Thursday, December 30, 2010

Blogs and Research

On Boxing Day, I was yack-a-doodling with one of my brothers as we lolled on the ferry on the way home from our niece’s house in West Vancouver.

I did check out your blog, he said.
You’re not going to put any of that boring stuff in your book are you – all those graves and stuff? What I like to read is a story

Good. I have no intention of shoehorning scads of data into either my blog or my book. The point of writing The Silver Bowl is to tell a rocking good story –one that the reader can’t put down. At the same time, it will be based on rigorously researched facts. The documents that support these facts will continue to be available at The Silver Bowl. That being said, while I was recently travelling in Ireland I did post a couple of research blogs, the ones that understandably bored my brother to pieces. Interestingly, those postings had the largest number of readers of any of my blogs. Clearly, there are lots of us out there working on this kind of material.

Here’s my New Years pledge: I plan to have the first draft of my book finished by the end of 2011. Huzzah! As for the blog, my plan is to keep it light, tell the stories of what I am working on, and connect other researchers to the more arcane bits on my web site. That’s what hyperlinks are good for. Easy to use. Easy to ignore.

One of my most significant finds on this recent trip to Ireland was Mary Cumiskey and her book Creggan Charter School 1737-1811. I will review it in a future blog, but for now the game-changer for me had to do with her mention that in 1739, the schoolmaster George Jackson (1718-1782) ordered turf and cows for the school from his father.

Why would that mean anything much? Well, I still do not know who George Jackson’s father was, although there are strong hints about who his ancestors may have been - at least if we can close our eyes and jump back a generation or three to Coleraine, or Drogheda, or Carlow.

Cumiskey’s reference to George’s father, which she gleaned from church records, would seem to indicate that he owned a farm close to the school that old George ran in Liscalgot, Creggan Parish, Co. Armagh in the mid-1700s. It had to be close enough that it would pay to select a few cattle and then herd them over to the school. Let’s say, a 5 mile radius.

This thought led to me take a more serious look at the Jacksons connected to Tullyvallen in Co. Armagh. Who were they and where did they come from?

Tullyvallen is a townland in the parish of Newtownhamilton, in the southern part of County Armagh. Townland records are really useful for tracking down ancestors in Ireland. They date back a thousand years and usually include enough land to be a meaningful economic unit, which means that the larger ones tend to have soil that is rocky and thin, while the smaller ones have loam deep enough to reach half-way to China.

These townlands were leased by landlords to farmers of various ilk. Our lot seemed to be doing well enough that they had a roof over their heads, a few cattle and horses, sheds to house feed, and were often also running mills, tan yards or other such enterprises on the side.

Today, a vertically integrated enterprise usually refers to a business that owns everything that is part of the supply chain for the finished product of the main business. In Ireland in the 1700s, it often meant that the old man had the farm, while one son might run a tan yard, another a mill, another a chandlery – making candles from the fat of the land, so to speak, and so on. And of course, if you were really successful, then you posted other family members at ports to handle the export side of the trade. If you had your act together and luck was on your side, you might rise like cream to the top, and eventually get tagged as an Esq., or even a Gent.

Given that, Tullyvallen was not a bad place to hang your hat – especially if you were a farmer with sons. There is a great description of part of it in The Belfast Newsletter in 1747:

... Tullyvallen, in the Barony of Fews, and County of Armagh, lying on the great road leading from Armagh to Dublin by Dundalk, the estate of Alexander Hamilton Esq.; within 8 miles of Armagh, eight of Newry, 11 of Dundalk and four of Castleblaney, all good market towns, and on which lands of Tullyvallen is held a market every Saturday. On each of said farms there is plenty of good meadow and turf; a large river runs through the middle of said lands and never wants water sufficient to turn many Mills, with many places very proper for bleaching greens, and a fall of 180 feet in less than 2 miles, and places where mill ponds may be easily made. By the great plenty of turf, water, bog, timber for building, and meadow, the linen manufacturing and distilling may be carried on as cheap as in any part of Ireland ...

Linen manufacturing, farming and a distillery – what’s not to like? The farmers who held the sub-leases to this part of Tullyvallen would likely have had much in common – at least economically - with the Jacksons of Urker and Liscalgot.

Like some of them, David Jackson (1743-1796), son of schoolmaster George, was a farmer and Malster – according to his will - and held the leases for a number of townlands, one of which included the rights to a mill at Cashill aka Cashell, a townland in the adjacent parish of Forkhill. With respect to Tullyvallen, it is also worth noting that a David & Sarah Jackson leased about 250 acres in Tullyvallen in the mid 1600s.

All this is a roundabout way of me letting you know that I have assembled two new postings for my web site. The first is about a dozen pages in length and includes all that I know of Jackson-related links to Tullyvallen. The second posting is an attempt to construct some family trees around these folk. These trees are only a few generations long and I have had to make educated guesses about several dates of birth. Still, I think that they may open doors for some of us.

Take it all with a grain of salt, but I’d love to hear from you if you have anything to add or correct. Soon, I will revisit the Forkhill Jacksons and also look again at the Jackson connections to Carlow. More soon.

No comments:

Post a Comment