Wednesday, 24 June 2009

McIlhagga DNA Project - An Offer

It would be very helpful to our Clan research to have the DNA of some male members analysed. We have many family trees going back to the early 19th Century and just a few going back further. From the historical records we cannot make links between the different families in these trees but a DNA Project could help us to do that. It could also help us in finding where our clan origins are. The American Firm called FamilyTreeDNA (FTDNA) is the one we are working with and at present - until July 7th - they have a special offer on to enable people to have their DNA analysed at a very reasonable rate. It would be good if we could take advantage of this offer. As I have mentioned before, I have had my Y-chromosome test to 37 markers, and this is what is recommended for good comparisons to be made. The following is the notice that FTDNA have sent me today:

Project Website


Contact Group Administrator


The McIlhagga DNA Project welcomes all participants. We encourage you to join today! 

Our project is just getting started, and we expect to have many exciting discoveries. 

Participating is an opportunity to uncover information not provided in the paper records, which will help with your family history research. We will also discover which family trees are related. As the project progresses, the results for the various family trees will provide information about the evolution of the surname. 

The surnames in this DNA Project are researched as part of the McIlhagga one-name study. You can learn more about this significant research, and the the associated family trees, by visiting the one-name study web site, or contacting the Group Administrator. 

The Y DNA test tells you about your direct male line, which would be your father, his father, and back in time. You must be male to take this test, and you should have one of the surnames shown. If you believe there is a McIlhagga or variant in your direct male line, although you have a different surname, you are also welcome to participate. If you are female, you will need to find a direct line male in your family tree to participate and represent your tree. 

We encourage males who order a Y DNA test to order 37 markers, if possible. If you order less markers, you can upgrade later, though this costs a little more. 

Both males and females may also be interested in learning about their direct female line, which would be their mother, their mother's mother, and back in time. Both men and women inherit mtDNA, although only women pass it on. You would order a mtDNA test. For matches in a genealogical time frame, order the mtDNA Plus test. 


A Surname Project traces members of a family that share a common surname. Since surnames are passed down from father to son like the Y-chromosome, this test is for males taking a Y-DNA test. Females do not carry their father's Y-DNA and acquire a new surname by way of marriage, so the tested individual must be a male that wants to check his direct paternal line (father's father's father's...) with a Y-DNA12, Y-DNA37, or Y-DNA67 marker test. Females who would like to check their direct paternal line can have a male relative with this surname order a Y-DNA test. Females can also order an mtDNA test for themselves such as the mtDNA or the mtDNAPlus test and participate in an mtDNA project.

Surnames In This Project

McElhago, McIlhaga, McIlhagga, McIlhaggart, McIlhagger, McIlhaggo

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Royal Irish Rifles: Robert W.

Livingston War Memorial

There is a correspondence going on at the present time on the Internet site called the 'Great War Forum' initiated by 'alf mcm' who is researching Private Robert McIlhagga who served in the Royal Irish Rifles. He had found out that there is a memorial to him in Ballyweaney Presbyterian Church and he was hoping for a photograph or a description of it. It is possible that he discovered this from our Clan Newsletter because in October 2007, to follow up at article I had written in 2006 on 'The Clan in the Military', I printed the following: 'There is a British TV Channel 4 web-site called "Lost Generations" on which you can search names and memorials. "McIlhagga" brings up a World War I commemoration that I don't think we included last time. He is Rifleman R.W. McIlhagga whose name is on the Ballyweaney Presbyterians Memorial in Ballyweaney Presbyterian Church, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland. There are four other names on the memorial: H.Rock, T.Turner, D.Johnston and R. Turner'.

Alf.mcm's problem is that the memorial doesn't seem to exist, if it ever did. I tried the 'Lost Generation' site today and again put in 'McIlhagga' but got a 'No Information' message. The information seems to have been deleted. I suspect the site got it originally from the 'Roll of Honour 1914-1919 of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland'. The extract for the Congregation of Ballyweaney has 15 names on it including the four above, with the remark against each 'Killed in action'. It states that Robert's address was Knockahollet. There is a UK National Inventory of War Memorials which lists 'Ballyweaney Presbyterians'. reference 47464, giving the church address as 'Ballymoney'. It gets its information from a publication by Robert Thompson (1999) called 'Ballymoney Heroes 1914-1918', but unfortunately doesn't give any details of a Memorial. Robert's actual grave can be found on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission site. It is in the Rocquigny-Equancourt Road British Cemetery, Manancourt, Somme, France: Rifleman Robert McIlhagga 12/7536 Royal Irish Rifles, grave I.B.20. There are two villages in the Department of the Somme, about 13 km. north of Peroune, 12 km. southeast of Bapaume. The cemetery lies half way between the villages of Rocquigny and Equancourt on the north side of the road, just west of the crossing road from Etricourt to Ypres.

The '12' stands for the 12th Battalion. The Royal Irish Rifles, otherwise known as 'The Central Antrim Volunteers' has its own internet site where there is a famous WW1 photograph and a short article under the title 'Who shall separate us?' - the traditional motto of the Irish Regiments. The photograph, called 'The Ration Party' is one of the most famous images of The Great War. According to records in the Imperial War Museum it depicts soldiers from the 12th Royal Irish Rifles allegedly on 1st July 1916. There are certainly men from the RIRs in the picture. The Regiments' site has an introduction which reminds us of its origins. Many in the north of Ireland opposed the British Government's proposals for 'Home Rule' - see the Ulster Covenant of 1912 - and in 1912 the Ulster Volunteer Force smuggled thousands of rifles and tons of ammunition into the Province. These were dispersed around the countryside of Ulster. Among those taking part in the gun running exploits were men of the 'North Antrim Regiment' of the UVF. It was these men who, only months later, flocked to the call 'For King and Empire'. They were the 'originals' who formed the 12th (Service) Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles (Central Antrim Volunteers).

