Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Irish Hearth Tax again

If you count up the number of time in this blog I have mentioned the Hearth Tax you will know that the three clan males who are mentioned in the Irish Roll of 1669 are rarely out of my mind! These are the earliest people we have in any kind of Census or Census substitute. We all know that the 17th Century was when families migrated from the west of Scotland to Ulster, so it is a reasonable assumption that all three moved across the North Channel together and that all were related, though one discouraging fact is that despite two of them being named Alex and Allexander, there are no known Alexanders in the West of Scotland family based at Kirkmichael.

I first wrote about them on 13 April 2009 when I assumed that despite two spellings of the surname they must have been from one nuclear family. This of course need not be true. Start with the one who was James McIlhaga. There appears to be one relevant James born in 17th Century Kirkmichael. He was James son of Thomas McIlhagow baptised at Kirkmichael on 30 May 1653. As I have pointed out before, if he were the James who turned up at Cogry in 1669 he would only have been 16, which is another discouraging factor. How could he have been old enough to own a property on which a Hearth Tax had to be paid? So what about a slightly oblique approach?

We know that Thomas (father of James 1653) had two siblings, David and Agnes. David incidentally also had a son James who died as an infant, which makes me think that James at least was a name inherited down the family. In David's case his son James was the third son, so named probably after an uncle (who would have been another sibling of Thomas). We only know of the one son (James 1653) born to Thomas, but as he is not named for his grandfather (who was another Thomas), it is likely that he wasn't a first son either.

As I've said before, it seems likely that Allexander McIlhago and Alex McIlhago were father and son, the father possibly taking us back a further generation, making Alex not a brother but a cousin of James who paid the Hearth Tax, and thus giving us a reasonable explanation for the two spellings of the surname, McIlhaga and McIlhago. This would make Allexander a sibling of Thomas the grandfather of James (1653), and since I have attempted a reconstruction of the Ayrshire Family Tree I have realised that there is one male sibling who certainly existed, but whose name we do not know. He could have been Allexander.

If this revised scenario is reasonable, then Alex like James would have been about 40 years old and Allexander would have been in his early 60s, all reasonable ages for owning properties which demanded that they paid the Hearth Tax in Cogry in County Antrim in 1669.

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