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On This Day: The Marriage of the Great–great–great Grandparents of the Duchess of Sussex in Donnybrook Parish Church, 23rd January 1860

On this day (23rd January 1860) in the Church of Ireland parish church of Donnybrook, Dublin, the marriage took place between Thomas Bird, a private in the 22nd (Cheshire) Regiment, based at Beggar’s Bush Barracks in that parish, and Mary McCague, then residing at Merrion Strand, of the same parish.

What makes the date of some 159 years ago, and the couple involved (Thomas, the son of James Bird, a labourer, and Mary, the daughter of Francis McCague, a farmer) so auspicious is that they were the great–great–great grandparents of Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex.

The marriage entry of Thomas Bird and Francis McCague, 23 January 1860, St Mary's Church, Donnybrook, RCB Library P246.2.2.
The marriage entry of Thomas Bird and Francis McCague, 23 January 1860, St Mary's Church, Donnybrook, RCB Library P246.2.2.

The entry is found in the Donnybrook marriage register complete with contemporary smudges (where the book may have been closed before the ink had time to dry) now housed in the context of many other parish records, in the Representative Church Body Library. For a complete list, see this link: http://bit.ly/2FFAv4r

The entry reveals that Thomas signed the document with an “x” – “his mark” indicating he could not read or write. Within six months, the 22nd Regiment was sent to Malta (in June 1860) and the couple left Ireland from Queenstown (now Cobh) on board the steam ship Olympus, having caught the train from Kingsbridge (Dublin Heuston) railway station.

The research on the ancestry of the Duchess was carried out by Fiona Fitzsimons and Helen Moss of Eneclann, the genealogical research company, who kindly provided this summary of her discovery of this information: “Our research for the Duchess of Sussex started when we discovered the 1860 civil marriage certificate of Thomas Bird and Mary McCague, Meghan Markle’s great–great–great grandparents. It was known that Thomas Bird was in the army but no–one had thought to examine whether he might have served and married his Irish wife in Ireland. With this as our starting point we were able to follow Meghan Markle’s family to Malta and then to Fredericton, New Brunswick, in Canada.

“The 1860 civil marriage certificate and the entry in the Donnybrook Church of Ireland marriage register were important – they told us the name and occupation of Mary McCague’s father, Francis McCague, a farmer. By considering all the documents found relevant to the family (Irish, UK, USA, and Canadian), we learned that Bird/McCague was an inter–denominational marriage; in the Canadian Census the married Mary Bird (maiden name McCague, known as Mrs White by her second marriage) enumerated her children and herself as Catholic. The 1890 USA death record of Mary’s son, Thomas White, told us that Mary’s own origins were in Belfast.

“Eneclann was founded in 1998 as a Trinity College Campus Company, and in 2016 launched the innovative Irish Family History Centre, based in CHQ Building and partnered with EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum, which was visited by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex during the visit to Ireland in July 2018.”

St Mary's Church, Donnybrook, from the cover of L.W. Webb, The Parish of Donnybrook A Brief History (1946).
St Mary's Church, Donnybrook, from the cover of L.W. Webb, The Parish of Donnybrook A Brief History (1946).