'Robert W. McIlhagga was born in County Antrim. His death records in 1917 give his age as 25, giving us a birth year of 1892. However, the 1911 Census shows Robert aged 16, giving us a birth year of 1895. This may mean that he went into the army younger than he was legally allowed - very common in the First World War. His parents were Daniel Maitland McIlhagga and Elizabeth Ann Wright. They had a large family of nine children. Robert was their second child and eldest son. They probably lived in Ballyportery where Robert's grandfather James was born in about 1840. He was a farmer and butcher who in about 1865 married Jane Maitland. Daniel was born 21st September 1868 and married Elizabeth about 1890. His occupation began as a Farm Labourer and Flax Scutcher; he was then a 'Contractor' and finally a 'Shale Miner'. Occupations are usually known from birth, marriage and death documentation and are often 'enhanced' versions of the actual jobs people did. Robert was Daniel's second child and eldest son. At some stage the family moved from Northern Ireland to Scotland and settled in Livingston in Mid-Lothian. They probably moved in the early years of the 20th Century. The family address there was 104 Main Street, Livingston Station. Although Robert's official medal cards use the name variants McIlhaggar and McIlhagger, these are army mistakes. He was always a McIlhagga. According to Alf mcm on the Great War Forum his name is on the War Memorial in Livingston Kirkyard. The official army record says 'Died of wounds 4th Sep 1917, Age 25'. But he was probably only twenty-two!

There are many members of this family living today, in County Antrim, in Perth, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, Australia, and in Bathgate, Edingurgh and Glasgow, Scotland. I have a Family Tree for them with 391 people on it. I wish Alf mcm well with his research and would be most interested to see the result of it.

Monday, 22 June 2009


All or some of the members of the two families in my last blog (19th June), to use the most common version of their surname, the families of John and David McElhager, of Lisnacrogher and Limavallaghan respectively, emigrated to the USA. There is some evidence that they went after the devastation of the potato famine, about 1855, just four years after the census details I recorded last time. John who was I think the older brother probably only had the one son, James. Common practice would have been to call the first son after the paternal grandfather, which is the only 'evidence' I have that the progenitor of this family, with a possible birth date around 1750, was James McIlhagga who can be found in the local Tithe Applotment Book with a small-holding partly in Eglish township and partly in Ballycloughan. The first child of John's brother David was a girl, Jane, possibly named after the maternal grandmother. He named his first son John. As John senior had called his son James perhaps David didn't use the name again to avoid confusion, and called him after his eldest brother.

The family moved to a place called Jamestown in the County of Mercer on the border of the States of Ohio and Pensylvania. John and his wife Jenny (who seems to have adopted the name Jane, unless Jane was a second wife, of which we have no evidence) lived to the ripe old ages of 88 and 91 respectively, and are buried in Park Lawn Cemetery in Jamestown, Pensylvania. Jenny's maiden name was McCarley, quite a rare name in County Antrim. Interestingly on the International Genealogical Index (IGI) there is a Mathew McCarley of an age to be Jenny's brother, who had a son James who married Mary Rae in Ballymena on 19th May 1849. Unfortunately I haven't found a marriage date for John and Jenny.

James, who we know from the 1870 Census, became a Carpenter,  was still alive in 1900 when he was listed in the Cleveland, Ohio Directory. He married Eliza [Rogers] with whom he probably had five children, Mary, Augusta, Sarah, William B. and Ella. The 'probability' concerns Mary whose name I have only from the records of the Jamestown Cemetery. She lived from 1856 to 1898. She is listed after the names of John and Jane. I'm afraid she is not listed with the family in the 1870 Census (when she would have been 14) but there doesn't seem to be anywhere else that she 'fits' (unless she was the wife of William B., for which we have no evidence). We do not have marriage or death dates for either James or Eliza, though James seems to have predeceased Eliza as she probably married again.

Augusta was born in 1860 in Pensylvania. In the 1900 Cleveland, Ohio Directory an Augustus (sic) McElhager is listed after James as an unmarried telegrapher. I have assumed that the sex change was unintentional, though the year before the Youngstown, Ohio Directory had listed an Augustus Ulysees McElhager! One can only speculate as to why such a second name was added. Anyhow, perhaps the two Directories were naming the same person. Daughter Sarah was born in 1862 in Pensylvania and at the age of 22 married, using the name Sadie, on 29th July 1886, in Mercer, to James Eugene Wertman. We have his name and age (born 1863) from the IGI. They appear to have had three children, the eldest of whom was Hazel who married Harry F. Vogt. James. Eliza's other two children, about whom we know very little, were William B. (born 1864, PA) and Ella (Born 1869, PA). We do know that a William McElhager paid 12.6 in Taxes (Rates) in 1897 in Chester County, Pensylvania.

