Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Gillespie's in Ulster, New York

The LION'S SHARE of my NY research of Gillespie and Greer families has been in Orange County, because that is, after all, what the Michigan land patents acquired by our pioneers say, and Dutchess County, since that clue had been given in a Michigan county history that mentioned Greer's. I have obviously been up to my eyeballs in this research for a couple years now, and you'd think I would be smart enough to give Ulster County more attention. Especially since we discovered last year that the Greer's were living in Kingston, Ulster, NY when they had to register as aliens in the War of 1812, Ulster county should be more on my radar screen than it has been.

And here's another glaring fact to remember: several of the southern-most towns of Ulster were annexed to Orange in 1798. This included the town of Pine Bush, which today literally sits on the Orange side of the county line. And just up the road on the other side of the county line is Walkill, which I had thought was in Orange, but no it's in Ulster, and in fact Walkill is part of a town (what I call a township) called Shawangunk (pronounced sho-gum). All of these places were THE residential heart of what I have called "The Pine Bush Gillespie's" whose family elders were Samuel Gillespie and Esther Rainey, purportedly from County Armagh, and to whom we so far have not been able to connect.

The point here is that records pertaining to Gillespie's might have been recorded in and subsequently stored in Ulster County, even though certain family members may have later moved to Orange County, which might have been exactly what happened just before the family migration to Michigan. So I have decided to look more carefully at Gillespie's who were in Ulster County. As a heads-up, I am especially interested in a James Gillespie family who lived in Rochester, Ulster, NY (not to be confused with the bigger city of Rochester, NY) from 1810-1830. This James Gillespie was also probably the one in Hurley in 1800, just outside of Kingston, which is another clue for us. I have no documentation yet beyond census data, but I feel a little excited about the possibilities of a connection to this family. Here's why:
  1. From the looks of this James Gillespie's family makeup from 1810-1830, this family *might* have had a male who would qualify as our Thomas Gillespie Jr., the one in our family who later married Ellen McClung in MI and whose daughter Sarah married William McKinney; Thomas Jr. was also the one whose death certificate says his father's name was James Gillespie. There were also females in the household of James Gillespie from Rochester who were of the age to be Isabella and/or Mary Ann Gillespie, characters in our story who we have so far been unable to place.
  2. Another family in the exact area at that time was SLOAT. There was a Sarah Gillespie married to a Cornelius Sloat in New Hurley (Walkill area) and their daughter Elizabeth was christened at the church in Rochester, Ulster, NY. Suffice it to say, this is the area where Henry P. Sloat was born in 1816, his parents being James Sloat and Phebe Upright and his grandparents being Cornelius Sloat (different person from previously mentioned) and Elliner McKinney. Henry P. would later marry Mary Ann Gillespie and become the guardian of Thomas Gillespie Sr. when he was declared incompetent shortly before his death. 
The upshot here is this. We know with some amount of certainty that Thomas Gillespie Jr. was born in NY in 1816. If we assume that Thomas was still living with a Gillespie by the time of the 1820 census, there were four Gillespie households in Dutchess/Orange/Ulster, New York with a male under 10 years old:
  • Alexander Gillespie: Clinton, Dutchess, NY. This guy has showed up in my research previously. He was in the same area and church records as James and Jane Greer in Pleasant Valley, NY. I believe he moved to NYC from Dutchess in the late 1820s.
  • Mary Gillespie: Goshen, Orange, NY. She was the widow of James Gillespie who died 1817. To my knowing, their children included a daughter named Eliza (possibly Isabelle's full name), but no son Thomas. 
  • John D. Gillespie: Marbletown, Ulster, NY. This person is of additional interest because he appears to have had a wife named Sarah Smith. However, he was still living in Marbletown in 1840, after our Gillespie's migrated to Michigan, and the young male in his household still appears to be there. 
  • James Gillespie: Rochester, Ulster, NY. If our Thomas' father was named James, then this would seem the most likely possibility for the home of our young Thomas Gillespie. 
So I'm hopeful, but with plenty of reservations. What *I think* this would mean, if there is a connection to Gillespie's found in Ulster, NY, is that we might have more than one James Gillespie in play - one born about 1765 (Rochester, Ulster), one born about 1772 (1850 Michigan), one born about 1785 (1830 Newburgh). And because we know just how accurate was age reporting in early census' (not), any these might be the same guy.  Obviously we haven't run out of mystery yet.

We'll see what more research uncovers. The story of our Gillespie's in New York is still a very tangled web, but the trick is to keep looking for connections. One of these days, I feel confident we'll see the whole picture, or at least more of it. I think the story we learn about is going to be a good one.

Ireland Maps

I really love maps and I wanted to post here a wonderful place that integrates maps with the Griffith's Valuation.  Check it out here. Not only do you get to see the original pages of the valuation, but those pages actually cite a map location, which I had not known before. You can then use that information to pull up a wonderful old map where you can zoom in and locate not only your townland, but also the property number as well. It couldn't get any better. I wrote to the people who run that website to thank them!

Much less impressive is a map I've been working on for various locations in County Armagh that apply to my Gillespie/Greer research. Click here to see my map, which is a work in progress. Townlands of interest include Lisnadill, Drumagaw, Cavanacaw, Ennislare, Farmacaffly, and Roghan in Armagh, and Emyvale in Monoghan. If you run across any of the following surnames in any of these places, please feel free to contact me: Gillespie, Greer/Grier, Wood/Woods, Donaldson, Diffin, Orr, and Rainey. I would love to compare notes.

