Saturday, November 28, 2015

Kane Graveyard - Some History

If the so-called luck of the Irish does exist, and I believe it does, it is because of Irish generosity. For a long time, I had wanted to visit Kane graveyard, but I was only able to finally visit it because Eugene Lynch had offered to drive me there – after his wife had fed us both a substantial and excellent lunch. His offer of a ride was essential, because I could never have found this ancient burying place on my own. Even Eugene, who knows the area like the back of his own hand, had to stop, as we neared it, to ask if we were on the right track. We were. When we arrived, the sun broke through and the drizzle ceased. When it comes to luck, that was like the icing on the top of the cake.  

The earlier version of this post - which was inadvertently erased -  had another map that I made but which I can no longer find. Its description: The red arrow points to the graveyard. The green arrows indicate where many of those buried at Kane once lived. NOTE: Just found it:

Some of the information that has been handed down about this graveyard is based on folk tales, and some is from written records. I always enjoy the seasoning that the local stories add to the dustier versions found in history texts. A good starting place is the tale of the fairies at Kane. Jem Murphy’s version was first published in the Journal of The Creggan Local History Society in 1992. It was a retelling of an older tale, told about a hundred years earlier by Jem Callaghan. He had been working until after midnight at the kiln in Johnston's corn-mill in Ballsmill. John Johnston’s mill would have been about three kilometers north of Kane. The tale opens with the totally believable fact that Callaghan had been drying oats for the next day’s milling, and with his work done, he was simply walking home, as he usually would.

He was travelling north on the "Boher Mor" [aka the Big Road leading southeast to Dundalk] and coming near home when he met with a troop of fairies carrying a small coffin. When he met them, they left the coffin down by the roadside and told him they were going to Kane graveyard to bury one of their clan. They begged him to come with them and assist at the burial and he agreed.
When they restarted the journey the leader asked "Who'll carry the coffin?", the rest answered, "Who but Callaghan!", so Jem took the coffin on his shoulders and marched at the front of the cortege. When they arrived at Kane the leader directed them into the ruined church and pointed to the spot for Jem to leave down the coffin. He then inquired "Who'll say the Mass?", to which the rest replied "Who but Callaghan"! The Mass said; the leader asked, "Who'll dig the grave?". "Who but Callaghan" came the answer.

Note the call and refrain element of this story. It made such tales more likely to stick in people’s memories, and therefore more likely to be handed down from one generation to another.

When the burial was over the leader went behind the hedge and returned with white mare, he told Jem to mount and make for home, he would get "coin and livery" at the "Stump" the fairy told him.
He came home, tied the mare to the door porch went in, and went to bed. He got up in the morning and went out to see the mare. - - - "And what had I?" Jem would ask his listeners, "a broomstick with a bunch of feathers at one end of it! ". Some of his listeners. would ask Jem how he said the Mass. "How did I say it", he would answer "only the best way I knew how".

The Stump, where Callaghan was supposed to go to get his coin and livery, was an oval building about a kilometer southeast of the graveyard. The Irish name for Stump is Fas Na Haon Oidce. Its meaning, the work of one night, was also used in describing mushrooms, and perhaps there is a connection between the fairies and Stump. After all, a circle of mushrooms is often referred to as a fairy ring.

Stump photo from the collection of C.T. McCrea, and published in A Man Who Can Speak of Plants. E. Charles Nelson and Alan Probert.
In 1915, it took more than the work of one night to cart away the last of the remaining stones of Stump. It is likely that they ended up in several of the farm walls and buildings nearby. The thieving of stones had long been a losing battle. In the mid-1800s, Dr. Thomas Coulter (1793-1843), the famed naturalist and son of Samuel Coulter, had tried to stop people taking those stones. They were on his leased land, and he valued the Stump for its mysterious history. Even though he prosecuted some of the culprits – successfully - the practice of thieving the stones continued unabated.