John's surname is recorded in at least two versions, as McIlhago and McElhager. His brother David, and his offspring, have records more variously as McIlhago, McAlhager, McElhager and McElhages! We do not have any evidence that David himself emigrated though certainly some of his children did, perhaps persuaded by their cousins who had blazed the trail. There are no records of his two eldest children, Jane and William, leaving Ireland. The third, Eliza, did for she was buried in Jamestown in 1892 aged 65. Number four, Easter (probably Esther) maybe didn't emigrate but her younger brother Davit or David certainly did. He was trained in Ireland as a tailor and continued in this trade in Jamestown. He died there in 1899 aged 65. He married Maria L., whose name we know from her burial there in 1918 when she was 79. A year after David died, in the 1900 Jamestown Census, Maria McElhager is recorded as a widow and 'head' of the household, though she appears to be living alone. She was recorded at being 61 and stated that of her three children two were still alive. Although she herself was born in Pensylvania of a Pensylvanian mother, her father had come from Ireland. One imagines that the Irish Community in Jamestown and area must have known each other well. David and Maria had three daughters. The eldest was Minnie Bell(e) who married Lewis Winfield Chambers in 1889 who became a minister in the United Methodist Church. Minnie died on 7th January 1927 after which Lewis married again, to Annie LaVina Parsons. He died on 29th March 1933 and was buried in Jamestown. David and Maria's second daughter Anna died young aged 17 in 1883 and is also buried in Park Lawn Cemetery, Jamestown. Their third daughter was Dolly, born in 1868.

Of David and Mary's (m. 1843) four children, Isabell(a) emigrated. She married Henry Fortney on 22nd February 1862 in Mercer, Pensylvania. At the marriage Isabell (sic) was said to be from Tumbell County, Ohio. They certainly had one son whom they called James Henry. He was born on 15th May 1863 and died in 1932 aged 68. David and Mary's second child John died in infancy. The third child they also called John, born 1845 in Ireland. In the 1860 Jamestown Census there is a John McElhager, 19 a Jour. Carpenter, born Ireland who I think can only be this John, though his age is four years out. Goodness knows how he had appeared to be four years older that he was. Their fourth child was George, born 1849, also in Ireland.

Of this family there are four males who might have carried on the clan name, William B. son of James and Eliza; John and George, sons of David and Mary; and William son of David and his first wife [possibly also Mary]. At this time I'm afraid we cannot be certain of what happened to any of the four or indeed whether there are any descendants on either side of 'the pond'. Strangely there is no reference to the name in the 1880 US Census or in the later American Social Security Death Index.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Families in Lisnacrogher and in Limavallaghan

In the Registers of the First Presbyterian Church, Broughshane, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, there are two baptism entries which I have had the pleasure of seeing with my own eyes. They were within seven months of each other, both with the same variant of the clan surname, McIlhago. The fathers were respectively David and John. David was married to Mary. Their child was Isabella, baptised 13th April 1836. John was married to Jenny and their child James was baptised 22nd November of the same year. The interesting thing is that these two families lived near each other, both just a few miles north of Broughshane. David and family lived at Limavallaghan, Clough, Ballymena. John and family lived at Lisnacrogher, Rathkenny, Ballymena. Now baptisms in 1836 probably put the parents' births in the first decade of the century and makes them among the earliest of our clan references in the 1800s. I think there is a strong possibility that the two fathers, David and John, were twins, or at least brothers.

The existence of these families makes me revisit my earlier blog, 'Who was Mary?' She also lived in Rathkenny, the daughter of William. Admittedly her name is recorded as McIlhager, not McIlhago, but I am wondering whether I was right to be so ready to link Mary with the Ballycloughan McIlhaggas (my own family). Her family may be nearer to the McIlhagos of Lisnacrogher and Limavallaghan. This must be an open question for the time being, but I hope that some new material will one day enable me to return to it.

Sometimes the essential clue to be followed in tracing a family (especially in Ireland where the townlands are often small) is the name of the place where they live, rather than simply a surname which may have different versions for the same person through time. Such I have found is the case with Limavallaghan. The International Genealogical Index (IGI) has a married couple, David (born 1806) and Mary (born 1817) with the remote name variant of McAlhager, in Newtoncromelin, Limavallaghan. In addition the IGI has Eliza, a daughter of David, born 1827. These three are also in one transcription of the 1851 Irish Census together with three other children of David and Mary, namely Isabella (born 1835), John (born 1845) and George (born 1849). I think we certainly have here an identification of David and Mary McAlhager with David and Mary McIlhago.

There is however another transcription of the 1851 Irish Census which is fuller and also certainly of this family, as follows:

Davit McElhager 45 (b.1806 Antrim), Head, Linen Weaver,
Mary McElhager 34 (b.1817 Armagh), Wife, Winding Quills,
Eliza McElhager 24 (b.1827 Antrim), Daughter, Linen Weaver,
Isabella McElhager 15 (b.1836 Antrim), Son (sic), Linen Weaver,
John McElhager 6 (b.1845 Antrim), Son,
George McElhager 2 (b.1849 Antrim), Son,
Jane McElhager (Absent) 27 (b.1824 Antrim), Daughter, Linen Weaver,
William McElhager (Absent) 23 (b.1826 Limavallaghan, Antrim), Son, Linen Weaver, 
Easter McElhager (Absent) 20 (b.1831 Antrim), Daughter, Linen Weaver,
Davit McElhager (Absent) 17 (b.1834 Antrim), Son, Tailor,
John McElhager (Dead) 2 (b.1840, d.1842 in winter). Son.

There is some additional information. There is a column for the level of literacy which is 'Blank' for all adults, possibly indicating an inability to read or write. Second, a marriage date is given for David and Mary of 1843. This implies that only John and George were their children, though Isabella's baptism says David and Mary were her parents. David must have been married twice, even though the Census says that 1843 is the date of his first marriage. This must be an error. It must be the date of his second marriage. Either they had Isabella seven years before they married, or else Isabella is the daughter of the first marriage and David's first wife was also called Mary. The other transcription error is to call Isabella a son! She is clearly entered as a female. And I suspect that 'Davit' should read 'David'.

