Friday, 27 May 2011

Two follow-ups

Today someone has kindly posted a comment on my blog called A baker in Australia which I published on 17th September 2009. It contains new and useful information for our clan archives, particularly about George Robinson McIlhagga the eldest son of Samuel Robinson McIlhagga and Jane McNeice. It mentions a firm of glaziers in Belfast called FaircoMcIlhagga which has not been mentioned before in this blog. If anyone has more information to add I would be glad to hear from them.

Also today one of my regular correspondents in Australia has sent me two e-mails about my last blog with a number of supporting documents. After examining the relevant migration and marriage documents it is clear that William McIlhagga and his brother Liston were the children of Andrew McIlhagga and Sarah Wilson. However there is an interesting variation between two spellings of Sarah's middle name. Their marriage record spells it Patillo but her birth record, in Edinburgh, Scotland, spells it Pattali. This birth record shows us her parents' names, John Wilson a Hammerman and Liston Bonsof - this last name is difficult to read. Thus we have the origin of the first name of the eldest son of Andrew and Sarah. The reference in my last blog to Mrs. C. McIlhagga as the mother of Liston and William appears to have been a mistake on a migration document which was picked up by the Winnipeg Free Press in 1945. The only other explanation for this 'error' conceivably may have had something to do with Andrew their father returning in 1938 to live in Ballymena, Northern Ireland. Interestingly at that point he declared his age to be 42 when in fact it was 49 - for what reason we do not know.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Freed from Stalag

I wrote about Flight Lieutenant W. McIlhagga as a prisoner of war on 18th December last, following up an earlier blog on 28th April about him joining the RAF. The above newspaper cutting is from the Winnipeg Free press dated Thursday, June 07, 1945. The text reads, 'FLT-LIEUT. W. McILHAGGA has been freed from Stalag 3A prison camp in Germany and is safe in the United Kingdom according to word received by his wife, who resides at 151 Ferry road. FL McIlhagga was reported missing after air operations Oct. 9. 1944 and was taken prisoner of war in November 1944. He is the son of Mrs. C. McIlhagga, 944 Sherburn street'.

First we can note that William McIlhagga was a POW for about 7 months. My earlier information was that the camp was called Stalag 4, but Stalag 3A which was situated at Luckenwald may well be correct. If anyone can confirm whether it was 3A or 4 I would be most grateful. William's wife is mentioned but not named. She was April or Ella Smith whom he married in March 1942 at Westminster, London, England. She must have moved to Canada after October 1944, presuming that she was with him when he flew from Yorkshire, England, on the air operation on which he was captured. Both her and her mother-in-law's addresses are given in this cutting. An important piece of information is that William was the son of Mrs. C. McIlhagga. No father is mentioned. Does this imply that his father had died by 1945? Also, does anyone know the full maiden name of his mother? I think I am right in saying that William's older brother was Liston Burns McIlhagga, born 1918. When he sailed to New York aged 22 or 23 he declared his 'friend' to be Mrs. C. McIlhagga. Presumably this was his mother. When the family sailed from Belfast to Montreal in 1923 there is a Sarah. Who was she?

Bygone Borderlands

In the area we in the UK call 'The Borders', straddling the boundary between England and Scotland, we have just had an interesting couple of days called Bygone Borderlands with an Archive Exhibition in Berwick-upon-Tweed Guildhall. On both days there were a number of related talks. I was persuaded to give one which I entitled 'Tracing my family history: Celtic Origins - what price DNA? A rare surname - and a few costly mistakes'.

Most of what I planned to say (only part of which I used because of the time constraint) can be gleaned from what I have written in this blog over the past couple of years. However, here is a summary. Historically I have two starting points for my family 'tracing'. The first was about 50 years ago meeting a Gaelic speaking Scottish Highlander, a stonemason working on the rebuilding of Iona Abbey, who told me the meaning of the Gaelic of McIlhagga, 'Mac-Ghille-Sagairt', namely 'the son of the servant of the priest', and proceeding to tell me that the name was from the Isle of Jura. Half-truths are only half true, and sources should be checked! Gaelic yes, but not from the Highlands at all and therefore not from Jura, but rather from the South-West of Scotland, in fact Ayrshire where Gaelic also used to be spoken. And rather than 'servant', more 'follower'. In my talk I proposed the theory that 'followers' of Mochuda (the Gaelic priest's name which evolved into McIlhagga via Medieval references in the Scottish Border Abbeys) came as 'missionaries' from Lismore in the South of Ireland in the 6th and 7th Centuries to found villages like Colmonell and Kirkmichael where the earliest Anglicised form of 'McIlhagga' can be found.

