Dr Linde Lunney
Over the course of almost three hundred years, a lot of things get forgotten about. Since the ships sailed in 1718, both Ireland and America have gradually forgotten about the event and the people; Americans have forgotten the important connection between New England's history and a small corner of Northern Ireland; people in Ulster have not remembered their ancestors' brothers, sisters, cousins, sons and neighbours who left for an unknown new world. Because these things have been forgotten, no one has really grasped the importance of the Ulster Scots in early settlements in New England, and in American history as a whole. In the nineteenth century, when American historians and genealogists first looked seriously at the history of their families and settlements and of New England as a whole, they viewed the Ulster Scots as one small element in a melting pot nation. The Irishness and Scottishness of these distant ancestors had blurred over the two hundred intervening years, as the Ulster Scots assimilated into Protestant America. The historians' focus was more on what happened to these people once they got to America, and though records and family tradition preserved quite a bit of information on Irish and Scots origins, it would have been almost impossible, even if mid-nineteenth century researchers had wanted to do so, to make contact with people of the same names in the areas that the ancestors had left. It's hard to think ourselves back to a time when there was literally no way that an American genealogist living in the 1860s could have found out who lived in a particular town or townland in Ireland; we are nowadays so conditioned by the existence of phonebooks, electoral registers and directories, even before there was online searching.
Now our interests have changed again, and people are keen to try to follow histories back to earliest ancestors. In the early twenty-first century, thanks to the development of internet technology and just as importantly the development of attitudes to genealogy shaped by the internet, the time has come to tell the story of the 1718 emigrants, and to understand for the first time just how important these early emigrants are; not just for America, but for Ireland and Scotland. Both sides of the Atlantic have a good deal of catching up to do, but for the first time, especially now that the numbers of local historians and genealogists online have reached what scientists call a 'critical mass', it will be possible to link up families and communities who had over the centuries forgotten about each other.
There are benefits in attempting this for both Americans and Ulster people. For people looking at their history from an American perspective, a knowledge of Ulster material can explain why people emigrated and can provide a sense of what their world was like. Understanding the kind of communities that the settlers were familiar with will help Americans understand what the small towns of Derry and Londonderry and other New Hampshire settlements were like in their earliest years, when they were literally Ulster villages dropped into the New England wilderness. The first settlers of many small towns were Ulster Scots, also called the Scotch-Irish, with few people from anywhere else. It is not surprising that the Ulster Scots married among each other for several generations, so that names of Ulster origin continued to be linked together, and when they moved on to other settlements in Maine, Vermont, Pennsylvania or Nova Scotia, the relationships and marriage patterns moved with them. Historians should find material for a number of interesting studies in settlement and cultural history once the role of the Ulster Scots in the pre-Revolutionary era is better understood.
Individual Americans interested in their own families may be able to make contact with distant kin in the north of Ireland; access to local knowledge there will enable them to sort out misunderstandings and misreadings of records, for instance in place names. It would be hard for an American to find Ulster townland names on modern maps, if they are looking for old versions or misspellings; Dumbo or Dumbough in county Derry is more readily found today as Dunboe, and Mennemore is more likely to be Moneymore. There is also a possibility for American researchers that Irish or Scottish records might cast some light on earlier generations, even though it is widely believed that researching in Ireland is very difficult because of the loss of records in Dublin in the civil war in 1922.
One important source which might help Americans locate their Ulster ancestors is the Hearthmoney Rolls (HMR) for the various parishes in Antrim and Derry. The HMR for the parish of Ballymoney, for instance, can be checked for names of people who are known to have left that area in 1718 or in the years immediately afterwards. To take one example from a family history New Hampshire Bells published in 2002 on a website, the first known ancestor of the American family was Matthew Bell, who is said to have been born in Kirkconnell, Nithsdale, Dumfriesshire, Scotland. He moved to Ballymoney in co. Antrim and had two sons, Matthew and John. John was born in Ballymoney in 1678 or 1679, and emigrated to New Hampshire around 1719. There is no Matthew Bell in the 1666 Ballymoney HMR; there is, however, a John Bell, who cannot be the John born around 1678; possibly this is a man from a different family, if Matthew Bell had not yet moved from Scotland, but it could equally well be that in 1666, Matthew Bell was there as a young man or boy in the household of his father, John, and that his son John, the New Hampshire emigrant, was named for his paternal grandfather. If this is so, although there is maybe no way to prove it, the Bell genealogy has reached back another generation, and the length of time they spent in Ballymoney can be shown to be over fifty years, thus increasing the importance of the Ulster stopover for this family.