We are extremely fortunate to have this family record because the 1851 Census is incomplete; in fact we have only a 25% sample of it. It is also extremely fortunate that in two other places we have what are probably the records of where two of the 'absent' members of this family were living and working. A William McIlhagga aged 20 appears to be serving an apprenticeship as a weaving 'servant' to one Thomas Brown, Blacksmith in Craigs Townland, Parish of Ahoghill and Finvoy. Clearly he was working alongside Thomas' son, William (18) who is also listed as a weaver. The discrepancy here is that William is 20 years old and the 'absent' William is 23. This may however be the same William simply not wishing to give his real age to his employer. I have for a long time assumed that this William was the eldest son (who was certainly a William) of my great-great-grandfather in Ballycloughan. I made this assumption on the basis of the 1851 Census spelling his name at Craigs as McIlhagga, and his birth year being about right. I now realize that there were probably two William McIlhaggas of approximately the same age. They could have been cousins.

There is also an Esther McIlhaggart, a servant aged 18, a Linen Weaver at 10 Carnmore Townland, Parish of Dunachy, in the household of William Redmond (30) a Linen Weaver, working alongside another 'servant, Linen Weaver', William Mcgowan. Again there is a two year discrepancy between the age of Esther McIlhaggart (18) and the 'absent' Easter McElhager (20), but despite this and again the name variation we may well have the same person in both records. The 25% sample of the 1851 Census does not unfortunately have any references to the other two 'absent' family members who were also probably in some form of apprenticeship, namely Jane, a Linen Weaver and Davit junior, a Tailor. Neither does it have any reference to John of Lisnacrogher who was possibly the brother of Davit senior. There is more information about these clan families which I will spell out in another blog, but it comes from the other side of the Atlantic!

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

1881 Scotland - The Rest

In addition to seeing the details on the 1881 Scotland Census about Elizabeth McElhago (see previous blog) I paid my money to 'ScotlandsPeople' and looked at the images of all the other clan members - seven McIlhaggas, eight McIlhaggarts and seven McIlhaggos. I have to say that I didn't discover anything I didn't know before. It is however worth making one or two general comments 'for the record'. First, I'm sure the Census forms, and at least the Record Books were completed by the enumerator(s) and I think this may well account for some of the spelling variations of the surname. The McIlhaggas and the McIlhaggarts, all in Greenock, were part of the same family (my own). There were four households, two of each name variant. Of the household heads, William McIlhagga (48) and William McIlhagga(28) were father and son; James McIlhaggart (25) and Mary McIlhaggart (40) were nephew and aunt (by marriage); and William McIlhagga (48) and Mary's husband John McIlhaggart (who was away at the time of the Census) were brothers!

Two of the households (a McIlhagga and a McIlhaggart) had boarders. In one case there was a Widower of 34 and his daughter aged 7. In this house a 16 year old McIlhagga's occupation was given as 'Assisting at home'. May be there was need for her to relate to the 7 year old who had lost her mother. In the McIlhaggart house there were two young working men (of 20 and 22) who had been born in Ireland. Perhaps the families had known each other in Ulster and a 'home from home' had been found. In both cases of course lodgers brought in extra income. In Mary McIlhaggart's house there were four Boyds, a mother and three sons. Helpfully the relationships to the head, Mary, are given as daughter and three grandsons. 

Although we know that all five households had originated in Ireland, all the children listed in the four Greenock families were born in Scotland. This however was not so for the McIlhaggo family who lived in the village of Mollaburn in the parish of Cadder in Central Scotland. The five children ranging in age from 19 down to 5 had all been born in Ireland. Frustratingly where in Ireland is never given. Whereas the Greenock four had probably moved in the 1850s or early 1860s, the Cadder family had not moved until 1876 or after. If employment was the main reason for moving we have to record that everyone of working age in all the families had a job (including of course mothers looking after children).

1881 McElhago

In my blog on 26th April I focused on the third son of the McElhago family in Dundonald, Ayrshire, Scotland, in the early 19th Century. He was Robert, born about 1821/2. In 1849 he married a local girl, Elizabeth Boyd. Robert died at sea at the early age of 48. Elizabeth was to live until she was 75/6. Clearly she had to sustain herself through twenty-five years of widowhood. As far as we know she had no children, though clearly she did keep an interest in the younger members of her family and indeed left her estate to her niece Jessie Montgomery Rankine Howie.

The images of the 1881 Census have recently been put on line by the Scottish General Register Office in Edinburgh. There is only one McElhago listed for Scotland and she is Elizabeth at 34 Paterson Street, Govan, Glasgow. She describes herself as Head of the Household, a Widow and a Private Lodging House Keeper. The household has five other people in it. Four are almost certainly not related to her, three Kellys who were boarders, a husband, a wife and the husband's sister, all from Aberdeenshire. John Kelly was a 'Shipmaster', so Elizabeth was keeping in touch with the world of her late husband, Robert.  Archibald Lyon, Lodger, was a Slater's clerk. The final member of the household was however a relation. She was Elizabeth Tennant, aged 12, a 'scholar', born in Glasgow, whom she describes very precisely as her 'Grand-niece'. The Tennant family was a large one, with eleven children. Elizabeth was the eldest daughter and perhaps her great-aunt had her to live with her to give her a better chance in life than she might have had otherwise, at least through her teenage years.

