Meghan Markle’s great-great-great grandmother was a Belfast Catholic

Duchess of Sussex’s Irish ancestry was established by a Dublin marriage register

Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle during her visit to Dublin with Prince Harry in July, 2018. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle during her visit to Dublin with Prince Harry in July, 2018. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

The Irish roots of the UK’s Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, have been confirmed in records released today.

They show that her great-great-great grandparents were married 159 years ago, on January 23rd, 1860, at Dublin’s Donnybrook Church of Ireland parish church.

Thomas Bird was a private in the 22nd Cheshire Regiment, based at Beggar’s Bush Barracks, and Belfast Catholic Mary McCague was living at nearby Merrion Strand.

A record of their marriage was found in the Donnybrook parish marriage register, held with many other parish records at the Representative Church Body library in Rathmines.

Mr Bird signed the document with an “X”, indicating he could not write.

Six months later, in June 1860, his regiment was sent to Malta.

The couple sailed from Queenstown (Cobh) on the steam ship Olympus, having travelled there by train from Kingstown (Dún Laoghaire).

Research on the duchess’s ancestry was conducted by Fiona Fitzsimons and Helen Moss, of genealogical research company, Eneclann.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at Áras an Uachtaráin with President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina, July 2018. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at Áras an Uachtaráin with President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina, July 2018. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

They found the 1860 civil marriage certificate of Mr Bird and Ms McCague.

“It was known that Thomas Bird was in the army but no one had thought to examine whether he might have served and married his Irish wife in Ireland. With this as our starting point we were able to follow Meghan Markle’s family to Malta and then to Fredericton, New Brunswick, in Canada, ” they said.

“The 1860 civil marriage certificate and the entry in the Donnybrook Church of Ireland marriage register were important – they told us the name and occupation of Mary McCague’s father, Francis McCague, a farmer.”

Considering all documents relevant to the family – Irish, UK, US, and Canadian – they learned “that Bird/McCague was an inter-denominational marriage; in the Canadian census the married Mary Bird (maiden name McCague, known as Mrs White by her second marriage) enumerated her children and herself as Catholic,” they said.

They further found that “the 1890 US death record of Mary’s son, Thomas White, told us that Mary’s own origins were in Belfast”.

Ms Markle married Prince Harry last May. The couple are expecting their first child.

It is not clear whether the duchess’s ancestry will allow her, Prince Harry and their expected child to secure Irish passports.