at a standstill before 1872. My great grandfather John's marriage certificate gives his father as James, dead by this date. The names James and John are not exactly a genealogist's dream! John was a saddler/harness maker, as was my grandfather, and lived in Booterstown and then Williamstown. From research in the GRO, Dublin directories, etc., quite early on, I determined to ignore the Lennan/Lennon distinction (many certificates had marks affixed, so how could one expect the individuals to know whether they were 'AN' or 'ON'?). I have, subsequently, built up a database of over 11000 L*nn*n Dublin events (many of which are on line in these pages).

Concentrating on Dublin South/Rathdown there would appear to be two distinctive Lenn*n tribes.

One was of centre-city saddlers, shoemakers and labourers, with a concentration in Pitt St. (now Balfe St.) and Mercer St., but with quite a number in the area bounded by Francis St., Kevin St. and St. Stephens Green. The 'premier' Lennan saddler was William, by appointment to H.M. Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and the Lord Lieutenant, at 29-30 Dawson St., Dublin, plus, by the end of the century, with a branch in Belfast. But other, a lot more minor, Lennan leather workers seemed to abound in the vicinity.

The second tribe was a large pocket of Lenn*ns in the Newtownpark, Booterstown, Kill, Blackrock and Dun Laoghaire area, south of Dublin. As far as occupations were concerned, there were quite a number of labourers, drivers, servants, one grocer and my saddler.

Research, so far, cannot rule out roots in the latter area even if my father always maintained that the family had come from Pitt St.. The story was that his great grandfather was a brother of William. His son, John, was always in delicate health (he died aged 29), was sent to a nursing home in Booterstown run by a Mrs. Carroll, romantically marrying the daughter of the house, Hannah. The last can be proved to have happened in 1872 while his death occurred in 1879. Some link with William is, circumstantially, suggested by the fact that my father had a William Lennan saddle plate in his effects. But the link between 'there and here' is very unclear. Convalescence is a plausible story but I would be much happier if I could account for the local Lennons, knew a bit more about the social demography of the time, and what was happening along the Dublin-Kingstown axis in that period.

The latter naturally leads to the question of the coming of the railway, its effect on the south Dublin area, and its knock-on effects on the inner city. Although I do not presume to answer these significant questions, some thoughts on the subject might stimulate others to reveal their research on an event which must have had profound effects on the area.

The arrival of the railway,

Following on from the construction work on the Kingstown Pier (treated comprehensively, on the basis of material in the National Archives, in a recent issue of the Journal of the Dun Laoghaire Genealogical Society), the economy of the area received an additional impetus from the building, and subsequent operation, of the Dublin and Kingstown Railway, the first to be constructed in Ireland. This railway gave Dublin the honour of being the first of the world's present day capitals to have a passenger railway station (London had to wait until 1836).

The origins of the idea of a railway reach back to 9 February 1825 with a petition being presented by "several Gentlemen, Merchants, Traders, Freeholders, and others of Dublin" "for a railway or tramroad from the Royal Harbour of Kingstown.... to or near Mount St....which would be of great public utility" with a Bill being submitted to Parliament. However other interests supported a ship canal, and the Bill failed.

No progress was made on advancing the idea of a canal and a group, led by James Pim, employed a Scottish engineer Alexander Nimmo to produce a plan. A petition was presented to Parliament on 28/2/1831 and a Bill was presented and brought in afresh after the General Election. The Act received the Royal Assent on 6/9/1831 and the Dublin & Kingstown Railway Company came into existence. A meeting of subscribers on 25/11/1831 was told that business was expected from "the dense and rapidly increasing population of the several avenues leading from the present line of road (which are beginning to assume the character of streets) and of the district between Kingstown and the foot of the Killiney hills - a large part of which is now laid out for building". Frequent trains and reasonable charges were to be company policy and "it is presumed that these arrangements...will induce many of the higher classes of Society to avail themselves of the peculiar advantages of the railway". "Kingstown will become a spot to which all classes will be attracted by the opportunity for the enjoyment of healthy exercise amidst a pure atmosphere and beautiful and romantic surroundings". The company had even taken a census, over nine months, of existing traffic at Blackrock from 6a.m. to 9 p.m. with the results been given to subscribers. The old Rock Road therefore seemed to bear quite a bit of traffic. Subscribers were enthusiastic. After some delay the Board of Public Works consented to a loan. Charles Vignobles was appointed Chief Engineer. Difficulties were experienced with several landowners. Tenders were invited and William Dargan was awarded the construction contract.

Construction began at Dunleary on 11/4/1833, at Monkstown on 17/4/1833, with the first stone being laid on the 24th at Westland Row. A strike on 4/6/1833 halted work for a few days but soon restarted. Granite came from the Harbour quarries at Dalkey while a further bed was found at Seapoint. Embankments were built at Monkstown, Seapoint and Merrion over the summer while building continued at the city end. 1500 men were at work in July while the number had risen to 1800 in September by which time a temporary line was laid between Serpentine Avenue and the city. By 31/7/1834 one line was complete and the first journey was made by directors and friends in a horse drawn coach. On the 4th October 1834 the engine Vauxhall drew a small train as far as Williamstown and back and on the 9th October the first trip was made over the whole line. A severe flood on the Dodder, which washed away the railway bridge, postponed the official opening, which eventually took place on 17/12/1834. A Bill of 1834 for the extension of the railway from the Old Harbour to the New Wharf had meanwhile become law in May 1834. The extension was opened on 13/5/1837. Efforts to extend the main line to Dalkey (in 1842 "having about 40 souls") were not successful at this stage but the curious Atmospheric railway was built and opened on 29/3/1844. As a result, building in that area, became brisk. The Atmospheric line was subsequently converted to a normal line by the Dublin and Wicklow Railway (which by 10/7/1854 was running between Harcourt Road and Bray, and Bray to Dalkey). After several disputes on terms, the D&K section was leased to the D&WR and Kingstown became a through station on the south eastern line.


Opening and closing of stations

DK Railway stations are in the attached 6k pdf file with their opening and closing dates. (Sources: Butt, R.V.J., The Directory of Railway Stations, Patrick Stephens Ltd., 1995, Murray, K.A., Ireland's First Railway, Irish Railway Record Society, 1981)


An index to individuals associated with the D&KR, D&WWR and DSER

216 names associated with the railway are in the attached 17k pdf file with dates, event and reference source (Key: WES=The Dublin & South Eastern Railway, W.Ernest Shepherd, David & Charles 1974, KAM=Ireland's First Railway, K.A.Murray, IRRS 1981)


site map


ball to index Return to Lennan Index page, or go to data for the total index to all Lenn*n entries. ball to data

red ball Alternatively, go to my railwayana.com pages for Irish railway data red ball

ball to railway auction pages Or even, go to my railwayana auction price pages ball to railway auction pages


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