Saturday, 26 February 2011

Christchurch and Great-gran

I had a skype call this morning from Western Australia (evening there in 40 degrees!) from a son of Albert Collins (1922-1980) and Agnes McClure McIlhagga (1922-2008) who is collecting together many McIlhagga photographs which I hope to see in the near future. But first, some news of great relief. We've all been thinking of the people suffering from the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, amongst whom is one McIlhagga who works in banking, and is my caller's cousin. Thankfully she is safe, much to the relief of her parents who also live in Western Australia. Her father is one of the children in the above picture, and he is hoping to identify the lady who is holding the baby. Clearly the picture is of four generations. The young lady on the left is Agnes McClure McIlhagga and the other adults standing are her parents, John McIlhagga and Jeannie Anderson Hay. My best guess is that great-gran in the middle is John's mother; they have the same shape face! Also dates fit. The baby was born in December 1950 and the picture was therefore taken in 1951. John's mother, born Agnes Anderson McClure in 1876 was still alive in 1951. She in fact died in 1960. If anyone has other evidence to help with this identification, do please let us know.

Friday, 25 February 2011

The Boar War revisited

Tyne Cot Military Cemetery, Belgium

Recently I wrote about the Imperial Yeomanry in the Boar War in which John McIlhagga served. On 20th February 2010 I said I didn't know where he fitted in to a Clan Family Tree, but on 4th January 2011 I hazarded a guess that he may have been John G. McIlhagger who returned from the war to work in the Belfast Shipyards where he was killed, and I repeated this in my latest blog on 22nd February. Sometimes one's right hand does not know what one's left hand has done! I had been ignoring the information I gave on 8th September 2009 when I said that John Hutchison McIlhagga, who enlisted in the Saskatchewan Regiment in the First World War had previously served in the 134th Company, the Imperial Yeomanry, Irish Horse, gaining the South African Ribbon. This was of course in the Boar War, and he, 'John H', and not 'John G', was the McIlhagga who so served. He was killed in the First World War and is buried in Tyne Cot Cemetery, Belgium, illustrated above. And of course I do know in which Family Tree John H. belongs. It is the one based in the townland of Maxwell's Walls, Connor, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, where he was born to Nathaniel Owens and Henrietta (nee Wilson) McIlhagga. My apologies to all concerned!

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

The 12 Months of 2010

The last couple of session at the Family History Group I go to have been home made, and very interesting and useful. People have shared their finds and their problems. Although I only had time to share one event from the past twelve months, I thought it would be interesting to list the progress I've made. Sometimes it doesn't feel like it, but things do happen!

1. DNA - Last January I had a 25 marker match from a Mr. Smith in America. We've compared notes and photos, but haven't got anywhere. In November I had a 37 marker match from a 3rd cousin in Canada!

2. I discovered that my gt-grandfather who worked for the sugar firm of Tate & Lyle was involved in the process of crystalising sugar and represented the firm at the famous Paris exhibition of 1889 where he won a prize related to the process.

3. I've discovered a clan grave in Carnmoney, Co. Antrim, and am grateful to the Secretary of the local Family History Society for photographing it for me.

4. I've found the first Quaker who married a McIlhagga and I'm hopeful of finding their Marriage Register entry in Dublin. She's buried in the Friends Burial Ground at Blackrock.

5. I've had my first video link on Skype with a McIlhagga in Australia and he has kindly sent me some old photos of Glasgow from where he emigrated.

6. I've revisited my grandfather's grave in Liverpool and have realised there is room on the stone to put my parents' names, so have found a mason to do this.

7. I've discovered the one McIlhagga who was a pilot in theBattle of Britain and later found he spent time in a concentration camp, Stalag Luft IV, and may have gone on the infamous 'long march'. Also I've found the only McIlhagga who fought in the Boer War, in the Imperial Yeomanry. He returned to Belfast to work on building the Titanic as a Carpenter, on which he was killed.

