Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Inching Towards Kildare

Last fall, two retired military officers of the King’s Own Royal Regiment met at a regimental dinner somewhere in England. Weeks later my brain went into total overdrive. The connection was somewhat akin to how a butterfly can flap its wings and halfway around the world, a major shift in consciousness results. 

Okay, maybe it wasn’t quite on that scale, but it did feel akin to that.

One of these men was retired Major Pat Roberts, a grandson of Amy Oliver Jackson, and hence a great-grandson of Sir Thomas Jackson. The other was retired Major John Jackson. One of his ancestors, a man who may have been related to Sir Thomas, was a Thomas Jackson of Co. Kildare, one of King Billy’s men, who supposedly met his end by falling off his horse in 1690 at the Battle of the Boyne.

My link with these two retired army men is my obsession with Jackson research and more recently with Co. Kildare. Unfortunately, what I know about Co. Kildare could be poured into a thimble without any risk of its ever overflowing. This is too bad because Co. Kildare is also the epicentre of one of the remaining unanswered questions that I have concerning Sir Thomas: Did he have a farm in Co. Kildare, and if he did, where was it?

This is not just an idle question. We do know that Sir Thomas (1841-1915) hired Patrick Lynch (1832-1913) to be his farm manager at Cavananore in the early 1890s. We also know that this Patrick Lynch, who was born in Co. Kildare, was a widower, and arrived to work the Cavananore farm with his son, also named Patrick. The story goes one step further and that’s the part that I can’t yet prove: Patrick Lynch had been running a farm belonging to Sir Thomas which was down in Co. Kildare.

There are many lines of Jacksons in Ireland. Some of these Jacksons were Quaker farmers; some were members of the upper crust and were known to be landlords, legislators and such; while others were known to have been shipped out of the country as a consequence of their seditious acts in the late 1790s. Some individuals with the surname of Jackson were guilty of all three of the above. It seems pretty clear from the surviving family letters written to Sir Thomas that his mother knew a whole lot more about which line of Jacksons was theirs than I do.

Depending on how the family history shakes down, it is possible that Sir Thomas’s rise from being the son of a marginal, gentleman farmer to becoming a baronet was regarded as a redressing of past misfortunes. On the other hand, if his Jacksons had never been anything more than modestly successful farmers, his knighting may have been regarded as a stroke of either blind luck, or divine intervention.

A few days after the two retired majors had chewed over their family connections, I received an email with ten generations of the Kildare Jackson’s family tree included. It had been assembled by Archdeacon James Marcus Neville Jackson of Toronto, who was an uncle of Major John Jackson. This tree was a darned good start.  It made me scrutinize all the locations where these Kildare Jacksons had either lived or held leases in the hope that one of them would lead to Sir Thomas’ farm.

I used our pool table to lay out all the maps I needed to make sense of this.
Since the mid 1600s, Jacksons have had roots in townlands such as Ballynagussane, in baronies with names such as Narragh and Reban East. These names do not trip lightly off the tongue of people like myself, a Canadian living on the west coast. Then again, we are quite at home with names such as Skookumchuck, so there you go. The Irish townland names have a rich complex history that goes back and forth between the two languages: Irish and English, much of which can be explored at the Placenames Database of Ireland .

The lands of Athgarvan and Kennagh are two of the townlands that these Kildare Jacksons were supposedly granted for services under William III. Sometime afterwards, they built the Stone House of Monistrevan aka Monastereven.  Not that I know anything about The Stone House, but just because this is merely a story, doesn’t mean that it either is or isn’t true.

Here is a Stone House in Monastereven - maybe the Jackson's Stone House looked something like this
 As you can see, this kind of research is not exactly straightforward. It was reasonably easy to track down the townland of Athgarvan, now known as Blackrath and Athgarvan. It is in the Parish of Greatconnell, Barony of Connell, Co. Kildare. When it came to tracking some of the other townlands, computer searches were not much help. The spelling of many names has shifted over time, and, for example, the townland of Kennagh morphed into Kineagh. It can now be found in the parish of Kilcullen, and the barony of Kilcullen, Co. Kildare.

It was only by tracking these townlands that I could learn that the barony of Kilcullen is in fact on the Northern border of Narragh & Reban East. This makes it more likely that the story of these two townlands being granted together to the late 1600s Jacksons will hold up. Form here, it is worth noting that some townlands that are now in Co. Kildare were once included in Co. Wicklow, and vice versa. This is only one of many reasons that a farmer could easily farm lands in several counties.

One other complication to bear in mind when trying to solve this kind of puzzle is that: Just because two Jacksons are living beside each other, and their families have done so for centuries, doesn’t mean that they are related. It is not impossible to find two entirely different Thomas Jacksons living side by each in the same townland, and to find that both of them have fathers called William, and then to find out that they are not even remotely related.  It doesn’t even take a cuckold in the sack to make this happen.

So where am I now? I still haven’t found Sir Thomas’ farm, but perhaps other readers of this post might be able to lend a hand. As part of my research, I have produced a number of documents that are likely to be helpful to those pursuing quite different Jackson-related quests. It is also possible that in their hands, we may even stumble upon the truth. Blind luck is best assisted by continually keeping one’s eyes and mind open. Good luck to all.

NOTE: These links beneath to data on my website will contain updates as I learn more. I still have much more Jackson-related deeds research to transcribe.

This page on Wicklow & Wexford also includes some sightings in Kildare – particularly the mention of the townland of Bull Hill. It is on the southern border of the townland of Davidstown.

Family tree s of JACKSONs of Kildare – Outline version and Detailed version (with sources).

Jacksons of Ballygibbon, two pages including their Co. Kildare family trees as well as snippets that connect many of them to New Zealand.


  1. I'm related to James Jackson (married Margarett Doyle) and died in Iowa on May 2, 1885. My grandmother was Garnet Jackson, daughter of George and Lula May Jackson. This is all so interesting to me!

    1. I am also descended from James Jackson and Margaret Doyle, and the Iowa Jacksons (George and Lula Mae). Very interesting for me as well! Grandparents are George "Dick" Jackson and Eleanor Jean Whitman of Owasa and Iowa Falls.