Rainey Days

The last month has seen a flurry of excitement for us in our Gillespie line, and very close to its foundation: Armagh, Ireland. The post I made here earlier about Diffin connections lead us to an Irish resident who descends from Henry Diffin and Mary Jane Gillespie! Mr. Diffin has been remarkably helpful to our research and especially kind in sharing the research that he has done in Ireland over the years. Of course, he suffers from the same problem that we do - the absence of old records. So so much has been lost with the destruction of so many old records in Ireland. But what remains still are its people, its descendants, and the stories told to them by their ancestors. With Mr. Diffin, not only do we have the insight of his own research and his lifetime residency in Ireland, but also the treasure of stories passed down to him. It's hard to describe the true blessing of this connection.

Thanks to Mr. Diffin, we have a number of new clues to consider in piecing together our Armagh family. Among them, and most essentially, Mary Jane Gillespie, Mr. Diffin believes, was the daughter of Thomas Gillespie and Mary McCore (the McCore surname being uncertain, but something like it). He further believes that Mary Jane's grandparents were John Gillespie, born about 1760, and Mary Rainey.

Nowhere in the Gillespie history passed down to us have we ever found the slightest clue about who might be the first wife of our progenitor, John Gillespie, born abt 1760 in Armagh. We know that some of the children from this first marriage emigrated to New York, later migrating to Michigan. And we've since found documentation that tells us Thomas Gillespie was at least one of the first-marriage offspring to remain behind in Ireland. Given what we estimate of our Thomas Gillespie's age, he could very well be the father of Mary Jane Gillespie Diffin.

But most astonishing of all is to have a possible identification of Mary Jane's grandmother, somebody who could be our family matriarch: Mary Rainey. The Rainey name stands out in another family tree - the Gillespie family of Pine Bush, Orange, New York. In that family tree, Esther Rainey married Samuel Gillespie, who purportedly came from County Armagh and who fought in the American Revolution. Sadly though, I have not located any documentation about the roots of this couple, nor have I found a connection between their family and ours, and believe me when I say, I have looked! Given that we know our Greer-Gillespie couples lived in that same Orange county area of New York before migrating to Michigan, some connection to another Armagh Gillespie family seemed to be more than wishful thinking. After several years of research, however, I have not been able to find a connection to the Pine Bush Gillespie's, although admittedly one could still exist. But now we have reason to consider not only the Irish origins of Samuel Gillespie, but also those of his wife, Esther Rainey - who was she?

And curiously, the Rainey name sticks in my mind for one other reason. The discovery of our Greer relations was mostly inspired by finding the marriage between James H. Gillepie, a descendant from John Gillespie's second marriage, to Isabelle "Belle" Greer, a descendant from John Gillespie's first marriage. A witness to their marriage in Michigan in 1873 was Agnes Rainey. We've never found any clue about how Agnes Rainey was a friend to our family.

So the Rainey surname is now one of extreme interest to us. In my preliminary searching, I found the following Rainey names that appear in the Flax Growers list of 1796 in County Armagh:
George Rainey, Parish of Armagh
Margaret Rainey, Parish of Armagh
William Rainey, Parish of Loughgilly

I think it's fair to say that my cousins and I are feeling some renewed energy of excitement about exploring these new clues. Please feel free to contact me if you have information or feedback. These conversations might someday soon answer some long-standing questions about our Armagh family!

Friday, October 25, 2013

DIFFIN Connections

I recently corresponded with another Gillespie researcher who has interest in Gillespie's who lived in Portneuf, Quebec in the 1800s. I love how these connections help us to re-evaluate what we have and notice things we might have forgotten. In this case it was the 1881 Canadian census where our forefather James Gillespie, age 73, was living next door to his son James Jr's family.  In James Sr's household was a 27-year-old female named Mary Diffon.  She was born in Ireland and was Presbyterian.  We have never figured out who she was.

Meanwhile, my cousins who never seem to forget anything (!), reminded me that a picture was found among our Gillespie family history mementos. Here it is:

Nobody we know has any idea who Mrs. Diffen was, but it's clear she was from Ireland, and very possibly Armagh. And it is certainly no accident that the Diffin name (yes, I am using yet another spelling of this surname) appears in a Gillespie household in Quebec in 1881, and a picture labeled as Diffin was found among Gillespie family history items.

I have found at least one record on familysearch that connects Henry Diffin and Mary Jane Gillespie in Armagh (click here). But at the same time, there are also records that connect Diffin and Jamieson (click here and here), and even Diffin and Smith (click here), which are both possible connections to our family. There is also a message board post that outlines a Diffin family in Armagh and the possibility that some from that family might have emigrated to Canada.

If you have any ideas or leads about how the Diffin family might connect to our Gillespie family, please feel free to contact me.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Occupations of Robert Gillespie - Pottery?

The story of Robert Gillespie says that he came to Quebec from Armagh, Ireland with his eldest daughter, Mary Jane, around 1847.  Here are different mentions of Robert in the family documentation we have (with thanks to cousin D. for her ability to bring this information together):

"Robert Gillespie, the eldest brother, came out several years after James, farmed on the south side of Little River for some time, and later moved to Michigan...." (from the Baske stationery story)  So we don't know who Robert farmed for.

"Uncle Robert, brother of my Father, worked for a time for Mr. Andrews, a lawyer, on the other side of Scott's Bridge, then went to Michigan...."  (from Memories of My Early Childhood by Mary Gillespie Henderson, page 10).  Who was Mr. Andrews?