John Bell the emigrant travelled back to Ballymoney after a year or so in America, to fetch his wife Elizabeth and their two daughters. Elizabeth Bell's maiden name was Todd, and her family was also from Scotland; two of her brothers were educated at the university of Edinburgh, and she herself must have received a good education. This stood her in good stead on the 1722 journey to America; the ship's captain was a drunkard, who went into delirium tremens. Elizabeth Bell was the only person on board who knew anything of navigation, so she took on that responsibility and brought them safe to Boston. She was clearly a strong minded woman; after her husband John died in 1743, Elizabeth was the matriarch of a clan and lived until 1771, when she must have been a very old woman. Apparently three of her daughters all married Duncans; Elizabeth objected to the attentions of a fourth Duncan to her last remaining daughter. However, the young couple fled on horseback to the minister, with Elizabeth Bell in hot pursuit, but they gave her the slip by hiding behind a woodpile until she had ridden past.
This kind of detail from a family's history, which allows us to make contact with an ancestor's personality, just as much as the information about shared more remote ancestors and as well as the information about what happened in subsequent generations to the emigrants from Ulster, is a great resource for family historians in the north of Ireland, since most if not all has been lost to memory in Ireland. Making contact with long lost relatives in America, or even just reading about them, can begin to heal wounds that those of us who live in Ulster in the present day often do not realize that our society has suffered throughout its history. Generation after generation after generation, ever since 1718, parents in Ireland have reared children and have had to part with them; people have said goodbye to friends and kinsfolk, and never knew what happened to them. It is hard to imagine the scale of loss and disruption of relationships. People who sat beside our ancestors in church, or who had worked alongside them in the fields, just vanished from view; it was almost like the results of losing people by death. The people who stayed in Ulster, in any generation between 1718 and 1950 may have had to adjust, over the course of their lives, to the absence of three quarters of the people with whom they had been in significant relationships in earlier life.
Historians have, for understandable reasons, concentrated on the people who left, and even in Ulster now we have recently begun to be aware of and to take pride in the achievements of those who left and were outstandingly successful, now that their stories are being told in popular historical works. But perhaps it is time to think about those who were left behind; people like William Craig of Milford, County Donegal. He and his ten children suffered during the Great Famine of the 1840s, and four older sons emigrated to Illinois. After a few years, they had made enough money for one of them to return to Donegal to bring out the rest of the family. John Craig. aged 22, took back with him in 1847 his stepmother, three sisters and a brother, some of whom may have been children of his father's second marriage. The old man had to stay behind; he had had an accident some years earlier in which his back had been broken, and he would not have been an acceptably healthy able-bodied emigrant. He remained in Ireland, living with nieces and nephews, to free up all his children to emigrate. What was the rest of his life like? Who knows whether he ever saw any of his children again, and whether he knew even if they travelled safely, or how many descendants he was to have in the prairies and towns of Illinois.
Historians and genealogists today can often trace the stories of those who left Ulster, even of those who experienced average rather than outstanding success; stories that those who lived through the trauma of separation and remained in Ireland never knew. William Craig's daughter Matilda in Illinois married Samuel Jameson, whose father Hugh Jameson left County Londonderry in 1746; Jameson went to Londonderry, New Hampshire, presumably to join other Jamesons from the Bann valley who had settled there along with the earliest Scotch-Irish settlers. A Jonathan Jameson from Dunboe, County Londonderry, whose brother Edward was from from Kilrea, emigrated before 1725 to Nutfield, New Hampshire, later known as Londonderry. Another Jonathan Jameson who was alive in the 1880s and lived all his life at Movanagher, near Kilrea in Ireland, did not know that he had distant cousins in Chimboté, Peru, West Tennessee and New Hampshire, but his descendants in the early 21st century, in Ireland and New Zealand and New York, can find the chain of links that connect them to the Jamesons in New Hampshire and Illinois and elsewhere. And because of the records preserved by the New Hampshire emigrants, all these Jamesons can connect in the distant past to a family from Argyllshire, Scotland who moved to north Derry, just across a short stretch of sea. Later moves took some of them further, but we ought to acknowledge that not all of each family moved on, kin were left behind at each stopping point including those who stayed in Ireland.
