Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Mother's name reveals more

The International Genealogical Index (IGI) is very useful for finding births, marriages and deaths (BMDs). It's the Mormon site and you have to be rather careful. About half the names have been properly researched but half have been added by individuals, so it's always wise to find the original records to check what's been put on the IGI. In looking at the site sometimes 'more is less' - the less information you put in, the more you get out. Until this week I'd never thought of putting 'McIlhag*' into the box for the name of 'mother/spouse', and nothing anywhere else. I tried it to search for births and found two more people for my family tree, Arthur Graham born June 1913 and Lillian Graham born June 1915.

My records show me that Agnes McIlhagga, daughter of my Great-grandfather Crawford, had married William Graham in 1895. She was the younger sister of my Grandfather William. Now his two nearest siblings Elizabeth and Thomas had been born in Greenock, Scotland, but the remaining three, Crawford, Agnes and John were born on Merseyside, so clearly at a point between the birth of Thomas (March 1868) and Crawford (July 1870) the whole family with parents Crawford and Elizabeth (nee Smith) had moved south. In 1898 twenty-one year old Agnes married twenty-five year old house painter William Graham at St. Mary's Church, Kirkdale, in the parish of Walton-on-the-Hill, in the West Derby District. They appear to have waited fifteen years before Arthur was born, and then Lillian two years later, though of course I may yet find other family. I know that Agnes (my Great-Aunt) died five years before I was born, but their children (my 1st Cousins once removed) may have been alive for much of my life. I wonder if they were? Did they marry and have children? I must start searching!

PS. Equally interesting results were shown when I put McIlhag* into the spouse/mother box on the IGI when I looked for marriages - but this time, no surprises!

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Home Children

It is probably little known that Britain has had a long history of child migration to its former colonies.  Some were orphans, many were institutionalised and in abject poverty.  Often going abroad was an option for a child one of whose parents had died.  Children under 10 were normally adopted.  Those of 12 and over were 'workers-in-training' who often went to farms as cheap labour.  Such was the case in Canada and such was the case for 13 year old Thomas McIlhagga who in 1909 found himself on the ship Corsican with 92 other children who set sail from Liverpool on 20 May, arriving at Halifax, Nova Scotia, on 28 May, Thomas destined for Knowlton in Quebec.  In the ship's documentation Thomas' surname had been changed from McIlhagga to McIllhagga, a spelling he kept for the rest of his life.  Canada calls these child migrants 'Home Children'.

Thomas was in fact the third child of Thomas McIlhagga (b. 6 Mar 1868) who had married Margaret Sinclair Galbraith (b.c. 1871/2) on 19 Sep. 1889 in Liverpool, England.  Exactly eleven months later they had their first child Agnes Barbour (on 19 Aug 1890).  Thomas had worked in the Sugar Refining industry since he had left school at thirteen, though by 1890 he had become a Freight Clerk, a job he kept through his life.  Only seven months later they were in Anderston, Glasgow visiting relatives at the time of the 1891 Census.  This was however only a visit.  If their purpose was to do more than show off their child and perhaps look for work in the area in which Thomas had been born, in Greenock, then the purpose failed.  Nine months later they were back in Liverpool where William Crawford was born (27 Jan 1892).  Named after his grandfather Crawford who was still alive, and perhaps after his older brother William whom Thomas had probably left Greenock to join to work on Merseyside, sadly this second child only lived for two and a half years.   He died on 24 October 1894 of Tubercular Meningitis.

A year later, on 6 November 1895 Thomas was born, also in Liverpool.  We must assume that the family stayed in the area, though strangely they do not appear on the 1901 Census either in England or in Scotland.  What we do know is that tragedy struck for the family in 1908 when on 18 March Margaret died of 'Mitral Endocarditis Asthenia'.   The effect on Thomas and the children must have been traumatic.  We know from the 1911 Census that eighteen year old Agnes became a boarder with a Williams family in the town.  There is no sign of father Thomas until he married again nine years later in Everton to a widow, Agnes Baker.  Young Thomas we have found 15 months later on board the Corsican in the charge of a Mrs. Birt, bound for Canada.