"To earn passage money to bring his wife and other children to Quebec, he worked in the William and David Bell Pottery on the south side of Little River." (from The Gillespie Family Record by Edith Gillespie, page 26).

This last story relating to pottery has generated some interest for us since we have not before associated any of our ancestors with this line of work.  Also the name BELL has some interest as there is some possibility that family might have originated from the same area of Armagh (see my post Irish Townlands).  But this reference to a particular business has lead to some research.

We have found some web links with reference to the William and David Bell Pottery Studio.  See here and here.  But there is another interesting link that sheds a little different light.  It is a catalog from the 1876 International Exhibition in Philadelphia, which was essentially the first World's Fair.  On page 172 under Ceramics - Pottery, Porcelain, Glass, Etc., there are two entries:

Note that #83 David Bell had a business making drain tiles in Little River, which was a location mentioned in Robert's story.  The #91 W. & D. Bell business make tobacco pipes (among other things, but I have found they seem to have been noted for making pipes).

So where did Robert work and for how long?  It's possible that the drain tile business did not exist 30 years earlier when Robert was first in Quebec, so it's hard to say.  It's always hard to say, but it's always fun to wonder.

Remembering John Smith

Besides my obsession with the stories of the children of John Gillespie's first marriage (the story that includes Greer's and emigration to NY before migration to MI), my other focus is usually associated with the lives of Robert and James Gillespie, the two brothers who emigrated to Quebec and from whom I descend.  But there was another character in the story of the children of John Gillespie's second marriage, the older sister of Robert and James whose name was Sarah.  Sarah Gillespie married John Smith in Ireland and had one child there before also emigrating to Quebec.  Whether the Gillespie's and the Smith's emigrated together, we don't know but we suspect it is possible since the two families appear in the New World about the same time.

I'm not sure of John's occupation, but he lived in the area of Portneuf and Levis in Quebec.  He and Sarah had at least five more children, and it appears they were associated with the Church of England in Bourg-Louis.

Sometime after the 1881 census, John and Sarah's oldest son, George Arthur Smith, moved to Hamilton, Ontario.  There we find a death record for Sarah in 1901.  She is buried in the Hamilton Cemetery with other members of her son's family.  But what happened between 1881 and 1901?  And whatever happened to John Smith?

One of the things I appreciate about ancestry.com is how it has connected me with family members, and not just ones that I didn't know I had (though that is true), but with those family members who also have some degree of interest and passion about our family history.  So I have ancestry to thank for connecting me with a descendant of John and Sarah Smith's line, who today, magically, lives in Hamilton, Ontario.  We've been corresponding off and on for a few years, and he is one person who also cares about the question Whatever Happened to John Smith?

Well, our Canadian cousin came through!  He located the church records telling us that John died shortly after the 1881 census was taken.  The church record gives us John's age, which also updates our records making him older than we thought he was.  And the most interesting thing, is that we already had this record in our possession.  It so happens that John's daughter, Ann Jane Smith Price, also died late in 1881.  The image of her death record includes two pages from a book where the minister was recording the deaths.  On the page directly opposite of Ann Jane's burial record is the burial record for her father!  They died exactly a week apart, and one has to wonder if there was not an illness in the area or family at that time that caused them both to perish.  We still don't know where either of them were buried, but that is a question that can be answered another time.

So now we know what happened to John Smith, one of the Irish pioneers who made the journey with his young family to Quebec.  We can wish that we knew more about the Smith family, whether he was English or Scot-Irish, where and how he met Sarah, why they too decided to emigrate.  But this discovery is also trying to tell us to keep paying attention!  The answer to this question has been in front of us for a long time, and none of us can quite understand why we didn't see it.  We've done a whole lot of looking, but that doesn't mean we always see what's in plain view.  So thanks to Canadian cousin for looking, and to Uncle John for reminding us to slow down and see!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Irish Townlands

Seems I'm going in a few circles lately trying to piece together the various townlands where Gillespie and/or Greer relations were found.  We've been looking now at Derrynoose, a Greer townland, which is 10 miles southwest of Lisnadill, a Gillespie townland.  Both Greer's and Gillespie's were purportedly in the weaving/linen occupation, so it was worth checking (again) for our family names appearing in the 1796 Flax Growers list:

Greer                 Henry                Mullaghbrack          Armagh
Greer                 Isabella             Loughgilly            Armagh
Greer                 James                Ballymore             Armagh
Greer                 James                Loughgilly            Armagh
Greer                 John                 Ballymore             Armagh
Greer                 John                 Mullaghbrack          Armagh
Greer                 Robert               Armagh                Armagh
Greer                 Robert               Derrynoose            Armagh
Greer                 Robert               Mullaghbrack          Armagh
Greer                 Thomas               Loughgall             Armagh
Greer                 Thomas               Loughgilly            Armagh
Greer                 William              Mullaghbrack          Armagh

Gillespey             George               Tynan                 Armagh
Gillespey             Hugh                 Tynan                 Armagh
Gillespey             John                 Armagh                Armagh
Gillespie             Anne                 Tynan                 Armagh
Gillespie             John                 Armagh                Armagh
Gillespie             John                 Loughgall             Armagh
Gillespie             John                 Loughgilly            Armagh
Gillespy              John                 Tynan                 Armagh

Mullaghbrack is about 9 miles east of Lisnadill, just north of Markethill.  Loughgilly is just south of Markethill.

