Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Mysterious Dundalk Cousin

On my recent trip to Ireland, I photographed 2, 439 pages of documents and/or archival photos. This may sound excessive, and perhaps it is, but when I can only be there for a short time, I never know what is going to be the clue that will open new doors. The worst thing is getting home to Canada and thinking, Rats, I should have captured that– which happens anyway, even after 2,439 clicks of the shutter.

This time, one of my more intriguing clues was in a most unlikely bit of paper, no more than four inches by six and containing only forty nine words. It was an undated letter of congratulations sent to Thomas Jackson, likely at the time of his being knighted in 1899. Aside from the name of the author, there were two words that made me stop and think twice: cousin and Dundalk.

The name of the sender, J. W. Jackson, was a name that I had encountered before in one of Eliza Jackson’s letters, where she mentioned: I had another letter from England. John W. Jackson’s foot is not yet so well that he can wear a boot. I sent him the remaining two pounds today.

Until now, I had no a clue about who this man was, but now I knew that he regarded himself as a cousin, and he also had a enough of a connection to the family that they would be helping him out in hard times. It may still turn out that his is not a blood relationship, since cousin can sometimes relate to merely a felt relationship, but in this case, my radar is on full alert.

The next step, seeing how JW fits as a Jackson cousin is easier said than done. As it stands right now, it is impossible for this cousin connection to be more recent than three generations earlier. Sir Thomas’s father had only sisters, as did his grandfather, and most of the issue of these sisters is accounted for, and none of them seem to have married another Jackson. The closest generation where there is a possibility for this cousin link lies with Sir Thomas’s Great-grandparents: George Jackson (1718-1782) & Margaret O’Laughlin (abt 1720-). That’s a long way back.

So, on to my next question: where to look for clues? George and Margaret had two other sons: John and George, and the cousin relationship might begin with the offspring of their sons, if they had any. The record, so far, is silent on that score, but I’ll keep looking. Also, there are two other Jackson men whose marriages were recorded at Creggan in the summer of 1807, who are worth a second look, but that part of the story is complex enough that I will address it in my next blog. It involves connections with both Wexford & Wicklow. Stay tuned.

When I sent a query about JW to a Jackson rootsweb list, John McAnally rose to the challenge, and spent hours trolling through British census records in an attempt to answer my questions. Although the most likely JW Jackson was born in England, his widowed mother, Alice, was born in Ireland – at least according to the 1891 census. JW’s wife Jane was also born there.

So, here is a farfetched bit. I have a picture of a Mrs. Jackson of Dublin with a daughter who is possibly about six years old, named Janie. Is it possible that John W Jackson’s wife, Jane, was another Jackson? It would be most interesting to find a marriage certificate for both JW and his parents. A likely date for JW’s marriage would be around a year before the birth of the first child, hence 1881, and a likely place would be Dundalk. That work still needs doing, unless someone already has it at their fingertips.

In the meantime, I have tried to match the English census findings with the records of any known Jacksons from Dundalk, but so far no cigar. The 1901 Irish census turns up three Jackson families, one of them Church of Ireland and the other two Roman Catholic. If these were horses and I was laying a bet, I would put my money on the Church of Ireland family being the link. Although, I could be wrong. In the 1666 religious census, there were two Jacksons in the area: an Owen Jackson, described as a papist, and a Richard Jackson, described as a protestant. It is not impossible that we may find that the two men were related by more than simple geography.

If I step back a bit, and look at other Jacksons in Co. Louth noted in the 1901 census, there were also three other Jackson families living in Drogheda, all catholic, and one of them living at St. Laurence Gate, near where the Jacksons of the late 1600s lived. Hmm.

Drogheda is a significant place of interest when it comes to nailing down our pre-1700s Jacksons. We do know that Sir Thomas’s family had enough of a connection to Drogheda that old George paid to have the Jackson family crest mounted on the City Hall. In the early 1700s, the Jacksons who lived there were men who served as aldermen, and one was a mayor. This makes me wonder if these Drogheda Jacksons connect in any way to the Urker Jacksons and the Jacksons of Dundalk.

With respect to other Jacksons in the 1901 census living in Co. Louth, there were two Jackson women working as laundry maids and domestic servants, one of whom was born in Co. Wicklow and the other in Co. Carlow. What took them to Castlebellingham? Was family nearby? One was a widow, and the other might have been her daughter. It is the Carlow and Wicklow connections that made me prick up my ears, but more of that on another day.

For now, I have posted the letter from J. W. Jackson, as well as the pertinent English census records. I have also cobbled together a page on the Dundalk Jacksons, as well as a couple of pages on the JACKSONs who show up in both the 1901 census and the 1911 census.

If anyone has more on any of these Jacksons of Dundalk, I am all ears. Now, I really must get on to the Co. Wicklow lot.

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