When was Tom Crean born?
There’s been a lot of confusion over the years about Tom Crean’s birthdate. An erroneous reference to the date appears on his Naval record, right, which lists his birth as being 20th July 1877.
It was only after the General Records Office freed up public access to the birth, marriage and death records in September 2016, that the information was made freely accessible to internet users.
In 2014, genealogist Kay Caball discovered, in the archives, a birth registration certificate that seemed to confirm Tom Crean’s birthdate as 25th February. The birth was registered in Dingle on 11th March 1877.
It was a significant find that confirmed Tom Crean was not 15 years old when he signed up to the Royal Navy as had previously been assumed. He was in fact 16 years and almost 5 months old when he travelled to Minard coastguard station in July 1893.
An even more reliable source of a person’s date of birth lies in the parish baptism records. To make matters even more confusing, when researching my book, I came across an entry listed in the National Library of Ireland records, (shown below). This confirmed a child, named ‘Joanna,’ was baptised on 16th February 1877 born to Patrick and Catherine Crean of Gortacurraun.
How could this be possible?
A female child born 9 days prior to the registered birthdate of Tom Crean and to the same parents?
Well, the truth is that it couldn’t be possible. Investigating all possible scenarios leads us to the same conclusion – this being the earliest reference to Tom Crean’s true birthdate.
Could he have been a twin?
No, and had he been one there would have been an entry under his name and the later census records would have revealed his mother, Catherine as having given birth to 12 and not 11 children, all of whom can be accounted for in baptism or birth registrations.
What isn’t conclusive is why the priest would have written the incorrect name. The explanation I have entered in the book is based on the fact that Parish ledgers were not drawn up immediately after an event took place. it is entirely plausible that a priest, having undertaken many baptisms, marriages and funerals in the time before compiling the register, made a mistake.
There may be other explanations for the name error but it became clear to me that this was the earliest recorded date of Tom Crean’s arrival to the world.
Whether it is the actual date of his birth is open to question as we have no proof that the baptism took place the same day he was born but this is a possibility given the customs among Irish Catholics and the high rates of infant mortality of the era. Having a child baptised as soon as possible was seen as a priority and same day baptisms were frequent.
Incidentally, and just to add to the confusion, Tom Crean’s parents did have a daughter, Johanna, who was born four years later than Tom, on 4th April 1881
What of the misleading birthdate entry in his Naval records?
Now, this is a tricky one to grasp an understanding of but I studied a number of Naval records of boys from the same area who joined up in the months before and after Crean and found the same.
In a number of cases, like Tom Crean’s, their registered birthdate is months earlier than that listed on their Naval record and there is no pattern that emerges to present us with a reason. It seemed to be just a case of ‘let’s pick a birthdate and run with this’ before signing on that dotted line for a 12-year tenure in the Navy.
So, in concluding this post accounting for the confusion of Tom Crean’s birthdate, I will state that the closest date we can determine for future celebrations of ‘Crean’s Day’ is 16th February.