Then I started to wonder about the origins of John Gillespie's second wife, Jane Woods.  Here are the Woods names in the Flax Grower's List:

Woods                    Barney                   Killevy                           
Woods                    Bryan                    Tynan                             
Woods                    Daniel                   Derrynoose                        
Woods                    Francis                  Tynan                             
Woods                    James                    Keady                             
Woods                    James                    Mullaghbrack                      
Woods                    James                    Tynan                             
Woods                    John                     Kilmore                           
Woods                    John                     Mullaghbrack                      
Woods                    John                     Tynan                             
Woods                    Laurence                 Derrynoose                        
Woods                    Patrick                  Tynan                             
Woods                    Robert                                               
Woods                    Robert                   Mullaghbrack                      
Woods                    William                  Kilmore  

Hmmm, there are Derrynoose and Mullaghbrack.  There was no John Gillespie living in those townlands, though Loughgilly is near enough to both.

Then, my cousins and I were recently discussing that Robert Gillespie was purportedly employed by William and David Bell Pottery in Quebec.  I have not been able to trace that business, but for some reason the BELL surname rang a bell (!) for me.  I remembered something I had found at the Family History Library last year.  What follows is my transcription.

Tombstone and Monument Transcriptions in Mullabrack with some notes relating to some, copied by T.B.F. Paterson.  This is a handwritten notebook, and on page 17-18 is the following:

In memory of Adam Bell of Druminnis County Armagh he died Dec 1775 age 56 years and Isabella Bell alias Gillespie his wife who died 22 Feb (?) 1826 age 93 years they are buried in the churchyard adjoining.

veined marble, black background (more description of the actual gravestone)

Adam Bell who was of Scottish origin settled at Killy____dden in county Armagh at the end of the 17th century or in the very early years of the 18th.  He and his family were in possession of most if not all of that town and the adjoining townland of Drumminis in the same county.  There is not a trace of his residence nor are there any of his descendants residing at Druminnis.  He had two sons, William and Thomas.

William had two sons, William and Jack.  William who emigrated to Canada took the side of the Canadians in their resistance to England while Jack lived at Knappaugh county Armagh.

Thomas had 8 children, 4 sons and 4 daughters one of which Adam was the member whose death and burial are recorded above.

Adam Bell was a linen draper and married Isabella Gillespie by whom he had his children.  He directed in his will dated in Sept. 1775 that he would be buried in Mullabrack.  His wife was a daughter of Thomas Gillespie a son of John Gillespie who with his two maternal uncles Thomas and Robert _______ settled in the wastelands in the county of Armagh at the end of the 17th or beginning of the 18th century.  They had previously _______

from a family sketch by T.W.B.

Many descendants of Adam Bell and Isabella Gillespie distinguished themselves in the legal and engineering profession.

Just for fun, let's see if there were Bell's in the Flax Grower's list:

Bell                     Agnes                    Derrynoose                        
Bell                     Benjamin                 Mullaghbrack                      
Bell                     David                    Mullaghbrack                      
Bell                     Elizabeth                Mullaghbrack                      
Bell                     Francis                                              
Bell                     Francis                  Kilmore                           
Bell                     George                                               
Bell                     Hugh                     Derrynoose                        
Bell                     James                    Ballymore                         
Bell                     James                    Loughgilly                        
Bell                     John                     Mullaghbrack                      
Bell                     Mary                     Mullaghbrack                      
Bell                     Matthew                  Mullaghbrack                      
Bell                     Thomas                                               
Bell                     Thomas                   Mullaghbrack                      
Bell                     William                               

I have to admit that my pulse quickens a little with all this, even though there are no serious conclusions that can be drawn at this point. But we are adding Mullaghbrack and Loughgilly as townlands to watch for on our radar screen.  This is starting to get good :-)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Thoughts About Brothers

Because I am descended from the great love between two Gillespie cousins, Alexander and Sarah, I have two ggg-grandfathers who were brothers, namely Robert and James Gillespie. I'm not sure it's ever been voiced out loud, but I think there was some disparity between them. Here are the things I have noticed over the course of my research:

Robert was the older brother, by about 4 years from what we know. And yet, from what we know, he emigrated from Ireland nearly 10 years after James. Why was that? Part of it might have been finances. We know that James was employed for 10 years at the Palace Armagh, and he must have saved enough for himself and his young bride to set sail for the New World. Robert, on the other hand, was having children in Ireland - 7 that we know of and possibly others that did not survive. Finances must have been part of the equation because we think we know that Robert and his oldest daughter left for Quebec first, and worked there to earn money to bring the rest of the family over. What I'm saying is there was apparently some financial disparity between the brothers.

Secondly, it's apparent that James was not only literate, but he placed a high value on education for his family. The documents we have found that were signed by Robert show that he signed with his mark, which I take to mean he was not literate. Why was this so? We know that his sister Sarah also could not sign her name, nor could his half-sister Nancy, but we know that women were generally not afforded the same educational opportunities. Could it have been there was some reason that neither was Robert? Or maybe he had a learning disability? Unfortunately, in the letters we have from Robert's son Alexander, Alexander never mentioned his father, nor any details about him.

Thirdly, the difference in the physical evidence that was left behind by each brother is glaring, at least to me. We have numerous portraits of James and his family showing them in fine dress and environment, and only two images that might be of Robert, one of which shows a man who looks quite simply dressed. James rented his farms in Quebec for many years before finally buying one that was passed down in his family. Robert also came to own a farm in Oakland County, Michigan, even though he had to borrow from his son-in-law for it, and, according to records found, there were several mortgages against the property as time went by. It would seem that Robert never had much to leave behind.

