Saturday, 7 August 2010

Two Boyd links in Maxwellswalls

'Breakthroughs' sometimes come from a chance meeting. Last Monday I accepted an invitation to a lunch party where I met a man who, like me, in his retirement, had taken up the hobby of researching his family. Like me he had joined the Ulster Historical Foundation where he had spotted my surname and apparently had hoped to meet me. The reason is that his mother's family, the Boyds, had twice married McIlhaggas. To add to the interest, I discovered that my new acquaintance's wife had been brought up in Ballymena, near Broughshane, the town in which many of my forebears were baptised and married.

Yesterday I received by email a note from him which, I'm delighted to say, has added to my information and has made me do some rethinking. The Boyds farmed in the townland of Castlegore in Connor parish. Castlegore lies next to the townland of Maxwellswalls where a number of McIlhaggas lived and farmed. My friend's earliest record is for a James Boyd farming in Castlegore about 1828 (date from the Tithe Applotment Book). He probably had two sons, James and Daniel who continued to farm there. The last descendant of James, a Daniel, was still farming there in 1940. My friend is descended from James Boyd. The evidence that James and Daniel were brothers is circumstantial, based on the fact that they had adjacent farms. Now James Boyd married Jane McIlhagga on 17th August 1872.

When I got home from the lunch party I checked the number of Boyd-McIlhagga/er links in my records. I have no fewer than 9 marriages and 25 births. The marriages include that of James and Jane, and also a second one my friend tells me also belongs in his family tree, that of William McIlhagga to Mary Anne Boyd on 27th June 1902. I had no idea that the two were related on the Boyd side. As we have seen, James Boyd was a farmer in Castlegore. Jane McIlhagga's father was William McIlhagga who farmed in Maxwellswalls. At the wedding James Boyd's witness was Margaret McIlhagga. Was she Jane's sister? My recent correspondence with a descendant of Nathaniel Owens McIlhagga of Maxwellswalls (see below) raises the possibility that this Margaret could have been either Jane's sister or her mother. Mary Anne was the daughter of James and Jane.

In 1901 James aged 54 was living with Jane in Castlegore. They had five children including Mary Anne, Jane and Barbara. James died in 1909. Mary Anne Boyd was none other than the Mary Anne who married William McIlhagga in 1902. William was then a pit head man in Bonnybridge, Scotland. His father was Henry. Was Henry also from Maxwellswalls? Mary Anne's marriage witness was Henrietta Boyd, her sister. Interestingly, not only had William migrated across the North Channel to Scotland. By the time the 1911 Census was taken he and his family were back in Ireland. Sometimes a move to a new country does not work out. He and Mary Anne were living in Donegall Avenue, Belfast, with their daughter Jane, aged 7, born in Scotland, and a son Henry, aged 4, born in Belfast. Clearly, according to the common Scottish and Irish naming pattern, Jane had been named after Mary Anne's mother and Henry after William's father. Mary Anne's sisters Jane and Barbara were living with them.

In my earlier attempted reconstruction of a Family Tree for the McIlhaggas of Maxwellswalls (see blogs of 11 July 2009 and following dates) I had worked on the assumption that there were four brothers farming in the townland, Henry, John, James and William. I have noted that William was the father of Nathaniel Owens, Archibald, Margaret, James Edwin and John Wilson. On 11th August I had also noted that there were five other McIlhaggas with a father William in the marriage registers, namely Henry, Nancy Betty, George, Jane and Margaret. I hadn't the courage to speculate by including any of them also as siblings. Clearly (I think!) Margaret, with a marriage in 1902, was born too late to be included (unless this is sister Margaret whom I have always assumed remained unmarried), but I have now learned that Jane is indeed William's daughter, and by the same logic, I can now see no reason why Henry, Nancy Betty and George should not also be siblings.

A further question must now be asked. Henry the father of William McIlhagga who married Mary Anne Boyd - was he the Henry of the Tithe Book? A careful look at the dates available persuades me rather that he may have been Henry who died 7th March 1886 and whose Will I have written about (on 12th July 2009). He would only have been a child in the 1830s. He married Agnes McMeekin and had 11 children, the youngest of whom could have been William who married Mary Anne Boyd. There is however a caveat to this theory. William son of Henry had a middle name (G.). William who married Mary Anne didn't on that occasion use a middle name, though the practice of not doing so was not unusual.

My corespondent has reminded me that William, John and Henry, presumably the same three in the 1836 Tithe Book, appear in 1862 in Griffith's Land Valuation Book in Maxwellswalls. In 1836 their surname was spelled McIlhaggo. In 1862 it was spelled McElhagga. William rented a house and just over 25 acres of land, John some 16 acres and Henry some 30 acres. By the 1860s I imagine they would have been in their mid to late 60s. I now note what I have not noted before, that James who was in the Tithe Book does not appear in Griffiths. Presumably he had either moved or died. If the latter is the case perhaps he was much older than the other three and maybe he was the father of the other three rather than being their brother. In my blog of 16th July 2009 I postulated that he may be a James McIlhaggo who had lived in Islandmagee. If this is indeed the case we may have answered the question I asked earlier, from whence did the Maxwellswalls families come? However, as yet, no proof!

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