Joseph Alexander Mackey Edward Savage Cole–Really?


This is what I found on under Irish Births and Baptisms.  Joseph Alexander Mackey Edward Savage Cole is the man known to my husband and his siblings as Edwin Savage Cole, their grandfather.

Edwin or Joseph or whoever he is was the last of seven children born to James Cole and Sophia Jameson Cole in Ballybay, County Monaghan, Ireland.  The family emigrated, apparently by teleportation, to Nebraska about three months after Edwin’s, (let’s just call him Edwin or even the family will stop reading) birth in February 1873.

James Cole and Sophia Jameson Cole

I have stared at the entry in Ireland Births and Baptisms for quite a while and I have almost reached the conclusion that this is a simple transcription error appending the record of Edward Savage Cole to that of Joseph Alexander Mackey.  The birth date is February 16, three days after the birth date for Edwin given by other sources.

I was happy with my conclusion until I continued to search through the Irish records on familysearch.  It seems that all of James and Sophie’s children were entered in some bizarre Irish witness protection program at birth.

Here is what I know about Edwin’s sibs.


John M Cole, the oldest, was born April of 1862.  His birth information is listed in any number of places, but not in Irish Births and Baptisms.  In spite of the label 1620-1881 on the database, the civil registrations in Ireland didn’t begin until 1864, two years after John was born.  John M had an interesting life as a Seventh Day Adventist missionary and I will probably post about that some day, but I am going to stick with the Irish witness protection plan for this post.


Robert Cole, born–maybe.  The only record I have of Robert is in my mother-in-law’s notes.  She got this information from someone in the Cole family, and since I have never found an error in anything my mother-in-law said or wrote about the family, I believe that there was a Robert, but I have never been able to find out anything about him. I imagine that Robert died when he was a child, but I’m not entirely sure that he isn’t just in hiding.


David Moore Cole, born November 25, 1864.  David is in the registry and under the name we have always known him by, so there could be a small hole in the witness protection plan theory, but David was only 29 when he died.  The rest of his siblings all lived to 80, maybe because no one knew their real names.

Carty Cole


James Cathcart Cole is the fourth sibling, known in the family as Carty. He was born May 31, 1866.  In Irish Births and Baptisms he is listed as William James Cathcart Cole.  Carty continued to confuse matters by generally refusing to use his name in any documentation, calling himself J.C. or C.J., according, perhaps, to his mood of the day.

Will Cole

Will Cole is the next son.  Born on August 27, 1868 and apparently actually named Samuel William Andrew Cole.  He generally used the name William A in the census and other official documents.

Eliza Jane Cole

Eliza Jane, born on January 23, 1870, was James and Sophie’s only daughter. She is identified correctly on the birth index.  Perhaps, leaning on past experience and coping with five or six children under the age of eight, James and Sophie were simply unprepared for the birth of a girl and could only come up with two simple names, listed in the correct order.  Eliza is also an interesting person, working as a Seventh Day Adventist minister most of her life and marrying for the first time at the age of 50.


And finally, in 1873 along came Edwin.

Edwin Cole

So Edwin is Joseph or Edward, Carty is William, and William is Andrew. Is this a normal Irish naming convention?  Did they simplify things for themselves and their children when they arrived in America?  Either could be true or there could be any number of other possible explanations.  Believe what you like but I’m sticking with the Irish Infant Witness Protection Program.




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