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created: Aug.2003
refreshed: 25-Oct-2011
BYRN Family Links
Review of:
"Our Name in History: The BYRN Name"
(Ancestry.com, 2006)

This glossy, well-illustrated, 100-page book deals in generalities, not specifics. Statistical snapshots are provided at 40-year intervals from 1840 to 2000 (omitting 1960). It is in effect a potted Social History of America which includes statistics relating to Byrn family households.

For example, it gives the areas in the USA where most Byrn families lived/live, the numbers of U.S. land patents granted, what ships most Byrn immigrants arrived on, Byrn Civil War Allegiance (32 Confederate, 38 Union), the distribution of Byrn households in Canada in 1911, the size of the Byrn draft in World Wars I and II, and the total numbers of Byrn households (1840: 21. 1860: 46. 1880: 86. 1900: 201. 1920: 184. 2000: 287 **). In order to show the wider context it also gives the distribution of Byrn inhabitants in England and Wales for the years 1851, 1881 and 1901. On the other hand it has no index, and no individual Byrn is named at all. Therefore if you seek only the broad picture, it’s fine. The editors state that they want to “spark a desire to discover the specifics of your own family history”. — Fair enough, but I have to admit to being disappointed that the book contains no reference to, for example, such a vivid piece of U.S. Byrn family history as the Pioneer cemetery at Byrnville (Jackson Township, Harrison Co, Indiana).

What is the time-span? The earliest Byrn-related date is 1820 (p23: Byrn Passenger Arrivals), and the most recent date is 2000 (p60: Distribution of Byrn Households). That time-span is good, but again I have to observe that it does not go back to ‘the beginnings’ as regards Byrn families in the USA, which must lie a good 40 years earlier. So, what this book does reflect is the availability of general statistical information, and that information is undoubtedly what determines the book’s contents.

Amongst the book's many general-interest pages are: “Arrival: Ellis Island” (p22); “Westward Ho!” (p25); “African-American influences in America” (p30); “The Great Melting Pot” (p46); “The Race for Technology” (p57); “Health Then and Now” (p62); “Arlington Cemetery” (p66).

Perusing all this, one big gap (to my mind) is Religious Affiliation. Was that information simply not recorded in a statistically usable form, I wonder? Or maybe Byrn families objected to the question?

I also miss a correlation between information and dates in the table of “Places of Origin for Byrn Immigrants” (p16); these places are listed as: “Ireland 101, Great Britain 30, England 25, Germany 7, Nz 3, Norway 2, Italy 1, Australia 1, AUS 1, Arty 1”; and this topic is naturally of special interest but, if no dates are given, it is impossible to know, for example, if Irish immigrants all came in the early years or as a continuous trickle. — And how about that one Byrn immigrant from Italy? When did s/he come, and where did s/he live before then? (Surely there was never a Byrn with Italian nationality?) Also, I’m not sure what lies behind the distinction between “Great Britain” and “England”. And as for the categories “AUS” and “Arty” at the end of the table: perhaps a correspondent from the USA will explain them for me. (Incidentally, just to underline the book’s general rather than specific interest, we are told on the same page that the greatest number of immigrants to the USA came from Germany, plus a spectrum of Germany-related facts.)

My biggest surprise was to learn that Byrn families had once been slave-owners — that possibility had not entered my head. It turns out that there were concentrations of 27-77 Byrn slaves in Kentucky and South Carolina, and as many as 78-154 in Mississippi.
An equally big surprise (but not surprising under the circumstances, I guess) was to learn that in 1920 “Byrn Ethnicity” included “40 Black” and “5 Mulatto” alongside “455 White”.

— There are all sorts of good reasons for owning this book, but I am glad I bought it to discover these slave-owning facts alone. My horizons have been well widened.

** For comparison, the Burke’s Peerage World Book of Byrns gives the following estimates for the USA in 1994:
Total estimated households: 350. Total households in Registry: 250. Total estimated population: 770. Number of States where households reside: 33. Most populous State: Texas.
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