William Fay (the elder) of Rathcogue

  We know next to nothing of William Fay’s  history other than that he died in Rathcogue in 1834. I believe that at the time he was living with James,  probably his younger son – however that is purely conjecture.

     The only vital record we have of James is his death record. He died in Rathcogue on February 26, 1869.  His age was given as 75, putting his birth around 1794. He was attended at his death by Mary (Kearnan) Molloy, a neighbor. In 1854, Griffith’s Valuations listed a Thomas Molloy living in Rathcogue. By 1869 Thomas’ son Laurence, who wedded Mary Kearnan in 1865,  had taken over the holding. Mary was seven months pregnant with her own daughter Mary when she looked in on the dying James Fay.

      James’s death record states that he was a widower, but we can find no record of his marriage, and therefore no definitive record of children. There is, however, one baptismal record of interest  from Moyvore  Parish dated October 1, 1842. Mary Fay was born to James Fay and Elizabeth Lyons. The sponsors were Patrick Ahern and Mary Morris.

The Family of James Fay and Elizabeth Lyons


   Both the Aherns and the Morris’s were families in the Rathcogue area. Mary Morris’s probable mother (Mary), had died in Relick just a few years earlier (1836). And the Aherns of Rathcogue were to become close  friends with the descendants of our William Fay, James’s cousin. It is therefore highly likely that this 1842 baptismal record was indeed that of the daughter of James Fay of Rathcogue.

    And who was James’s wife – Elizabeth Lyons? In 1834 James’s cousin William, living on the adjacent  farm, had married Elizabeth  Lyons of Irishtown. William’s wife actually had two cousins who were also named Elizabeth Lyons, one of whom was born in 1807 in Daleystown (Ballymore Catholic Parish), just south of Moyvore. She would seem a likely candidate to be  James’wife. So it is likely then that cousins James and William had also married cousins. When exactly James was married is unknown – but it had to have been before Ballymore marriage records began in 1839. It appears that they had only the one child, Mary, in 1842 when James was around 48 years of age. 

    There is certainly a strong probability that William Fay (the elder) had sons other than James, also born before Moyvore Parish records began. One method for trying to identify possible progeny is based on the what is referred to as the the “Traditional Irish Naming Pattern”. As in most cultures, Irish families had a strong history of naming their children after members of the previous generation. While this tradition was not always followed precisely, usually some form of it was adhered to in a remarkably consistent way. The strictest delineation of this naming pattern can be laid out as follows:

            First born son was named after his father’s father

            Second born son was named after his mother’s father

            Third born son was named after his father

            Fourth born son was named after his father’s oldest brother


            First born daughter was named after her mother’s mother

            Second born daughter was named after her father’s mother

            Third born daughter was named after her mother

            Fourth born daughter was named after her mother’s oldest sister

   To try to identify any other children of the elder William therefore we would want to look for Fay families in the area who had a prominently placed child also named William. There were indeed several candidates.  


     On January 15th of 1833 a child named William Fay was baptised at the Moyvore church at Ballacurra. His parents were Thomas Fay and Honora Bryan. This would certainly conform to the pattern of naming the first-born after the father’s father (William). The witnesses to the baptism were Edward Lynch and Mary Ann Meares.

    Two years later on July 19 of 1835 Thomas and Honora christened another child, a baby girl named Rose. This time the witnesses were Marcella Bryan ( probably Honora’s sister) and William Fay. The latter was without doubt our William Fay living in Rathcogue, my 3rd great grandfather. You will recall that he himself had just married the year before. Here then is a direct familial link with this Thomas Fay, and certainly supports the notion that Thomas was William’s cousin.

    The third child of Thomas and Honora was James, born on Dec. 21, 1837, named after Thomas’ probable brother, who lived beside William in Rathcogue.

The Family of Thomas Fay and Honora Bryan

       We don’t know exactly where Thomas Fay was living around 1834, but much can be deduced by looking at his wife’s family and the baptismal sponsers of his children. As we saw from Rose’s baptism, Honora had a sister named Marcella.  From that we also find she had a brother named John, who married Honora Sheridan and named his daughter Marcella (b. 1833).  John Bryan was cited in the Tithe Applotments of 1834, as living in Daleystown, just a few miles south of the town of Moyvore.

    The other sponsers for Thomas and Honora’s children all seem to be from that area.  Mary Ann Meares, sponser to their first child, was the probable daughter of  Robert Meares who, in the 1834 Tithe Applotments, was farming in Curraghboy (adjacent to Aghnaboy and Ballacurra), as well as in Daleystown.

    All of this leads to the conclusion that Thomas Fay, while probably raised in Rathcogue, was likely living in or near Moyvore town in 1834. 

      Were there any other candidates for children of William (the elder), of Rathcogue? There is one, although we find no direct link with our family other than proximity and family naming patterns.

      Michael Fay married Ann Spollan on Nov. 30, 1825 in Milltown Parish. The Spollans were a large local family, with branches living in Daleystown (Ballymore Parish), as well as Paddenstown and Jordanstown (Milltown Parish). Michael and Ann had nine children that we know of. Their eldest son was named William in keeping with traditional naming patterns. Michael also acted as a sponser at the baptisms of the children of both Patrick Spollan (Jordanstown -1827 Tithe Applotments) and Simon Spollan (Jordanstown – Tithe Applotments-1827). They were most likely Anne’s brothers. Although Michael did not show up in the 1827 Tithe Applotments, he probably moved to Jordanstown shortly thereafter. He was cited in Jordanstown in the 1854 Griffith’s Valuations.


