Library Forum

niece/nephew = grandchild ?
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Author:  pwaldron [ Sun Jul 27, 2014 11:06 pm ]
Post subject:  niece/nephew = grandchild ?

In my youth, one of the more memorable family friends with whom visits were exchanged was Freddie Kerr (1897-1984) [grandfather of the well-known businessman and broadcaster Bobby Kerr]. Originally from county Roscommon, Freddie lived in Kilkee and was married to a Kilkee woman.

Freddie spoke frequently about his "nieces". I soon realised that he used this word where others would say "granddaughters" or possibly "grandchildren". I don't recall him mentioning grandsons or nephews, so perhaps they too were encompassed by his usage of the word nieces.

I assumed for many years that this was a one-person idiosyncracy. Then I began to notice a pattern in census returns.

In Cloonmore (locally known as Clohanes) in 1901, the family headed by Timothy Cahill (66) included his "nephew" Willie Williams (10) and "niece" Lizzie Cahill (16). From people who knew Willie Williams, I was certain that he was Timothy's grandson, and I have verified this in other sources. I am still trying to definitively identify Lizzie Cahill and her place in the family, but I suspect that she too was really a grandchild.

In Ballard (locally known as Baltard) in 1901, the family headed by Martin Mc Mahon (70) included his "niece" Maria Kitson (6), "niece" Maria Marrinan (13) and "nephew" Michael Marrinan (16). I have established that Maria Kitson was Martin's granddaughter, and suspect that the Marrinans too were really grandchildren, but can find no other record of them.

I have seen several other similar examples.

Can anyone definitively prove Lizzie Cahill, Maria Marrinan and Michael Marrinan's places in their respective families?

Were these discrepancies more likely to be (a) because a son of the head of the household filled out the forms and simply gave some relationships with respect to the head and others with respect to himself? or (b) because the English words "nephew" and "niece" were used with different meanings in the past? or (c) because there were Irish words with different meanings that people mistranslated to English?

The moral is to be very sceptical of any census return showing a large age discrepancy between an uncle or aunt and a niece or nephew.

Author:  pwaldron [ Thu Aug 28, 2014 1:26 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: niece/nephew = grandchild ?

I've just come across another household with a suspiciously large 64-year age gap between and aunt and her niece: ... g/1081392/

This prompted me to do a little more research and I learned that in several languages there is no distinction drawn between granddaughters and nieces:

I have yet to research the corresponding etymology in the Irish language.

Author:  brendan [ Thu Aug 28, 2014 9:00 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: niece/nephew = grandchild ?


I have seen an occasion where a grandchild, (Winefred O’Donnell, age 7), has been described as a niece of her grandfather (Charles Gallagher, age 70): ... h/1186875/

Here is Winifred ten years later in 1911 (Winnie, age 17) with her immediate family. Her mother, Mary O’Donnell, was the daughter of Charles Gallagher. ... an/497766/

The Irish word for grand-daughter is gariníon and grand-son is garmhac. However, according to Ó Dónaill’s Irish-English dictionary gariníon can also be translated in literary contexts as “adopted daughter” or “niece”, and garmhac as “sister’s son” (nephew). These discrepancies that you mentioned could have been caused by different interpretations of these Irish words.

However, we also know from the census returns that Charles couldn't read, and while Bridget could read there was no mention that she could write. My view in this case is that the son Edward completed the census form and simply accounted for Winifred as his own niece.

Author:  pwaldron [ Mon Sep 15, 2014 7:08 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: niece/nephew = grandchild ?

Here's another example (Marrinan and Quill) of a granddaughter described as a niece in the 1901 census: ... t/1080706/

The ages in 1901 (uncle 62, niece 3) are just about plausible, but the uncle then aged to 92 in 1911: ... st/365748/

An online family tree at ... ry&id=I203
confirms that the 3-year-old is the old man's granddaughter.

Author:  pwaldron [ Tue Dec 23, 2014 3:48 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: niece/nephew = grandchild ?

Michael McVicholas/McNicholas in this census return is another example for this collection of grandsons described as nephews: ... a/1596469/

Author:  murf [ Wed Dec 24, 2014 12:01 am ]
Post subject:  Re: niece/nephew = grandchild ?

Just for interest I ran a quick check on the total numbers of these relations in the two censuses for County Clare.
In 1901 there were 1178 grandsons and 1214 granddaughters.
In 1911 there were 1034 grandsons and 1001 granddaughters.
The differences between the sexes here could reasonably be attributed to random variation.
In 1901 there were 628 nephews and 877 nieces.
In 1911 there were 577 nephews and 739 nieces.
Now without doing some sort of statistical test of significance, there does appear, on the face of it some sort of bias towards nieces in this latter case.
This could support the supposition that there existed some confusion over the interpretation of the title "niece".

