ISSN 1443-5888 Volume 7, No. 8, August 2005.

A Monthly Newsletter: Editor: Terry Eakin, 334 Burns Bay Road, LANE COVE, NSW 2066 Contact E-mail address:
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ISSN 1443-5888 Volume 7, No. 8, August 2005.

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A Monthly Newsletter: Editor: Terry Eakin, 334 Burns Bay Road, LANE COVE, NSW 2066 Contact E-mail address:
ISSN 1443-5888 Volume 7, No. 8, August 2005.

Introduction: ÔÇÿAll Ireland SourcesÔÇÖ is a monthly newsletter distributed free by E-mail to Family History Societies and interested researchers near the end of each month. Distribution by Australia Post each three months (three issues) costs $6.00 annually within Australia. The aim is to bring items of interest regarding Irish record sources to the Australian genealogist. The editor would appreciate being made aware of records relating to the Irish, particularly those held in Australia or new in the LDS Family History Library. Back copies available free for download from Note new email address.
Church Records:
[Continued from July 2005, Volume 7, No. 7 (by William Roulston, UHF)]
Church of Ireland: Occasionally additional information of interest is recorded in a Church of Ireland
register. In the case of Ballyphilip Church, Portaferry, records can be found of victims of shipwrecks who were
washed up on the nearby coastline. In the register for baptisms, marriages and burials for 1745-1794 (PRONI
ref. MIC/583/17-18) the following entry appears:

George Vachell (Captain of the Wolf Sloop of War which was wreckt on Carny point on Fryday night being the 30th of December 1748) was buried in the Church Yard of Portaferry on Monday the 2nd day of January following & the same Day forty-five of the Crew belonging to the sd Sloop were Buried in the Church Yard of Slans & on the next Day being Tuesday the 3rd of the sd Month Charles Bowden Lieutenant of the sd Sloop was buried in the Church Yard of Portaferry& and in a few days after that at different times twenty one persons more of sd Crew were buried in the Church Yard of Slans, so there were in all Sixty Six persons buried in the last mentioned Churchyard.
The entry includes a list of those whose names were known.
Vestry Minute Books: The vestry was an assembly of parishioners who met to consider parochial business, and took its name from its meeting place ÔÇôvestry, or room in the church in which the ministerÔÇÖs vestments were kept. In theory membership of the vestry was open to all those who were liable to parish taxes. In practice, however, judging from the number of signatures and marks in the surviving vestry minute books, it would appear that most meetings of vestry were attended by the rector or his curate, who presided, and the leading parishioners ÔÇô the landowners, if resident in the parish, and the principal farmers or merchants if the parish contained a significant urban settlement. At the more important meetings, such as those to decide whether or not to build a new church, attendance was much higher. At one meeting in the parish of Knockbreda, County Down, in 1733 around 300 persons were present.
The officers of the parish in both civil and ecclesiastical matters were the churchwardens. There were two to a parish and they were elected on an annual basis although one man could hold the post for several years at a time. To help the churchwardens many parishes appointed assistants known as sidesmen. The vestry could levy taxes for the maintenance of the church and the payment of parish officers such as the sexton and the parish clerk. The vestry could also raise funds for local services such as poor relief, parish constables, road repair, the organisation of education and the provision of recruits for the army.
The names appearing in the vestry books include those of the churchwardens and sidesmen, those attending vestry meetings, persons appointed to oversee the repair of roads, masons and craftsmen employed to work on the parish church, and persons appointed to care for the elderly and infirm or abandoned children. Taken together, these names can run to a considerable number. For example, the Donaghedy vestry book covering the period 1697-1723, names over 220 different individuals from all denominations and walks of life.
Often lengthy lists of names may appear in vestry books. These may be the names of those liable to parish taxes or even a list of the seat holders in the church. The latter can provide an indication of the relative standing of a family in a parish. Those of wealth and status sat in the grandest seats at the front of the church, with the poor standing or sitting on plain benches at the back, and the ÔÇÿmiddlingÔÇÖ people in between. Other lists of names include poor lists recording those who were given alms by the parish to help them in their need. In the Kilrea vestry book there is a loyal declaration by the inhabitants of Kilrea and Tamlaght OÔÇÖCrilly, dating from 1745-1746, the time of the Jacobite rising in Scotland, which includes over 130 names (PRONI ref. MIC/1/55). Lists of confirmations feature regularly; those for Christ Church cathedral in Lisburn survive back to 1667. Vestry minute books sometimes contain some baptism, marriage and burial entries, particularly in the period covered by this book. The vestry book of Killygarvan parish, County Donegal, is one such example (PRONI ref. MIC/1/166D/1).
Information on Clergymen: A Church of Ireland clergyman with responsibility for looking after a parish or group of parishes was usually known as a rector, though occasionally the title ÔÇÿrectorÔÇÖ was used. A clergyman assisting a rector or vicar was known as a curate. For those seeking information on Church of Ireland ministers, the best sources are the Clergy and Parishes volumes meticulously compiled on a diocesan basis by Canon J. B. Leslie. Through years of research Leslie was able to compile brief biographical notes on nearly all ministers in the church of Ireland from the early 17th century through to the early 20th century. He gathered a vast amount of information from sources, such as wills, which were destroyed in 1922.
For the north of Ireland the following volumes were published: Armagh (1911), Clogher (1929), Derry (1937), Down [with H. B. Swanzy] (1936), Dromore [with H. B. Swanzy] (1933), Raphoe (1941), and Supplement to Armagh (1948). The Ulster Historical Foundation has published Clergy of Connor (1993) based largely on unpublished succession lists drawn up by Canon Leslie, and in single volumes has issued reprints of Down and Dromore (1996) and Derry and Raphoe (1999). A reprint of Clogher is planned for the near future.
It must not be thought that all Anglican ministers were of English background. Many Church of Ireland ministers in the 17th and 18th centuries were Scots or had Scottish ancestry. For example, William King, successively bishop of Derry (1690-1703) and archbishop of Dublin (1703-1729, was born to Scottish parents in County Tyrone about 1650. Many of these Scottish ministers were vehemently opposed to Presbyterianism and used their position to stifle nonconformity. The inscription on the memorial to John Sinclair (d. 1703), the Scottish-born rector of Camus-juxta-Mourne and Leckpatrick parishes in County Tyrone, praises him for his efforts in suppressing Dissenters. Occasionally native Irishmen served in the Church of Ireland pastorate. In Inishowen, County Donegal, in the late 17th century two McLaughlin brothers were ministers: one Church of Ireland, the other Roman Catholic.
Visitation Books: Bishops regularly carried out inspections of their dioceses; the results of these investigations are contained in visitation books. The information is fairly limited for genealogists, but the names listed can include those of the rector, curate, churchwardens, parish clerk and parish schoolmaster. Occasionally some items of interest about individual parishioners may turn up. For example, in a visitation of Armagh diocese of 1700 Mary Beston of Tandragee, wife of William Beston, was reprimanded for being a ÔÇÿlewd-womanÔÇÖ and for keeping a ÔÇÿbawdy houseÔÇÖ (PRONI ref. DIO/4/29/2/1/2).
