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I visited the wonderful EPIC Museum of Irish Emigration in Dublin in 2023.

The Cavenys

Who are/were the Cavenys?

Well, the easiest way to show who they were, is to show my relation to them and hopefully you can then work out what, if anything, they are to you. Here is how I am related to the Cavenys:

Me Mum My Granny My G. Grandad My G.G. Granny My G.G.G.Grandparents
Frances Mary Hall m.s Kinghorn 26.04.1932 To 27.07.2017 Isabella Kinghorn m.s. Donoghue 19.04.1904 To 1963 Francis Donoghue 1874 To 1940 Bridget Donoghue m.s. Caveny 1846? To 1925 Bartholomew Caveny 1811? To1876 Jane Caveny m.s. See Below 1827? To 1906

The Name

First important point: The Name. I have been frankly astonished by the number of variations in the name Caveny that appear in the records. However, given that many people could not read or write in the mid- and early- nineteenth century, it becomes less surprising that they can’t spell either. In addition, names are often being spoken and then added to documents by other people who could write, so they may well have just spelt what they heard phonetically.

So, in the records for this family, I have seen the name spelt as follows: Caveny, Caveney, Cavaney, Cavenagh, Cavannah, Cavanagh and Cavanaugh.

I am not yet able to verify it but there may, especially further back, be some Cavenys who were any of the following: Kaveny, Keveny, Keaveny, Keavenagh, Keavanagh, Kavanagh and Kavannah. And others.

This all makes researching a small nightmare.

As regards the name origin. It is derived from the Irish Caomhánach, which means pertaining to Saint Caomhán. This, I am told, means ‘little beautiful one’. The name gets rendered in English as St Kevin.

Where did I first hear of Bartholomew Caveny?

I discovered my link to Bartholomew when I found the marriage certificate for his daughter Bridget. She married Patrick Donoghue in Berwick in 1865. Trying to research the Cavenys has been difficult. Trying to research the Donoghues is near impossible (there are loads of them). I will be doing another blog about the Donoghues later.

Where did I first find Jane Caveny?

The Caveny family appear in the 1861 Census for Berwick on Tweed, as follows:

The address is 45 Weatherly Square. Weatherly Square was a warren of tiny, cramped houses between Marygate and Chapel Street. It no longer exists but you can see where it was squeezed in today. It is slap, bang in the middle of the town, where many a good ghetto finds itself.

Name Reln Condition Age M Age F Occupation Where Born
Bartholimew Caveny Head Married 50 Porter Ireland
Jane Caveny Wife Married 34 Ireland
Bridget Caveny Daut. Un 15 House Serv Ireland
Katie Caveny Daut. 12 Scholar Scotland
Ann Caveny Daut. 8 Scholar Berwick
Margaret Caveny Daut. 6 Scholar Berwick
Jane Caveny Daut. 4 Berwick
Patrick Caveny Son 1 Berwick

Here is what I’ve managed to find out about each of these so far:

Bartholomew Caveny (note the misspelling on the Census)

If Bart was 50 in 1861, he would have been born around 1810/11 (see my later comment on ages). I have not yet been able to find birth/baptism information for him. One of the issues is the Irish parish records are not that easy to decipher. For example, Bartholomew is often rendered in Latin as Bartholomeus – and that’s when you can read them at all. Or if they still exist. I’m continuing to look for him.

It appears from the births of his children that he left Ireland around 1847/8/9. That would tie in exactly with the highpoint of migration from Ireland following the devastation of the potato blight and the famine. One possibility is that he was a tenant farmer in Co. Roscommon but the information is uncertain. He would have been between 36 and 38 with a wife and one small child.

According to the 1861 Census (birth of Katie), they first came to Scotland. I haven’t been able to find any trace of them here, yet.

I haven’t been able to find Bart in the 1871 Census so far.

I have found his death certificate from 1876. According to it, he died in Berwick Workhouse on the 28th of June 1876. His age then is estimated to be 76 – which would mean he was born in 1800.

A note on ages. People often didn’t know how old they were or only had a rough idea. Also, people sometimes deliberately falsified their birthdates, usually making themselves younger. In the case of Bartholomew in the Workhouse, his death was registered by the Workhouse Master who probably just made a guess.

Jane Caveny (Bartholomew’s wife. Bridget and siblings’ mother.)

I have not been able to find Jane’s birth information. However, if she was 34 in 1861, she would have been born around 1826/7.

One of the significant problems with finding Jane is that I couldn’t find her maiden surname for ages. Eventually got the birth registration for one of her children. At first, I thought I had hit the jackpot. Her m.s. on Ann’s birth info is Brechany. Brilliant, I thought. A nice, unusual name. I should be able to find her.

No. Apparently not that easy.

