Tuesday, November 12, 2013

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!


  1. I've been reviewing the research from this topic, and now think it more likely that Mr. Diffin is related to Thomas Gillespie of Ennislare, and we are related more directly to Thomas Gillespie of Cavanacaw. See the 2018 research update in the library on my website. I do still think these two Thomas Gillespie's were related bcs of the Diffin connections we found in Quebec.

  2. We found a 1784 newspaper clipping which reported that Mary, wife of John Gillespie of Innislare, had eloped. Here is what that meant:

    Elopements: A husband would announce that his wife had absconded and disclaim all responsibility for any debts she might contract.

    Did Mary come back or did John Gillespie remarry? So far, we just don't know the answer to those questions.