I commended the internet site <> which supports the Celtic-Scottish origin of our McIlhagga name, though interestingly confirms that its variant McIlhagger is Celtic-Irish. This fact enabled me to introduce the influence that sometimes the female line has, for 'McIlhagger' was adopted in a marriage and for its descendants from a clan daughter. This in turn let me introduce the difference there will be therefore between the male DNA for the respective McIlhagga and McIlhagger lines. There may of course be McIlhagga DNA in families using another surname where a name change has occurred for other reasons, and I cited an example in New Zealand.

I then came to my second personal 'starting point' for tracing my family tree, namely being brought up to believe that I was 'last of the line' of our branch, something that my 'tracing' has proved in a number of ways not to be true. I mentioned cousins in Canada, one of whom was sent out as a 'Home Child', and another whom I discovered when trying to help with his family tree and who proved to be my third cousin (once removed). Such a 'eureka moment' is one of the rewards we get from our hobby of tracing our families, though there are also 'brick walls', and I cited my own, not being able to find records for the birth or the marriage of my GGgrandfather William, partly caused by the loss of Church records in Clogh, a townland of County Antrim, Ireland. My hope for the future is to find a way back from William who was born about 1795 at least to the earliest references to our clan name in Ireland which occurs in the Hearth Tax records of 1669, and then may be to Ayrshire where references go back to 1527.

By the time I had reached this point in my talk I had nearly run out of time and I was not able to do justice to other material I had prepared, including the experience of having my own DNA analysed and so being able to demonstrate that our clan name is not to be confused with similar names found in the 'Borderlands', like McIlhargy. I had hoped to warn folk not to be taken in by commercial firms which produce false heraldic devices and dubious family name origins. I had hoped to tell the story of how I spent two years being misled by false information which had been given to me in good faith and which at the time I was too inexperienced to question. I also wanted to tell how such experiences can be balanced by good fortune which I have had on at least two occasions by being in touch with people who had done well-resourced research into two branches of my family tree and have taken me back many generations. Sadly I had no time to sum up what I had said by referring to a number of individuals who have proved to be really interesting characters or who have experienced life-changing events and so made their stories memorable in our clan. Most of them are there in this blog, with one exception, perhaps the most intriguing, a story which I will tell very soon.

Friday, 13 May 2011

DNA Update

Kelso Abbey, The Scottish Borders

This blog supercedes the one I wrote on 18th April, last month. The firm called , which I used to analyse my DNA, each year republishes what it calls its Haplogroup Tree which shows how one person's DNA relates to another's. The 2011 tree has been published and, if I understand the prompts from my own DNA result correctly, it significantly changes the 'coding' which I had been previously given, and to which I have referred in earlier blogs. It seems to have introduced a new sub-group for my (McIlhagga) DNA. It uses the detailed code R1b1a2* which is part of the larger category M269. Its own commentary on this category is brief, namely: 'Observed most frequently in Europe, especially Western Europe, but with notable frequency in Southwest Asia. R1b1a2 - M269 is estimated to have arisen approximately 4000 - 8000 years ago in south west Asia and to have spread into Europe from there'.

Alister Moffat and James F. Wilson, in their recent The Scots, A Genetic Journey, Birlinn, 2011, p.66f., write as follows: 'The M269 marker... is predominant in Scotland with 70% of men carrying it. It does originate in south-west Asia... (and) what persuades geneticists and historians that (it) was the farmers' marker is its very rapid multiplication and spread. How did that happen? How did M269 get to be common so quickly? The overwhelming likelihood is that it came to Balbridie, Claish, Kelso and elsewhere, and, as farming was rapidly and successfully adopted, immigrant pioneers took native women as partners.... . The arrival of M269 represents the most influential immigration in all our history.... . Many sub-lineages from the M269 group have been recognised, some of them arriving in Scotland later (sometimes from Ireland, where they had existed since pre-farming times)'.

The sub-group of M269, coded R1b1a2* appears to be very rare. There are still only two in the database, both McIlhagga's, and conceivably it could have come into Scotland via Ireland. Isn't it interesting that Moffat and Wilson name Kelso when one of the Medieval references to our name is in the Annals of Kelso Abbey?

Friday, 6 May 2011

Three (or four) Pensioners

Most people know that many Irish records were destroyed. This includes most of the 1851 Census, though for some reason a 2% sample was retained. I consider our clan fortunate that I have no fewer than twenty-four names in an 1851 Census Index for Ireland, though there are a few duplicates because the surname has been spelled in different ways. And I have just found eight extra people for the list from a new Internet site called Ireland Genealogy. This site contains a record of all the people in about the second decade of the 20th Century who applied for a State Pension and needed to prove that they were of pensionable age. One way to do this was to show they were in the 1851 Irish Census. I put 'McIlhag*' in to the site's search box and received four 'hits'. I paid up £2 each and downloaded them. Interestingly all four were women.

