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.

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