GRO provides mother's maiden names during free search

Mary Ann Hellyer
Mary Ann Hellyer

I've mentioned before about the discrepancy I have regarding the maiden name of my 2 x great-grandmother (see my blog post at In 1871 she married my 2 x great-grandfather, John Gale Hellyer, in the parish church at Shanagolden, Limerick, Ireland. For some while I have had two possible names for her; Mary Ann Burgoyne and Mary Ann Congdon.

On the plus side, since the recent changes at the GRO (General Register Office) where they are now providing the mother's maiden name when you carry out a search in the birth indexes, I do not now need to purchase the birth certificates for each of the children of my 2 x great-grandparents. However, after looking up the records, I am just as confused as ever.

Of the couple's ten children, the first six birth records have Mary's maiden name down as either Congdon, Condon or Cougdon. The final four children's birth records give a previous name of either Birgoyne or Burgoyne. At this stage, some might be thinking that perhaps John Hellyer married twice, to two women who both happened to be called Mary Ann. This theory falls down when I compare the name on the couple's marriage certificate which I obtained some time ago from the Muller Trust, an orphanage where two of the couple's children were sent after their parents died. The name on the certificate is Burgoyne. Her father was apparently a sailor called William Burgoyne and this is all I know about him.

Maybe both names are correct. Perhaps her mother was called Congdon and was unmarried when she had Mary. Why did Mary begin by giving her maiden name as Burgoyne, then Congdon and later revert to Burgoyne again? Was William Burgoyne her father or step-father?

Irish records are sparse so I'm hoping that DNA may hold the key. My mother and maternal aunt have a number of matches who have Irish ancestors but, at this stage, I'm not even certain whether they are on my maternal grandfather's or grandmother's side. In the future, as more cousins test, the answer may become clearer. Of course, there's a chance Mary wasn't Irish at all!

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