Author:  pwaldron [ Thu Jan 08, 2015 12:59 am ]
Post subject:  Re: niece/nephew = grandchild ?

Here's a very clear example, a household containing only two grandparents and their five grandchildren, all still (mis)described as nephews: ... h/1078525/

The grandmother and two of the grandsons are still in the household in 1911, along with two greatgrandchildren, giving every opportunity to create confusion, but all the relationships are correctly stated this time: ... d_/360928/

The missing parents Francis Griffin and Ellen Boland are presumed to have died before the 1901 census, as those with subscriptions can see here: ... 2072587277

Author:  pwaldron [ Thu Jan 08, 2015 1:34 am ]
Post subject:  Re: niece/nephew = grandchild ?

I got this interesting explanation from someone not on this forum:

in Irish the terms ‘Gariníon’ can mean granddaughter, niece or adopted daughter. Likewise ‘Garmhac’ can mean grandson, nephew or adopted son. Most of the people identified in the 1901 and 1911 Census Returns were Irish speakers, with limited English or as she would say ‘Clare English’ where one spoke with a mixture of Irish words when the English one didn’t come naturally. She also said it was common to expand it to Garmhac of my daughter or of my sister, which would identify the grandson or nephew.

Author:  pwaldron [ Sat Jan 10, 2015 11:40 am ]
Post subject:  Re: niece/nephew = grandchild ?

Michael and Anne Healy of Ballaghboy provide two more examples for this growing list:

In 1901, their household included their granddaughter Mary Anne Hassett (4), described as niece: ... y/1068304/

In 1911, Mary Anne's place had been taken by her sister Margaret (12), also described as niece: ... oy/352070/

Author:  miriam scahill [ Mon Jan 12, 2015 5:56 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: niece/nephew = grandchild ?

Hi Paddy and all - belated Happy New Year !!
Another Census form - 1901 Brew - Breaghoa (spelling -Breaghva on 1911) - DED Clooncoorha - George, Patrick and Susan should be shown as grandchildren - - obv. the form was filled in by their aunt Annie. Miriam.

Author:  pwaldron [ Thu Jan 29, 2015 1:31 am ]
Post subject:  Re: niece/nephew = grandchild ?

Another example:

Kathleen Kelly returned as niece by Kate Troy in 1901 was really a grandchild: ... t/1082093/

The same Kate Troy returned as "relative" in 1911 was really the mother-in-law: ... st/361036/

And Kate's daughter/Kathleen's mother had three other children with her in 1901: ... t/1078642/

Author:  pwaldron [ Sun Feb 08, 2015 6:45 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: niece/nephew = grandchild ?

Yet another example: ... d/1080030/

Bridget Kinnerk had one niece and two nephews in her household.

The nephews John and Thomas Haugh were definitely the children of Bridget's daughter Honor who had just lost her husband and was enumerated in Doonbeg with six more children: ... g/1078474/

My hunch is that the niece Bridget Downes was also a grandchild and was the half-twin of that name born to Joe Downes and Mary Kinnirk and baptised in Doonbeg parish on 15 May 1881. However, there is a three-year age discrepancy and I have failed to locate a baptismal record for Mary to confirm the relationship in this case.

Author:  pwaldron [ Wed Mar 04, 2015 8:19 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: niece/nephew = grandchild ?

Another example: ... r/1080852/

I have established that Anne Browne, described as a niece, was a grandchild of the head of family. This suggests that Catherine Keane and Denis Breene were probably also grandchildren.

Author:  pwaldron [ Fri Mar 20, 2015 7:31 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: niece/nephew = grandchild ?

Another example:

Michael Mulqueen appears to have been enumerated with his grandparents in both the 1901 and 1911 censuses, and enumerated twice in 1911, also appearing with his parents.

He is not with his parents in 1901: ... t/1082192/

He is described as "Grand Son" with his grandparents Michael and Bridget in 1901: ... h/1079348/

He is described as "Nephew" with the same grandparents in 1911: ... gh/361706/

He is also with his parents and four surviving siblings in 1911: ... et/364538/

Author:  pwaldron [ Thu Mar 26, 2015 12:44 am ]
Post subject:  Re: niece/nephew = grandchild ?

Another example:

In Finnor More in 1901, Thomas Sexton was described as nephew of his paternal grandparents Daniel and Maria: ... e/1078105/

In Finnor More in 1911, Thomas Sexton was correctly described as Grand Son of the now widowed Maria: ... re/360525/

That's the last trace I have of Thomas (my third cousin twice removed); I would like to know what became of him after 1911. His only sibling Henry William Sexton (known as Bill) was with his parents William and Henrietta in Kilrush in 1901: ... t/1082103/
Henrietta died in 1902 and I think the father was the William Sexton whose death was registered in 1905.

Bill settled in New York, possibly before 1911.

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