Esther Delina IRWIN and her husband, Albert RICHES, with their children James Russel and Ethel Lilian.
Most of my family’s given names - and surnames – are all too common ones. I spend a great deal of my time working out who each person is (or could be) and who among them is ‘mine’ (or might be). As frustrating as this can be, it does mean I am unlikely to ever run out of genealogical challenges!
My Irish families are no exception. My maternal grandmother, my ‘Na’, was descended from Scottish and Irish families. The Scottish were from Islay in Scotland (CARMICHAEL, GILCHRIST); the Irish from around Cootehill in County Cavan, Ireland.
The gggrandparents who emigrated to Canada in 1850 from Ireland were Mary Jane (or Jean) MOFFET and James IRWIN. Mary Jane was the daughter of Eleanor HARRISON and William MOFFET and James was the son of Margaret LIVINSTON and John IRWIN.
Their children were: John, William (my ggrandfather), John (the first John is believed to have died young), Margaret Jane, Mary Ellen, Elizabeth Ann, James Henry, Samuel Robert; Esther Delina and David.
It seems to be generally accepted that both the IRWIN and MOFFET surnames could have come from Scotland (or possibly England) and that IRWIN may be a variant of IRVING in Scotland.
Edward MacLysaght, for example, in The Surnames of Ireland, says that MOFFATs were numerous in the Ulster area of Ireland from the 17th century. He notes 6 variants: “MAFFETT, MEFFAT etc.” p. 218
Of IRWIN and ERWIN, he says “nearly all Irwins are of planter stock in Ulster and in Co. Roscommon...” the name derived from Old English, but, “much confused with ”IRVINE and ERVINE, also Scottish and seldom found outside Ulster...." p. 167
I looked up the variants identified by the Irish Times - Ancestors website for the surnames IRWIN and MOFFET. (This search shows the # of each name found in the Primary Valuation property surveys of 1848-64.)
For IRWIN, the main associated variants were: IRWIN (1357) and IRVINE (385); also Erwin, Ervin, Irvin, Irving, Irwan, Irwine.
For MOFFET, the Irish Times has 11 examples, but no variants, although for MOFFETT and MOFFATT there are these variants: MOFFETT (140) MOFFITT (133) and MOFFATT (120), also MAFFETT, MOFFAT, MOFFIT.
I have encountered most of these variants myself in different records, but also in indexes and transcriptions. My cousin, Ross W. Irwin, who has done years of research on this family, shows these variants on his website: Irwin, Irwine, Urwin, Irvin, Irvine, Erwin, Erwine, Irvan.
I think most of my MOFFET/IRWIN family’s children’s given names were quite common both for that area of Ireland and for Canada West/Ontario where all but the first John were born.
In his book, Robert Irwin From County Cavan Ireland to Fenelon Township Ontario, Ross W. Irwin noted that the female names in the parish records of the family’s church in County Cavan, Ireland, Coroneary Presbyterian Church, in order of frequency were: Mary, Jane, Elizabeth and Margaret, then Agnes, Sarah, Isabella, Martha, Elinor and Rosanna. For males, it was: John, James, William, Robert, then Thomas, George, Samuel, David, Joseph and Alexander. (p. 17)
The child with the least common given names in my IRWIN/MOFFET family is Esther Delina IRWIN, baptised 8 August 1865 at Cambray, Ontario, Canada. Her nickname, I believe, was always Esse or Essie. (I’ve never been sure that her baptimal name looked like Esther – I’ve only seen a photocopy - but the ‘Delina’ is very clear. She did give her name as Esther Delina in 1890 when she married Albert RICHES at Cambray.) It’s possible that my grandmother, Amy Estella IRWIN, was named for her as Estella can be a variant of Esther. (SeeWeidenhan, p.268)
For women born in Ireland, Ancestry.com’s 1851 Canadian census index (Pay website) shows 152 named Esther and only 7 named Delina.
Esther at one time was quite a common name and is still used, but Delina seems to be almost forgotten.
The 1881 Canadian census index at FamilySearch (FS) and Library and Archives Canada (LAC) shows these results for Delina and some variations in Ontario -exact spelling search - Delina (FS 134/LAC 145), Dolina/Dollina (13 FS/14 LAC) and also Delima (251 FS/LAC 263) – it also looks as if Delima and its variations were very popular given names in Quebec.
Was Delina a popular name in Ireland in the 19th century? I wonder if Esther Delina could have been named for someone. This is something for me to investigate further later. Once more of the 1901/1911 Irish census is available on-line, I will be looking to see how many women named Delina show up.
This post was written for the 13th edition of the Carnival of Irish Heritage and Culture featuring: Irish names!
The Surnames of Ireland by Edward MacLysaght ( Dublin Ireland and Portland Oregon, USA: Irish Academic Press, 1999)
Robert Irwin From County Cavan Ireland to Fenelon Township Ontario by Ross W. Irwin (2001) available from the Irwin Family History website: http://www3.sympatico.ca/rwirwin
Baptismal Names by Rev. Joseph L. Weidenhan, STL, (Fourth Edition, Baltimore, Maryland USA: Kenmore Productions, reprinted by Gale Research Company, Detroit, Michigan USA, 1968) p. 268
A previous post of mine at CanadaGenealogy has photographs of Mary Jane MOFFET/MOFFAT and James IRWIN and a post at the Graveyard Rabbit of British Columbia has a photograph of Mary Jane MOFFET/MOFFAT and James IRWIN's grave in Neepawa, Manitoba, Canada.