The Coulters were not only successful farmers, but were also more educated than one might expect. Samuel Coulter owned an impressive personal library reflecting his eclectic interests in science, agriculture and literature. He also had an abiding interest in Irish culture, and had commissioned and published translations of old Irish tales. He wasn’t alone in this. There were several Presbyterians in the region in the late 1700s and early 1800s who were also passionate about saving Irish heritage. It is probable that some of Callaghan’s listeners would have known of the Coulters, their connection to the Stump, and also that many of their relations had been buried at Kane. After all, the memories of people in that time and place were both long and deep. 

Those listening to Callaghan’s tale would also have known about the souterrain or underground cave at Kane that dated back to about 1,200 BC. The wall that surrounds the graveyard was built over the opening to it. Its entry was on the right hand side of the current entrance gate. According to Harry Tempest of Dundalk, writing in the 1920's, it ran deep into and beneath the graveyard. A couple of decades earlier (1900), Fr. Larry Murray had also described this cave: in the east side of the churchyard, in the middle of which was a beautiful spring well; it is now closed

The parish of Kane was named for the legendary Cian Mac Cáint, who lived nearby at Killen Hill, another of the townlands leased by the Coulters in the 1700s. His story had been passed down long before the post-Cromwellian influx of farmers, such as the Coulters, had arrived from Scotland. As fate would have it, the story of Cian was one of the kinds of tales that Samuel Coulter, and men like him, would help to preserve both as the legend of The Death of the Sons of Tuireann, and in the poem written and sung by Peadar O Doirnin (1700-1769), a hedge school teacher from south Armagh: 

You'll have harp-music played with swift fingers
to wake you and love songs —
there is no fort as happy and full of fun
as the fair hill of Cian Mac Cáinte.

The earliest known record of some kind of Christian church at Kane was its mention in an ecclesiastical dispute in 1297. Typically, the fight was over the allocation of tithes. In Anglo-Norman records, the church was funded by what was called a prebend, meaning that the cathedral granted revenue to the minister as salary. That privilege seems to have lapsed in the 1500s, after the Reformation, and during the shift from Catholic to Protestant. A lot of the old churches went dark in this era.
Parts of these walls, surrounding both the church and the grave site, date back to the early 1700s.
When Rev. James Cubett arrived in 1692 as the Protestant curate of Kane, the church was in rough shape. Even though no clergyman had lived there since the Reformation, Cubett was expected to reside there. During his brief tenure, the church, dedicated to St. John, was totally rebuilt, and this time the reconstructed church lasted long enough for a successor to take over. A few remaining fragments, of what would have been an interior skim coat of plaster, indicate that the builders did their best to make it cozy, and to keep out the draft.

In 1699, Rev. Wm. Smith, who served the parishioners in Barronstown and Faughart, as well as Dunbin, was additionally given the responsibility for the Parish of Kane after Cubett had left. He preached and celebrated Divine Services there every Sunday. Not that his congregation would have been large. Even by 1766, there were still only 2 Protestant and 22 R.C. families living within the parish. It seems likely that some of the Protestants who lived nearby in the parishes of Barronstown, Castletown, Phillipstown, Roche, and the eastern part of Creggan also attended services at Kane. Their family residences are noted on many of the gravestones that remain.

It is hard to say how many years it took for that version of the rebuilt church to disappear. Not that there was much to cart away. Even in its heyday, the building was no larger than a typical thatched bungalow – about 50’ by 26’. When it comes to local archaeological pillaging, this would have been small potatoes. It was nowhere near as challenging as it had been for stone-stealers to remove the stones of Ireland's Stonehenge at nearby Carnbeg. Those stones, many of which were massive, had been carted away, in spite of the opposition of the Coulters. The local farmers who took such stones – and the ones from Carnbeg were as large as the ones at Stonehenge - probably prided themselves on being practical. As for the church at Kane, by the 1900s, only the bottom few feet of the walls were left.

