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!