Presbyterian Church: From the middle of the 17th century the Presbyterian Church has been the dominant Protestant denomination in Ulster. Presbyterianism emerged in Scotland in the late 16th century. It is characterised by worship services where reading the Bible and preaching have greatest importance and where there is a lack of emphasis on ritual and liturgy. In terms of church government it is democratic rather than hierarchical: every minister is considered equal, and to assist him each congregation will appoint a number of ÔÇÿeldersÔÇÖ.
In the early 17th century, with the influx of large numbers of Scottish settlers, a number of clergymen with Presbyterian convictions arrived in Ulster from Scotland. To begin with they were accommodated within the Church of Ireland and were allowed a certain amount of freedom to practise their beliefs. Presbyterianism did not exist as a distinct denomination at this time. However, in the 1630s there were moves to bring the Church of Ireland more closely into line with the Church of England. A number of clergymen who held to Presbyterian beliefs were expelled for refusing to accept the changes.
In 1642 an army from Scotland landed at Carrickfergus to defend Scottish settlers from attacks from rebellious Irish. Accompanying this army was a number of Presbyterian ministers, and here the first Irish presbytery was founded (see below for more information on the role and function of a presbytery). In the 1650s, during the Cromwellian regime, there was considerable freedom of worship and many ministers in Ulster were Scottish Presbyterians. Following the Restoration of 1660, ministers who refused to conform to the teachings and government of the newly re-instated Church of Ireland were dismissed. Despite periods of persecution, Presbyterians began to form congregations and build their own churches from the 1660s. Numerically they were far superior to Anglicans, and this was a major concern for both the government and the Established Church.
Each Presbyterian congregation kept registers of baptisms and marriages. In general, Presbyterian registers start later than those of the Church of Ireland. There are a number of early Presbyterian registers, however, including Drumbo (baptisms from 1692), Killyleagh (baptisms from 1693 and marriages from 1693), Lisburn (baptisms from 1692 and marriages from 1688), and Portaferry (baptisms from 1699). Additional Presbyterian records available for consultation at PRONI include session books, communicant rolls, pew rent books and temperance registers. Because Presbyterians rarely kept burial registers, gravestone inscriptions provide valuable information that cannot be found elsewhere. It is also worth looking at Church of Ireland registers for baptisms, marriages and burials involving Presbyterians, for reasons outlined earlier.
The Presbyterian Historical Society is located at Church House (room 218), Fisherwick Place, Belfast. The library has many manuscripts relating to Presbyterian families and baptismal and marriage records of Presbyterian churches throughout Ireland. Presbyterian records copied by PRONI are available under reference MIC/1P and CR/3. In addition to registers of baptisms, marriages and burials, there are other categories of records relating to the Presbyterian Church that are worth consulting for the information they contain on individuals and families.
Session Records: The session was composed of the ministers and elders in a particular congregation. Session records cover a range of matters, many of which relate to the internal discipline of members of the congregation for a variety of misdemeanours. Occasionally they may contain baptisms and marriages. Only a handful of session records from the 17th and 18th centuries have survived; those that are available for consultation are included along with the pre-1800 church registers listed in Appendix 1 in the book ÔÇÿResearching Scots-Irish Ancestors: The Essential Genealogical Guide to Early Modern Ulster, 1600-1800ÔÇÖ by William Roulston (2005) published by the UHF.
Presbytery Records: The presbytery was the middle layer of government in the Presbyterian Church, above Session and below Synod. It comprised the ministers and ruling editors of the congregations affiliated to the presbytery. It dealt with matters that could not be settled at the level of session, either because there was a dispute that could not be resolved without recourse to a higher authority or because the issues related to more than one congregation. Presbytery meetings were held on a regular basis. Presbyteries were frequently reorganised. In addition, individual congregations could change presbytery if it meant that a dispute would be resolved.
The presbytery of Strabane, for example, was formed in 1717 and when originally constituted included the congregations of Strabane, Ardstraw, Urney, Donaghedy, Ballindrait, Derg, Omagh, Badoney and Pettigo. The surviving minute book, covering the period 1717-1740, reveals that the presbytery dealt with a variety of matters relating to the members of the congregations within its bounds (PRONI ref. CR/3/26/2/1). For instance, those planning to emigrate would often petition presbytery for a certificate testifying to their credentials as good Presbyterians. This would enable them to join a Presbyterian congregation in America without having to undergo a rigorous examination of their character and religious beliefs. In December 1718 John Alison came before Strabane presbytery desiring such a testimonial as he was preparing to emigrate. Presbytery decided not to issue him with one until just before he was ready to leave, and then only conditional on his continued good behaviour. In 1730 Strabane presbytery rebuked John Patterson and Mary Atchison for marrying without making sure that AtchisonÔÇÖs former husband, who had emigrated to America, was definitely dead.
The original and duplicate copies of presbytery minute books and related records in PRONI are as follows:
Antrim presbytery, 1654-1658 CR/5/5E/2; D/1759/AA/1

