The Life and Times of John Daniels

This is the eighth in my new series of blogs, telling the life stories of my 2 x Great Grand parents and next up is John Daniels.

In my last blog I wrote about the sad life of Emma Sophia Lukes and I mentioned about an instinct that we can get about a particular Ancestor, almost a gut feeling, something that the records might not always particularly reflect, this time my instinct tells me that my Great Great Grandfather John Daniels was not a very nice man!

John Daniels was born on 6th February 1846, the oldest child born to John Vincent Daniels and Elizabeth Kearney. John was born right slap bang in the middle of a piece of Irish History, The Irish Potato Famine (1845-1849). Young John’s Father, John Vincent Daniels was born in Kells, County Meath and his Mother, Elizabeth Kearney was Born in Tipperary. What drew them to the City of Dublin, we will never know for sure, was it the Famine, more than likely or was it merely looking for work, either way the young Married couple chose to head for Dublin City.

John Daniels was Baptised at Church of St. John the Evangelist, Dublin (Church of Ireland), on 1st March 1846 and at the time the family home was 7, John’s Lane, Dublin, at the time John’s Father, John Vincent Daniel was employed as a Stucco Plasterer. A Stucco Plasterer was different from a conventional Plasterer in the sense that a Stucco Plasterer worked on outside walls and ornamental mouldings on buildings, especially Churches, whereas a conventional plasterer worked on interior walls and ceilings, think more like flat surfaces rather than mouldings or sculptings. A large percentage of Stucco plasterers had origins from Italy and this could be the reason for my ethnicity result in my DNA test, showing up as 15% Italian ethnicity. However I am unable to determine at the moment if my Daniels had any connections to Italy. They could of Course have learnt their trade from trained Italian Master Craftsman.

1846 baptism of John Daniel son of John Daniel and Elizabeth Heary

Because Irish records are notoriously difficult to find, there is a large gap in the early part of John Daniels life, until his Marriage in 1885, although I cannot prove it, my suspicion is that he was married before this Marriage in 1885, but like many parts of Family History, it’s not fact until you can prove it!

John Daniels Married Elizabeth McCormack on 5th May 1885 at the Roman Catholic Church, The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Chapelizod, Kilmainham, Dublin. At the time of their Marriage, John was listed as living at Kilmainham and Elizabeth was listed as living along Cabra Road.

John Daniels:McCormack Marriage:NLI

(National Library of Ireland; Dublin, Ireland; Microfilm Number: Microfilm 09199 / 02)

John Daniels:McCormack Marriage

John and Elizabeth went on to have 5 children, Mary Margaret Daniels, John Daniels Junior, Elizabeth (Lizzie) Daniels, Margaret Daniels and William Daniels, between the years 1886 and 1895.

It was just after the birth of their last child, William, that I discovered records that showed how difficult life and times were, for the Daniels family and how they would take an even darker turn for the Daniels Children.

Between the years 1897 and 1905 there are 8 separate entires for John Daniels in the South Dublin Workhouse, plus numerous separate entries for John Daniels wife, Lizzie and the Children. There are various addresses listed in the records including Island Bridge and 3, Woodroffes Cottages all in the Island Bridge and Kilmainham ares of Dublin. The interesting part is that they are separate entries from each other, Lizzie his wife, is listed on 14 separate occasions with the children and John is listed on 8 separate occasions alone. Were they separated at this stage? Difficult to say for sure.

John Daniels Workhouse 4

(A Typical example of a Workhouse Record for John Daniels)

The darker side was that in 1902, John aged 54, was sent to Mountjoy prison and sentenced to two months imprisonment for ill treating his children. His last residence is listed as Summers Cottages, Kilmainham. His wife is listed as Lizzie and her address given as Woodroffes Cottages, Island Bridge. John’s birthplace is listed as John’s Lane. At the time John was listed as 4ft 11 3/4″ tall with brown hair and green eyes. My Initial thoughts were that ‘ill treating his children’ meant by physical means, but having discussed this with “Genie Friends”, it could also mean abandonment and neglect, but one would expect to see terms such as ‘neglect’ or ‘desertion’ in a charge, rather than ‘ill treating’. Further evidence of similar cases at the time, shows evidence of terms such as ‘neglect’ and ‘failing to pay maintenance’, so my first suspician of physically ill treating his children, could actually be sadly correct.

