Family Tree

Stepcousins?

And Bob’s Your Uncle…

Sometimes it really helps to have a genealogy program that can calculate and display more than one relationship between two given individuals — which is what I have at Ottawa Valley Irish: A Genealogy Database, where I use TNG (The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding).

Take, for example, the case of Eugene McCarthy and his first wife Catherine Traynor.

And Mary’s Your Aunt, but also Your Mother-in-Law…

Jeremiah McCarthy and Honora Donovan of Muintervara, Co. Cork, Ireland had nine known children, one of whom was my second great-grandfather Eugene McCarthy, who emigrated to North America in the 1850s, first to Erie, Pennsylvania, and then to Kitley township, Leeds Co., Ontario, Canada. And before he married my second great-grandmother Honora (“Annie”) McDonald/McDonnell in 1872,1 Eugene McCarthy had a first wife named Catherine Traynor, who died about 1871 at about 37 years of age.

And here’s where things begin to get a little bit complicated. For in marrying Catherine Traynor (on 20 May 1860), Eugene McCarthy was marrying a young woman who called him “Cousin Eugen,” even though the pair weren’t actually cousins by blood. So: where did this idea of cousinship come from?

Catherine Traynor was born in Kitley township, Leeds Co., Ontario, Canada on 4 April 1833, the daughter of James Traynor and Mary Murphy.2 And James Traynor was not the first but the second husband of Mary Murphy. Mary Murphy’s first husband was Lawrence Donovan, brother of my third great-grandmother Honora Donovan, and therefore maternal uncle to Eugene McCarthy (son of Jeremiah McCarthy and Honora Donovan). By the way, Lawrence Donovan died in Upper Canada about 1832, not long after his arrival with his wife Mary Murphy and their four children, and was apparently killed by the falling of a tree (an occupational hazard for early Upper Canadian settlers).

So Mary (Murphy) Donovan Traynor was already an aunt by marriage to Eugene McCarthy (by virtue of her marriage to Eugene’s maternal uncle Lawrence Donovan); and when Eugene McCarthy married Catherine Traynor, his aunt Mary (Murphy) Donovan Traynor also then became his mother-in-law. And Catherine Traynor’s half-siblings (by her mother Mary Murphy’s first marriage to Lawrence Donovan) were, of course, the first cousins of her husband Eugene McCarthy.

Wait, what? I need a chart…

Confusing? Yes, very. And this is where I really appreciate’s TNG’s relationship calculator, which can calculate more than one relationship between any two given individuals, and which can then display those relationships in a nicely simplified chart.

To illustrate, let’s take one of the children of the marriage of Mary Murphy and her first husband Lawrence Donovan, and relate him to Eugene McCarthy:

Patrick Donovan was born inMuintervara, Co. Cork, Ireland in 1829, shortly before this family emigrated to Canada. As the son of Mary Murphy and her first husband Lawrence Donovan, Patrick Donovan was therefore Catherine Traynor’s half-brother (recall that Catherine Traynor was the daughter of Mary Murphy and her second husband James Traynor). But as the son of Mary Murphy and her first husband Lawrence Donovan, Patrick Donovan was also the first cousin of Eugene McCarthy (because Patrick’s father Lawrence Donovan and Eugene McCarthy’s mother Honora Donovan were siblings). Click images to enlarge:

Patrick Donovan and Eugene McCarthy: Relationships

Stepcousins?

So: were Eugene McCarthy and Catherine Traynor, who called themselves “cousins” but who were not related by blood, and who nevertheless married one another, in any case, actually stepcousins? I honestly don’t know. Eugene and Catherine don’t seem to quite fit the bill (the son or daughter of a step-aunt or step-uncle, or something like that), but the term seems a bit murky and loosey-goosey to me.

Your suggestions welcome!

  1. Honora was born about 1841 in Co. Clare, Ireland, the daughter of Patrick McDonald/McDonnell and Catherine Dea. In Canadian records, her maiden name is sometimes recorded as McDonald, sometimes as McDonnell. She married the widowed Eugene McCarthy as a widow herself: her first husband was a David Mahoney, who also came from Co. Clare.
  2.  James Traynor was born in 1804, Grangegeeth, Rathkenny, Co. Meath, Ireland, the son of Peter Traynor and Catherine McGuinness. Mary Murphy was born about 1806, Co. Cork, Ireland, the daughter of James Murphy and Catherine Hardin.
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