But in the end, both brothers successfully found their way to North America from Ireland, and for the most part, their children all grew to have long and productive lives of their own. As did their children's children and those who came next. By this measure, we can't really say there was any disparity between Robert's legacy in America and that of his brother James in Canada. The Gillespie's in the New World have prospered. This much we do know.


The subject of U.S. naturalization is an important one.  For our families coming to MI from NY, we think they probably would have been naturalized in NY.  At least we have found one declaration of intent for the James Greer family, but no others.  This subject might also explain why I have not found much in the way of land records for our families in NY - one could not own property in the U.S. unless a citizen.  I'm not sure who was really checking, but by the War of 1812, it was probably something that was being tracked better.

I should probably also add a note here that I'm not sure how naturalization laws applied to single women, which we so far can assume would apply to Elizabeth Gillespie.  That research is ongoing.

But now let's talk about the family who supposedly came to U.S. via Canada - the Robert Gillespie family.  The Library of Michigan has a wonderful index of naturalization records in their holdings.  Curiously though, there are NO Gillespie families listed in Oakland County.  Ah, but the lesson of an earlier post I made to this blog tells me to go check other spellings, and voila!  A declaration of intent for

Robert Gallaspie, 27 Apr 1860, (2:100)d, GBI (Great Britain), signed by his mark

According to the index, he did not ever follow through with getting his second paper.

Curiously, there was another declaration of intent which is interesting:

James Greer, 26 Mar 1859, (1:253)d, GBI

Well, the James Greer in our story died in 1857.  So what James Greer was in Oakland County at that time who was new (or somewhat new) to this country?  No idea whatsoever.  He also never applied for his second paper.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Church of Ireland

I've been trying to place the historical figures that were mentioned in The Gillespie Family Record, written and handed down to us by our beloved Aunt Edith Gillespie (1896-1986).  Here is one of the quotes from that record:

"James Gillespie, who was employed on the estate of Lord Beresford, "Primate of all Ireland," was married in Lisnadill Church on December 31, 1835, to Mary Jamieson (b. 3-3-1814), one of four daughters of Arthur Jamieson and Mary Orr, who had a farm about five miles from Armagh. She had a good voice and sang in the choir of Lisnadill Church, her father being precentor."

Well, first, who was Lord Beresford?  Lord John George de la Poer Beresford (22 November 1773 - 18 July 1862) was an Anglican archbishop and Primate.  Click here to read the highlights of his life.  The gist is that in 1822 (when James Gillespie was 12 years old), Lord Beresford became the 106th Archbishop of Armagh and therefore also Primate of All Ireland.  To be clear, we are talking about the Church of Ireland.

So let's figure out where Lord Beresford's estate was.  According to the Irish Landed Estates database, none of the lands or houses owned by Beresford family were located in either County Armagh or County Monaghan.  And I'm going to guesstimate we're talking about over 70,000 acres of land.  So if our James Gillespie was employed on the estate of Lord Beresford, he was either commuting or not living in County Armagh.

Ah, but maybe I take these things too literally (sometimes).  We do have a letter of recommendation written for James Gillespie by the chaplain of the Lord Primate of the Lisndill church, Stephen Radcliffe, in 1837.  It was written from the Palace Armagh.  Well, it turns out the Palace Armagh was built in 1772 as a place of residence for the Archbishops of Armagh.  Lord Beresford raised the building to four stories during his tenure as Archbishop.  So was James employed at Lisnadill or Armagh?  I tend to think James did indeed work at the Palace Armagh where the Lord Primate of all Ireland resided.

Second, James Gillespie was known to be a devout Presybterian after his emigration to Quebec around 1837, leading me to look primarily for Presbyterian records.  So let's start with James' marriage in the Lisnadill Church in 1835.  That church, built in 1772, is called the St. John's Church of Ireland, Lisnadill.  It has quite a wonderful history, which you can read about here.  It's not clear to me yet if any records from this church survive. 

I have noted before there might have been a good reason for this seeming contradiction - a Presbyterian getting married in the Church of Ireland.  Here is a quote from the book "Frontiersmen and Settlers, The Bells in Scotland, Ireland and Canada" by William C Wonders:

"Although Presbyterian marriages by Presbyterian ministers were admitted to be legal in civil courts ... (it was) not until 1782 that the Irish Parliament passed a bill by which marriages of Dissenters celebrated by their ministers were legalized beyond doubt" (Falley, 705) However "before 1844 banns had to be published in the Established Church (The Church of Ireland) of the diocese in which the marriage was to be performed and clerygymen of the Established Church had to issue licenses: (so that) a great proportion of marriages, regardless of the sect, were entered in the Parish Registers of the Established Church of Ireland." (Falley, 707)  Until 1844 Presbyterian marriages had no complete legal security and, where property rights might be involved, Presbyterians often took the precaution to be married and have their children baptized in the Church of Ireland.  This latter practice probably stopped about the same time that Roman Catholics were emancipated, i.e., about 1830 - however, some Presbyterians never baptized their children in the Church of Ireland! (McCabe, John conversation with author 3 Oct 1996)"

So this explanation might have been the case with our James Gillespie.  All I can say for sure is this.  John Gillespie, supposed father of James, was married in the First Presbyterian church in Armagh - that record has survived.  And the Presbyterian congregation for the townland of Lisnadill was located in Armaghbrague, but we don't know if James Gillespie ever attended there.  After all, he was employed for 10 years at Palace Armagh, and married by the Church of Ireland in Lisnadill.  Was he hiding his true faith?  Maybe.  Maybe by the time he started having children, he wanted them baptized in his true faith, and thus made the long journey to Quebec to start a better life.  

