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Byrne-MacKenzie family papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Byrne-MacKenzie

Scope and Content of the Collection

Small collection of correspondence and documents relating to the Byrne, MacKenzie, and Austin families, 1870-1931.

The majority of the correspondence is between immediate and extended family members, but correspondents also include friends, business associates, and individuals relating to family members’ personal affairs. The collection also includes documents such as bills, receipts, and rental agreements.


  • Creation: 1870-1931



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Byrne-MacKenzie family papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Byrne-MacKenzie family papers are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections.

Biography of the Byrne-MacKenzie Family

Chicago, Washington, D.C., and New York based family.

Daniel Jameson Byrne was born 31 January 1839 in Ireland and immigrated to the United States about 1851. He first lived in the Roxbury area of Boston. During the Civil War, he apparently was a member of Company D, 35th Mass Infantry and achieved the rank of corporal. After the war, Byrne relocated to Washington, D.C., where he met his wife, Scottish immigrant Mary MacKenzie. He worked or ran a boarding house in Washington, D.C.’s 5th Ward where Mary MacKenzie also worked, and he was a decorative painter and an employee in a lithographer’s shop. Byrne lived for a time with daughter Catherine Byrne MacKenzie and son-in-law Frederick D.B. Austin and died on 25 January 1923 in Tacoma Park MD.

Mary MacKenzie was born 22 February 1844 at Stornoway, Outer Hebrides, Scotland. She and Daniel MacKenzie lived in Washington, D.C. and Maryland. While Daniel lived with Catherine and Frederick Byrne, however, Mary lived with children Mary MacKenzie “Mamie” Byrne and Alexander MacKenzie Byrne in Chicago, where Mamie had taken a job. Mary also wrote letters while visiting relatives in Scotland and Liverpool. Mary died in Washington, D.C. on 28 February 1932. The collection contains a letter of reference for Mary that is addressed to fellow countryman Andrew Carnegie.

Mary and Daniel MacKenzie had at least four children, all born in Washington, D.C.: Mary, Catherine, Alexander, and Effie.

Mary MacKenzie “Mamie” Byrne, the oldest of the children, was born 9 May 1877. Mamie was known in Washington, D.C. as a soprano active in the “Handel-Haydn Singing Association” and as a singer at her church. Mamie moved to New York City to advance her singing career. In New York, Mamie took singing lessons, worked at an office, and took clerical classes at night. She worked as secretary/clerk for A. Cressy Morrison, the Secretary-Treasurer of the American Baking Powder Association in New York and Chicago before returning to New York City to become a music teacher. The last record available for Mamie is her application for a Social Security number in 1936.

Catherine, the second child of Mary MacKenzie Byrne and Daniel Jameson Byrne, was born in 1882. In 1902 she married Frederick D.B. Austin, the son of English immigrants and a member of Company D, 1st DC Infantry, apparently in the Spanish War. Frederick worked as an express wagon driver, a telephone installer, and a builder. Frederick died in 1932, and Catherine died in 1978.

Catherine and Frederick had at least three children: Muriel MacKenzie Austin, Frederick “Byrne” Austin, and Katherine T. Austin. Byrne and Muriel seem to be twins, as both list their birthdays in official documents as 26 July 1903. Muriel went on a European trip with her Aunt Mamie Byrne and Grandmother Mary Byrne and was an artist with her own studio. She died in 1994. Byrne was a hotel clerk and auto salesman before moving to Florida to work for the Congressional District Modification League of Washington, D.C. He also travelled to Cuba. Little is known about Effie.

For more details about the families, as well as a sketch of a family tree, please see the information file, available at the Special Collections circulation desk.


0.6 Linear Feet (2 boxes)


Correspondence and documents of the extended family of working-class Irish immigrant Daniel J. Byrne and his Scottish-born wife, Mary MacKenzie. Most correspondence is related to two of their daughters, Mary MacKenzie “Mamie” Byrne and Catherine MacKenzie Byrne Austin. The parents lived mainly in the Washington, D.C. area, but Mary the mother also wrote from Chicago while living with her daughter Mamie and from Scotland and England while visiting relatives. Mamie was a singer in Washington, D.C. and New York City and also worked in those cities and in Chicago. Catherine wrote mainly from the Washington, D.C. area.


The collection is organized by the four generations represented as correspondents or recipients. Since the bulk of the correspondence is related to third-generation sisters Mary MacKenzie “Mamie” Byrne and Catherine MacKenzie Byrne Austin, the collection is organized around them. Correspondence that is not to or from Mamie or Catherine is organized by family member. Materials are organized chronologically within folders, with correspondents and recipients interfiled.

Collection Stack Location

1 8 7


Purchase, 2017.

Processed by

Kristin Jacobsen, 2017.

Inventory of the Byrne-MacKenzie family papers, 1870-1931
Kristin Jacobsen
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States