The Argyllshire Jamesons emigrated to Ireland at the same time as, and possibly along with, a family of Cargills, who lived for a generation in Aghadowey, which lies between the Jameson holdings in Kilrea and Dunboe. David Cargill, ruling elder in Aghadowey, was father of at least seven daughters, whose marriages link many of the early settler families in New Hampshire. Marion Cargill, who married the Rev. James McGregor of Aghadowey and Londonderry, New Hampshire, and Annis Cargill, d. 1782, aged 93, who married James McKeen of Ballymoney, Co. Antrim, as his second wife, were two of the Cargill daughters. All of these families emigrated, and are central to the complex inter-relationships which characterized the Scotch-Irish in New Hampshire, as in Ulster. Several McKeen descendants married members of the Dinsmore family in New Hampshire; a daughter of James McKeen by his first wife, Jean or Janet Cochran, was mother of Robert Dinsmore or Dinsmoor, a farmer and poet in New Hampshire.
The Dinsmores, about whom a lot is known, epitomize the story of Bann valley emigrants to the New World. Descendants in the United States preserve stories about their ancestors, whether or not all the details are correct. John Dinsmoor or Dinsmore is said to have been a younger son of the laird of Achenmead in Scotland; in his teens, he was angered when his father tried to force him to stand with his head uncovered, holding his elder brother's stirrup, and he ran off to the north of Ireland, to Ballywattick, near Ballymoney. He is said to have arrived there about 1667, and tradition states that he was there surrounded, not by strangers, but by people from his own country. Here again the Hearthmoney and Subsidy Rolls are a valuable source; there is a Dinsmore in the Parish of Ballymoney in 1666 and there is a family called Hopkins in the townland of Ballywattick. This is a name that occurs later in the Dinsmore history, when the Scotsman's granddaughter married a Hopkins in Ballymoney about 1723 or so. The Scottish Dinsmore died at the age of 99 in Ballywattick; his son John emigrated, and after adventures and hardships, including being captured by Penobscot native Americans, he settled in Londonderry, New Hampshire. It is said that he had known many settlers of the Londonderry region before they had all left Ireland. By the end of his long life, known as 'Daddy Dinsmore', he was the founder in America of a family widely scattered and successful.
His great grandson Robert Dinsmore (1757–1836), a grandson of James McKeen, was known as the Rustic Bard; he was a farmer in Windham, New Hampshire. Though several generations had passed since his community had lived in either Scotland or Ulster, Robert Dinsmore's writings clearly show that the Scots language was still in use in New Hampshire. Like his younger contemporaries in Ulster, for example James Orr and Samuel Thomson, he delighted in the use of Scots and the writing of poetry. The famous American poet and critic John Greenleaf Whittier, who had known Dinsmore in his youth, highly commended the old farmer's poetry, as well as his character. Poetry in Scots, Whittier said, was 'the poetry of home, of nature and of the affections' , and he regretted that the poetry of the day in English in America was 'cold and imitative'. Dinsmore, on the other hand, wrote 'most of his pieces in the dialect of his ancestors, which was well understood by his neighbours and friends', and for which he had a great affection. Like the Ulster-Scots poets, he wrote verse letters to friends, and in one he wrote
Though Death our ancestors has cleekit
An' under clods them closely steekit,
We'll mark the place their chimneys reekit,
Their native tongue we yet wad speak it
Wi' accent glib.
His use of the familiar Scots Standard Habbie stanza form, as well as his knowledge of Scots, show that Scots and Ulster Scots were still a living linguistic and literary tradition among the descendants of the 1718 emigrants. If history had developed slightly differently, North America might now be a Scots speaking continent. Other aspects of Ulster Scots culture were preserved for some generations in New Hampshire; observers commented on the different habits of the New Hampshire Ulster Scots, who were linen weavers, ate potatoes and barley broth, drank buttermilk, and the occasional stronger drop. The settlers very early established the first fair ever held in America, at Derry, where it became a famous event for over a century.