I do not know at what point the graveyard became predominately (if not totally) a Presbyterian burial ground. It would have been after the influx of Scots Dissenters in the post-Cromwellian era. I also do not know when the Church of Ireland finally ceased to hold services there, but in 1786, the parish was permanently united with Barronstown. According to Noel Ross, who knows much more about the local history than I ever will, there is no subsequent record of the church at Kane ever being used as a place of worship for Presbyterians. By the 1800s, it was only being used for burials. Many of the dead came from townlands near the long-gone Presbyterian meeting house at Annaghvacky. Their families farmed there and at Carracloghan, Shortstone West, Cavananore, and Roche. Over time, they had prospered, and some of their sons had become merchants, lawyers, and doctors. Their occupations are noted on their gravestone inscriptions.

By the early 1970s, the graveyard became - once again - over-run with weeds, and saplings. The bushes got so tall that only the tips of the tallest of the markers could be seen in the sea of green. In 1974, the Faughart Historical Properties Preservation Society restored it, and ecumenical services were held intermittently during the following decades. Jane Bailie of Carraghcloghan (1903-1977) was the last to be buried, with her ancestral families, in the graveyard at Kane. Sometime after her burial, the weeds again took over, and in 2005, the site had to be reclaimed one more time. This last effort, at least, seems to have taken hold.

I am grateful for all those who have struggled over the years to protect this site, whether they were doing this work as government staff or as volunteers. Thanks also to Eugene Lynch for that magical afternoon visit in the spring of 2015. As a bonus, the two of us were joined by a very biblical kind of flock, one that I suspect is best suited to keeping the ever-lasting weeds at bay.

Sheep grazing around graves.

NOTE: This page was inadvertently erased – by me. This is my attempt to reconstruct what I had. March 1, 2016.  It isn't quite the same.
Update (thanks to Noel Ross): There is a detailed description of the souterrain at Kane in 'Five Louth Souterrains', CLAHJ, xix, 3, (1979), pp 206 - 217. Noel Ross was in the souterrain at the time it was surveyed. The dating of 1.200 B.C. is rather early, the generally accepted date range for souterrains is between 600 and 1,200 A.D.There is a short piece in Leslie’s Armagh Clergy and Parishes. It was never a Presbyterian place of worship. A meeting house at Annaghvacky for the Presbyterian congregation was opened in 1773. For details see Don Johnston’s article in the 2013 Journal of Co. Louth Archaelogical and Historical Journal, ‘Gaelic-Speaking Presbyterian Ministers of Dundalk/Ballymascanlan’. The map on p. 62 shows the location. Since there is no other graveyard in the area Kane was the obvious burial place.

PS A haunting guitar version of Peadar O Doirnin’s song can be heard at: Úrchnoc or The Fair Hill of Killen. It makes for a beautiful accompaniment to the photos of the grave markers.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Presbyterian & Catholic Olivers of Armagh

NOTE: I have inserted dates beside the names mentioned throughout this post. So many of them share the same name that dates are often the only way to tell one from another.

As a way to learn more about the Olivers of Armagh, I am resorting to what lawyers call a discovery process.

The idea behind discovery is that both sides should share information before going to trial. That way, a trial can proceed smoothly, without parties requesting information from each other and otherwise holding up the process. FindLaw.

Not that I am planning to go to trial, but my hope is that if I share what I know, others will also share, and we will then be able to fill in some of the blanks. The truth always benefits from many perspectives. Thankfully, we already have a substantial paper trail. It includes newspaper articles from a couple of hundred years ago; various court battles over land; and dozens of letters that mention everything from gout to turnips, or from politics to religion. Given that we started with close to zilch a decade ago, this quantity and quality of data is nothing short of amazing.

Recently, some DNA samples have revealed that many of the Catholic Olivers who descend from John Oliver (1841-1909) and Margaret Rock (1837-1905), share a DNA match with the descendants of Benjamin Oliver (1765-1831), a Presbyterian from Killynure. Both families would have had William Oliver (b bef 1700) and his wife Elizabeth Hardy as ancestors. This William Oliver descended from French Huguenots who settled in Armagh in the late 1600s – or at least that is what the story looks like so far.

