Wednesday, 9 June 2010

A Young Widow Farmer

For some time I have had information about a family of six children from a transcription of the 1911 Irish Census, all with the surname McElhagga and have wondered how to get further information about them. Now that I have the 1901 Census I know that McElhagga was a mistranscription for McIlhagga. I looked for each of the children in turn in my own birth index using the name and year (worked out from the child's age) and knowing the name of their mother from the census. I drew blanks on the first five but found Nathaniel aged 5 (in 1901) born with parents Agnes and Archibald McIlhagga. Up to this point I hadn't known the father's name. The 1901 Census simply has Agnes McIlhagga, age 34, widow, farmer. In addition to the six children who were all 'scholars' aged 15 down to 5, there was also living with them at 28 Maxwellswalls, Connor, Agnes' father, Robert Jamison, aged 82. This of course gave me her maiden name and I was able to look up the marriage of Agnes and Archibald on the AncestryIreland website. They married on 8th June 1885 in Wellington Street Presbyterian Church, Ballymena. Archibald was a farmer, as we have seen, in Maxwellswalls. Agnes was the daughter of a farmer in Tardee. The interesting detail on the marriage record is that Agnes was a 'minor'. This meant 'under 21' and we know from the ages she gave in the 1901 and 1911 Censuses that she was either 17 or 18. She was in fact six months pregnant when they married.

I suspect that Archibald was somewhat (maybe considerably) older than Agnes. I have the birth date of one of his brothers in the 1830s. Archibald died on 10th April 1898 and we know from his will (proved on 27th September 1901) that he left everything to his wife. The schedules attached to the 1901 Census show us that Agnes not only owned the land on which their house, number 28 Maxwellswalls, stood, but also that on which 29 stood. Clearly from the time of Archibald's death three years earlier Agnes had continued to farm, no doubt with a little help from her retired father. This would have meant a continuing stable family life for all the children who were still in education. William, the eldest is called 'Farmer's son' so clearly was employed on the farm. We have a very different picture ten years later from the 1911 Census, possibly a change which came about when her father died, when the family moved into the Shankill area of Belfast. They were still all together, all still single and living at 3 Diamond Street.

William, the eldest, now 25, was a General Labourer, as was his brothers Robert, 23, and John, 17. Jennie, 21, was a Linen Weaver, as was her sister Margaret, 19. Nathaniel aged 15 was a Message Boy. There is now no occupation against Agnes' name, who is 45 and still 'Head of Household'. With six incomes coming in she could no doubt afford simply to continue to be the home keeper, though doubtless she had her own income from the sale of the farm in Maxwellswalls. After this time I do not know what happened to William. Jeannie married later in 1911 (23rd June) to Thomas Smyth. Her sister Margaret was her marriage witness, though I don't know what happened subsequently to 'Maggie', nor indeed to Robert (Bob). John married Elizabeth Kerr. They had three children, William Wallace, Elizabeth and John. After John senior's death in December 1946 consideration was clearly given to emigration and it would seem that almost the whole family went to Queensland, Australia in the mid '50s, though John turns up later in New Zealand where his descendants flourish today. Other descendants are in Australia though one, an eminent scientist, has moved back to the United Kingdom. Archibald and Agnes' youngest son, Nathaniel, married Charlotte and had two sons who I think stayed in Northern Ireland.

Finally, there is a Memorial Inscription in Connor New Cemetery, as follows:

In loving memory of Nathaniel McIlhagga
beloved husband of Charlotte McIlhagga,
died 22nd March 1937
aged 41 years.

1 comment:

  1. claire mcgonigle6 July 2010 at 06:42

    Hi there. I've just read your posting on Agnes and Archibald McIlhagga. They are my great great grandparents. I've been tracing my family tree. Maggie McIlhagga married Joseph Adams in 1915 in Agnes Street Presbyterian Church. They had 7 chldren. I know that Archilbald's father was William McIlhagga but i can't find him on nay records and I don't know who his wife is..can you guide me in anyway