8. I've found a new 3rd cousin in Wales who has given me new information about a relative who was blinded at Peebles Tweed Mill and then went to the Royal Blind School in Edinburgh.

9. I've been sent a copy of a letter from the 1920s in which an aged matriarch lists all the birth, marriage, and some death dates of her twelve children.

10. I've found my first McIlhagga in the Isle of Man who apparently went to work there for the Bank of Ireland. There is still a family there in the Travel Industry.

11. I've been sent a World War I widow's medal (from County Mayo, found in a Car Boot Sale in Yorkshire), on the condition that I tried to find the nearest relative and send it to them. I found a second cousin in Calgary and it went in July.

12. I've compiled Indexes of BMDs (McIlhaggas and name variants) and they have enabled me to fit a number of people into families, and have enabled me to link up with someone who has retired to Kelso, Scotland, and though we don't think we are related, we do know our respective grandparents knew each other when living in Greenock. He's from Northern Ireland and I've learned a lot from him about the townland called Maxwells Walls where a lot of McIlhaggas lived. Our families intermarried.

And those were only the twelve new discoveries of the twelve months of 2010. The everyday work of researching the clan continued, and continues. Please get in touch any time with news, however small or insignificant you may think it is. It may be the link we're looking for. And please don't forget, old photos and other ephemera can reveal part of our history.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

A Notebook, two Visits and three Weddings

Often when I come across an interesting 'snippet' which might be relevant to our clan I note it on a scrap of paper which then gets lost in a pile which I promise myself I will take time to think about. But sometimes it takes a long time to surface! So recently I decided to start a file which sits on my computer desktop which is called 'Random facts that might fit in somewhere, sometime!' The very discipline of noting them down starts me thinking. The fourth 'fact' in the file, which I noted down yesterday, was contained in four or five lines from an Archive 'IRL-ANTRIM-L' dated Friday 03 Nov 2000. It is headed 'Visitation Records: Racavan'. And little did I know when I started to think about it that it would refer back to my last blog! It reads, somewhat enigmatically, as follows:

Mar 12, 1860: William Lowry & wife - family = Widow Lowry & daughter & her children. First husband McIlhasen (I'm not sure about the surname) Thomas Lowry & wife - faily. Now goes to Cloughwater (don't see any Hamiltons).
Jan 20, 1863: "Bessy Lowry" or "McIlhaggar" or "Graham" & son &c-------

This looks like a couple of shorthand references from someone's notebook, someone who has been doing some visiting, very probably a church minister, possibly the minister of Racavan. Now the name 'Lowry' sent me to the Index of Clan Marriages which I have been compiling, where I have that of Elizabeth McIlhagga (surely Bessy above) born 1824 whose father was given as William Lowry. Assuming she was his legitimate child she must have been a widow, which indeed the marriage record says she was, her first husband having been a McIlhagga. She was marrying one James Graham, son of Robert Graham, and James also was recorded as a Widower. The surprising thing about this marriage was that, born in 1808, James was 16 years Elizabeth's senior. He was in fact 46 and she was 30. Unusually the Marriage Record gives both ages. Clearly this marriage fits with the reference to 'Widow Lowry' in the notebook.

James and Elizabeth were married on the 10th April 1854 at the Ballymena Registrar's Office. It would appear from the Jan 20th entry in the notebook that James Graham had a son, either from a previous marriage, or perhaps a son with Elizabeth. From the March 12th entry we note that Elizabeth had children, who of course would have had the surname McIlhagga. I wonder whether they changed their name to Graham? In that earlier entry the 'first husband' McIlhasen was clearly Widow Lowry's first husband, so the name should have read McIlhagga. So, the 'process' had been that Elizabeth Lowry married a McIlhagga who had died before 1854. She then remarried, one James Graham, setting up family life with both her children and possibly with any children of his who were still at home, and eventually having a 'son'. From the first notebook entry we may surmise that despite having had a civil marriage in Ballymena Registrar's Office, they attended a Racavan Church, probably a Presbyterian Church, and have recieved a couple of visits by the minister, in 1860 and 1863, apparently because they are by then (some six to nine years after their marriage) attending a Cloughwater Church.