Lizzie Daniels Prison Record 5

(John Daniels Prison Record – The National Archives of Ireland; Dublin, Ireland; Ireland Prisoner Registers)

Prior to his Death, John was also admitted to Stevens Hospital in 1904 with Bronchitis.

Sadly John Daniels died on 13th April 1906 in The Dublin Workhouse, the cause of Death being Bronchitis.

John Daniels Death 1906

(John Daniels Death Record)

He is buried at Glasnevin Cemetery Buried at Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin in St.Patricks area UI 33.5.


(Glasnevin Cemetery Area Marker – from my collection)


(Approximate are of John Daniels Burial – from my collection)

I visited Dublin twice to research my Daniels Family History and I visited Glasnevin Cemetery and although there is no grave marker to identify where John Daniels was buried, I was able to work out approximately where his final resting place was.

I think that times were extremely harsh and tough for John and his Family, like they were for a lot of families in the city of Dublin. Was John Daniels a decent man or maybe not such a nice man after all, or was he like many, a victim of the circumstances around him? Somehow I have my doubts…….

All My Blogs For Family Tree Magazine in one Handy Place

9 thoughts on “The Life and Times of John Daniels

  1. My dissenting thoughts on your Daniels family
    Neglect is such a vague term that it seems unfair to label your grandfather in such harsh terms. The state of neglect suggests that someone responsible is unable to properly care for another- a state in which a child may be without food, shelter, adequate clothing, and all number of situations caused by his/her environment, such as the Great Hunger caused more from the English hegemony over the Irish than it was due to the blight of Ireland’s potato crops. It was these conditions which caused waves of Irish to emigrate, many the the US east coast, in particular, New York City and Boston Massachusetts. It was also these factors-the ‘crime’ of being poor- in which John Daniels and his family were caught up in, the disease plaguing the potato crops and the society of foreigners who dared deny the Irish their right to the sovereignty.
    Being impoverished was not their fault, but the courts labeled them as dregs of society. Documents are someone’s judgement, but not the full story. In reality showcases the corruption of power as well as the great divide between the haves and the have nots. Additionally it was the continued struggle between religious beliefs-Catholicism v Protestantism… the first being the large mass of impoverished; the second, the class of elite and well-heeled under whose colonialism the first group was kept. Your John Daniels had no way to fight against what trapped him into poverty and your grandmother had no way to make it easier for either her husband or children. As they are long deceased, they cannot answer to your charges against John.
    If you will remember, Jean Valjean was imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread.
    Requiescat in Pace, John, Elizabeth and the Daniels’ children.
    Thanks as always for sharing your family with us.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comments and you raise lots of valid and excellent points, some of which maybe I hadn’t fully considered or reasoned myself. You write eloquently and it’s great to hear your views on a broad range of history subjects. The only slight difference in this case is the actual terminology used, he was charged with “ill treating his children”, which on investigation is more likely to have been physical ill treatment rather than ill treatment based on impoverished conditions. I did canvas opinions with people that are more expert on legal terminology and the likelihood of what the charges would be. There are other instances on the same prison records that use the term “neglect”, so based on probability I think it’s more likely to be physical rather conditional ill treatment.


  2. The Potato Famine was dreadful. I have read a first-hand account handed down through a family. They had filled to Australia with a letter of introduction to some bigwig. For a while I collected first-hand accounts from the newspaper archives. The famine changed the world. Pleased to say through all the hardship, the family had eventually been able to make a good life for themselves.
    Whatever hardships ancestors went through, we are here. A comforting thought in these troubled times.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. When we try to guess the missing pieces of such a distant family history, it’s so difficult to figure out what was the real reason, And as we discussed in one of your previous posts, it’s even more difficult to apply the moral standards of that distant time…

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s