Fairs were part of the Scottish economy and social life, but were not familiar in English settled areas. Whittier wrote that it was established 'in imitation of those they had been familiar with in Ireland. Thither came annually all manner of horse-jockeys and pedlars, gentlemen and beggars, dancers and fiddlers ... strong drink abounded ... A wild, frolicking, drinking, fiddling, courting, horse-racing, riotous merrymaking – a sort of Protestant carnival, relaxing the grimness of Puritanism for leagues around it [in New England]'. It sounds exactly like James Orr's description in Ulster-Scots verse of Ballycarry Fair, or Samuel Thomson's of Templepatrick Fair, both of County Antrim, of which Whittier presumably would never have heard. Whittier also recorded the local saying, that the Derry Presbyterians 'would never give up a pint of doctrine or a pint of rum'.
Interestingly, in one of Dinsmore's poems about theology, a reverend David or Davie McGregor, (a son or grandson of the Rev. James McGregor, who emigrated with part of his Aghadowey congregation), replies in Scots, and the poet praises the minister's orthodoxy.
When Unitarian champions dare thee
Goliath like, and think to scare thee
Dear Davie, fear not, they'll ne'er waur thee,
But draw thy sling
Weel loaded frae the Gospel quarry
An' gie't a fling.
It is significant that even a minister at this date was happy to discuss theology, admittedly in a lighthearted mood, in Scots; the language was clearly still central to the lives of the descendants of the 1718 emigrants.
If those who remained behind in Ireland after 1718 had known that so much of the Ulster way of life and culture was long cherished in the unknown wilderness that was to become New Hampshire, and if they had known even a little of the lives of their friends and descendants and kinsfolk, it would surely have comforted them. Sharing the stories, exchanging family information, re-visiting the land of origin or the land that became home to Ulster-born people; it is to be hoped that activities such as these will help in the present day to connect families separated for almost three hundred years. The re-forging of bonds between the communities may help to increase Ulster and American knowledge of the past, and thus to acknowledge the losses and trauma suffered by Ulster and Irish and Scottish society over so many generations, losses which were transformed into unparalleled contributions to modern America, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, and Great Britain.
A few paragraphs written in 1889 by Leonard Allison Morrison from New Hampshire, the first person who wrote about the need to re-connect, are a fitting conclusion. He was a descendant of the Dinsmores and McKeens, and other Co. Antrim and Derry families.
'It had been my great desire to visit the old home of the early Dinsmores, the abode for many generations of their descendants. All the other Dinsmores there, in their several generations, were, in different degrees of consanguinity, my relatives. Business of another nature called me to Ballymoney, and I gladly embraced the opportunity of visiting one of the townlands, Ballywattick, two miles away. With Mr William Hunter, an occupant of part of a Dinsmoor homestead, I had enjoyed a pleasant correspondence for several years. An Irish jaunting-car, on the afternoon of the day of my arrival, bore me rapidly over the smooth, hard road to the home of Mr Hunter, where he, his amiable wife and interesting family, gave me the cheeriest welcome ... They live pleasantly and cosily in a well constructed, good-sized stone house, built upon a portion of the homestead of Robert Dinsmore, the writer of the historic letter of 1794. [The letter from Ballywattick to an American kinsman set out the details of the Scots ancestry and early history of the family] ...Through the windows I looked forth upon fields familiar to, and trodden by, my ancestors two hundred and more years ago, and which had been sacred to their descendants almost to the present year. A lane, lined on either side with hedges, led us to the former home of Robert Dinsmore, the letter writer. It is a stone house of comfortable size and dimensions, with a roof of thatch. In its day it was one of the most pretentious in its neighbourhood. It is now unoccupied. Here it was that Robert Dinsmore lived, at seventy-four years of age, in 1794 when he wrote his letter, since famous, and now historic, to his relative John Dinsmoor of Windham, N.H., giving the genealogy and early history of the family'.
That venerable man little knew the boon he was conferring upon all of his lineage who were to succeed him, by the knowledge which he imparted in that epistle. He never dreamed that his letter would become historic, and that he was the earliest historian of his family, and had made possible the tracing of the annals of his race into the dim past. He little thought that a century later distant kinsmen 'from beyond seas' would seek out the old home and his abode, as the place where lived a benefactor. Yet such was to be the case.