What was Thomas' fate in the New World?  There is one thing certain that we know about him. He served in the First World War with the Regimental number 919439.  We know this because not only is he the only serving McIllhagga, and his date of birth is recorded as 6 November 1895, but his Attestation Papers give his birthplace as Liverpool, England.  On those papers his address is Lachute, Co. Argenteuil, Quebec.  His occupation, as we might expect from the 'Home Children' information, is 'farmer'.  The date they were signed was 15 May 1916.  Thomas was 21.  He had joined the 55th I.C.R.  It was seven years since he had left Liverpool and since he had seen his father and sister.  Poignantly his Attestation paper records that he has no known relations, so he gives the name of his next-of-kin as 'Thomas Patterson, Esq.', a Friend - presumably the farmer for whom he had worked for the previous seven years.

Thomas' signature on the paper is clear and in a good hand.  His description is perhaps not quite so impressive.  He had a fair complexion, blue gray eyes, light brown hair, was 5ft. 3in. tall with a 34 chest (expansion 4 inches).  He had marks, including acne, on his back.  The Medical Officer declared him fit 'as a Landsman' for the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force.  He was recorded as belonging to the Church of England, which was certainly in accord with the fact that his parents had been married at All Saints Parish Church in Liverpool.  There is no record of Thomas on a Canadian War Memorial, so we must assume that he survived the last two years of the war, though at present we know no more of him.  His father lived until he was 58 in 1926, when Thomas would have been 31.  Agnes would have been 36.  Is it possible that Thomas returned to the British Isles?  Did he ever see any of his kin again?  It would be good to know, not least because he was my first cousin (once removed).

Thursday, 22 January 2009

BMD Registers: McIlhagga, Wade and Linton

On the Internet there are many indexes of names on which one may possibly find an ancestor. The golden rule, however, is that one should never accept such a name at face value.  Always check with the original entry, usually that of a BMD - a Birth, a Marriage or a Death.  Registers of these 'vital events' are usually correct - but not always!  If transcription mistakes can be made in Indexes, the accuracy of registers is only as good as the information given to the registrar.  I came across a case recently in my own family tree.

My great-great-grandfather, William McIlhagga, had eight children, the third of whom was Jane.  She married Robert Wade and had seven children, the youngest of whom was Crawford. It was Crawford who, in 1909, gave notice to the Registrar in Greenock, Scotland, of the death of his mother.  A death register records the names of the deceased's parents.  William's name is correct, though his occupation of Labourer is not.  He was a tenant farmer and a weaver.  The name of Jane's mother is given as Agnes Linton.  She was in fact Agnes McCosh.  'Young Crawford' (he was at the time 60) knew the name Linton because his Aunt Ann, William and Agnes' sixth child, had married a Robert Linton.  Maybe he didn't know the maiden name of his grandmother Agnes and said the only name that came into his head - he knew it had some connection with the family!

I have to say that I don't know if there are any Wades or descendants of Robert and Jane left. There are certainly descendants of the Lintons who live today in Broxburn near Edinburgh and who keep in touch with the McIlhagga Clan.  We'd be delighted to hear from any Wades.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Death in Sheffield

Today brings the sad news of the death last week of John (Jack) McIlhagga in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England.  We send our sincere condolences to Jack's wife, sons and grandchildren.  As with the annual Clan Newsletter I will try to maintain the principle in this Blog of not naming people who are alive, unless of course they say I may, or indeed if they respond by commenting on an item in the Blog.  What we can record of this family (if our records are right) is that Jack McIlhagga was one of the five children of John McIlhagga (born 1909 in Coleraine, County Derry, Northern Ireland) and Jane Laverty (born 1907 in Craigs, Cullybackey, County Antrim).  They married in 1931 in Ballymena, County Antrim.  John died in Belfast in 1975 and Jane in St. John's, Newfoundland in 1998.  John was the third of seven children of James Spence McIlhagga of Tullygarley, County Antrim, and Elizabeth McGrillis of Coleraine, County Derry.  In his turn James Spence was the eldest of the five children of William McIlhagga and Mary Spence.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Choral Setting