The description 'grand-niece' is an interesting example of the use of a term which could readily be understood in a complex situation. The two Elizabeths were not blood relations at all! Young Elizabeth was in fact the Second Cousin twice removed of the older Elizabeth's late husband, Robert. My first thought when I saw the 1881 Census entry was 'Why didn't she leave part of her estate to this niece if she shared in her upbringing?' The answer probably has something to do with blood being thicker than water!

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Who was Mary?

My great-great-grandfather was William McIlhagga of Ballycloughlan near Broughshane, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. He married Agnes McCosh of Clogh. They had seven children who were born between 1830 and 1844 and to the best of my present knowledge, all of them married between 1850 and 1866. All seven were baptised and four were married at the First Presbyterian Church, Broughshane. We think that William was born in the decade 1797-1807 and married between 1828-1835. The absence of Church records doesn't allow us to be more precise. William is in the Tithe Applotment Books farming in Ballycloughan and next door in Eglish, as is a James McIlhagga, though none of the Broughshane Record Books bears his name, which is a pity because we suspect he might have been William's father. Now there is a Marriage entry which complicates things. With such a rare surname surely all McIlhaggas (and variants) in the Broughshane Registers must be related. But who is Mary McIlhagar (aged 22) spinster of Rathkenny who married John Auld (aged 21) of Rathkenny on 25th August 1847? Her father was William McIlhagar, a farmer. Her witnesses were William McIlhagga and Elizabeth McIlhagga! Rathkenny, like Ballycloughan, is in the Glenravell district of County Antrim. 

The fact that John and Mary were both resident in Rathkenny at the time of their marriage probably indicates no more than that they were cohabiting. Mary could have been brought up elsewhere. Mary's father William is probably the 'earliest' clan member for whom we have a reference in the nineteenth century, apart of course for my great-great-grandfather William, who as we have seen, also lived in the same area, a townland just outside the mid-Antrim town of Broughshane. So were these two Williams one and the same person? If so, Mary would likely have been his and Agnes' eldest child for she was born about 1825. Indeed she may have been born a year or two before they were married. Now we know that William and Agnes did indeed have a daughter Mary, but we also know that she married a Robert Dickey at Broughshane First Presbyterian Church on 13th June 1856. We have the Marriage Register record which says 'Mary McIlhago, spinster, of Ballycloughan; Father: William McIlhago, Weaver; Witness: John McIlhago'. All the details of this entry 'fit' my family. Given that McIlhago was one of several name variants used (most of the family 'made their mark' when signing the Registers), William was indeed a weaver as well as a farmer; they did live in Ballycloughan, and Mary had a brother John. As the 1856 marriage says 'spinster' we must assume this was not a second marriage. Also we have no evidence that John Auld died before 1856, though we must acknowledge also that we have no evidence of children being born to John and Mary Auld.

Returning to the Marriage Entry for John and Mary, who, we may wonder, were her witnesses, William McIlhagga and Elizabeth McIlhagga? It is tempting to think that they were husband and wife, though this is not necessarily so. If they were Mary's parents it is very strange that William's surname is spelled two different ways - McIlhagar (as father) and McIlhagga (as witness). So was William a son (the eldest) of William and Agnes? If so this might indicate that he was Mary's brother. And we know, William son of William and Agnes did indeed marry an Elizabeth - Elizabeth Carson. Our present estimate is that they married 1851-53, which is four to seven years after Mary and John married (a date based on when we think their first child was born). We also have to say that there is no other known William who married an Elizabeth, and if as witnesses they were not a married couple, we also have to say that there is no other Elizabeth, of whom we know, who could 'qualify' to be a witness. We may therefore reasonably conclude that the fact that they both signed as witnesses is the best (circumstantial) evidence we have that this William McIlhagga and Elizabeth McIlhagga, who were surely both relations of the couple being wed, were in fact married, and were married before 25th August 1847. We may conclude that they were indeed William and Elizabeth nee Carson. This in turn argues for Mary being William's sister, which in turn argues for Mary's marriage to John Auld being her first marriage and her marriage to Robert Dickey being her second marriage. The word 'spinster' in the 1856 entry could have been a mistake. After all the Officiants at the two weddings who wrote the entries were different - in 1847 Robert Stewart and in 1856 A. Robinson. We can't assume that Mr. Robinson should have remembered a previous marriage as he had become the church's minister in the interim.

We have assumed, I think rightly, that the two Williams named in the 1847 Broughshane Marriage Register, father and witness, must have been related. Surely they must have been, both involved in the same wedding and sharing versions of such a rare surname. We have put forward the possibility that 'father' William was not only Mary's father, but witness William's father. The only other possibility would seem to be that witness William was the father of 'father' William and hence Mary's grandfather. It is tempting to think this as it would give us four generations of Williams leading us in to the Ballycloughan family. However, there is no evidence that this theory is true and the possibility that James who farmed at Ballycloughan and Eglish was Mary's grandfather seems to have more to commend it.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Help from GOONS

In order to follow up my last blog and in particular the phrase in Samuel's Will, 'Mary Noy otherwise Napier', I put a query on the Forum of the Guild of One Name Studies (GOONS) of which I am a member. I simply asked whether this phrase means she was born Mary Noy and married a Napier, or born a Napier and married a Noy? Or is there some other meaning behind the phrase? I didn't mention that Mary's grandfather was Samuel McIlhagga because I didn't think this relevant, though I now think I was wrong about that.