One recent find was two scraps of paper, which were either written by Eliza Jackson née Oliver (1815-1903), or written down for her by one of her daughters [probably the latter]. Eliza was a daughter of the aforementioned Benjamin Oliver (abt. 1765-1831) of Killynure. In one part of her notes, she says that she is relying on what her mother, Margaret Bradford (1785-1825), had told her. Her mother had died when Eliza was only ten years old, so some of her facts are based on the memory of a child, albeit one brought up in a largely oral tradition when memories were better than ours are today. Her father died when she was fifteen, making her a total orphan. This may be why there are some bits that don’t fit with the known facts – hence the need for this discovery process.

A larger version of this, with a full annotated transcription is on my website.
After reading Eliza’s notes, I made some maps to see exactly where these Olivers had lived and/or held leases. If we set aside those who had emigrated to America, England, Canada or Australia, the ones who remained mostly lived and farmed within a stone’s throw of each other. This first map focuses on the townlands near Farmacaffley. Oliver relations continued to hold leases in this part of Armagh throughout much of the 1700s and 1800s.  This area, on the banks of the Callan River, was part of the hub of the early linen industry.

·       The 1664 Tithes record an Andrew Oliver at Farmacaffly [outlined in blue] aka Farmacaffley aka SherranmcAughally. He is the earliest Oliver that we know of so far in this part of Armagh. He was probably a farmer.
·       Ennislare is on the southern border of Farmacaffley. William Oliver (1730-1816), husband of Elizabeth Steele held a lease here. He was a linen draper, but also likely a farmer as well. This William Oliver was a son of the earlier William Oliver (bef 1700-?), husband of Elizabeth Hardy.
·       Ballynahonebeg is on the western border of Farmacaffley. It was leased by William Oliver (bef 1700-?) & Arthur Oliver (?-1798), a linen draper whose lease dated back to at least 1738. That lease included: all that part of Ballinahonebeg containing 10 acres 2 roods together with the mill and water dam and water course leading from same to the River Callan ... & a liberty of washing rubbing and beetling all cloth. By 1788, Arthur Oliver, a linen draper, still held 46 acres Irish measure in common with Joseph Oliver (1727- abt. 1725) a farmer. Arthur was a brother of a Benjamin Oliver and Maria Elizabeth Oliver of Lislooney, Parish of Tynan. My best guess at this point is that the three of them were also children of William Oliver (bef. 1700- aft 1730) and Elizabeth Hardy. According to Eliza’s notes, the family land – probably at Ballynahonebeg - should have gone to her father-in-law, William Oliver (1730-1816), but his brother Joseph Oliver (1727-abt.1795) got round the old man & got the old home instead. More details of these various leases can be seen at Olivers of Ballinahonebeg.
·       The Kennedies is a townland on the western border of Ballynahonebeg. Joseph Oliver (1727-abt. 1795) held a lease for 48 acres here at least until April 13, 1794. He was the husband of Jane Oats and brother to William Oliver (1730-1816) who also held a lease here. His sisters married into the Prentice and Dobbin linen families. After Joseph’s death, his lease was sold by his son, John Oliver (aft.1764-aft.1796), in May 23, 1796.
·       To the east of Farmacaffley, one townland over in the townland of Cavanacaw, is Kearney Hill where John McCullagh aka M’Culla (?-1818) and his wife Jane Oliver (?-aft. 1801) lived in the late 1700s, and early 1800s.

Obviously, these holdings were home to a substantial intergenerational cluster of Olivers that continued long after the mid-1600s, and included a handful of related families who were reasonably well off. This cluster also included several of the uncles and cousins of the Olivers of Killynure. Killynure is a townland a little west of what this map shows. The Olivers of Killynure were also related to the Olivers from Tullymore, Umgola and Ballycrummy, townlands which are just north of the townlands included in this map. I appreciate this is all hard to follow, but individual Olivers can be tracked on my rootsweb family tree.

