Sunday, 8 November 2009

A name speculation: Francis

Sometimes a first name crops up in a family and nobody (at least a generation down the line) knows why it has been used. My own father's name was such. He is the only Lindsay I have come across in all the clan families I have researched. Then there is the first name which stands out because it is so unusual in clan families. In our clan such is the name Francis, and it is a name which is immediately interesting because in Celtic lands it is a name more associated with Roman Catholic than with Protestant families, and most of our clan were Presbyterians. So in the background there could have been what used to be called a 'mixed marriage'.

The name Francis crops up in two places in mid-19th Century Ireland and despite different surname spellings I think we may conclude that the references are to the same person. In the Griffith's Land Valuation which took place between 1847 and 1864 there is a Francis McElhagga who leases a house valued at 15 shillings (a year?) from an Alexander Brownlee in a townland called Ballymuckvea. There is one other clan member also listed as leasing property in Ballymuckvea, this time a house and garden, for £1.0.0, though from a different Lessor. He is Samuel McIlhaggart. It may or may not be that Samuel is directly related to Francis.

Now Ballymuckvea is a townland in the Civil Parish of Connor, near Ballymena, County Antrim, where we know that clan families lived at quite an early date. Another townland in Connor is Maxwell's Walls where we find one of the most extensive early settler families. The Presbyterian Church in Connor was formed in the 1650s so there may well be some family records there. Another item for my next visit to Northern Ireland. These townlands are relevant to the second Francis occurence. We have a reference to a Francis McIlhaggar, a weaver, being married to a Nancy Fletcher. No doubt the house he leased in Ballymuckvea had a room with a loom in it.

Francis and Nancy appear to have had five children. I say 'appear' because there is a large eleven year gap between the births of number three and number four, though of course there may have been other births of children who did not survive. The eldest we think was Mary Jane, born about 1831. She married William Devlin on 27th August 1861 in Ballymena Registrar's Office in Kirkinriola. The second was Rachel who was born 1836/7 at Ballymena. On 12th August 1858 she married John Francey in the Third Ballymena Presbyterian Church. There her surname was spelled McIlhaga and her address is recorded as Ballymacrea. Ballymacrea is near Portrush on the Antrim coast and not near Ballymena! There is probably here a transcription error for Ballymuckvea, where we know Francis lived. This is very likely as Ballymuckvea is given as the residence of daughter number three, Jane(t) when on 12th April 1859 she married Thomas Francey, presumably John's brother, a farmer, at Connor Presbyterian Meeting House.

The eleven year gap is between Jane(t) and William who was born 1850. He married Mary Jane Bell in 1872 in Ballymena. There is a strong pointer to Jane(t) and William being siblings as one of the sons of William and Mary Jane was called Francis, clearly after his grandfather. Early in their marriage, about 1875, this branch of the family moved to Scotland and settled in Pollockshaws near Glasgow. The next generation has one example of the continuing use of the first name, though in the 'Frank' version. After William there is another daughter who probably belongs to Francis and Nancy, namely Elizabeth, born 1853 in Ballymuckvea.

If Francis' and Nancy's first child was born in 1831 they could well have been married in 1830. If they were in their early twenties at the time, Francis could have been born as early as 1809. Francis' only (surviving) son was William. Was he named after his paternal grandfather? We know of at least thirty seven descendants of William.

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