Wednesday, October 23, 2019

NY Bounty Lands

I've lately been working on a study of men named James Gillespy/Gillespie in early Ulster/Orange counties, New York.  Even though at this point, I am not looking for a particular connection to the James Gillespie who appeared with my Michigan pioneers in 1850 Bloomfield, Oakland, MI, I became curious about the men named James Gillespy/Gillespie who served in the American Revolution. It turns out there was much to learn, in particular from the bounty lands that were awarded to Gillespie's in 1790:
  • James Gillespy, NY. 4th NY Reg under Walker, listed among the dead.  Sep 1790, 500 acres to heirs.  This land was in Marcellus in Onondaga county, lot #34. The patent was delivered 7 Jul 1790 to C.C. Schoonmaker for W. Gillaspy, adm.  Given that C. C. Schoonmaker was from the Shawangunk area, W. Gillsapy was probably William Gillespy 1737-1813 who was enumerated in Shawangunk in 1790.
  • Robert Gillespie. 16 Aug 1807.  200 Acres to Gillespie representatives James, Samuel, William, John, Barbara, Matthew, Jane, Ann, Polly, Olive, Burr, and James Gillespie Jr.  This land was in Sterling, Cayuga county, lot #51.
I followed up by checking on deeds in Onondaga and Cayuga counties, and found two Onondaga deeds selling the land of James Gillespie in Marcellus. These deeds show that the property was divided in fifths, and four Gillespie's were named:  John (wife Sarah), Margaret, Elizabeth (Wallace), and Hanna (Lebolt), all of Ulster or Orange counties, NY. David Gillespie appeared in Marcellus starting in 1802 (tax lists), so I have to presume that he was the fifth heir of James. Given my understanding of who was considered next of kin when someone died intestate, I believe that John and David were brothers of James, Margaret could have been an unmarried sister, and Elizabeth and Hanna were likely daughters of another Gillespie sibling who had died before 1790 (I guess George). See my article for more details.

That leaves the men named James listed as heirs of the bounty land of Robert Gillespie who served in the 5th NY Regiment and died after being captured at Ft. Montgomery in 1777.  More research is in process trying to determine if those heirs also tie back to Ulster and Orange counties, New York.  Whether or not they do (and I suspect that they do), I have discovered that bounty lands are a very valuable source of genealogical information!

Friday, October 11, 2019

Welcome to Mamakating

Mamekoting was one of the Hudson Valley native American tribes, which is today the name of a town in Sullivan County, NY, and uses the spelling Mamakating, pronounced "ma-MA-ka-TING".

So now we have another fun-to-pronounce place to add to our family geography, one that is a mere 20 miles from another fun-to-pronounce Gillespie location, Shawangunk.  I stumbled upon Mamakating by tracing Abraham Gillespie who had some land in Mamakating when the town was in Sullivan county. But Sullivan county was not formed until 1809, and so where was Mamakating before that?  Ulster.

In any case, Mamakating Precinct is one place where the 1775 Articles of Allegiance, also called the Revolutionary Pledge, have survived. Four Gillespy names appeared on that list:  John, James, David, and George.  Along with records showing that the Fifth Hanover Company in 1775 had officers Capt. John Gillespie and Ensign Samuel Gillespie, I think we have a good picture of the Gillespie families with strong roots in the Ulster area.  More research is upcoming!

Meanwhile, here is a new article relating more details about my initial research in Sullivan county.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

John Gillespy of Shawangunk

In my periodic review of records and DNA matches, I found one very remote match to me and two other of our elder Gillespie relations. This DNA match has a direct ancestor named Martha Jane Gillespie, 1832-1908, daughter of John Gillespie and Maria Klyne, wife of Andrew J Evans. These families lived in the Shawangunk area of Ulster county, which is the general area of New York where our early Gillespie and Greer families lived.

This new John Gillespy deserves some attention. He was born in Orange County around 1803, which means that his family was in America before our relations came around 1812. Who was he? Here is my latest research exploring that question.

It's exciting to think that we have finally found some connection between my Michigan Gillespie family and the Samuel Gillespy families of pre-Revolutionary New York. It means that Michigan Gillespie's are remotely related to all those early New York Gillespy's. The evidence of that connection, however, still only stems from a fairly trivial DNA match. All of this learning about the family group of John Gillespy of Shawangunk still provides no documented tie to the Gillespie's who migrated to Michigan in the 1830s. But, I feel we're getting closer. The better we understand each Gillespy family group, the more likely it is that more connections will surface. Closer and closer.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Different Diffin

Back in 2013, I reported some Diffin Connections to, we believed, our Gillespie family of Armagh. We had three reasons to pursue this lead:
  • In the 1881 census of Quebec, there was one Mary Diffon, age 27, living with my ancestor James Gillespie. Who was she?
  • My Gillespie family inherited an old photograph taken in Armagh which was labeled in pencil (by whom we don't know) as Mrs. Diffin.
  • Contact from a Mr. Diffin who lives in Ireland, and whose ancestors were Henry Diffin and Mary Jane Gillespie.
Here is what we've learned since then.

