22 February 2010

Did Kilner name one of his sons after Cardinal Newman?

All right, this is interesting: I think Kilner's 7th son, John Henry Newman, was very likely named after John Henry Newman, who caused a sensation by leaving the Episcopal priesthood and joining the Catholic Church, in 1845.
(Click "Read More" to, well, read more...)

He went to Dublin in the 1850's as rector of the Catholic University of Ireland. In the mid-1860's he was involved in a highly publicized exchange of wits with an English clergyman, Charles Kingsley.  He eventually became the famous Cardinal Newman, and now he's expected to be beatified in September, 2010. If he goes on to be canonized, he would be the first English person to have lived since the 17th century to be declared a Catholic saint.

I know what you're thinking, but John Henry, the "steel driving man" of folklore and song, didn't wield his famous hammer until the 1870's. As for the John Henry who is the principal owner of the Boston Red Sox, well, he wasn't born yet, and no one in the Bronx would think of doing such a thing, ever. So there.

Got to love Wikipedia!

What does this tell us about Kilner Newman, our carpenter in the Bronx, and his sense of identity as an Anglo-Irishman and an Episcopal parishioner? No idea. How about you? Comments?


  1. We shall never know. In Ireland during 1800's and well through the 20th century, Religion was a very cultural identity. While it was the usual but not always the case, Irish Protestants felt a cultural affinity with Britain and usually named their children after English Names. Irish Catholics usually named their children after "saints" names or after traditional Irish names. But as you said, it seems very unlikely Kilner Newman would have named his son John Henry Newman other than after the famous catholic Convert of the same name. I am wondering Did your ancestor Kilner marry a catholic, and therefore was influenced to name one of his children John Henry?

    1. It turns out, you are exactly right. After his first wife died, he married the widow next door, who was a Catholic. She was John Henry's mother.

  2. I searched for the name "John Henry" in the Irish census of 1911 and it seems that the name was more popular among Protestants than among Catholics. So it is more likely that Kilner named his son "John Henry" for other reasons rather than in honour of Cardinal Newman. However, Kilner could have been intrigued that a Newman had reached such high esteem and popularity, that such a name could have attracted Kilner's attention.