GRIERE's in Derrynoose

A few posts ago, I mentioned finding an article published in an Irish newspaper in New York in 1812. It was written by Joseph Grier, inquiring about his brother John from Roghan, Derrynoose, Armagh, Ireland. Well, this is a location that is next door to the Lisnadill parish which is one place we know where Gillespie's lived. So now I add Derrynoose as a place to look.

Today I found a wonderful website called the Irish Genealogy Project with lots of information about and links for the few surviving records in Ireland. The information is broken down by county, and the link for County Armagh is run by Pat Connors who has his own wonderful website. There is so much helpful information here, it's hard not to feel just a little excited, especially given that I have been rather frumpy about doing any serious Ireland research because given the near totality of record destruction there, really, what is there to find?  So even though it's still true that Irish research is not easy, these websites spark some inspiration and even a little bit of hope. For that, I cannot thank these people enough.

Now to add to the pile of hope, comes a few more small details that might come to some use for our family story. I was looking at the 1825 Tithe Applotments for Derrynoose Civil Parish. No Gillespie. No Greer. I have been sticking with the spelling of GREER in Ireland and GRIER in early New York, and back to GREER in Michigan, which for some reason seems to be the pattern of the spelling of this surname in documents found in each place and time. But today, I went back to the Derrynoose records and searched for GRIER. Ta Da.
  • Grier, Widow ???, Cormeen
  • Griere, Robert, Roghan
  • Griere, Widow ???, Drumgar
  • Griere, William, Roghan
OK!  We have two widows and not one, but two freeholders in the townland of Roghan!  And for the first time ever, we have the spelling GRIERE.  I have no idea what that is telling us, but it's something to pay attention to.

And finally, these records appear after the 1812 Grier inquiry from New York, which suggests that the Greer's, like the Gillespie's, still had relations back home.  I try to imagine letters somehow making their way across the Atlantic between the two places.  What was the news from post-war America?  And what news from pre-famine Ireland?  What wouldn't we give to find such letters?  Apparently, there's always hope. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Greer Family Groups

Discovering the Greer's in Genesee has lead me to look over all the Greer family groups in Oakland County, of which there are plenty.  It occurs to me that I have separated out which Greer's are "ours" and which are not, and that I have done that for the most part in my own head.  So, I wrote down what I think I know about the "other" Greer families in Oakland County.  There's not much question in my mind that they are all some how related, but it has been mind-boggling enough just to concentrate on those families who had Gillespie connections.  Maybe someday, it will all get unraveled, and wouldn't that make a great story to tell!

Here is my article about the Greer Family Groups.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Greer's in Genesee County!

Well, I really can't say enough about the benefits that come from at least trying to be organized.  Every year about this time, I try to go through all the files that have been accumulating and make sure that I have looked them over carefully and know where to find them for the future.  This year, I came across the scan of an 1859 land abstract that cousin D. had sent me in March of 2010 (gosh, about when we were first discovering Greer's!)  Here is the surprise:
  • The abstract pertains to S-T-R 33-6-6, which is squarely in Mundy Twp in Genesee County. 
  • The names on the abstract include James M. Greer and his wife Mary, Robert Greer and William J. Greer.
  • This particular land is precisely the land that William A. Gillespie (WAG) [1869-1944] would later purchase from somebody named Cox.  It would be his first farm on Ray Road, just east of Linden.
Holy moly.  We've learned so much in the last three years, but there's no end to the Greer mysteries, so on it goes :-)  Here is the scoop about this document as I understand it today.

The Greer's mentioned are NOT "our" Greer's, and by that I mean the line of James Greer married to Jane Gillespie.  I believe this "James M. Greer and his wife Mary" must be the son of Joseph Greer who I believe was a brother to our James Greer, although I can't prove it (yet).  Nevertheless, Joseph is represented as such in my tree.  From everything I can tell, the Greer families emigrated to NY together (and in fact all 3 of the Greer's mentioned in this document were born in NY), and then they all made the move to MI together, so the ties were close whatever they were.  In any case, James M. Greer married Mary Hinman in Oakland County in 1853 - of that we have a record.  This James M. Greer also had brothers of the names William John (the oldest) and Robert, so I am guessing this is who we're talking about on this document.

What is a bit mind-boggling is that this land abstract should be found among things belonging to Genesee Gillespie's.  Did WAG save it when he bought his farm because he knew the connections?  Until now, the Greer story has been contained in Oakland County.  I have often wondered how Alexander Gillespie got to Genesee.  Could it be that, like in Oakland County, the Greer's were there first?  It's so interesting!  Well, I've never looked for Greer land documents in Genesee, but I'm sure going to now.

So thanks to cousins who faithfully send me things even when I don't have the time to really look or the knowledge to really understand what I'm looking at.  Eventually I do circle around and usually at a time when I'm focused and working with a more integrated picture in my mind.  There's such great value in always looking over what we THINK we know!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Probate Records for Isabella Gillespie Greer - 1915!