Indeed, Mary Jane Gillespie married Henry Diffin in 1866. Her father was Thomas Gillespie 1799-1865 who lived in Ennislare and married Mary McCord. Several records are missing for this family group, so much of what we know is based on the genealogy research of Mr. Diffin in Ireland as well as what we can surmise from extant records. There is still some possibility, at least in my mind, that the photograph we have is of Mary Jane Gillespie Diffin. And if that is true, then the fact the photograph ended up with Gillespie family belongings who went to Quebec still suggests that we are some how related to Mary Jane.

Meanwhile, who was Mary Diffon living with James Gillespie in 1881 Quebec? We have not found anybody in the family lines of Henry Diffin to explain who she might have been. But as I mentioned 6 years ago, there were other possible Diffin connections to our family, which now might offer the explanation we've been looking for.

As we know, my ancestor James Gillespie emigrated to Quebec in the 1830s but before leaving Ireland, he married Mary Orr Jamieson in Lisnadill. Mary was the daughter of Arthur Jamieson and Mary Orr. I recently searched for other children born to Arthur Jamieson, and found one Ann "Nancy" Jamieson, born in 1832 who married one James Diffin in 1852! This James Diffin was from the same townland, Garvaghy, where Henry Diffin had lived, making it seem likely that James and Henry were cousins. And even though I find no baptism record for Mary Diffin born about 1854, it seems quite likely that she was the daughter of James Diffin and Ann Jamieson. In that case, she was James Gillespie's niece (by his wife), apparently coming to Quebec when she was 25. I have not found what became of Mary Diffin after 1881, but now we better understand her connection to our family.

So how are the two Diffin lines of Henry and James connected? The answer to that question is still as uncertain as how are the families of Thomas Gillespie of Ennislare and Thomas Gillespie of Cavanacaw connected? But thanks to clues found in North America, we know these families most certainly have some connection, some how. Research goes on.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Georgia Woods

2019 is starting with an unexpected genealogy surprise: living relations in Georgia who connect to the Woods family from Armagh! It's so easy to keep all our focus on the patriarchs, Gillespie, but we must remember the simple fact that everybody in my direct line descends from John Gillespie and Jane Woods!  So what has lead us to this discovery of Woods relations?  29.1 centimorgans shared across 2 DNA segments, that's what, a predicted fourth cousin match to me. Here's a brief account of how we pieced the story together.

A study of the match's tree lead to a William Wood who settled in Georgia in the 1830s. Family records indicate that he was born in County Armagh! A study of our family tree showed that my ancestor, Jane Woods, had a brother, William Woods, who came to Quebec in the 1820s. Mary Gillespie Henderson mentioned this William Woods in her book "Memories of My Early Years" as well of several of his children. But how were these two Woods families connected?

Contact with another Woods researcher in Georgia provided letters written by relations in the 1940s describing what they knew of their Woods family history. According to the letters, two Woods brothers and a sister came to the US when they were young, leaving Canada after their mother died and their father remarried. The letters also stated that the original Woods immigrant was from Ireland, and there were other brothers in Canada, uncles possibly named Robert, James, Gilbert, and Carson. Finally, there was also mention of Woods cousins in Chicago who had been in correspondence with the Georgia family.

Well, it so happened that our William Woods indeed had a first wife who died in 1832 in Quebec, and he remarried soon after. We have been familiar with the children that William had with the second wife in Quebec, but there had never been even a hint that he had brought other children with him upon his arrival in Quebec. Now it seems clear that he did, and that one of those children was William Wood who moved to Georgia! Unable to find Quebec records that pertain directly to the Woods brothers who moved to Georgia, I set about to corroborate the other clues from the Georgia family letters. Here's what I found:
  • William Woods had a son named James by his second wife. That James was found living with one Robert Woods in Montreal in 1861. That Robert Woods was born in 1812 in Ireland, so it seems likely and probable, that this Robert was also a son of William Woods and his first wife.
  • Further research of Robert's children revealed that three of them later moved to the Chicago area, all of them living there into the 1940s. Here were the Chicago cousins mentioned in the letters!
  • Finally, by his second wife, William Woods had a son Alexander, and two of Alexander's sons were William Carson Woods and Henry Gilbert Woods. Since relations often called each other by middle names, these could well be the uncles named Carson and Gilbert. Even the previously-mentioned James Woods had a son named Henry Gilbert Carson Woods, so those names were definitely in our family group.
Thus we have come to a yet another new chapter of our family story. These Woods families (morphed to WOOD in the US) were headed into a dark period of American history, navigating the Civil War and all its bloody violence, and then losing many children to the 1866 small pox epidemic that shook the South. But survive they did to bring their stories into the bigger family history.  Welcome to all Woods cousins!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

My Irish Orange

I am going to admit in this post that it sometimes takes much longer than it should for certain facts to get past the fences in my brain to settle on my psyche where the ideas about my family history roost. It is fitting that it should be on St. Patrick's Day 2018 that I should come to an important realization about my Gillespie family of Armagh, Northern Ireland, and that is that they belonged to the Orange Order.  I have been deeply involved in genealogy for over eight years now, but today this news comes as some surprise to me.