Kate McIlhagga was born and remained at heart a Scot, though she spent most of her working life south of the border.  She was a remarkable word-smith whose imagery and economy of language spoke, and still speaks to many people.  She was inspired in the last decade of her life (she died in 2002) by the environs of Northumberland and the Scottish Borders, when she wrote most of her poetry.  I was delighted recently when I found that a young composer, Jim Clements, has set one of her pieces to music.  Jim graduated from Manchester University in 2005 and presently is a lay clerk at Southwark Cathedral in London.  He has composed a number of choral pieces in a modern classical style including Go gently by Kate.  Her short poem was prompted by Deitrich Bonhoeffer's words, 'Death is the last great festival on the road to freedom'.

'Go gently on your voyage, beloved.
Slip away with the ebb tide,
rejoice in a new sunrise.

May the moon make a path across the sea for you,
the Son provide a welcome.
May the earth receive you and the fire cleanse you
as you go from our love
into the presence of Love's completeness.'

You can hear Jim Clements' setting, which he composed at the request of a friend, on his website.  Google his name and follow the link to 'My Space Page', and then to 'Go gently'.  It is beautifully sung by the choir of Worcester Cathedral.  I understand that he hopes to publish some of his work, including Go gently, in the not too distant future.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

1911 Census

The 1911 Census for Ireland came on-line just before Christmas and has given us no fewer than 113 clan members, all in Northern Ireland.  I'm still analysing this and will write about it soon. The next most interesting list will come from Scotland, but we have to wait two years for that. Scottish law doesn't allow publication for 100 years.  However, today has seen the England 1911 Census come on line, with some interest for us, though with only seven names to consider.  At first I got no results by putting McIlhagga into the surname box.  Then I remembered that the 1901 Census treated 'Mc' as a middle name.  I put 'Ilhagga' into the box and bingo!

Three households are represented, two on Merseyside and one in London.  The Irish Census was free, but I had to pay £6.95 for 60 credits, just enough to view the three household transcripts and one original page, that of my own grandparents with my father and aunt as teenagers.  But first the London household.  The Index simply gave me Esther, aged 41 (so born 1870) and Eileen, aged 3 (so born 1908), presumably mother and daughter, both in West Ham in the County of Essex.

The transcript showed that on Census night they were visitors in the home of Wallace E. and Catherine Stephen at 8 Argyle Road, Custom House East, Canning Town, West Ham, Essex. Although having been married 18 years there were no children listed, though they appeared to have two boys living with them, both nephews, William Belcher aged 19, an Apprentice and Arthur Belcher, aged 17, occupation Vanguard.  William had been born in Cubitt Town, Middlesex (1894) and Arthur in Upton Park, Essex (1896).  The transcript showed some other interesting things.  Wallace was a shipwright born in Gillingham, Kent.  Esther the visitor was a general Domestic Servant, born, as was Wallace's wife Catherine, in Naas, Co.Kildare, in Ireland.  Naas is famous for its racecourse, just outside Dublin.  Catherine was 46 and Esther 41, both from Naas.  We can assume that Esther was visiting her sister.

But there is more, not revealed by the Census.  The transcript tells us that Esther was married, though where her husband was we have no idea.  He was John McIlhagga, a ship's carpenter, son of John, and he was Esther's second husband.  Her maiden name was Loakman and her first husband was William John Belcher, a Police Constable who had died four years earlier.  So how were William and Arthur Belcher related?  They were nephews to Wallace and Catherine, so must have been sons of a sister of William or Catherine, presumably Esther!  So Esther was visiting not only to see her sister but to see her own two boys, William and Arthur, who maybe had gone to live with the Stephens when Esther remarried.

