Thursday, May 10, 2018

Origin Stories - Four versions

On this trip to Ireland – as on several previous trips – I feel that I have morphed into a character who is halfway between Sancho Panzo and Don Quixote. I may still be titling at windmills, but at least the company that I meet along the way is excellent. So are the sights and sounds and the tales that are told – regardless of whether or not they will all turn out to be true.

One of my quests continues to be to find the land in Co. Carlow that my Jackson ancestors were supposedly granted in Elizabethan times. I benefit from the work of my ancestors, some starting as early as the late 1700s, who have trod this path before me. Thanks to the resources of the internet and new databases but also thanks to email connections to other like-minded researchers, I can add to their work. One significant disadvantage for all of us is that all the leases and other pertinent documents which had been held for safe-keeping in the Irish Public Records Office in Dublin went up in flames in 1922. Our second disadvantage is that only a few of the notes and letters from these ancestors still remain. Partly, this has happened because sometime before 1796, thanks to the understandable but rash actions of Margaret Bradford (1739-1820), a significant number of deeds which might have unraveled this puzzle were tossed into the fireplace. Were it not for the interest in family history of Eliza Oliver (1814-1903), Margaret Bradford's grand-daughter-in-law, and several of Eliza’s daughters and grand-daughters, there would not have been much to tell.

Four Generations in 1899 - with Eliza Oliver on the left. The baby is Dr. Eileen Oliver Bartley - the author of one of these histories.
Thanks to Eliza, we now have at least three versions of the supposed family origins. Two of them were recorded by her grand-daughters, Amy Oliver Jackson (1874-1962) and Sarah Margaret “Blin” Brown (1886-1963), and one by one of her grand-daughters, Dr. Eileen Oliver Bartley (1898-1984). There is also the family archive at Gilford Castle assembled by another grand-daughter, Mary Menary (1872-1946). I am only the most recent of Eliza’s successors – one of her great-great-grand-daughters.

Mary Menary in Hong Kong. She and James Francis Wright married in 1902
In the early 1900s, Amy Oliver Jackson (1872-1941) focused on writing down her family history and even paid a professional researcher. It helps that she was a daughter of Sir Thomas Jackson (1841-1915) and therefore had enough time and money for the task at hand. I continue to put a lot of faith in her work.

Amy Oliver Jackson (1874-1962) - as a young and curious child. Her twin, Edith Bradford Jackson, died at 3 months of age. NOTE: I am in Ireland right now, and will add a more appropriate photo when I am back home and have better access to my photo archives.
One of Amy’s versions begins with following (the bolding is my emphasis):

The Jacksons came from Northamptonshire and went to Ireland in Elizabeth's reign, and were given grants of land in Co. Carlow (N. Leinster) for distinguished service in the Army.
George Jackson lost all his property - he went over to Bath and became engaged to an English lady, the daughter of an earl, who refused to live in Ireland. He returned to raise money by selling his life interest in the property, and then found that the lady had jilted him and married another. He went to France and squandered all his fortune. He then returned to Ireland and was glad to get the post of school- master in the Charter School, Creggan, Co. Armagh.
He married Margaret McLaughlin in 1755 and lived in Liscalgot, Co. Armagh and had 3 sons and 7 daughters. His eldest son David, married Margaret Bradford, a violent tempered red- haired woman, who, disgusted at the money being spent to get back the Mt. Leinster property, burnt all the Title Deeds. They lived at Urker, bought in 1760, and had 2 sons and 3 daughters.
NOTE: One probable correction - The records of Clogher Parish indicate a marriage between a George Jackson and a Margaret McLoughlin in 1743. This is a better fit with the suspected ages of their children than a marriage in 1755. There is also the possibility that Margaret McLoughlin was George’s 2nd wife. George Jackson had already been hired as a schoolmaster in 1737. It would have been most unusual for him to not to be already married.

A second version adds a bit of colour to exactly how the lands were lost:

My Father came of an English family, one of whom went to Ireland as an officer in the Army in Queen Elizabeth's reign - was given a grant of land in County Cavan - in about 1750 the then owner [George Jackson the schoolmaster] played ducks and drakes with his fortunes - lost everything and eventually came to the North of Ireland - got a post as schoolmaster.

In the first version, Amy also includes an advertisement for Mount Leinster Lodge. Did she think that this property had once belonged to Jackson’s? Perhaps it had.

Carlow -Mount Leinster Lodge to be let. Furnished for one, two or three years . Drawing room, Dining room, spacious Hall, 6 Bedrooms, 2 Dressing rooms. 4 Servants' rooms, Servants' Hall. Housekeeper's room. Laundry, Dairy, Stabling for 8 horses. Coach house, harness room etc. Good stocked garden. One to 80 acres of land. 7 miles from Bagenalstown -4 from Borris Railway Station. Tenant could get permission to shoot on 4 thousand acres - grouse, partridge, snipe. Good trout fishing. Apply A. FitzMaurice, Esq., Carlow. August 11th, 1874.

Even if this property was once in the hands of the Jacksons, I have yet to find the deeds that could prove it. They may still be out there. Part of our oral history is that a few months after Margaret Bradford threw her husband’s cherished deeds into the fireplace, a man from Cork showed up with the other half of the deeds. The proof. This fits with a known practice at the time whereby two parties to a lease would each hold one half of the deed. A sale could not occur until both halves of the deeds could be fitted together. For future searches of these lost deeds, it helps to know that Mount Leinster Lodge was in the townland of Raheenkyle, in the Parish of Kiltennell. At the time of the advertisement saved by Amy, Mount Leinster Lodge, County Carlow was owned by Philip Charles Newton. 

Representative view
Reg. No.
1835 - 1845
Previous Name
County Carlow
279979, 153287
Categories of Special Interest
Original Use
country house
In Use As
country house
Detached four-bay two-storey Tudor Revival house with half-dormer attic, c. 1840, on an asymmetrical plan with granite ashlar fa├žade having carved stone dressings including mullioned bay and oriel windows and gables. Designed by Daniel Robertson. Part reroofed and refenestrated, c. 1970. Interior retains some original features including granite staircase.

The second version of the family origins that I have was compiled by Amy’s first cousin and contemporary - Sarah Margaret “Blin” Brown (1866-1963). She wrote to one of her cousins in 1938 about the experience of trying to nail down her family history (not that I know what a flee bedder is):

For the past few days I have been like Alfred Waddell, up a tree, sir, but in my case its the family one, & gosh! it has been a 'flee bedder' in its time!! 

I met Blin in about 1950 when our family stayed with her at our family farm at Killynure in Co. Armagh. Unfortunately, I was only four or five years old and recall little.
Blin Brown’s version differs in one respect from Amy’s (again, the highlighting is mine):

The Jacksons came to Ireland with Cromwell (or so grandfather [David Jackson (1814-1889)– husband of Eliza Oliver] believed) & were given large grants of land in Co. Carlow & Kilkenny called Mount Leinster, [Borris].  This estate was entailed.  George Jackson sold out his interest in it & years afterwards came to Creggan to teach the Charter Schools.
NOTE: If the Jackson’s supposed property was either close to or straddled the border with Co.  Kilkenny, then the property would be near the south-western side of Co. Carlow. Since the townland of Raheenkyle is in the Parish of Kiltennell [not Borris], it fits the bill when it comes to the supposed location. John Grenham has a useful post on resources for this parish.

Map of Raheenkyle from Edited by myself.
The third version that I have of the origins of the Jacksons was compiled by Gika Jackson – the widow of Ernest Gilmore Jackson (1927-1996). She lives in England and hosted me at her home in 2003.

Gika and I were at the Stanstead graveyard - preparing to photograph the grave of Sir Thomas Jackson.
Gika based her version on the research done by Dr. Eileen Oliver Bartley (1898-1984), a great-grand-daughter of Eliza Oliver. Eileen was a first cousin once removed of Amy Oliver Jackson and Blin Brown. She would have known both women. This version is more exact about the date when the Mount Leinster Estate was supposedly sold, although no source is given:

The ancestor of this family came from Co. York in Cromwell's army and was granted lands in Co. Carlow for his services. This estate called Mount Leinster was sold in 1745 by his descendant, George Jackson who settled at Urker, Crossmaglen, Co. Armagh.

The curious aspect to all of these versions lies in what is not mentioned. It is not unlike Sir Arthur Conon Doyle’s story of Silver Blaze and the case of a missing racehorse:

Gregory (Scotland Yard detective): "Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"
Holmes: "To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."
Gregory: "The dog did nothing in the night-time."
Holmes: "That was the curious incident."

With this in mind, why do all these versions of our family history fail to include any mention of the Jacksons of Kirkby Lonsdale? The latter had settled in Coleraine in the mid-1600s and then later in Dublin and Forkhill. There are more than enough smoking guns of evidence which connect the two families. This and other related questions deserve to be dealt with in a separate post. Soon.

Monday, April 23, 2018

I'm Back!

For more than a year, I didn't upload any new posts to my blog site. Instead, I spent most of my available time transcribing and uploading hundreds and hundreds of pages of raw data to: The Silver Bowl. Before arriving in Dublin, where I am right now - overlooking St. Patrick's Cathedral, I also took several months to get somewhat fit. As the BC Lotteries Commission advises us (and as my daughters and husband kindly remind me - with great frequency): Know your limit - Play within it.

New gym created at Roberts Creek Coho -  a happening place. Photo Credit: Lee Carter.
I focused on weight training so that I would be able to heft the 20-40-pound  parchment volumes of deeds known – for good reason – as tombstones. As it turns out, hefting tombstones was not needed this time round, although given my 54-pound suitcase, a 20-pound back pack and a 10-pound bag, my new-found strength came in handy as I hauled it all up four flights of stairs to get to my Air BnB. In defense of my habitual pack-horse idiocy, I will point out that I do travel with various gifts and food. After all, there are books that I need to give to people. Plus, how can one live without kick-ass olive oil, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup and two kinds of miso?

Anyway, back to what matters. Now that most of the Registry of Deeds documents are on line, and there is no need to heft tombstones, I will simply carry on on from where I left off after last year’s research trip. I now wish that I had added another week to my stay in Dublin. I always forget how many days it takes before jet lag stops nibbling at me. Now, I have only four days left in this city before I return for a last hurrah near the end of May.

In the posts to follow, there will some breaking news with respect to the many lines of Jacksons who sport sheldrakes in their family crests. This is of more consequence than might be apparent at first blush. In other posts, I will take readers with me as I baby-step forward like a child playing Go-Go-Stop. Several steps forward, and then back to the starting line. This is the nature of this quest. Hopefully you will not have to wait another year to learn more because - yes - I do intend to write about it, and yes, I will then post it all here. 

Echoing Seamus Heaney, these blog posts are part of my way of digging with a pen.

Digging by Seamus Heaney - engraved on a wall in Dublin - transcription beneath.
The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.
Between my finger and my thumb

The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.