His home stands alone. The fires have gone out upon the its ancient hearthstone ... the beating storms, the buffeting winds and tempests, shall assail no more forever the Dinsmores at that old homestead ... The home of Samuel Dinsmore (son of Robert, the letter writer) and of his son, John Dinsmore, now of Bloomington, Indiana , was only a few rods away ... The fields are well cultivated, the country attractive and inviting to the view. A general look of thriftiness and good cheer prevails ... I bade farewell to the first home of the Dinsmores in Ireland and went to Ballymoney. In the cemetery there is their quiet place of rest ... I took a hurried view of the small, yet historic town where had lived another of my ancestors, Justice James McKeen, who emigrated to Londonderry, N.H., in 1719. The emigrating sons and daughters, and their descendants, of the little moorland town of Ballymoney have had a wide influence in the Scotch-American settlements in the United States".
Leonard Allison Morrison, The earliest history and genealogy covering nearly three hundred years, from about 1600-1891, of the Dinsmoor or Dinsmore family of Scotland, Ireland and America: with that of many of their descendants and additional facts (1891), on a site hosted by Brigham Young University. Visit site
S.T. Carleton, Heads and hearths (Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, 1991)
Anon., The genealogy of the Bell family of Hagerstown, MD (1894), a site hosted by the Family History Center at the Brigham Young University. Visit site
Anon., 'History of the Dunsmore family', posted by Jim Dunsmore on the Dunsmore Genforum. Visit site
Charles A. Hazlett, History of Rockingham County, New Hampshire and Representative Citizens (1915); extract re history of Windham, posted online by Julie Dorfman. Visit site
Linda Merle, 'Scotch-Irish in New England'. Visit site
'Early history [of Windham, New Hampshire]'; extract from a book by Brad Dinsmore; on a page of a site hosted by the Nesmith Library, Windham, New Hampshire. Visit site
Robert Dinsmoor, 'The story of Indian Jamie' , transcribed by Kevin L. Martin and Lorelei S. Gustafson on a website relating to the Kendall family. Visit site
John Greenleaf Whittier, 'Old portraits and modern sketches. Robert Dinsmore', originally published 1850, found online at Humanities Web. Visit site
Danny McMurphy, 'McMurphy Family Home page'. Visit site
Anon., 'The Argyle Jamesons'. Visit site
'Robert Dinsmoor', Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, originally published 1887-9, online at Virtual American Biographies. Visit site
Elton A. and Janice T. Watlington, 'Our Hammond and Hale ancestors'. Visit site
'The Justice James McKean family" online on a website The McKean Family. Visit site
Alice V. Flanders. ‘Henniker, New Hampshire. Ocean Born Mary’. Visit site
A.L. Perry, Scotch-Irish in New England (1896)
T.H. Mullin, Aghadowey A parish and its linen industry (1972), 44-9, 133-45
T.H. Mullin, Coleraine in Georgian times (1977), 13-6
Thaddeus M. Piotrowski, The Scots and their descendants in the Manchester, N.H. area, including a concise history of Londonderry and Manchester (1976) Copy of monograph supplied by Carolyn White of the Library of University of New Hampshire at Manchester, who also provided other material, advice and web links.
William Copeley, ‘Scotch Irish settlers in New Hampshire, 1719–1776’, in Historic New Hampshire. visit site to contact the New Hampshire Historical Society. For catalogue of library and museum items visit site
Margaret Dickson Falley, Irish and Scotch-Irish ancestral research: a guide to the genealogical records, methods and sources in Ireland (1962)
Kerby A. Miller, ‘Ulster Presbyterians and the ‘Two Traditions’ in Ireland and America’. Visit site
Kerby A. Miller et al., Irish immigrants in the land of Canaan: letters and memoirs from colonial and revolutionary America, 1675–1815 (2003)
John and Helen Cargill, 'Capt. David Cargill of Londonderry, N.H. and some of his descendants', The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Oct 1963
NH State Library: Visit site
NH Historical Society: Visit site
Manchester Historic Association: Visit site
Manchester Public Library: Visit site
Londonderry Historical Society: Visit site
Leach Library (Londonderry): Visit site
Derry Historical Society: Visit site
Derry Public Library Visit site
Thanks to all who helped with advice and material; Dan Wilson, Linda Merle, Norman Parkes, Boyd Gray. Carolyn White, Bill McAfee, Mark Thompson, staff at GCAS, Brian Lambkin, Brian Trainor