From other sources we can add that Catherine and Esther were daughters of Patrick Loakman and Mary Ann Brady.  Esther and William John Belcher had four children, Esther Caroline (1890-1980), William John (b.1894), Arthur (b.1896) and May.  William John had two daughters.  Arthur's occupation was given in 1911 as 'Vanguard'.  This may mean that at the young age of 17 he was serving on HMS Vanguard.   The ship was sunk in an explosion in 1917 and we know from Military records that Arthur was killed in the First World War.  Esther and John McIlhagga had six children, John Joseph (1902-1978) who emigrated to America, Edith Agnes (b.1905), Eileen Margaret Mary (1908-1979), Irene (d.1978), Theresa and Cissie.

As we have noted, both the other households were on Merseyside.  One person, Agnes aged 20, was in the district of Liverpool, Lancashire and the other four in nearby West Derby, Lancashire.  They were William aged 44 (so born 1867), Margaret 43 (born 1868) and their two teenage children, Lindsay 17 (born 1894) and Margaret 13 (born 1898). The years given in a Census can of course only be approximate.   William was in fact born in 1866, Margaret in 1867, Lindsay in 1893 and Margaret in 1897.  Agnes was a boarder of 'private means', living with John and Catherine Williams and their teenage son Mark at 70 Blenheim Street in the central Scotland area of Liverpool.  She was in fact Agnes Barbour McIlhagga, daughter of Thomas who married Margaret Sinclair Galbraith.  Her mother Margaret had died four years previously and her father Thomas does not seem to be around over the next few years, as Agnes was to marry five years later from the same address.  She married Michael Doyle in a Roman Catholic Church, one of the few instances where we have a clan marriage across denominations.  

Agnes' father, Thomas, was a younger brother of William, the head of the other Merseyside family.  We learn from the Census that William was a Commercial Traveller in fish, game, poultry and oysters.  He had been born in Greenock, Renfrew and clearly work had brought him to Merseyside.  He, his wife Margaret (nee McLean) and two children were living at 9 Palmerston Drive, Litherland.  Margaret aged 13 was at school, but Lindsay, 17, had left school and become a Junior Commercial Clerk with a Corn Merchant.  He was to become the Managing Director of a Jute Firm which had moved down from Dundee to Liverpool.  They lived in a seven roomed house and had living with them Ann Jane Hamilton, single, aged 49, who was their General Servant (Domestic), born in Liverpool, not as far as we know, a relation.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Belfast 1930s

John Wyse, a blogger with 'Window's Live' is interested in Ireland's 'Other' Poetry, and in June 2008 wrote a piece entitled 'A Vision of Belfast in the 1930s'.  It was a comment on a poem called 'The Athens of the North, 1937' written by someone known only by his or her initials, 'B.S.'.  The poem was published in the Autumn 1937 issue of The New Northman, a student journal for the Queen's University.  Apart from calling Belfast 'The Athens of the North', which I've always thought was Edinburgh, my interest in the poem is that it refers to a Samuel James McIlhagga.  It begins:

'In the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and seven and thirty
There was convened at Belfast, Metropolitan city of Ulster,
A large and distinguished concourse of people,
Who had assembled together to witness against the desecration of Sunday,
And to proclaim their will to the world, but more particularly to the Northern Government and Belfast Corporation.

Mr. Saml. Jas. McIlhagga kindly presided,
And Rev. Obadiah McCusker led the Praise.
The principal speaker was Rev. Clugston Maconkey,
Who spoke with regret of secular music broadcast on Sunday,
And, denouncing the practice of Sabbath joy-riding,
Drew a grave picture of beaches strewn with bottles of whiskey....'

