Sunday, 4 January 2015

Useful records for Islandmagee in Co. Antrim

The following is a post from my other blog, first published in September 2013:

Useful records from Islandmagee

I managed to make another visit over to PRONI ( in Belfast last week. As a part of my trip I managed to spend a bit of time looking into several resources for two of my ancestral lines in Islandmagee, the Gordon and Montgomery families. Islandmagee suffers from a lack of Anglican church records, due to the Four Courts fire of 1922, but if anybody tells you that no records exist for Ireland, poke them in the eye and tell them to catch themselves on!

My three times great grandfather was Robert Montgomery, a blacksmith, and son of John Montgomery of the townland of Dundressan, a farmer. Robert married Jane Gordon, daughter of a labourer called David Gordon, on October 22nd 1863. I managed to identify a few months back that David resided in Brown's Bay, but was also connected to a family of Gordons in the townlands of Kilcoan Mor and Kilcoan Beg (big Kilcoan and wee Kilcoan!). A bit more digging also revealed that Robert Montgomery had a brother called Hugh Montgomery, who was also a blacksmith, and also based at Brown's Bay. A search on the PRONI online catalogue turned up an interesting possible find under D4014/2 - an account book with details of jobs undertaken by Hugh Montgomery, blacksmith of Islandmagee, between 1858 and 1875. If this was my Hugh, this seemed to imply that the smithy operation was Hugh's and that perhaps Robert worked for him, or with him, before he relocated to Ballycarry after his marriage and then to Belfast by 1866, where he became a clerk and later a merchant seaman (there's a saying that everyone on Islandmagee was either a farmer or a sailor!).

I ordered up Hugh's accounts on the off chance that it might provide some kind of useful genealogical information. On that front it failed, other than to confirm that it was indeed Hugh in Brown's Bay - but from a family history point of view it revealed a great deal of information on the type of work carried out by a rurally based blacksmith in Co. Antrim.

The first thing it did was to provide a sense of the clients engaging his services. The document at PRONI is in fact a photocopy of the original, still in private hands. Hugh kept regular ongoing accounts for work carried out for the following people on the peninsula, reckoned every three months, though some paid up half yearly or on an annual basis:

Mr. Hugh Holmes of Islandmagee: May 1858 - Jan 1872 (no listing in Griffiths Valuation 1861 in Islandmagee)
Mr. Thomas Holmes of Islandmagee: June 1869 - May 1873 (Griffiths Valuation 1861 has a Thomas Holmes at Ballycronan More)
Mr. Nathaneal Holmes of Islandmagee: Nov 1858 - Jan 1873 (noted as being at Ballyboley in Jan 1873; Griffiths Valuation in 1861 has him at Ballylumford)
Mr. Samuel Smiley of Islandmagee: Dec 1867 - 1872 (possibly that based in Townparks, Larne, in Griffiths Valuation 1861)
Mr. Robert Smiley of Islandmagee: Jun 1859 - Sep 1867 (one entry at Ballylumford in Griffiths Valuation 1861, another at Mullaghboy)
Mr. Robert Davidson of Islandmagee: Dec 1870 - Jan 1875 (no listing in Islandmagee in Griffiths Valuation 1861)
Mr. Robert Farries of Islandmagee: May 1861 - June 1870 (listed as Robert Ferris in Ballylumford in Griffiths Valuation 1861)
Mr. Thomas Bell of Islandmagee: July 1864 (no listing in Islandmagee in Griffiths Valuation 1861)
Mr. John Bell of Islandmagee: July 1864 - Jan 1865 (no listing in Islandmagee in Griffiths Valuation 1861)
Mr. David English of Brown's Bay, Islandmagee: May 1859 - May 1864 (there's a David English based at Ballylumford in Griffiths Valuation 1861, another entry at Ballycronan Beg, where Brown's Bay was based)
George Hickenson of Islandmagee: Jun 1861 - Mar 1865 (annual accounts; no listing in Islandmagee in Griffiths Valuation 1861))
Miss Dondleson of Islandmagee: Oct 1858 - May 1865 (there is both an Anne and an Eliza Donaldson at Ballycronan More in the 1861 Griffiths Valuation, the townland next to Ballycronan More, which contains Brown's Bay, likely to be one of them)

A typical example of the work undertaken by Hugh Montgomery is as follows, from the accounts for Hugh Holmes from December 17th 1868 to February 27th 1869:

Dec 17; 1 shovel repaired 3d
Dec 17; 1 shoe repaired and driven 2 1/2 d
Dec 19; 1 remove of mine repaired and driven 3d
Dec 30; 2 shoes made of my stuff and driven 1s 3d
Jan 1; 2 shoes made 1 of my stuff and 2 driven 11 1/2 d
Jan 5; 2 shoes made 1 of my stuff and 2 driven 11 ½ d
Jan 21; 1 shoe repaired and driven 2 ½ d
Jan 26; 2 pair of tongs repaired 8d
Jan 27; 1 set of plough irons repaired 9d
Feb 1; 2 shoes made of my stuff and driven 1s 2d
Feb 3; 1 plough laid of my stuff mouldboard put on 3s 6d
Feb 11; 1 pair of boots repaired and brook repaired 4d
Feb 16; 1 shoe driven 2d
Feb 16; 1 set of plough irons laid and steeled 2s 4d
Feb 19; 1 shoe driven and C (E?) shook made 3d
Feb 23; 2 shoes 1 remove of mine and 2 driven 5d
Feb 27; 2 shoes made 1 of my stuff and 2 driven 10d

A fascinating glimpse into his lifestyle, and almost certainly by default that of my direct ancestor Robert Montgomery.

The next useful set of records were the school registers for Kilcoan Primary School, on microfilm at MIC15H/6, which provided some more useful information. In particular I found a Robert Gordon from Browns Bay who was found to have signed up aged 11 in April 1874, and another Robert Gordon from Millbay aged 8 1/2 in 1862, and who was stated to have left the school to go to the Model Primary School in nearby Carrickfergus - my old primary school! There was additional evidence of an Ephraim and Thomas Gordon, both from Brown's Bay, who obviously fit in somewhere also.

The final document I looked at was a map dated circa 1850 depicting the townlands of Kilcoan More and Kilcoan Beg (D1954/6/68). On this each plot of land was identified with its tenants, conclusively listing my Gordon family in both townlands at that time.

If you haven't had a look at the PRONI catalogue, get cracking...!


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  1. Hi, found your page interesting. I am at present trying to complete a family tree for the gordons in Islandmagee and district.My father Thomas Gordon was born in 1876, he was 69 when I was born. Family Christian names for us are Campbell, Ephraim,Thomas,Jennie and Robert.I am thinking of going to the proni office as it is very expensive to search on line when you have few details. My father Thomaswho lived in browns bay,had brothers Robert born 1964, Ephraim born 1870 Campbell borm 1868 and sister Jemima born 1865.

  2. Believe it or not, I was literally looking at a lot of these Gordon records two nights ago on! My own Gordon ancestry in Islandmagee, as currently known, is at - however, I have some new details from Donald Dixon's History of Islandmagee that mentions the presence there of James Trail Gordon, schoolmaster, in the early 19th C, which I need to look into. It cites the schoolmaster as having had four sons, including a John Gordon of Carspindle, none of whom were in Islandmagee upon the book's publication in 1927. Can you drop me an email at chrismpaton @ ? Thanks! Chris