First is Mary McIlhagga or Fullerton. I assume this means Mary married a man called Fullerton and interestingly in the clan Marriage Index I have compiled I have a McIlhagga - Fullerton marriage, on 8th Jan 1872 in Connor Church of Ireland. This was of John son of John Fullerton to Margaret (not Mary) daughter of James McIlhagga. I have this record from the Ulster Historical Foundation's Internet site called Ancestry Ireland. The Pension application record says that Mary McIlhagga/Fullerton's father was James, of the parish of Connor. In an 'Observation' note dated 1920 there is a reference to 'Agent, St. Saviour's, Connor, Antrim', which must have been the name of the Church of Ireland which was prepared to vouch for Mary. However, either we have two sisters, Margaret and Mary, who both married a Fullerton, or we have two sisters who serially married the same John Fullerton, or we have a woman who was known as both Margaret and Mary who married John Fullerton.

Perhaps the rest of the 'Observation' note gives us a clue, '1851 Parents married 1843, no Mary, a daughter Mary 7 years died 1850.' I take this to mean that in the 1851 Census there is a reference to the parents of Mary (who is making the application) marrying in 1843 and having a child in 1843 whom they called Mary but who died in 1850. The Margaret who married John Fullerton in 1872 must have been born after the 1851 Census, maybe later that year, in which case she was 21 when she married. Her marriage record simply says 'FA', Full Age, which meant 21 or over. The only conclusion I can draw is that Margaret had by 1920 come to be known as Mary. If she made her application in the name of Mary, I fear that because no Mary was found in the 1851 Census, she may have been turned down for a pension - she would have been 69 in 1920 - but we don't know.

There are two further interesting references in this record. Margaret's witness at her marriage to John Fullerton was Eliza Ann McIlhagga who was in all probability her sister. I will return to this point. On 'Mary''s pension application the names of her parents are given who therefore must have been in the 1851 Census. They are James McIlhagga and Mary Anne McIlhagga nee Gardner. In passing I must say that in my clan Birth Index I do have one Mary born 1843 whose father was James, though the Ulster Historical Foundation records the surname as McIlhagger. There is no such person in my McIlhagger family tree so the reference may well be to the Mary who died in 1850 aged seven. To return to her parents, I'm afraid I have no record for the marriage of James McIlhagga and Mary Anne Gardner. If they were married in 1843 as the pension application says, they would have been born (say) about 1820. The application gives the townland, Slaght, and the parish, Connor, and there was certainly one McIlhagga - Gard(i)ner marriage in that parish. Agnes, a daughter of Francis Gardiner married Henry son of Henry McIlhagga. It could well be that Agnes had a sister Mary Anne who married James McIlhagga, and there was certainly one James in the family which hailed from the parish of Connor, but alas I have no record to back this up.

So from this one Pension record we have one or two unsolved issues. Was Mary Anne Gardner a sister of Agnes Gardiner and a daughter of Francis? Probably. Did James and Mary Anne (nee Gardner) McIlhagga have three or four daughters, Mary (1843-1850), Margaret (?1851-m.1872), ?Mary (?69 in 1920) and Eliza Ann (?sister of Margaret)? At least we can be clear about Eliza Ann for the second pension application was for an Eliza Ann McIlhagga whose parents were given as James McIlhagga and Mary A. McIlhagga of Slaght, Connor, the same townland and parish as those on Mary (Margaret?)'s application. The 'Observation' note is very brief, '1917 - Agent, The Rectory, Ballymena'. This again indicates a Church of Ireland link, presumably the Rector vouching for Eliza Ann. The date 1917 (against 1920 on Mary's application) probably means that Eliza Ann applied for a pension three years before Mary/Margaret, telling us that she was probably three years older than her sister, which is consonant with her being a witness at her sister's wedding. There is no indication that Eliza Ann was married, which accords with references I have in my clan Birth Index to the only Eliza Ann McIlhagga I have come across, as the single mother who had several children, possibly including Eliza Ann (1869), James (1872), Andrew (1875) and twins Mary Jane and William John (1879). The major unsolved question is who was the father of James McIlhagga who married Mary Anne in 1843? We don't know, though if her sister Agnes married Henry son of Henry McIlhagga, it is possible that the two sisters married two brothers, which would make James also a son of Henry.

The third pension application was from Ellen McIlhaga the daughter of Nathaniel and Ellen McIlhaga from the townland of Mountpottinger Street, Ballymacarrett, Belfast in the parish of Knockbreda. The 'Observation' note says '1917 - Mrs. Ellen Hinton, 30 Rathlin St, Crumlin Rd, Belfast', which I take to mean that by 1917 she was married to a Mr. Hinton, and from other Irish records I do have the marriage of John son of William Hinton, on 5th Jan 1872 to Ellen McIlhage/McIlhaggo daughter of Nathaniel, at Eglinton St. Presbyterian Church, Belfast. I also know that she had a sister Jane who was married the following year at the same church. One of the witnesses at both Ellen's and Jane's marriages was James McIlhage whom we may assume was their brother. Beyond this I cannot at present discover further relations.