A second map that I did shows another clustering of Oliver townlands, highlighted in green. Olivers also held leases here starting in the mid-1600s and continuing into the early 1900s. In the 1800s, when you walked along Monaghan Road into the City of Armagh, there were Oliver-held townlands left and right of the road all the way from Killynure into town.

·       Ballydoo aka Ballyduffe is in the middle at the top of this map. A Stephen Oliver and a William Oliver were recorded here in 1664. One researcher has them as brothers, and also claims that they were related to the Andrew Oliver of Farmacaffley. The early parts of this family tree are definitely in what I call “informed hunch territory”. More proof is needed before I can feel sure about this.
·       Knockagraphy, Drumgar and Lisdrumard are three townlands on the southern border of Ballydoo. They were leased by Benjamin Oliver (abt. 1765-1831) of Killynure, at least as early as 1818.
·       Slightly to the west of Ballydoo is Killylea. In the mid-1800s, there were several Olivers living there: James & Sarah Oliver, and also a Martha Oliver. In 1853, Andrew Bradford Oliver (1818-1877), son of Benjamin Oliver (abt. 1765-1831), also started to live there.
·       Killynure was the home of Benjamin Oliver (abt. 1765-1831) and his wife Elizabeth Bradford (1785-1825). Benjamin paid his father, William Oliver (1730-1816) for the lease to this land in June 20, 1794. Based on a deed dated January 14, 1804, it seems he still lived at his grandfather’s home at Ennislare (shown in the first map), at least until his marriage in about 1806. After this, he moved into the modest bungalow at Killynure.
·       Enagh is on the south eastern border of Killynure. Benjamin Oliver (abt. 1765-1831) paid his father, William Oliver (1730-1816) for the lease in June 20, 1794 .
·       Brootally aka Brutlery is southwest from Killynure, and also fronts on Monaghan Road. The 1785-87 Tithes mention not only a holding by a William Oliver at Brootally but also seven holdings held there by men with the surname of Mallon. This is significant because of the common-law relationship of a later William Oliver (1828-aft.1892) with a Mary-Anne Mallon (1822-1892). That William Oliver was the grandson of William Oliver (1730-1816) who had transferred his 53 acres of land in Brootally to his son on June 20, 1793. Andrew Bradford Oliver (1818-1877), a grandson of William Oliver (1730-1816), was still living at Brootally in 1843. When Andrew got married, his uncle William Oliver (1765-1854) of Brootally stood in for Andrew’s deceased father, Benjamin Oliver (abt1765-1831). The connection to the lands leased at Brootally was severed, probably when Andrew Bradford Oliver (1818-1877) was declared insolvent on October 22, 1853. This Andrew was a cousin to the William Oliver (1828- aft.1892) of Brootally.
·       On the eastern side of this map is a cluster of properties owned or leased by Olivers who were the children of the William Oliver (bef 1700) and Elizabeth Hardy mentioned in Eliza’s notes.
o   Ballyrea
o   Kennedies
o   Ballynahonebeg
o   Tullymore
·       Also in that cluster are properties owned by Olivers in later generations:
o   Navan
o   Ballycrummy
o   Legarhill

These first known Oliver families to farm in Armagh, starting in the mid-1600s, were members of either the Presbyterian Church or the Church of Ireland. The earliest records that I have found – so far - of Catholic Olivers living in this part of Armagh start in the mid-1800s. I am guessing that sometime in the early to mid-1800s, a male Oliver converted to the faith of his wife. Given the complexities of the faith divide, this raises several questions:

·       Who was the first Oliver to convert?
·       How was his change in faith received by other Olivers?
·       Was he cut off from an inheritance?
·       What was the cultural context like in the early to mid-1800s?
·       Was his sense of community Catholic, Presbyterian, or both?

