By compiling a 9 generational family tree, Fiona Fitzsimons and Helen Moss were able to make some interesting observations about the President’s extended family – the Benns, Donovans and Kearneys.
Close relationship between the Benns and Donovans
From the 1760s the Benns and Donovans lived side by side in the townland of Ballygurteen. During that time we found six Benn to Donovan marriages. It seems that they often literally married the boy or girl next door.
Earlier research into the Kearney family tree had uncovered two unusual Christian names that the family ‘recycled’ for generations:
these were Fulmouth (a male forename, origin uncertain) and Tryphen[i]a (a female forename derived from Tryphena mentioned in the bible – Romans 16:12).* Both Christian names are extraordinarily rare in an Irish context and have had researchers guessing at where they come from.
While the debate continues, our research into the Benn and Donovan families proved that these Christian names only ‘entered’ the Kearney family after the 1825 marriage of Joseph Kearney and Phoebe Donovan. Further research showed that whereas the Donovans first used the name ‘Fulmoth’ in 1768, the Benns adopted it at least two generations earlier in or before 1700.
The name Tryphenia is even more strongly associated with the Benn family, and is still in use by the present generation of Benns.
These names – Fulmouth and Tryphenia – are so consistently found in the Benn and Donovan family trees that they are what we refer to as ‘founders’ names’ i.e. usually the name of an ancestor whose influence so shaped the family, that their name is used in perpetuity.
* Salute Tryphenia and Tryphosa, who labour in the Lord. Salute the beloved Persis, which laboured much in the Lord.