Saturday, January 10, 2015

Down Survey Website


     Lately, I've been musing on my McGarr ancestors from Ballyraggan, Kildare.  I've traced them back to the early 1820's at that location, but still don't know where Daniel, my 3rd great-grandfather was born.  Most of the McGarrs in early records are in Kildare so there's a good chance that is the county of his birth, but what about his father?  It truly vexes me that the records stop about the time of Daniel's birth around 1795, and even earlier in many spots in Ireland.  I read on a genealogy website that there were McGarrs in Dublin in the 17th century, which is right next door to Kildare, but there was no clue as to where the writer found this information. I've personally seen McGarr records from 18th century Dublin, but have no way to link them to my family.

     I tried searches for "McGarr surname" and "McGarr family" but the results were disappointing.  One site claimed a Scottish origin and another Irish.  While looking around the net I stumbled upon this site hosted by Trinity College,  Down Survey Homepage, and I've spent the past two days engrossed. The website is packed with information about the 1641 rebellion of the Ulster Irish against the English and Scottish settlers to whom their homes and farms had been given.  No wonder they rebelled.

     Click on the heading, "About this Website", and a page is displayed showing a timeline of events from the rebellion in1641, to the end of this sad chapter in Irish history in 1669.  The tab, Down Survey Maps, is next but the Historical GIS is better for my purposes.  This page allows you to search the maps by landowner's name or religion.  Or you can zoom in on the map and locate your townland of interest on your own, which worked better for me.  Once you have maximized the map to it's limit you can then move the cursor over various townlands, click, and the name and religion of the owner appears along with the townland name for the years 1641 and 1670.   Those of you familiar with Irish history will recognize this as the time of Cromwell and the transplantation to Connaught of Catholics in Ireland, as well as their deportation as slaves to colonies in America and Barbados.  In townland after townland I clicked on, the results were the same-- a Catholic owner in 1641 and a Protestant in 1670.

     As you see in the first photo, I found Ballyraggan on the GIS map and it proved to be an exception to the ownership rule.  In both years the owners were the powerful, Catholic, Fitzgerald family whose descendants still owned it in Daniel McGarr's time.  I don't know if Daniel's forebears were anywhere near Ballyraggan in 1641, various websites also disagree on how much our ancestors moved about.  One will claim they were very attached to their homes and the graves of their ancestors and stayed put, while others will claim they moved great distances more often than we think.  Still, it was somehow gratifying to see that Ballyraggan existed way back then, as did Ballygowloge in Kerry from whence my Gunn family hailed, and Cullencastle in Waterford, home to my Power and Crotty families.  I recall reading somewhere that townlands are very ancient land divisions, and it appears to be true.

     None of this really got me any closer to my genealogical goals, but I know some nameless ancestor of mine lived through these trying times, and survived them, else I wouldn't be writing this. Not knowing their names doesn't lessen my compassion for them, nor lessen my desire to know more about the times they lived in.

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