We do know that on April 1812, a Petition was presented to the British Parliament which advocated granting voting rights to Catholics not only in all of Ireland, but also in all of England, a legislated right which until then had only been extended to members of the Established Church. It was signed by three Presbyterian brothers from Armagh: James Oliver (?-1853) of Ennislare, William Oliver (abt 1765-1854) of Ennislare and/or Brootally and Benjamin Oliver (abt 1765-1831) of Killynure, as well as by their brother-in-law John M’Culla (?-1818) of Kearny Hill (Cavanacaw).  The fathers and grandfathers of these Olivers had not only been farmers, but had also earned a living as linen merchants and/or producers of linen. Their brothers and cousins had also run businesses in the region that were a good fit with farming. The Armagh chandleries made candles out of animal fat, and the local tanneries turned the skins of cows and pigs into shoes, gloves, belts, saddles and harnesses. The Olivers were all merchants and farmers.

The brothers who signed the petition were sons of William Oliver (1730-1816) and Elizabeth Steele. There were also about fifty other men from Armagh who had signed it as well. Many of them were also related to these Olivers. There was strong Presbyterian representation amongst the signatories. One thing that is curious, is that none of the Church of Ireland Olivers signed the petition. Many of these Olivers were poor and illiterate, and often signed their legal documents with an X. Others of them, such as Joseph Oliver (1764-1837) of Tullymore, were amongst the wealthiest of the linen merchants of the area. This raises many questions:

·       Why were so many of these Church of Ireland Olivers either very rich, or very poor?
·       Why were the Presbyterian Olivers unlikely to be so poor or illiterate?
·       Were the Presbyterian Olivers more likely to be entrepreneurial? If so, why?
·       Were the Presbyterian Olivers more likely to be supported by money sent home from family members who had emigrated?

More questions:

·       The Presbyterian Oliver brothers who signed the petition were supportive of the rights of Catholics, but did this support extend to the acceptance of inter-faith marriage?
·       Was the Catholic John Oliver (1841-1909) of Ballycrummy who married Margaret Rock (abt 1837-1905) born into the Catholic faith, or did he convert to it? Was his father the first to convert? Or was it his grandfather?
·       Is it more than coincidence that William Oliver (1810-1873) of Killynure, a brother of Eliza Oliver, had a housekeeper named Sarah Rock, likely related to Margaret Rock? Sarah Rock was left £50 by William Oliver in his will.
·       Was Benjamin Oliver (1841-?), who was the illegitimate son of the Protestant William Oliver (1828-aft 1892) and the Catholic Mary Anne Mallon (1822-1892), of Killynure, named after his great-uncle Benjamin Oliver (abt 1765-1831) of Killynure? It is likely. It is worth noting that William Oliver and Mary Anne Mallon’s relationship lasted. They also had a daughter Sarah born three years later at Killynure.

One more glimpse at the family and money connections between these various “cousin” level relationships is in a letter dated July 21st,1880. It was written by Eliza Oliver to her son, Thomas Jackson, who lived and worked in Hong Kong at that time:

NOTE: The proceeds that Eliza has for the sale was ₤2350. The amount in a legal notice in the paper shows it as ₤3,250.
I write to inform you of the sale of the Oliver estate which was appointed for Friday the 16th inst. We had no idea that it would be sold at all; times were so bad, and so many properties offered for sale; without a bidder; yet it was sold, and well sold, all things considered ₤2350 was what it went at. I have received a note from Thompson Brown, since then which surprised me a good deal. He says that it never was legally [deeded?] that Ben and John Oliver should get the third of the property, and that the case should be argued again before the Vice Chancellor. I suppose Mr McCombe to be the author of this opinion; though Thompson did not say so; and whether it is a bona fide advice; or whether it is only another seven years wait and more law costs; I cannot say. May the Lord direct whatever is best. I expect Thompson here today; when we will hear more particulars, and discuss the affair 

Let’s say that this John Oliver mentioned in the letter was the same John Oliver (abt 1841-1909) who married Margaret Rock. It is most likely. The Oliver estate that had just been sold was land that had been inherited by Eliza’s brother William Oliver (abt 1810-1873) from their father. The legal case seems to hinge on the question of whether the land had been legally deeded in the first place. Did this legal glitch happen when Benjamin Oliver (1765-1831) transferred the leases to his son William Oliver (abt 1810-1873), or did it happen a generation earlier?