Given that I made the early-on mistake of bypassing the very words of one of our beloved family historians, Mary Gillespie Henderson, I think it is now only fitting to quote from her book, "Memories of My Early Years" published in 1937, page 33:

He [Mary's father] "walked" in the Orange procession there [Ontario, Canada] on July 12th with a lot of other men in carts, carriages, or on horseback. Father rode a white horse and wore his regalia, including a sash made by Mary Walsh. He had been a member of the Orange Lodge in Ireland and used to speak in familiar terms of King James, King William, the Battle of the Boyne, and the Seige of Derry, as though they were events of yesterday. On Orangeman's Day he decorated himself with an orange lily or bow of orange ribbon, yet on St. Patrick's Day he wore the green."
That seems to make very clear the Gillespie political persuasions. And yet eight years ago, when I went to study the history of Northern Ireland in the 1790s, I could hardly imagine how my Presbyterian Gillespie family could have fit into such a chaotic scene. On the one hand, Aunt Edith Gillespie had written how our ancestor, John Gillespie, was "instrumental in raising a company of volunteers for Lord Charlemount (Charlemont) in the Rebellion of 1796." This sentence seems to imply that the Gillepie's were loyalists, and interested in defending Ireland from foreign invasion. On the other hand, the Gillespie's were known to be Presbyterian, and Presbyterians in Northern Ireland had some religious freedom but limited civil freedoms, so I let myself imagine that they did not favor the English and left Ireland to practice their faith more openly. With that thought, I justified dismissing the words of Mary Henderson by thinking that her memories were only second-hand stories. After all, Mary's father, James, was born in 1810, Mary herself was born in 1840, and the story of Mary's memories was being recounted when she was in her 90s. Mary could not really have understood the politics of her grandfather's lifetime in a country she had never even visited (to our knowledge). That thinking was mistaken.

It could be that both premises were true - Gillespie's were loyalists and they had limited religious freedom - because it was a complicated time, as explained more fully in this article, Irish Presbyterians: Church, State, and Rebellion. But why does the idea of Gillespie's as English loyalists just land on my brain today? Because I recently found a British military record that could well belong to our family. The Thomas Gillespie documented in that record was born about 1778 in or near the town of Armagh in the parish of Richill. He was 18 when he joined the English military forces and he served over 16 years with the 5th Dragoon Guards, finally ending his service because of severe wounds received at Llerena in April 1812. This Thomas Gillespie fought for the English in the Napoleonic Wars. Sound familiar?

Based on all the research of our family over the past many years, I suspect this Thomas Gillespie could be the mysterious Thomas Gillespie in our tree, the one who was enumerated in Oakland county, Michigan in 1840, later declared incompetent, and died in 1859. Not only might this man have been a brother of our progenitor, John Gillespie, but he was probably also a 1/2 cousin to Nancy Gillespie, his wife (whether he ever had a first marriage is unclear), and a 1/2 grand-uncle of Mary Gillespie Henderson whose descendants recounted Mary's memory of an uncle who served in the Napoleonic Wars. Full circle. Unbelievable.

So with that, I beg the forgiveness of Mary Gillespie Henderson for second-guessing her memories, and having the wisdom and patience to pass them down to us both verbally and in writing. And for myself, I am grateful to finally get past my own preconceptions to arrive at a better understanding of our wonderful Gillespie family history.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Cavanacaw Convocation

Well, some things take awhile. My Gillespie research has been at a virtual stand-still for the past five years. It's hard to know where to go when there simply are no Irish records to find, or at least the records that survive are, at best, spotty and incomplete. Nothing about that reality has changed much,  although I must give credit to the many Irish genealogical organizations and individuals who have applied countless hours to piecing together useful historical evidence to help our quest along. So occasionally I try to review our situation to see if any new evidence and/or brain power can yet be applied to the problem of better identifying our Gillespie's in Armagh, and then finding that longed-for link back to Scotland.

This time I zoomed in on Cavanacaw because that is an actual place name that was handed to us in a Michigan deed pertaining to Thomas Gillespie. It's about time we found out more about my half 4th great uncle. Instead of worrying about the identity of every Thomas Gillespie in Armagh, I focused on every Gillespie who lived in Cavanacaw. This slight shift of attention brought some interesting and informative results. I now have a much better picture of the brother of Elizabeth Gillespie, the Michigan pioneer who died in 1857 and whose probate records have lead to some exciting insights into our Gillespie family. But more than that, if my research is right, we have many more descendants with whom we might at some point find a paper or DNA connection. That's pretty great because it means we are still inching forward.

So just in time for St. Patrick's Day 2018, I give a nod to my Scot-Irish ancestors, and send out my renewed hopes for making new genealogical connections with my Gillespie clan.