Sunday, January 23, 2011

No success like failure

I recently stumbled across a new clue to where “our” Jacksons may have come from, one that had been staring me in the face for at least the past five years. It was one of those pieces of data that I had blithely walked on past, and never given a second look. When it did finally jump out at me, I thought at first that it would be a no-brainer to connect the Jacksons from Co. Wicklow and Co. Wexford with the Jacksons of Urker, Co. Armagh.

After all, hadn’t I just gathered tons of new data in my latest Ireland trip? Surely some of it would stick, cohere, and make a complete picture.

Unfortunately, to quote Bob Dylan: There’s no success like failure/ And failure’s no success at all.  But stick with me – in spite of my current and hopefully temporary failure - the trip may still be worth it.

Here is the start of it all: In 1807, in the Creggan Parish Registers, there is a record of two Jackson marriages: John Jackson on August 12th, and William Jackson on August 13th. So far, there is no known link between them and my earliest known Creggan Jackson who was named George (1718-1782). I had always wondered if these two men might perhaps be related to old George, but hadn’t known where to look next.

Let’s pause here for a moment, and look at the Registry entry for these two marriages:

Jackson, John of the Parish of Creggan  married to Jones, Anne  of Agbold, Co. Wicklow 1807, Aug 12, in the presence of William JOHNSTON of Clough, Wexford & John JONES, Union of Ferms, Wexford.

Jackson, Wm. Of Clough, Co. Wexford , married to Mason, Mary  of Union of Kilmore, Co. Wexford, 1807, Aug 13 , in the presence of William JOHNSTON of Clough, Wexford & John JONES, Union of Ferms, Wexford.

The thing that finally rang my chimes was that the exact same notice appears in the Glenealy Church of Ireland, Co. Wicklow.  What’s that about? From there, it was a short hop, skip and a jump to wondering how these Wicklow based men and women came to Creggan, and also how they might fit with the old family story about the Jacksons having lands in Co Carlow. Another story also comes to mind in this context, the one about George’s eldest son, David who 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.  

I quickly determined where the church at Glenealy was, where Clough was, and how close they were to Mount Leinster. Proximity matters because country borders are not a hermetic seal keeping one lot of people from comingling with another lot from a neighbouring country – even before the invention of the bicycle.  I already knew that both Wicklow and Wexford had a gazillion of inter-connections with other known Jackson lines in Co. Carlow in the 18th C. The plot thickened when I remembered – actually, I remembered once again, because I often forget half of what I know - that Mount Leinster is on the border between Co. Carlow and Co. Wexford.
Clough is just slightly southeast of Davidstown - where several Jacksons lived.

When I look back over the past several hundred years, two things often strike me about our Jacksons. Firstly, that most of them bred like rabbits – ten in a family was not unusual - and then, as the old joke about Paul Revere has it, they galloped off in all directions. In fact, they ended up in pretty much every county of Ireland at one time or another.

So, what to do? Where to look next?

I started by transcribing great swats of the material that I had just brought home with me from my recent foray to Ireland: deeds, church memorials, legal cases, and grave markers – the usual enchilada. While doing it, I kept my eyes open for possible cousin links. When people in our families intermarried in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, first cousins married other first cousins, not once but repeatedly, at least until the invention of the bicycle widened the pool of potential suitors.

Next, I looked at various professions. I have learned that when I see two goldsmith Jacksons, for example, they are most likely to be related. Not that ours were goldsmiths. They were more likely to be tanners, merchants, or farmers. The connections between farmers who share a family name can be more difficult to track, simply because it was such a common profession, but the connections can be found, more often than not.

So far, this is where I am at. I have posted a new set of tables of Grave Markers that mention JACKSONs, as well as several pages of deeds mentioning Jacksons connected to Wexford and Wicklow. I still have to post the Wexford page – but check out What’s New in the next few days and it should appear.  I have also updated the Creggan Parish Register notes, adding dozens of new records and flagging the other JACKSONs who may be worth looking at more closely.

There is the expression – so far, no cigar – and regrettably, after all this work, my cigar box is still open and empty, even with the addition of more than 40 pages of data. Perhaps, as before, the answer is staring me in the face and I am continuing to miss it.

So, here I am, not far off from the Dylan song that I started with:

People talk of situations
Read books, repeat quotations
Draw conclusions on the wall
She knows there’s no success like failure
And that failure’s no success at all
From Love Minus Zero/ No Limit

But I’ll keep at it – I promise – that is, unless some kind reader deduces what this all means, and hands it to me on a silver platter – or even an email. That would do.

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