We learn a little bit more about the status of the legal involvement of John Oliver (abt 1841-1909) and Benjamin Oliver (abt 1842-1905), as well as the properties involved, from a July 17th, 1880 newspaper report relating to the land sale..
NOTE: These townlands of Knockagraphy, Lisdrumard & Drumgar had long been used as grazing lands by Eliza’s brothers who farmed at Killynure. They had been leased by Benjamin Oliver (abt. 1765-1831) as early as 1818. Significantly, they are on the southern border of Ballydoo, a townland that was first leased by Olivers as early as 1664, and likely earlier.
Both John Oliver and Benjamin Oliver are described in this legal notice as owners and petitioners. This is a good fit with the legal claim mentioned in Eliza’s letter. If that claim had been valid, then each of them would have had the right to 1/3rd of the £3,250 realized from the sale of lands at Lisdrumard, Knockagraphy, and Drumgar. 1/3rd of that money is worth about £100,000 in purchasing power in today’s currency. The value of the land itself would be worth even more (6 acres of similar land at Cavanacaw is currently listed at £100,000).

We know from a marriage record that the father of John Oliver (abt 1841-1909) was another John Oliver. Because John Oliver (abt 1841-1909) lived at Tullymore before taking a lease in Ballycrummy, it is likely that his father was the John Oliver who was born in 1810 in Tullymore. If the lack of a legal transfer of these lands that were part of the estate sold in 1880 happened one generation before the death of William Oliver (1810-1873), then the John Oliver (1810-?) of Tullymore was probably a son of the James Oliver (?-1853) who in turn was a son of William Oliver (1730-1816) and Elizabeth Steele. This would have meant that John Oliver (abt 1841-1909) and Benjamin Oliver (abt 1842-1905) would have been 2nd cousins.

If the lack of a legal transfer happened two generations earlier, then another possibility presents itself. The John Oliver who was born about 1810 at Tullymore could have been a son of the John Oliver (abt 1764-aft 1796) of Ballynahonebeg who was in turn a son of Joseph Oliver (1727-abt. 1795) & Jane Oats (1728-bef 1798) – also of Ballinahonebeg. In this case, John and Ben would have been 3rd cousins.

Both options are supported by the DNA evidence, and both options mean that the Catholic John Oliver (abt 1841-1909) and the Presbyterian Benjamin Oliver (abt 1842-1905) were both descendants of William Oliver (bef 1700) and Elizabeth Hardy. Coincidentally, they may have even been born in the same year. Certainly, they would have known each other.

The oral history of the descendants of Benjamin Oliver (abt 1842-1905), the one who was possibly entitled to ½ of 1/3rd of the proceeds from the land sales, is that he received nothing. I doubt that John Oliver (abt 1841-1909) of Ballycrummy, the second owner or petitioner, fared any better. Whether the lack of a legal deed should have led to a decision in their favour, I can’t say. The earliest record that I have is a fee farm grant to William Oliver (abt 1810-1873) dated September 15, 1837. It seems legitimate. This was six years after the death of William’s father, Benjamin Oliver (abt 1765-1831). So far, I can’t find any evidence that the 1880s case ever went to trial, which is unfortunate. Trials like this are often a motherlode of information.

What we do know is that seven years later, in spite of the likely bad blood in the family, is that Benjamin Oliver (abt 1842-1905), who now lived in Scotland, named his first-born son Thomas Jackson Oliver after his cousin. Thomas Jackson (1841-1915) was the son of Eliza Oliver, one of the beneficiaries of the sale. Ben and Thomas would have known each other as boys, often sleeping under the same roof, especially after Ben’s mother had died when he was a toddler.

So, where does this leave us with respect to understanding all the interconnections of this extended family that straddled three faiths: Church of Ireland, Presbyterian and Catholic?  Did life turn out well for them? As I reflect on all this half a world away, on the west coast of Canada, I can only hope. After all, those of us who are related to them do carry a smidgeon of them within us – at least according to our shared DNA.