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.


  1. There are a couple of things we know about William B. Clearly he joined the Army as he appears twice in the USA Civil War Pension Indexes. In 1901 he is in the Signal Corps and in 1921 in Company H. In 1921 he would have been 57.

  2. In the above comment Company H was part of Infantry Regiment 22.