Three people kindly wrote to me in response. The simplest comment was 'I would surmise she was born a Noy and then took her father's name when her mother married him or her step-father's name when her mother remarried'. In the context of the Will this would mean that Mary's mother (Samuel's daughter, whose first name we do not know) married a Noy. Noy is in fact a very rare name and I have not found an Irish marriage of a McIlhagga to a Noy. Nor, incidentally, have I found a marriage of a McIlhagga to a Napier.

The second person responded, 'My understanding is that "otherwise" on a Birth Certificate is a contraction of "otherwise known as"; for example, the child's parents were not married or where there was some doubt as to the real name. "Formerly" is used to indicate a known previous name such as might occur in the case of a widow or divorced woman'. I think it is very possible that Mary was born out of wedlock, though we don't know for certain.

The third person's response was the most comprehensive. 'In my experience this phrase is frequently used in cases of illegitimacy and is similar to "alias". If that does apply in your case I would interpret the likely meaning as Mary was born to a mother whose maiden name was Napier and that she was born before her mother had married. Her mother subsequently married a Noy and Mary acquired his name. The phrase in your context is likely to have been used for the avoidance of any doubt. Of course it is entirely possible that the actual father before marriage may have been Mr. Noy'. The rest of this comment concerns parish registers.

Now of course we know that Mary's mother's maiden name was McIlhagga, not Napier. But this still leaves it open as to whether Mary's maiden name was Noy or Napier. The result is that I'm afraid we are not much further forward in knowing the surname of Mary's son John! Also, it is a mystery that Samuel left money to three sons-in-law but that none of them were a Mr. Noy or a Mr. Napier. Maybe this was because Samuel didn't approve of him, or simply that no such son-in-law was around. He might have died or even have abandoned Mary and her son. Either scenario would have given Samuel a good reason for naming Mary and John in his will.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Islandmagee Cousins?

One of the resources that can easily be missed in Record Offices is an 'old' Personal Card Index of people. There is a very useful one in the Provincial Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI). It contains a reference dated 20th December 1824 to 'Matthew Aikin of Ballymumford, farmer. Counterpart lease for 31 years of 10 acres lately held by Samuel McIlliago in Ballymumford'. There are a couple of transcription errors in this reference. There is no Ballymumford, though there is a Ballylumford, Islandmagee's north-west corner townland which today is the site of a large power-station and is the place from where in earlier days a ferry plied across the sea-lough to Larne. Second, Matthew Aikin is surely the Mathew Aikin who appears as son-in-law and one of the executors in the Will if Samuel McIlhag(g)a: PRONI Will No. 1652, 'Samuel McIlhaga, Islandmagee. Probate granted 28th July 1818'. The other two executors were Revd. John Murphy and Mathew Davis. 

Unfortunately parts of the Will are unreadable but we learn that Samuel left £275.17.3, a tidy sum in 1818, approximately equivalent to £200,000 today. Sadly the Will does not name his wife or any of his daughters, though he must have had three of four daughters for Samuel leaves money to three sons-in-law, Mathew Aikin, Samuel Barnford and Patrick Willson, and implies that there is a daughter married to a man called Napier. After referring to Mathew Aikin he next mentions his grand-daughter 'Mary Noy otherwise Napier' [with money left in trust] and her son John [with money left in trust]. It would seem that either Mary and John were both minors or that Mary had no male to look after her - such were those 'patriarchal' days. If Mary was born Mary Napier we must assume she had either married a Noy or a Noy had fathered a child with her and had disappeared or died. Which surname her son John had we do not know.

If Samuel died in c.1818 he could well have been born in the 1750s and so could be a brother of James Senior of Larne and Islandmagee, referred to in an earlier blog. A marriage about 1770 would give birth years for his children in that decade and a marriage for the eldest (say) to Mathew Aikin c.1890. Samuel's grand-daughter Mary could therefore have been born by 1795 and her son John in say 1810. This is certainly a tight time-scale but is possible, given young marriages or perhaps even single-parenthood for Mary. Now, in addition to Mary, three grandsons are named in Samuel's Will. Unfortunately the first name is missing. The second name is partly readable as ...nuel. We may presume this is Samuel named after his paternal grandfather. The third is John Mc......., presumably McIlhagga which must be the surname of all three. Maybe John was named after his father, who is not referred to in the Will and so for whom we do not have a name. We can only conclude that Samuel's son (?John) had pre-deceased him. It is unlikely that the three McIlhagga grandsons were children of an unmarried daughter as we have the names of three or four sons-in-law, though there is of course the remote possibility that they were sons of one or more of his married daughters and that the Mc.... reference was to a middle name.

The Will says that Samuel had land in the townland of Carspindle on the west side of the peninsula, which we know was later farmed by Mathew Aikin. This fact and the earlier reference to Ballylumford, apart from the date difference, distinguishes Samuel from the Portmuck Samuel McIlhaggo. Lastly in the Will there is money left to two other people. First, to 'my nephew James Mc.......', and second to '.....ney McIlhagga otherwise Willson'. James could well be the 'James Junior', sibling of Samuel and William, son of James senior of the Portmuck family. Presumably '.....ney' was Samuel's daughter who married Patrick Willson.

Finally, before moving on from Islandmagee and to complete our Irish 18th Century references, I must go back to by blog of 20th February where I suggested that James Junior might be the James who married Sarah in Shankill and had a son William in 1798 (probably the same year that William my Great-great-grandfather was born in Ireland!). He had two younger sisters whose births are recorded in the Indexes of the Irish Family History Foundation as Martha McIlhaga in 1803 and Ann McIlhagart in 1809. Their parents James and Sarah had their children baptised at a Presbyterian Church in Shankill. Their dates could certainly indicate that James was 'James Junior' who would have moved from Islandmagee to Belfast. We have no direct evidence to prove that this is what happened. If, however, this link is not made we may wonder where the Belfast family came from. 