Antrim presbytery, 1671-1691 D/1759/1A/2

Biographical notes on ministers and reports on meeting in Antrim presbytery, 1681 D/1759/1A/3

Bangor presbytery, 1706-1723 D/1759/1D/21

Bangor presbytery, 1739-1774 CR/5/5E/2

Bangor presbytery, 1739-1842 D/1759/1D/15

Down presbytery, 1706-1715 CR/5/5E/2

Down presbytery, 1707-1715, 1785-1800 D/1759/1D/16

Killyleagh presbytery, 1725-1732 D/1759/1D/10

Laggan presbytery, 1672-1695 CR/5/5E/2; D/1759/1E/1-2

Route presbytery, 1701-1705 D/1759/2A/13

Strabane presbytery, 1717-1740 CR/3/26/2/1

Synod of Ulster Records: The Synod of Ulster was the highest authority in the Presbyterian Church in Ulster. It met once a year, usually in June, and was composed of representatives from every congregation in each of the presbyteries. The records of the Synod of Ulster meetings for the period 1690-1820 were published in three volumes by the Presbyterian Church in 1891. A typescript index in three volumes is available for consultation in the library at PRONI. Much of the minutes deal with matters of a fairly routine nature. Occasionally, however, an item of real value will be recorded. For example, at the Synod of 1738 a petition was presented from a section of the Drummaul (Randalstown) congregation who wanted to be disannexed from Drummaul and united to the congregation at Ahoghill. The commissioners representing the disaffected members of Drummaul were Jon Nisbet and Wm Wining and, usefully, the names of those signing the petition were listed in the minutes of Synod (Vol. 2, p. 240). This list distinguished between heads of families and young people, as follows:
Heads of families Young people
Jas Walker Adam Glass
Jas Ker Jno Ker
Jas Bankhead Jno Nisbet
Thos Doel Samuel Stuart
Jon Wallace Jno Stuart
Mort Gallaway Saml Wilson
Hugh Reny Jno Wilson
Wm Gallaway Jas Lemon
Christy Nelson Wm Craig
Saml Thomson Wm Anderwood
Robt Adair Alex Dumbar
Jos Thomson Wm Graham
Robt Lyamon
Jas Henderson
Saml Agnue
Jno Hillis
Jno Forbes
Jas Winning
Stephen Harper
Alexr Muron
Jno Marshall
Wm Carson
Jas Craig
Jas Gillespie
Andr Clerk
Jas Montgomery
Jas Willson

Information on Congregations: An indispensable guide to the Presbyterian Church in Ireland is the History of Congregations published by the Presbyterian Historical Society in 1982. It provides brief sketches of each of the congregations, mainly focusing on the succession of ministers. It is particularly useful in determining when a particular congregation came into being. A Supplement of Additions, Emendations and Corrections with an Index was published in Association with the Ulster Historical Foundation in 1996.
Information on Presbyterian Ministers: Biographical information on Presbyterian ministers was published as Fasti of the Irish Presbyterian Church, 1613-1840 compiled by James McConnell and revised by his son Samuel G. McConnell (Belfast: Presbyterian Historical Society, 1951). The Biographical sketches as fairly succinct, but can include the name of the father and possibly mother of the minister, his own family details, where he was educated and where he served. Publications, if any, may also be noted, and perhaps something exceptional about his career.
To Be Continued on Page 33 in Volume 7, No. 9 September 2005: Thank you to William Roulston for permission to publish this article from his book ÔÇÿResearching Scots-Irish Ancestors: The Essential Guide to Early Modern Ulster, 1600-1800ÔÇÖ. (2005) Published by the Ulster Historical Foundation, Belfast (┬ú11.99) and available on line from This book contains all the PRONI listings and references.
Future Contact: Please note that I have moved from dial-up to broadband and my e-mail address has changed to with 04055 being numbers. The newsletters will still be available free for downloading from the Society of Australian Genealogists website . Please delete and replace it with
Irish Newspapers Archive: Please note that this service is not yet available but an update will be published as soon as more information is available. I expect an update in the next few weeks as soon as the website is being uplifted and checking is completed. .
Articles, suggestions and information for this newsletter are welcome and may be E-mailed to: or posted to Terry Eakin, 334 Burns Bay Road, Lane Cove NSW AUSTRALIA 2066

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