Now I have two other references to Cloughwater Presbyterian Meeting House, as it was properly called. The first is to the marriage of Martha McIlhagga, born about 1833 who as a minor and a daughter of John McIlhagga was married to James McCory on 15th June 1849. I mentioned this marriage in my last blog. Is there a link between it and the events referred to in the notebook? I think there probably is. Martha had a sister, Elizabeth, born 1838, who married a Robert Graham, son of James Graham, both Weavers, on 21st July 1851, also at Cloughwater Presbyterian Meeting House. As was a common practice, Robert was probably named after his grandfather and we know from the notebook that James who married Elizabeth ("Bessy") had a father Robert. This of course had to be a different son to the one referred to in 1863. So was Robert's step-mother to be, Elizabeth nee Lowry, whose first husband was also a McIlhagga (though as yet we don't know his name)? I think so. We must remember that we are relating to the very small world of County Antrim in the middle of the 19th Century, and I think we may make the very reasonable deduction that all of the above events are indeed related and that they may be incorporated into the same Family Tree. As I pointed out in my last blog, that Family Tree contained people who emigrated to Jamestown, Pensylvania, USA. It would be good to discover the first name of Elizabeth's first husband and the names of her children. If we did we might find that we could join two Family Trees. At the time of their marriage James was a Labourer resident at Ballygilpatrick and Elizabeth was resident in the parish of Racavan.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

An 1851 Deduction

For some reason I haven't come across the internet site before, and neither had I come across the 1851 Census record on it for Dunaghy Townland: Donbrought number 15:

James McCrory 22 (Head)[Married 1847]-Linen Weaver (Antrim)(R);
Martha McCrory 22 (wife)[Married 1847]-Linen Weaver (Antrim)(R);
Robert McCrory 1 (son) [Unmarried] - None (Antrim);
Esther McIlhagart 19 (Visitor)[Unmarried]-Linen Weaver (R/W).

Why was Esther visiting this family? It was probably either because she had a link through work or family, or both. Let's assume she was Martha's younger sister. Well, according to Ancestry Ireland, a Martha McIlhagga did marry a James McCrory on 15 June 1849 at Cloughwater Presbyterian Meeting House. Admittedly the year is different on the Census, but we know how many errors there are when information is given for someone else to write it down, presumably the enumerator. Note that the Census says that James and Martha could read (R) but not write. So Martha was born in 1829 and Esther in 1831.

Now in the 1851 Census there is also an Esther McIlhaggart living as a Servant aged 18, a Weaver, at 10 Carnmore, Dunachy, working alongside another 'Servant, Weaver', William McGowan. It looks as if she has been entered in the Census twice as resident in two places on census night. I have argued in earlier blogs that Esther was one of five children of David McIlhaggart/McIlhago of Newtoncromelin in County Antrim. See my blogs of 19th and 22nd June 2009 and 13th August 2009. David was probably the brother of John who with his wife Jenny McCarley emigrated to Jamestown, Pensylvania. Martha was not one of those five children, so I think we now have to add her, making six. Up to this point Martha and her husband have been in my Clan Marriage Index, but have not been allocated to a Family Tree. Now they are. Esther was subsequently to marry Robert Whiteside later in that Census year, on 9th August 1851 and then have five children of her own. Interestingly her 1851 work colleague (or fellow apprentice), William McGowan must have had a sister Mary, for Esther's brother William, also a weaver, born probably in 1826, married a Mary McGowan also in that Census year, on 29th April. Like his sister he married at the Ballymena Registrar's Office.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Back to FamilySearch

I thought I had done a thorough search of the Mormon Internet site,, until a genealogy blog suggested going straight to the 'advanced' method of searching, and after putting in a surname and not ticking 'exact form' - I put in McIlhaga - and then selecting either 'spouse' or 'parents' - I selected 'spouse' - and clicking 'search'. I immediately got 90 page of 'Historical Results', most of which I admit were for names not among my clan 115 variants of 'McIlhagga' (yes, there really are 115 variants!). Many however gave me good 'clan information'. Much I already had, though it was all worth checking as there were date and place details I didn't have, or maybe had not previously noted down. Many results gave me totally new information, not least about children born to clan women who had married and so had non-clan surnames.

