Wednesday, 20 May 2009


Some time ago I purchased a privately published book, Nigh on Three and a Half Centuries, A History of Carnmoney Presbyterian Church, by Robert H. Bonar. My hope was that I would find a reference to an early clan member. I was disappointed but found a reference which was perhaps the next best thing. In 1686 Carnmoney called the Revd. John Munro who had been ordained in Argyllshire, Scotland, to be its minister. Among the sixteen elders involved in the Call was Patrick McBurny.  He was clearly the ancestor of the Patrick McBurney who married Agnes Fulton and whose seventh child (and sixth daughter) Betty Burney (they all dropped the 'Mc'), born about 1762, married Nathan McIlhaggar in about 1783, presumably in Carnmoney Presbyterian Church. I note that Nathan's surname and that of his offspring is spelled differently in different contexts: McIlhaggar, McIlhagar, McIlhaggart and McIlhagger.

The International Genealogical Index (IGI), presumably searching the Carnmoney baptismal registers, records six offspring of 'Nathan' as follows:

Nathan born about 1784
Jon born about 1785
George born about 1797
Patrick born about 1799
Nancy born about 1800
Nathan born about 1804.

Now clearly there are some problems here. There is a long gap of twelve years between 1785 and 1797 and it looks as if there might have been two families. Were all six the children of Nathan married in 1783? The only other Nathan we have who might have fathered the later children is Nathan born in 1784, but if (eg) George was his son, Nathan (junior) would have fathered him when he was only 12 or 13 years old, which is extremely unlikely, apart from which we have no marriage for this Nathan. Another 'problem' might be thought to be that Betty (nee Burney) would have been rather old at 42 when she had her last child, but surely this is not all that unusual. If all six were one family, the fact that there are two Nathans in the list of offspring must mean that the first one died before he was 20 years old. Also the 12 year gap might have been filled with other children who died in infancy who are not recorded. Our best suggestion at this time is that we are dealing with the six children of Nathan and Betty.

Our next question must be 'What happened to each of their children?'. Nathan (the first) we must presume died either in infancy or at least before he was 20 when Nathan (the second) was named. Jon had a son Jonathan who was baptised 15th March 1807. Of Patrick I'm afraid we know nothing further. However George and Nancy present us with a problem. An individual has entered on the IGI the following: 'About 1820 George McIlhaggart married Mrs. Agnes McIlhaggart', which is not very helpful, though George, son of Nathan and Betty, may indeed have married an Agnes. There is also a documented IGI entry for 25th May 1821 for Agnes M'Illhagart marrying Robert George at Carnmoney. Now the names Agnes and Nancy are used interchangeably, so the Agnes whom Robert married could well have been Nancy the daughter of Nathan and Betty. She would have been 21 in 1821, 'just the right age'. If this is the case, then two Georges have been confused and it is probable that we do not have any evidence of George son of Patrick being married. However, to complicate matters, we do have the baptism of an Elizabeth M'Ilhaggart (IGI Batch 8407433) at Carnmoney on 15th April 1822 whose father is George M'Ilhaggart. Elizabeth had to be either the daughter of George (son of Nathan) by an unknown woman, or the daughter of Robert George who has changed his name to George McIlhaggart/er, ie has taken the surname of his wife Agnes/Nancy. 

Lastly in this generation there is Nathan (the second) born 1804, interestingly baptised in Carnmoney Parish (Anglican) Church on 8th April. Perhaps if the first Nathan had died, Patrick and Betty couldn't face having another Nathan baptised in the same church. This Nathan married Ellen Wilson in Carnmoney on 21st May 1830. They had eight children, the first three months before they married, as follows:

Archibald born 8th Feb. 1830 (baptised 19th Sep. 1830)
Elizabeth born 30th Nov. 1831 (baptised ?)
Jonathan born 20th Apr 1834 (baptised 27th Jul. 1834)
William born 30th Apr 1836 (baptised 18th Jun.1836)
Robert or Nathan born 25th Jul 1838 (baptised 2nd Sep. 1838)
James born 25th May 1840 (baptised 11th Oct 1840)
Samuel born 30th Jul. 1842 (baptised 27th Nov. 1842)
Letitia born 21st Dec. 1844 (baptised 27th Jan 1845).

We have noted the records of three clan generations at Carnmoney. We must finally record another Carnmoney marriage. John McIlhaggo/a married Margaret Douglas(s) from nearby Templepatrick. She was from a Scots-Ulster family who had moved from Ayrshire in the first decade of the 17th Century. John was in fact the Jonathan above, son of Nathan and Ellen. John and Margaret had six children, the first of which, Hannah, was born in Carnmoney before the family moved to Belfast. Hannah was to marry Robert Killips in 1889 and produce a family of ten. Descendants of their sixth son, whom they called John McIlhagga (Killips), flourish today in the small English county of Rutland.

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