Researching my Irish history

Researching my Irish history

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Posted Tue 13 Feb 2024 7:25 PM
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Good day. My (5th) great-grandfather and grandmother were originally from County Antrim, Ireland. We don’t know much about their life before moving to America around 1754. Their names were John Martin and Jane (Jenny) Hutcheson Martin. They were married approximately 1752. They may have had dealings with McGaffin & Rhea (George Galphin and John Rae) to aid in arranging their travel to America.
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Posted Wed 14 Feb 2024 10:21 AM
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Hello Lisa,

Thanks for joining us with this information on your ancestors!

You have managed to trace quite a way back already and as you have found out now, records become less easy to find as they would be church/parish records.

There is a thread on helpful hints and tips on the forum by Brian Mitchell, this may help.

Do you know the location in County Antrim where they would have lived as this may be the key to more information going back?

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Posted Wed 14 Feb 2024 9:33 PM
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Hi. The paperwork I have just states County Antrim, Ireland-near Belfast. I do know they had a son prior to leaving, John Martin Jr. born 1753.
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Posted Thu 15 Feb 2024 9:37 AM
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Hi Lisa,

We can see why you would be facing a bit of a wall with such limited information about the location in Antrim!

As I mentioned, before 1864 records were kept in the form of church and parish records so it will be quite difficult to continue.

There is a website by John Grenham that lists surnames with locations and looking at Martin, Antrim comes up with some possible place they would be living having that surname. This is after they would have left but may give an indication of graveyards and possible parishes to try.

The National Library of Ireland has a page with some tips on further research and civil records links to places to look for records.

Hopefully, some of our members will be able to offer some guidance too.

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Posted Thu 15 Feb 2024 11:50 AM
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Derry~Londonderry
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Hi Lisa

Prior to 1864 and civil registration of births, deaths and Roman Catholic marriages (1845 for non-Catholic marriages) in Ireland you will have to rely on church baptism, marriage and burial registers to confirm ancestry details. Church registers are effectively the building blocks of Irish family history back beyond the mid-19th century.

In the ideal world family history databases such as Ancestry or Rootsireland.ie would record in County Antrim a baptism of John Martin born c. 1753 and the marriage of his parents, John Martin and Jane/Jenny Hutcheson c. 1752; or a ‘relative’ in the wider family history community(perhaps identified through DNA) holds information/oral traditions, documented and passed down through the generations, that sheds new light on ancestral origins. 

RootsIreland.ie is the largest online source of Irish church register transcripts, but it must be emphasised that a failure to find relevant birth/marriage entries in this database (or indeed any of ‘big’ family history databases) doesn't mean that the events you are looking for didn't happen in Ireland. It simply means that they are not recorded in the database; for example, they may be recorded in a church whose registers don’t exist/survive for the time period of interest or in a source that has not been computerised. It must be said that the many church registers in Ireland don’t predate 1830. Hence the birth, marriage and death details of many of our 18th century ancestors have not survived in a written record source. ​ 

Furthermore, 'census substitutes', such as Protestant Householders Lists of 1740 or Flax Growers Lists of 1796, by naming heads of household only, provide insufficient information to confirm the nature of linkages between named Martin households in these sources. Census substitutes, however, are very useful in confirming the presence of a family name in a particular townland and/or parish, and in providing some insight into the frequency and distribution of the Martin surname in County Antrim.

In the 18th century the merchant community of Belfast, Newry and Londonderry traded extensively with the east coast ports of North America. Flaxseed was shipped to Ireland and on the return journey linen and emigrants were destined for North America. 

Robert MacMaster’s book 'Scotch-Irish Merchants in Colonial America: The Flaxseed Trade and Emigration from Ireland, 1718-1775' charts in great detail the merchant community involved in this trade. It references the activities of George Galphin and his partner John Rea of Rea’s Hall, near Savannah (Georgia), who were active in the 1760s in bringing emigrants from Ulster to the Carolinas and to Georgia.


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