Again, some of this information contained additions to marriages about which I knew. Inevitably the most interesting was the earliest. For example Margaret was born in Ayr on 8th April 1714 (baptised in Ayr on 18th April), the daughter of Agnes McIlhago and James Gemill - a marriage I didn't know about. Unfortunately there was no date for the marriage, though doubtless I can probably find this on the ScotlandsPeople website. Agnes was the eldest child of four born to Robert McIlhago (or McIlhagow) and Bessie Johnstone (or Jonstoune). The FamilySearch site gave me dates (rather than simply years) for the births and the baptisms of all four offspring, Agnes, Robert, Mary and John. Sadly it didn't give me marriages for the other three. If either Robert or John had had descendants we might be nearer knowing who emigrated to Ulster!

The other interesting piece of 18th Century information was that Robert, the eldest son of Robert McIlhagow (or McIlhaggart) and Elizabeth Jamieson (or Jamison) who was born on 10th October 1789, was baptised on 8th November at Paisley Abbey. The rest of their children were baptised in Ayrshire. Assuming that the internet site is accurate, I wonder why Paisley Abbey? Perhaps one of the grandparents was living there at the time. Of the six children in this family all of whom I had assumed must have spent all (or most) of their lives in Ayrshire, I was surprised to find that John had marriage banns called in a Greenock parish where he married Jean Glen, who presumably came from there. This is of course the family for whom in an earlier blog I postulated a youngest daughter, Margaret, who went to live first in Ulster, before emigrating to Pittsburg, Pensylvania.

There are many marriages in the 90 pages that I cannot place in clan Family Trees, marriages where there are children born to clan women with non-clan married surnames. These names include Bates, Brownlees, Christie (2 children), Clarke, Carmichael, Francz, Fullerton, Gibb (7 children), Hill (6 children), Hilton, Johnston (3 children), Kelly (3 children), Sloan (7 children), Winning (2 children) and Wylie. If any of these names ring bells with anyone, I would be glad to hear from them.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

My Biggest Historical Clan Problem

What is my biggest clan genealogical problem? What would be the biggest breakthrough I would like to happen before I revise my first draft of the Clan History? Most of my clan Family Trees start in Ulster and end up all over the world. My earliest Family Trees start in Scotland and end up all over the world. What I believe must have happened is that the 'earliest' people in the Ulster trees must have hopped over the water from Scotland to Ireland and in consequence transplanted our clan trees from one country to the other. But do I have an indisputable 'Mr. X' who on an indisputable date boarded a boat in Ayr or Irvine or Stranraer and landed in Larne or Derry or Islandmagee? No I don't. But surely it had to have happened. Would that I could find such a person.

For a time I thought I had a candidate. In a Scottish family which certainly goes back to 1780 and perhaps much earlier, we have a Richard McElhago or McIlhaggert, born in 1832 to James and Jane McIlhaggert in Dundonald, Ayrshire, who became a sailor and died in 1891. In Ireland there is a marriage of a Richard, son of James McIlhagart, who married Ellener Boyd in 1860. Were the two Richards one and the same? However, there are two problems. I'm sure the Scottish Richard remained single. We know this from a Poorhouse Application made shortly before his death. Second, the Irish Richard's surname on the marriage record is Kennedy! Had Richard changed his surname? Was he an 'adopted' son? We don't know. So I must conclude that I haven't got a candidate for a clan male who went 'over the sea' to Ulster.