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Portmuck, Ballytober and Larne


We have met husband and wife Samuel McIlhaggo (b.1780) and Ellon McWhinney (b.1777) and their son William (b.1816), farming on Islandmagee, County Antrim, Northern Ireland from at least 1823 to 1834. The 1828 Land Valuation Book contains two other McIlhaggos, James and William in addition to Samuel. Also there exist Indentures for James, a James Junior and a William (not the son of Samuel). We can hypothesize that James (senior) was probably the father of James Junior, Samuel and William. However, before we see them all on Islandmagee we must go to the nearby port of Larne and its Mill producing the famous Irish Linen. 

There is a lease signed by James McElhaggo describing him as a bleacher at the Mill. This is the first of three leases in James's name. It is dated 16th June 1786 and it is for a Mill Tenement (Apartment) with a garden opposite. It cost James £8.11.0 per annum. The owner of the Tenement was a John White of Larne. In the document James's name is spelled McElhago, though he signs McElhaggo. The second lease is dated a mere two months later, on 1st August, for four houses and a garden. This time it is James leasing these properties in Larne to a farmer, Charles Bohannan. James seems to have got into the property market very quickly! A third lease nine years later (1795) has him leasing these same properties to Francis Shaw, a shoemaker in Larne. Significantly this lease describes James as 'of Islandmagee'. So, by 1795, when Samuel would have been 15, James had moved on to the peninsula, presumably to farm. We don't know exactly when the family moved but it appears to have been sometime between 1786 and 1795.

We need to compare three farming leases in Islandmagee, all on Viscount Dungannon's land. Samuel's lease was for land in Portmuck, dated 2nd December 1824, rent £10. His name is spelled McIlhago in the lease, but is signed with two 'g's. James Junior's lease was for land in Ballytober (a townland on the west of the peninsula) dated 29th November 1822, rent £16. His name is spelled McIlhago in the lease but signed with a double 'g'. Both were for 10 acres. Third, William's lease on 20th December 1824 was also for land in Ballytober, but just for 3 acres at £5 per annum. His name is spelled and signed McIlhago. All three leases included 'multure', a fee, probably paid in kind, for grinding corn, to the Mill of Islandmagee.

We do not have certain birth dates for James Junior or William. As James Junior's lease was made two years before that of Samuel we may presume that he was a couple of years older and born about 1778. William had a farm of half the size of his (presumed) brothers so perhaps he was the youngest, born about 1782. If James senior was the father of James Junior, Samuel and William we may presume he married about 1777, perhaps at the age of twenty-two, giving us a birth year for him of 1755.

There is the interesting question of what happened to James senior. We do not have a lease on land for him, though if he were one and the same as James of Larne, when he is described in 1795 as 'of Islandmagee', maybe he was living with and working alongside one or more of his sons. However, in 1824, when James senior was about 69 we have a reference in Pigott's Directory of Larne to a James McElhago who is listed amongst the Publicans of New Town. Had he moved back to Larne, or was he an absentee landlord still living in Islandmagee, or are we perhaps talking about two different Jamses? These are open questions.  

We have now met at least six clan members living in Islandmagee (and Larne). There are however, possibly another ten who are revealed in the an early 19th Century Will. I will describe these in a subsequent blog. 

Thursday, 4 June 2009


If a clan family set sail from the west of Scotland to Ulster the nearest port of arrival could have been Larne, on the 'mainland' opposite the toe of the peninsula known as Islandmagee. We are fortunate in having some good documention about the McIlhaggo family of Islandmagee. We have one of out earliest Irish Memorial Inscriptions from Ballypriormore Graveyard on the peninsula. It reads

Erected by Samuel McIlhaggo
in memory of
Ellon McWhinney his wife
who departed this life
on 23 Dec 1829 aged 52 years.
Also the above Samuel McIlhaggo
who departed this life on 13 Sep
1837 aged 57 years.
Also their son William
who departed this life
on the 16 Feb 1839
aged 23 years.

This gravestone gives us a birth year for Samuel of 1780, for Ellon his wife of 1777 and for William their son of 1816. Where did they live and what did they do? The answers to these questions lie in the details of an Indenture dated 22nd December 1824, to be found in the Provincial Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) in Belfast. It was made on 22nd December 1824, but interestingly was backdated to 1st November 1823, possibly the date the family settled in a Townland called Portmuck, literally the 'Bay of the Pig', so named from the shape of a small island in a sheltered cove on the east coast of Islandmagee.  The Indenture was made between landowner Viscount Dungannon and Samuel McIlhago. It was for 10 acres in that very fertile area. Samuel and his heirs could farm the land for an annual rent of £12 for 31 years. It is signed in a very neat hand by 'Samul Mchagg'. 

Samuel was certainly farming there 11 years later when his name appears in the Portmuck Tithe Applotment Book, as it does also in the Tithe Book for Kilkoan, a nearby townland on the peninsula's west coast. In 1823 Samuel was 43 years old and married with a seven year old son. We would dearly like to know where he was farming before he moved to Portmuck. Maybe in Scotland. We know from the Memorial Inscription that William lost his mother when he was 21 and Samuel was widowed when he was 49. Information from a private correspondent indicates that William probably had a sister who was ten years his senior, namely Catherine, who had married an Arthur Forbes. Sadly William died only two years after his mother as far as we know without issue. Arthur and Catherine certainly have descendants today. They had four sons and two daughters. We know of one grand-daughter, three great- grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren. Also, as we will see, Samuel wasn't the only clan member thereabouts and may have had siblings. 

