Sunday, 15 July 2012

A personal puzzle solved, perhaps ...

My great-grandfather Joseph CONDRAN's origins are unclear. His marriage certificate in 1884 gives his likely birth date as 1844 and states that his father is Charles CONDRAN (deceased), a provision merchant. (I think a provision merchant could be a grocer.) I have found Joseph in only two censuses, the 1881 UK census which suggests his birth date as 1841 and gives his birth place as Manchester, Lancashire, England, and the 1891 UK census which suggests his birth date as 1844 and gives his birth place as Cardiff, Wales. Family lore has Joseph CONDRAN as Irish.

In spite of years of searching, I have found no trace of a Charles CONDRAN, provision merchant, either in Ireland or on the UK mainland. I was therefore very interested a few weeks ago to find a marriage record for January, 1884, on the Lancashire Online Parish Clerk project ( of an Eliza CONDRON in Lytham, Lancashire: Eliza is aged 43 and gives her father as Charles CONDRON, grocer. Could Joseph and Eliza CONDR*N, born within a few years of one another in the same county, and giving the same father's name and occupation, be brother and sister?

I sent away for the birth certificate of the only likely Eliza: an Eliza CONDREN born in Manchester in 1840. When a copy of Eliza CONDREN's birth certificate arrived,  it named her mother as Catharine CONDREN but left the father's name blank, suggesting that Eliza was illegitimate.

Quite a number of the 1851 census returns for Manchester were not indexed until recently, because the original census books had been damaged in a flood, but heroic efforts in recent years have meant that many of the missing Manchester census returns have been restored as best they can be and have been indexed. Thus it was that I was able to find Catharine (now recorded as Catherine) CONDRON (aged 43, general servant) and her daughter Eliza CONDRON (aged 10) in the 1851 census for Manchester, in the household of ... Charles CORNER (aged 60), provision dealer. After that I found Catherine and her infant daughter in the 1841 census for Manchester, also in the household of Charles CORNER (aged 50, at that time a baker). In both censuses, both Charles CORNER and Catherine are recorded as having been born in Ireland.

So it's probable that Catherine told her daughter Eliza that her father was called Charles and was a provision dealer / grocer. Subsequently, either through misinterpretation or a deliberate attempt to hide her illegitimacy, Eliza, when she got married in 1884, gave her father as Charles CONDRON, grocer. The father could be Charles CORNER, or possibly his son (also Charles) who was aged 20 in the 1841 census.

Which brings me back to my great-grandfather. The evidence is circumstantial - I have not yet found a record which firmly ties him as a son of Catherine CONDRON. But given the lack of any evidence whatsoever for a Charles CONDRON who was a provision merchant, the coincidence of two people (Joseph and Eliza) of similar age and possibly both from Manchester giving their father as Charles CONDR*N with an occupation of provision merchant or grocer, I think it quite likely that Joseph and Eliza are brother and sister, illegitimate offspring of Catherine CONDR*N who was an Irish-born domestic servant in Manchester, and that their father was not Charles CONDR*N but her employer Charles CORNER who was also born in Ireland.

So perhaps my great-grandfather Joseph wasn't born in Ireland but in England, albeit of two Irish parents. Whether that means I'm still an eighth Irish, as I had always been told, or only one-sixteenth, I haven't yet worked out.

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