So I thought, I’ll check the maiden surnames on her other kids’ birth info. Here is what I found:

Ann’s birth 1852 = Jane’s former surname – Brechany

Margaret’s birth 1855 = Jane’s maiden surname - Judge

Jane’s birth 1857 = Jane’s maiden surname – Blaheny

Patrick’s birth 1860 = Jane’s maiden surname – Judge

That kind of discrepancy would lead you to believe that some of these were a different family. But – all the other information was correct. Fits with census, father’s name is Bartholomew, births in Berwick. And there are no other Cavenys in Berwick.

Luckily, when I was trying to find her early info, using the Brechany surname, I had stumbled across this detail:

The Irish surname of Mac an Bhreitheamhnaigh when translated into English is ‘son of the Judge’.

And Bhreitheamhnaigh could very easily be pronounced like Breheny – which is quite close to Brechany and Blaheny – depending on who is doing the pronouncing and who is doing the listening/transcribing.

Apparently, it is not uncommon for people to use Breheny (and variants) and Judge interchangeably in some areas of Ireland.

That’s as far as I’ve got with tracing Jane’s early life.

I also tried to find a marriage for Bart and Jane but so far not found it. That research continues.

Jane appears in the 1881 Census in Tweedmouth, the 1891 Census in Lowick, and the 1901 Census in Duddo. In each of these she has several children and grandchildren living with her. Sometimes the census lists grandchildren as children so you have to read them with a bucket of salt. Tweedmouth is the part of Berwick on the south side of the river Tweed. Lowick and Duddo are agricultural communities approx. 10 miles south of Berwick.

Jane (surname listed as Cavanagh) died on 14th October 1906 at Conundrum Farm to the North of Berwick (right on the Scottish Border). Her death was reported by her daughter Jane. On her death record she is listed as 84 which would see her born in 1822/3 – but that could be another estimation.

Ireland’s Green! Looking for ancestors. Taken at Newgrange, County Meath, 2023.

Bartholomew and Jane’s Offspring

Bridget Caveny (my Great, Great Granny)

I haven’t been able to find Bridget’s birth yet.

As noted above, her marriage takes place in 1865, at the age of 19.

However, Bridget appears in the 1871 Census in Berwick under her married name of Donoghue. She is in the 1881 Census in Berwick (under the married surname of Sweeney – that’s a whole other story to be dealt with in a Donoghue blog – it is definitely her), in the 1901 Census in Duns but back under the surname Donoghue, in the 1911 Census in Gordon, Berwickshire as Donoghue and in the 1921 Census back in Berwick.

In the 1860s, 70s and 80s she has at least 11 children. She and their further story will be in a Donoghue blog later.

Bridget died, aged 80, at 78 Church Street in Berwick on the 18th of April, 1925. In that instance her surname was listed as Donoughue (the Donoghues also have lots of spelling variations).

Katie Caveny

Born circa 1849.

No sign of any info on Katie (the one who was supposedly born in Scotland, according to the 1861 Census). But the birth information for one Ellen Caveny in 1871 (at Ancroft, near Berwick) lists a Catherine Caveny as the mother (no father listed). I think this is our Katie because she is at the same address as her mother, Jane. Katie would be about 22 years old at the time.

Ann Caveny

Born 27th August 1852.

Appears with her mother, Jane, in the 1891 and 1901 Censuses. I haven’t followed her up otherwise.

Margaret Caveny

Born 1855. Doesn’t appear with the family in later Censuses. Haven’t followed up.

Jane Caveny

Born 1857. Appears with her mother, Jane, in the 1881, 1891 and 1901 Censuses.

Patrick Caveny

Patrick was born in early summer 1860. Sadly, I have seen an item from the Illustrated Berwick Journal of 7th September 1861 which says he died at 13 months.

Francis Caveny

Francis is listed as Jane’s son aged 18 on the 1881 Census. So far, I have not found a birth or any other information about him. There is a possibility that he might be the Francis Cavenny, aged 29, who sailed for Australia on the Ship, Orotavo, in July 1892.

Some Grandchildren

There are many younger children listed as living with Jane in the Censuses. I am listing them with ages in case they might be of interest to other family researchers.

In the 1881 Tweedmouth Census there are:

Ellen Caveny aged 9 (Daughter of Katie above), John aged 2 and Francis aged 18 months.

In the 1891 Lowick Census there are:

Jane Smith aged 13, Francis Caveney aged 10, Charles Caveney aged 4 and Elizabeth Caveney aged 6.

In the 1901 Duddo Census there are: Elizabeth Caveney aged 17 and Charles Caveney aged 14.


Here was a little Irish family, like many, a casualty of the terrible famine of the later 1840s who survived to build a new life in the Berwick area. They no doubt struggled against poverty and racism but I, for one, am grateful that they came and helped to make my family.

I am happy to respond to anyone who thinks they may be related to the Cavenys and wants to find out more, share information or just say hello. You can get in touch at

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