I really love the Oakland County Genealogical Society. Sometimes I think I will move to Oakland County just so I can be part of that organization! (if only they could terra-form some mountains...) Well, in any case, one of their recent newsletters came (Acorns to Oaks) and there they announced that some new Oakland County Probate Calendars have been digitized and are online at familysearch - which I jumped on because I recall that I was unable to look up John Greer's probate because the FHL does not have those particular records (yet, apparently). So this new info on familysearch is not yet searchable but since I know John Greer's death date and one can imagine that 15 children wanted their piece of the pie as soon as possible, it was easy to find his info. Unfortunately, the probate calendar is only an index really - it points to the actual probate books where the juicy details are recorded and those files are still NOT online. So even with a glimpse given by these probate calendars, still we wait, or plan a trip to Pontiac, whichever comes first :-)

It then occurred to me that maybe John's wife, Isabella Gillespie Greer (the one at the top of My Most Burning Questions lists) might also have a probate case, and that maybe her family of origin would be mentioned there (doesn't seem likely since her will simply stated divide everything equally among the kids, but who knows, maybe there is some clue). So sure enough, there IS a probate case for her and here it is:


There is a curious entry on Dec. 1, 1915. I *think* it says: petition for appointment of administrator W.W.A. Here's what I found about that:

When an executor or administrator dies, becomes ill, is otherwise unable to complete her duties, or does not properly perform her duties, she must be replaced. A successor or replacement is often named in a will. If the will does not name a successor, or if persons named in the will cannot or are not suitable to serve as executor, the court will name an "administrator, W.W.A.," or administrator with the will annexed.

Now my curiosity is really up. This date is long after John Greer's estate was settled on June 11, 1900 - and that had to have been where the big bucks were, given the amount of real estate he had. So who would petition Isabella's estate 24 years after she died and what did they want from it? This later petition was closed in Oct. 1916 just about a year before Isabella Jr. died in Colorado. Hmmmm.

I have assumed all along that the will I found for John Greer which was signed by both John and Isabella was the ONLY will - and that was frustratingly short and without detail (i.e. "divide my stuff equally between all my kids").  But perhaps Isabella did have a separate will. Hmmmm. And my only thought about WHY she would have a separate will is that she had something (land?) that she felt belonged on her side of the family - the Gillespie side. Hmmmm.; We should recall that half the land patents scored by John and Isabella when first arriving in Michigan were in Isabella's name. Maybe that's what it came down to in 1915 - somebody was trying to acquire land that was still legally in Isabella's name?

Stay tuned on this one. I think this will require a trip to Pontiac to unravel....

Missing in 1870

It has been bugging me for awhile that there is still no good explanation for why so many Greer-Gillespie's cannot be accounted for in the 1870 U. S. federal census.

Let's start with who I do find in 1870:  John Greer, Sr., age 64, is enumerated in Bloomfield with 6 of his kids and seemingly no wife.  Those named in his household were: Mary 57; Thomas 27; George 16; Adaline 14; Flora 12; Edward 11.  It should be noted that the age & occupation for Thomas does not really match for Thomas-the-son-of-John, so maybe a different Thomas Greer is residing in the household? (Note that I did check to see if 27 was just a misread of 21, but it does not appear so.)  Also among those NOT lost in 1870 is John's oldest son, James Henry, who was enumerated in Southfield.

So the following family members cannot be accounted for:
  • wife Isabella, 57 - hmmmm, it's curious, same age as Mary noted above. In 1870, daughter Mary Greer Parks was enumerated in Southfield!  So maybe Belle WAS home, although it's interesting that the name on the census is so wrong.
  • John Greer, Jr. 33, 4 years before marriage to Lucy
  • Charles L, 30
  • Jennie, no census, but she married William Wilkins in Oakland Co. 19 Jan 1870
  • Belle, 25 AND future husband J. H. Gillespie. JHG did purchase his father's land in Springfield in 1871.
  • Emma, 23
  • Nellie, 22 - she would marry Thomas Flinn 8 Oct 1873 in Bloomfield and then he died a couple months later
  • Robert, 20 - maybe was in White Lake, MI, but that might be a different Robert
  • Joseph, 18
OTHERS also missing in 1870:
  • Nancy Gillespie, wife of Thomas.  She was John's aunt, sister of his mother Jane.  She would have been 90 and she died in 1872 (according to gravestone).  Where was she?
  • Mary Greer Slater, 60, last seen in Bloomfield, shows up in Ludington in 1880.  It should also be noted that all 5 of her children living in 1870 are also not found on the census.
I have searched for these names in states other than Michigan, and come up empty.  I have also considered that perhaps there was a trip back to Ireland, so it is on my to-do list to look at passenger lists more carefully for this time period.  Also since there were Gillespie ties in Canada, there is some chance that some family members were there.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Information Wanted

This advertisement, I believe, is yet another potential clue pointing to the Irish origins of the Greer family:

Information Wanted
JOHN GRIER, a native of Ireland, county of Armagh, parish of Derrynoose, and townland of Roghan, who sailed from Londonderry on board the ship John Atkinson in July 1811, bound for Philadelphia.  Any person giving information of said John by a line addressed to his brother Joseph Grier, at Kingston falls, Ulster county, State of New-York, will be gratefully acknowledged. 

This ad comes from The Shamrock Newspaper of New York, Vol. II. No. 39, Sat. August 29, 1812.  (see http://www.ulsterancestry.com/ShowFreePage.php?id=186). 
Using the Alien Registrations mentioned in a previous post, this notice might well have been written by the older of the two Joseph Grier's, the one who arrived in August, 1812.

