Seagoe Parish Archives - 1660-1820

Vol. 7 No. 3 - 1999

Seagoe Parish Archives


by Francis X McCorry

Seagoe Parish Church
Seagoe Parish Church

The availability of material derived from parish registers in a modernised and computerised format generally appears to be a second-best option. The principal disadvantage is the inability of the researcher to make a judgement on the completeness or otherwise of the register in all three components of baptisms, marriages and burials. Alphabetical order cum chronological order on balance is a less authentic system of presentation of parish progress and well-being than sequential order.

For the period prior to 1800, the standardisation of family names was far from complete. Local knowledge of families and districts is therefore required to sort out the deficiencies of a system based on an alphabetical order which itself is based on various interpretations of family names given orally to the officiating clergyman in accents and speech which could vary greatly over the extent of a parish. Thus in the Seagoe Church of Ireland parish registers, Loughlin O'Doone, holding land on the highest point of Derrymacash townland in the 17th and 18th centuries appears as, variously, Loughlin, Locklan, Laghlen, which does not upset the alphabetical order, and as, Doon, Down, Downe and Downs, which does.

Further down the road, in Derrytrasna, Murtagh Hamill, appears near the beginning of the early computerised register in the, following entry:- Ahamel, Arthur, baptised, 07/10/1711, [Murtagh & Catherine Ahamel] (O'Hamel). And then there is the difficulty with Abraham, Abrahan and Abram, who are one and the same family grouping. One significant advantage of the computerised data is the facility of being able to determine by alphabetical sequence, over centuries the families who were the backbone of the parish in the early and middle periods. Some remain as anchor families; some remain within the parish but have given allegiance to other denominations; others have disappeared from the parish.

Just as interesting, but perhaps not as important, is the ease afforded by computerised data to the identification of families who fleetingly appear in the registers for a few years, usually as a result of baptisms and then fail to re-appear. And then there are those families who return over time to bury in Seagoe graveyard yet do not have any baptism, or marriages recorded in the period prior to the deaths.

Continuous record

Some positive features emerge from a preliminary examination of the computerised Seagoe Parish records of baptisms, marriages and burials. Above all, in the north Armagh/north of Ireland context, it must be said that the Church of Ireland clergy in Seagoe Parish maintained the registration process throughout the period of hunger, famine and assumed devastation in the 1740s when registration broke down in many northern parishes, not least the neighbouring and well-to-do Parish of Shankill, Lurgan. Not only that, but the number of recorded marriages during this decade and the great excess of recorded baptisms over recorded burials suggests that Seagoe may have escaped all or much of the known distress of the 1740s.

The Dixon family grouping provide an appropriate exemplar:- in 1736-39, they had five baptisms, and two burials; in 1742-46, four baptisms and two burials; and in 1747-49, three recorded marriages, viz. 08/01/1747, Martha Dixon to Darcey Wentworth; 05/01/1749, George Dixon to Elizabeth Dynes, 28/06/1749, William Dixon to Mary Bradshaw. In terms of number of register entries, the Dixon and Dynes family groupings were the most numerous in the parish.

Infant mortality

In the period, 1740-49, the Dynes grouping had 19 entries in the parish registers, of which eleven were baptisms, seven were burials and one was a marriage (to a Dixon). Of the deaths, six were of females, two of whom were mothers. Oliver Dynes lost two children in the one week, in August 1743. The Abraham family lost two children on the one day, July 18th.1782, and in 1786, two additional children in a six-month period. In 1776 and 1786, the Abrahams had two weddings, one in November and the other in December, part of a pattern apparent elsewhere which indicated that the majority of rural marriages were celebrated in the dark winter months.

Also part of a pattern which emerged in various years were the deaths of young children in the summer-autumn months; in the four-week period, 28/06/1790 to 25/07/1790, the Abrahams had three children-deaths. