Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Research update from Dublin - #1

This will be my first full day of digging into archives. If you look at my starting blog, it explains why I am so ridiculously obsessed with trying to suss out the: who, what, when, where and whys of the life of Sir Thomas Jackson and his family from the southern part of County Armagh. So I’ll just continue on from there....

In 1849 when Thomas was eight years old, his father held a lease for about 130 acres at Aghavilla, Parish of Carrigallen, Co. Leitrim. It had been his farm for at least a decade. It was also where his first four children were born. Six years later, the land was owned by a La Touche and the lease was held by someone called Rorke. The Jacksons had disappeared into thin air. What happened? Was the farm sold or seized? And why? It was a time when various Jackson family members and friends had been either murdered or at least seriously threatened. Was this part of it? It was also just after the famine and at the time when the bailiff had seized the Jacksons cows for failure to pay rent. Hmmm.

Next question.  Glengarriff, Co. Cork. This is where Sir Thomas’ daughter Dorothy lived - at least from 1929 until her death in 1964. Was it because her partner Dorothy Fitch had a connection to the land or did Dorothy Jackson herself have a connection to it? Would it have been through the JACKSON family, or maybe even the SKUCEs who crop up around there and married into the JACKSONS? Or was the fact of both Dorothys living there just a result of pure blind chance?

Glengarriff Co. Cork is not the first place that springs to mind when wondering about where a young lesbian might choose to settle in the 1920s. But Dorothy Jackson did and also seemed to flourish there. Her life time partner living with her was another Dorothy, but some time before that her love interest had been a sculptor connected with the Bloomsbury group. Certainly, it seemed that our Dorothy moved in interesting circles. When she died in 1964, she was so well loved by local Catholics and Protestants that a set of Catholic pallbearers carried her coffin to the door of the church and then handed her over to the Protestant pallbearers for the Protestant service. In Cork. Yes.

Because I haven’t a clue what drew Dorothy there, I wonder is there any chance that Glengarriff was connected with some of the land that the JACKSONs had held leases to several centuries earlier. Sometime in the late 1700s - a month after Margaret Bradford had tossed a great swat of family deeds into the fire in a fit of pique - a “man from Cork” showed up with a complementary set of deeds. According to family lore, if Margaret had not burned the first set of deeds, her husband might have won some legal case and regained the leases to the lands that his grandfather had lost in a game of cards in the mid 1700s. Goodness knows who that man from Cork might have been.

And then there are the OLIVERs, the family name of Sir Thomas’ mother. Ah, yes the OLIVERs. You know, there are a few surnames that one should never have. Brown, for example, My own surname is shared with so many millions of others that it is a nightmare trying to locate ancestors unless I already have a great fistful of facts in hand. In which case, I wouldn't even need to look, would I? OLIVERs can be like that too. Apparently, our OLIVERs were Huguenots. Since there were thousands of OLIVERs in Ireland in the 17th century, the next question is: did they come directly to Ireland when Huguenots were being slaughtered left right and centre in France, or did they come to Ireland through England (Spittlefields?) or even through Scotland? I sure wish to heck that I knew.

Oh, well..... there is nothing for it but rolling up my sleeves and burning the midnight oil until I figure it all out. Or not. I will report back in a few weeks. That is, unless I get arrested for lunacy.

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