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Half-Century, 'Ulster-Scots' and Jonny

This is the 50th blog entry on 'McIlhagga Clan' so it is perhaps appropriate that it has a general character, though I want to conclude it with a fairly recent reference to 'Jonny'. If we can date the McIlhagga Clan back to 1750 in Carnmoney, Northern Ireland, on the coast near the port of Larne, in the peninsula called Islandmagee, the 'next earliest family' is to be found dating to a generation later, approximately 1780. In a valuable book by William J. Roulston, Researching Scots-Irish Ancestors, Ulster Historical Foundation, 2005, he cites three pieces of evidence which give us some of the background to our clan arriving there and thereabouts be that in 1780 or earlier.

First: 'In 1683 Richard Dobbs noted that all the inhabitants of Island Magee in County Antrim were Scottish Presbyterians'. Second, quoting from Raymond Gillespie's Community and Change: Ulster in the Seventeenth Century, in Brady, O'Dowd and Walker's Ulster: An Illustrated History, London, 1989, 'An anonymous Jacobite tract of c.1711 noted that after 1690 "Scottish men came over into the north with their families and effects and settled there, so that they are now at this present the greater proportion of the inhabitants".'. Third, quoting Kelly's The Letters of Lord Chief Baron Edward Willes to the Earl of Warwick, 1757-62, Aberystwyth, 1990, 'Journeying through east County Antrim c.1760, Lord Edward Willes commented that "all the people of this part of the world speaks the broad lowland Scotch and have all the Scotch phrases".'. We may presume, when we come to consider in detail the Clan members on Islandmagee that they had sailed over the North Channel, probably from Ayrshire.

Ever since these times there has been a strong movement to keep alive the ulster-Scots links, including the promotion of linguistic idiom. There is a recent example related to our clan in a letter to the Irish Times of 10th October 1998, which reads as follows: 'Sir, - Those of us who delight in Irish, which is still spoken at its best in the most Northern part of Ireland, should give every support to the preservation and revival of the Ulster-Scots language, as a precious and important part of our shared inheritance...  May I say to Mr. McCausland and to his colleagues on the Ulster-Scots Heritage Council, what my late father and his dear friends Rufus Carson, Billy McCloskey and Jonny McIlhagga would surely have said: lang may yer lum reek!... (T)hough none of them spoke the Gaildhlic, they encouraged us to learn it and they always said "slainte 'gus saol agat" before taking their first dram of Bushmills'. If anyone can identify the Jonny McIlhagga referred to I would be most grateful.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

The Surname 'Maharg'

My last blog was a response to a query about DNA and the McHarg surname. I have had a query today from a lady in Tennessee, USA, about the possible link between McIlhagga and the surname Maharg. My answer had to be similar to that about McHarg. I have no evidence, either etymological or genetic, that there is any link. However, I have to say that E. MacLysacht, in The Surnames of Ireland, Dublin 1969, quotes P. MacGiollaDomnaigh giving Maharg as a variant of MacIlhagga. In a supplement to MacLysacht's book, entitled Supplement to Irish Families, he writes under the heading MacIlhagga, Maharg: 'At first sight these two names would not appear to be variants, but when we remember that MacIlhagga is also found as MacIlharga, MacElhargy and McIlharg and that in Ulster Mac is frequently abbreviated to Ma the transition becomes intelligible... Maharg is also written Meharg'. First, we have to say that we do not know of any instances where M(a)cIlhagga is also found as MacIlharga, MacElhargy or McIlharg. Second, Padraig MacGiollaDomnaigh, in Some Anglicised Surnames in Ireland, Dublin, Gael Co-operative Society Ltd., 1923, in fact writes under Meharg, Maharg: 'These two names are the shortened anglicised form of McIlhargy. Other forms are McIlharg and McElhargy.' MacLysacht appears to follow MacGiollaDomnaigh uncritically, adding his own reference to McIlhagga. He in turn is followed uncritically by a number of Irish Internet sites like . Even if MacGiollaDomnaigh is historically correct, there is no evidence known to me to posit the theory that M(a)cIlhagga can be identified with the name McIlhargy, so the whole theory falls down. 

Robert Bell, in The Book of Ulster Surnames, under his article Graham, continues the 'myth', saying: 'Maharg is a variant of the Scottish MacIlhagga'. However, like most other authors today, he discounts the theory that some Grahams reversed their name to Maharg to conceal their identity. The story had probably persisted from the time of the Anglo-Scottish Border Reivers. A simplistic account is perpetuated on the Rootsweb Internet site: 'It seems that there was a Graham Clan in Scotland who were considered outlaws by the ruling British because they committed many unlawful acts, such as stealing horses, &c. When caught, they were either hanged or sent to the penal colonies in Australia. These Graham clan members tried to evade capture by reversing the spelling of their name. Many fled to Ulster Province in Ireland to raise their families. Thus the beginning of the Maharg, McHarg, Meharg surname'. We don't know if there is even a grain of truth in this story. There were certainly both Grahams and McHargs in Dumfriesshire and Ayrshire in adjacent villages in the 16th and 17th Centuries. Maybe someone spotted the 'reversal' possibility and used it to get out of trouble, and started a 'story' running. Probably not! I think we can safely put the story in the category of Border Reiver mythology.