As John Wyse puts it, "..the author..paints a vividly realistic picture of an extraordinary group of social allegiances, part of a Belfast that has now all but vanished from the world".  The poem refers, with implicit approval, to 'Holy Rollers', 'Little White Ribboners', 'the Belfast Vigilance Committees', 'The League of Patriots', 'the Band of Hope', 'the Council of the Ruling Elders' Union', 'Total Abstinence Orange Lodges', 'the Jubilee Protestant Defence Association', 'the Peculiar People, British Israel', 'the Anti-Popery League', 'the Purity Brigade', 'The Ulster Unionist Labour Association', 'the Ulster Evangelical Protestant Society', and 'The Little Flock', whoever they were.

The only other reference to Mr. McIlhagga is in  the lines:

'The discussion concluded, the Chairman submitted a motion,
Which was passed with applause, and conveyed to the proper authorities,
And which duly appeared in the press
(Condensed, and its grammar amended).'

We can imagine what the motion said, in no uncertain language!

In my files on McIlhaggas of the 20th Century I have only one 'Samuel James' and wonder if he was one and the same?  He was born in September 1903, so would have been thirty three in mid 1937.  I think he was a Grocer in Belfast who later moved to Preston in Lancashire.  He may well have been one of four sons (and one daughter) of William McIlhagga from Armoy who married Jane Redmond.  He, Samuel, married Annie Morgan and also had four sons (and two daughters).  I would be very interested to have this possible identification confirmed or corrected.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Clan History. Celtic Beginnings

I've called this blog 'McIlhagga Clan'.  The beginnings of a Clan can sometimes be hidden in the name by which that 'extended family' became known, and such is probably the case for the clan in which today the most frequently found spelling of the surname is McIlhagga.  However there are other spellings which we may call 'variations'.  In 2009 the second commonest spelling is McIlhagger and the third is McIlhaga.  And I have on record at least one instance each of MacIlhagga, McElhago and McElhage.  Historically there are many more.  It is generally agreed by scholars that the name has a Scottish Gaelic origin, though the 'originator' of the name is probably Irish!

In Gaelic names giolla (Irish) or gille (Scottish) often appears, and this is where the 'Il' syllable today comes from.  Sometimes it can mean 'youth' and some writers on names have linked it in our name with chairge, 'rock', to give a meaning something like 'Son (Mac) of that rock-like youth'.  This however seems to be the least probable of three suggested Gaelic origins.  We know that G(h)ille today commonly means 'servant', giving us the second possibility, gille sagairt, 'son of the servant of the priest'.  The earliest meaning of ghille however is 'follower' or 'devotee', giving the meaning of McIlhagga, McIlhagger or McIlhaga (etc) as 'Son of the devotee of Mochuda'.  This name is a 'pet' form of Carthach, Gaelic for 'lover/loving'.  So was there a Mochuda?  I'll go into that another time.  


Welcome to the McIlhagga Clan Blog!  For the last seven years two of us have produced an annual Clan Newsletter.  It's been a lot of fun, but a lot of hard work, and each year it gets more expensive to produce and send out.  We've put quite a bit of research into it, and it's made us a lot of friends - and as far as I know, no enemies.  Also it's a long time between each Newsletter, and research on our Clan doesn't stop.  Sometimes things crop up that could be shared immediately. So what better than a Blog which folk can access at any time?  Don't hesitate to contribute or respond to what we write.

Where better to start than the holiday season that's just over.  I received a Christmas card from friends in Bathgate, Scotland that said they had been to a locally written theatre production - it may have been a Pantomime - that had a character in it with the name McIlhagga!  I had written a piece in the Newsletter we sent out in October referring to a couple of 'fictional' McIlhaggas, one in a Radio sketch and one in a story published on the Internet.  Well, here was a third one!  I'd love to know more about it.  Would the author or producer like to reveal themselves and tell us about the play?  Did the character refer to a local person?  There are certainly several McIlhagga families living in Bathgate!