The final pension application was for a Rachel or Jane McCormick whose parents were James McCormick and Matilda McCormick nee McIlhags, from the townland of Cloghogue in the parish of Drummaul, County Antrim. The 'Observation' note reads '1917 - The Secy, L.G.B., Edinburgh. 1951 James and Matilda McCormic (sic) married 1832, Eliz. 18, Mary Ann 15, Martha 13, Margt. 10, Agnes 7, Rachel 4'. The clan link is Matilda whose marriage, as Matilda McIlhagga, I had known of from the death certificate in 1921 of her daughter Rachel Chesney (nee McCormick), Springburn, Glasgow. Some time ago on 'RootsChat' someone was looking for this James McCormick. I have sent him a message and await a reply.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

An Unknown Lady

My correspondent to whom I referred in my last blog has kindly sent me some photographs of the clan family who resided in Courtrai, Belgium. The one I have put at the head of today's piece is marked 'unknown'. Most of us are very bad at not writing the names of the people on the backs of our photos. Perhaps it is for fear of spoiling them, and we should certainly not use the kind of pen or pencil which would leave an indentation. I recently attended a Family History Fair in Port Sunlight, Cheshire, where I found the catalogue of a firm called 'My History' from which I bought some acid free pens which won't damage documents. They are really for writing on charts and acid free (archive) paper. The ink is water resistant and archive safe. However, they have ball-points and might I think dent a photograph. Fortunately 'My History' also had a felt-tip safe for use on the backs of photos. Its trade mark is ZIG. I must get busy! And if anyone knows the name of the lady in the above photo, please tell me. From the style of her clothes, and therefore my guess at a date, I suspect she was Grace Marrs who married Samuel McIlhaga about 1870. You can just see at the right foot of the photo that it was taken by a professional photographer in Courtrai, where she and Samuel lived.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Belgium - twice in two days!

In writing this blog it is continuously gratifying to have people get in touch about our clan history, and the first two days of May have been no exception. The second e-mail came from the grandson of Isabella Emily Marrs McIlhagga of Courtrai, Belgium. I didn't know she had married (a Samuel Bowden). Interestingly my correspondent spells her surname with two 'g's, though to the best of my knowledge this branch of the clan, even to today, spells it with one 'g'. So have we here an indication that a 'two-g' family changed to being a 'one-g' family? Maybe, and this may be so for a further reason. Isabella's parents were Samuel McIlhaga and Grace Marrs. Samuel was a flax-buyer and lived and worked for a number of years in Courtrai, Belgium. I have never known who Samuel's father was. My correspondent tells me that Samuel and Grace had living with them in Belgium until 1912 William John McIlhagga who, he assumes, was Samuel's father. Now Samuel and Grace had a son whom they called William John Marrs, surely after his paternal grandfather, and according to the Celtic naming pattern. He thinks, probably correctly, that William John in his turn was the son of Eliza Ann McIlhagga of Slatt, County Antrim. All this adds to my knowledge of this family and I hope that Isabella's grandson and I can continue to correspond and discover more. I certainly have more to tell him, and I have sent him some comments and questions which might help us forward.

My first e-mail was even more gratifying because it came from my own fifteen-year-old grandson. When he first went to Secondary School his history teacher set the class a project to find out whether any of their ancestors had taken part in the World Wars of the twentieth century. I was then able to send him photos of my father in France in the First World War and told him of over a dozen McIlhaggas who had served, some of whom paid the ultimate sacrifice. Recently he must have been on a school visit to a Commonwealth Cemetery where on his own initiative he photographed a document with the name McIlhagga, Private H.... 46th Battalion, Canadian Infantry... died 26th October, 1917, and the reference to his grave. I was able to e-mail him back and tell him about 'H's family. He was in fact John Hutcheson McIlhagga, one of 12 children, four brothers of whom had served in the First World War, and all of whom had emigrated to Canada. 'H' - he must have been known as 'Hutch' - was in the Saskatchewan Regiment of the Canadian Infantry, though he was born and brought up in Belfast, Ireland. He fought at Passchendale and is buried at Tyne Cot Cemetery in Belgium. My grandson had simply sent me a message to say 'This may be of interest'. It was - he had sent me some documentary evidence that was new to me, and he had made me realise that 'J.H.' must have been know as 'Hutch'. And even more gratifyingly he had remembered his Year 1 Project and my interest in our clan genealogy.