Monday, 14 June 2010

Yet more Bits & Pieces from 1901

Sometimes a Census entry can give as much insight into the family into which a clan member has married as to the 'primary' clan family. Such is the case with Ruth McIlhagga. She was born Ruth Woods and on the 28th November 1877 and married William James McIlhagga, son of William a farmer. They married at St. John's Church of Ireland in the Upper Falls Road, Belfast. By 1884 they had had three children, Harry, Elizabeth and Margaret. Some time between 1884 and 1901 William James died, for Ruth was entered as a widow on the Census. Presumably she and William James had had their own home, which was in Belfast for that is where their children were born. She might have continued to live there, or perhaps have gone to live with her in-laws, but more naturally she looked to her own parents and returned to live with them. No doubt this was also helpful to them for by 1901 they were a good age. Michael Woods her father was 84 and Elizabeth her mother 83. They were also farmers, living at 23 Ballymoney, Ballygomartin. The Census shows us that Ruth was 43 by then and that two of her siblings, still single, were also living at home, William, 54, a Clerk and Ann Jane, 48. Ruth's three children made up the rest of the household, Harry, 22, an Invoice Clerk, and Elizabeth (20) and Margaret (17) perhaps rather surprisingly both 'School Teachers'.

The only clan entry in the 1901 Census of a single person living alone is for William John McIlhagga aged 44 in Albert Bridge Road. He was a widower and his occupation was 'Tea Packer'. 1901 was however for him an interlude between two marriages. I can be certain about his second marriage which was in the following year on 3rd September to Jane Burgess Anderson of 60 Jerusalem Street, at Elmwood Presbyterian Church. I can be certain for he was still a Tea Packer. We learn from this record that his father was James, a farmer. Jane's father was Samuel Anderson, a Van Man. But who was William John's first wife? Do we have an earlier marriage of a William John whose father was farmer James? Well, we do, though not of a 'Tea Packer'. That must have been a job he took later. His first marriage could have been to Letitia Gaston, daughter of Alexander Gaston, also a farmer. William John was then also called a farmer, and he was aged 28 when they married on 10th July 1883. We know of course that many 'ag. lab's' called themselves 'farmer' and William John was, even at 28, probably assisting his father in the townland given as their residence, Ballylough. I have no knowledge of children from either marriage, and we must presume that Letitia died some time before the 1901 Census.

My final query from 1901 concerns one of the boarders at The Industrial School, Victoria Homes, 11.2 Ballysillin Lower, Shankill. She was 13 year old Presbyterian Jane McIlhagga. I have no certain idea who her parents were. From birth records the only person of the right age who might fit was Jeannie daughter of Archibald Duncan McIlhagga and Agnes Jamieson. By 1911 aged 21 she was a Linen Weaver who later in 1911 married Thomas Smyth a Provision Dealer. But what of The Industrial School? Its history is written briefly on the website of a Charitable Trust which has inherited its property. I quote from it: 'In 1881, the Belfast Women's Temperance Association first began the charitable work of rescuing "young girls from homes made miserable by poverty, unemployment and abuse of alcohol and to prevent the possibility of them becoming prostitutes or involved in other kinds of crime." The education of these girls was undertaken by young lady Associates of the Women's Temperance Association who taught reading, writing, arithmetic and sewing for two hours a day at the Home. Matron assisted the children with their homework and established a happy, secure place for them to live and grow up. In 1892, the first of the Victoria Homes was opened and the children moved to the Home in Ballysillin, overlooking the city then in a semi-rural setting.' It looks as it Jane benefitted from the regime and became a future good wife. Whether she had children, I'm afraid I do not know.

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