This notice is exciting for a several reasons. One is that the port of arrival for the ship mentioned was Philadelphia, which is good to know because I have been focusing almost exclusively on New York arrivals. Secondly, this article gives us a township in Ireland to check. So far, I've not been able to find much of substance, but I can say that Derrynoose appears to be not that far from Lisnadill, where we know one of our Gillespie relations was married.

And then, of course, there's the question of who was John Grier, and did his brother Joseph ever find him?


The Seventh Heir

Doesn't the title sound like something for the cover of a good mystery novel?   Well, that's what we have, novel or not.

Just when I think there is nothing left for me to find at the FHL on the subject of Greer-Gillespie, the next clue floats to the top.  In November, I found a deed dated 16 Aug 1873 from Jennie E. Greer (infant), represented by Jerome W. Robbins, her Special Guardian to George W. Slater of Mason County, MI.  There is reference to a circuit court case as well as a Commissioner's Report, both of which I must look up the next time I'm in Michigan.  Meanwhile, who the heck is Jennie Greer?
After much staring and scratching of head, the only thing that makes sense to me about the identity of this person is this:
  1. As we know, Jane Gillespie Greer had a sister Nancy Gillespie, who we think also married a Greer, my guess being Robert Greer.  Nancy and Robert probably had multiple children, but the only one we know who survived was named Mary Greer, born in 1810, probably just before her family emigrated from Ireland to America.
  2. Mary Greer married George Slater probably in NY and probably just before the migration to Michigan.  This is the Mary Slater referred to in the 1873 deed as the grandmother of Jennie.
  3. Mary Slater had 6 children, and her oldest daughter was named Agnes J. (probably Jane), who died young, only 20 years old.  To make things really complicated she had married a Greer, Samuel Greer, who I am guessing was her cousin (which happened more often in those days).  In any case, Agnes only had two children before she died, the oldest being Agnes Jane "Jennie" Greer, the other being Mary Elizabeth who died at the age of 6 and before the date of this deed (1873).  Hence at the time of this deed, Jennie was probably exactly 14 years old (an age mentioned in the deed), her mother had died and we don't know what was up with her father because it looks like he remarried but apparently did not keep Jennie with his new family.  Hence she had a Special Guardian, named in this deed.  The land was being transferred to Jennie's uncle (Agnes' brother), George W. Slater.
Now here is the really curious part.  The land in question in this deed is exactly the land that lead me to connect the Greer and Gillespie families in the first place!  It is the land description belonging to Elizabeth Gillespie who died in 1857 without a will, and all the various heirs came forward to claim their piece:  3 siblings, namely Thomas (who still resided in Armagh), Nancy, and Jane, and 3 half-siblings, namely James, Robert, and Sarah.

But all the later records I've found always referred to SEVEN heirs and I have never been able to figure out who the seventh heir was.  Now it appears that 7th heir might have been Jennie Greer.  How she could be considered an heir, I'm still trying to figure out as she was probably less than a year old when Elizabeth died.  There is so much still to unravel here, but I feel pretty sure this is a major clue to unraveling the complicated connections between Greer and Gillespie relations.

And I can't help wondering if Elizabeth Gillespie had any idea that we'd be sitting here 156 years later trying to figure out how she managed to own Michigan land in the first place, and then how her family would descend from all sides, effectively helping to document a family story we never even imagined we had.  May 2013 lead us to continued discoveries!

Happy New Year!

Greer Arrival in 1812

In looking over my old posts, it seems over a year and half ago I was speculating about whether our Greer relations might have arrived around the War of 1812.  Well, I think now that the answer is yes, and moreover, they arrived in 1812, just before the war broke out! 

In looking more closely at the source British Aliens in the U.S. During the War of 1812, compiled by Kenneth Scott, I realized the names listed in that source were not people who were deported (though at some point, some might have been).  Rather it is a list of people who registered with the Federal Marshall as required by law.  This source lists four Grier families who arrived between 1809 and 1812, including two families whom I presume to be the Greer-Gillespie brother-sister couples of our family mythology, namely Robert Greer, presumed husband of Nancy Gillespie who arrived with three children, and James Greer, husband of Jane Gillespie who arrived with four children.  Both couples arrived in May or June of 1812, only weeks before the United States declared war on Britain. 

It should be noted that the alien registration took place in Kingston, Ulster, New York near the end of October, 1812.  Both men were listed as weavers, which is consistent with what we know of Greer and Gillespie occupations back in County Armagh.  Subsequently located church records (Pleasant Valley Presbyterian Church) show that both couples very quickly settled in Pleasant Valley, Dutchess, New York. 

Of the three children arriving with Robert and Nancy, only one, Mary, is known to have survived.  It appears that Robert and Nancy had at least one more child in Pleasant Valley, a girl named Jane, who presumably did not survive.  And the fate of Robert Greer remains unknown.  We only know that by the time the Greer's migrated to Michigan in the early 1830s, Nancy was married to Thomas Gillespie, thought to be a cousin.

Of the four children arriving with James and Jane, only two survived, namely John and Eliza, as these were the two children naturalized with their parents in 1821.  It occurs to me it is also possible that the family brought over children from other Greer families in Ireland who were not necessarily their own, accounting for the other two children.  It's a possibility.  In any case, this couple had at least four more children in New York before making the trek to Michigan.

I am adding an article with more details in the library on my website, called Greer Arrival in America.  I welcome feedback and discussion.