I am also left with the mystery of which clan family was involved in the marriage. The marriage record gives Richard's father as James McIlhagart and names his spouse as Ellener Boyd, daughter of Thomas Boyd. The marriage took place on 7th June 1860 in Donegore, County Antrim. This was a Church marriage in Donegore 1st Presbyterian Church, by License, by the Revd. W.J. Gillespie. James' witness was Thomas Boyd, presumably Ellener's father. Her witness was Margaret Boal. Richard Kennedy is listed under the Griffith Land Valuation (1862) at Browndod, the townland named on his marriage record. His landlord was the Marquis of Donegal from whom he rented a house, offices and land of just over 34 acres, and for which he paid a total of £20.10s.0d. per annum. Similarly Thomas Boyd farmed in Ballynoe townland, Donegore parish. There is no James McIlhagart in the Griffith Valuation in these places, though there is a James McElhagan who is a tenant in Kinbally townland, just a few miles to the north. If anyone can shed any light on how this family fits into a clan 'tree' I would be delighted to hear from them.

Friday, 4 February 2011

A Grave mistake

I was recently attaching a document to the name of Mary McIlhagga (1860-1940) of Belfast in my Computer Family History Programme. This was an extract from the Will Calendars at PRONI (Public Record Office of Northern Ireland). It gave the dates of her death and of the grant of probate and also the value of her effects in the following extract, "McIlhagga Mary of Newmarket Villas Whiteabbey county Antrim spinster died 25 May 1940 Probate Belfast 19 July 1940 to Robert McIlhagga coal merchant and Rebecca Kennett widow Effects £293. 18s. 7d".

Robert and Rebecca were two of Mary's siblings. Now my record already had a date of death recorded for Mary, 14th October 1940, which I had noted from the Memorial Inscription on a headstone in Kirkhill Cemetery, Connor, which had been erected by Mary's brother, Robert. I think we can take it that the extract from the Will Calendar is correct. If the probate had been granted in July Mary could not have died in October. Clearly the Memorial Inscription is wrong. It shows how careful you have to be to check what you assume to be facts. Either Robert had forgotten when his sister died, which is somewhat unlikely, or else the stone mason had made a mistake. I think the latter is very likely as the date of 14th October is a repetition of the date he had carved two lines up, the date on which Robert's uncle, Robert McCullough died.

I wrote about the Kirkhill headstone in my blog of 2nd February 2009, headed 'Two Johns'. If someone would like to photograph this gravestone and email me a copy, I would be most grateful. I have to say that my information about the details on the stone come from a third party, and of course the mistake might be his, and not that of the stone mason after all!

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Salvation Army

A correspondent has made me aware of the existence of the above badge which used to belong to a member of the McIlhagga clan. We believe this was 'Dolly' McIlhagga who died fairly recently, perhaps a couple of years ago. She was born Dorothy May McCormick in 1916 in Seacombe-cum-Poulton which is part of the borough of Wallasey on the Wirral. The story, as we understand it, is that in the Second World War Dorothy went with her parents to Belfast to stay with a couple who were running the Salvation Army Canteen for the troops stationed in that city. There she met William McIlhagga and they married in 1941 or 1942. A year or so later they returned to 'Dolly's' home, to live in Wallasey where they joined the Poulton Road Corps of The Salvation Army. William got employment with an Insurance Company associated with 'The Army'.

William was one of a large family of five boys and five girls belonging to Andrew McIlhagga who was born about 1880 in the Ballymena area and Elizabeth Todd who was born in Gracehill about 1883. Elizabeth may have been part of the Moravian community which made its home in that central Antrim village. I am unsure who Andrew's parents were. Married at Ahoghill Church of Ireland in 1906 Andrew gave his father's name as John McIlhagga of Queen Street, Ballymena.

If anyone knows more about the history of this family I would be delighted to be in touch, particularly if the information contained a suggestion about who might like to have the above Salvation Army badge. It is a small heirloom that should go to someone who perhaps remembers Dorothy McIlhagga.