The Family of Michael Fay and Ann Spollan
(Click on image to enlarge)

  In addition to Michael we find another baptismal sponsor of one of Patrick Spollan’s  children – Bridget Fay.  This, it seems likely, would have been Michael’s sister – and therefore perhaps another child of William Fay. 


     There was one other Fay listed in the Rathcogue area in the Tithe Applotments of 1834. There was a Thomas Fay cited occupying a lot of almost ten acres in Kilpherish townland, which was a mere two miles away on the road from Rathcogue going towards Abbeyshrule. Once again, however, there is nothing in the Applotments to tell us directly how this Thomas might be related to James and William.

          However on January 26 of 1841 we find a record of a Thomas Fay who married Catherine Conlon in Moyvore Parish. The witnesses to the wedding were Thomas Mullaly and Margaret Cormick. I believe that this had to be the same Thomas Fay found in Kilpherish in 1834, because among his neighbors cited in the Tithe Applotments were a Thomas Mullaly, Hugh Cormick  and a Patrick Conlon.

    Thomas Fay and Catherine went on to have two children that we know of – John, baptised April 18th of 1846, and William baptised Dec.20, 1848. Using the strategy of the Irish Naming Pattern, the firstborn male would indicate that Thomas’s father was likely named John.

     There was a Thomas Fay who was baptised in Milltown Parish on August 14, 1804, and that Thomas was the son of  John Fay and Catherine Gallagher, who had wed in 1797.  One of the witnesses at their wedding was Patrick Legrange, who was later cited in the 1827 Tithe Applotments as living in Paddenstown. And true to form, we subsequently find the death records of  John and Catherine Fay in 1838 and 1839 in Paddenstown.

     Paddenstown was the Townland  just to the east of Relick (where Michael Fay died in 1831). It is hard to imagine that this John Fay was not somehow related to Michael, and therefore to William and James in Rathcogue, in light of the fact that they were all living within a couple of miles of each other. It also makes sense that  John’s son Thomas, when he had come of age, would have found a tenancy in Kilphierish, which was just to the west of where he had been raised.

    Can we use the Irish Family Naming Pattern to speculate on how all these Fays were related? If we take the family of John Fay and Catherine Gallagher, and look at how they  named their children, a potentially revealing pattern starts to emerge. Here is a list of all of their progeny set into  the template of  the traditional naming pattern.

    First born son was named after his father’s father                              Thomas  (b.1804)

    Second born son was named after his mother’s father                        Patrick    (b. 1807)

    Third born son was named after his father                                          John       (b. 1814)

    Fourth born son was named after his father’s oldest brother              William   (b.1821)

    First born daughter was named after her mother’s mother                Catherine  (b.1799)

    Second born daughter was named after her father’s mother              Mary       (b. 1802)

    Third born daughter was named after her mother                            (Already a Catherine)

                                 –    therefore  –

    Third born daughter was named after her mother’s oldest sister        Margaret   (b.1809)

The Family of John Fay and Catherine Gallagher
(click to enlarge)

     If this naming pattern is true to form, it would tell us that John Fay’s father was named Thomas Fay and his mother named Mary. Catherine’s father would be named Patrick Gallagher and her mother named Catherine . Unfortunately baptismal records in Milltown Parish do not go back far enough for us to verify any of this.

     What of Catherine  having an older sister Margaret? We do have a death of a  Margaret Gallagher in Milltown Parish on May 26, 1820. Perhaps that is she. But more importantly we definitely have a William who could have been John’s oldest brother living just down the road in Rathcogue – the William Fay who died in 1834, just a few years before John’s death.

     If the above schematic is correct , and if John and William were brothers, they traditionally would have named their eldest son Thomas. As we have seen William’s lineage does indeed include a Thomas, who could have been his eldest son. It also includes a Michael, potentially named after his brother.

   But what of Michael Fay of Relick, who we know instead named his youngest son Thomas? It must be noted that when a child carrying an important family name died before maturity, then often  a subsequent child born into the family would also be given that name (See the family of Ann (Fay) Duffy above). Perhaps that is what occurred in Michael’s family.

         A likely scenario then would  give us at least three sons of Thomas and Mary Fay – the eldest William (deceased 1834), and his brothers Michael (deceased 1831), and John (deceased 1838).


So in the benchmark year of 1834, when we have the first “census substitute” of Ireland – the Tithe Applotments – we find a grouping of Fay relatives living in close proximity to each other – the brothers  Thomas (in Moyvore), Michael (in Jordanstown) and James (in Rathcogue), their cousin William (in Rathcogue) , and another cousin Thomas, son of John (in Kilpheirish).

     Much of what I have surmised up to this point is pieced together like a patchwork quilt  from records that were necessarily partial or incomplete and are supported  chiefly by family naming patterns. From this point on, however, recordkeeping became more comprehensive and it becomes easier to trace the progression of the Fay lineage.