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 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.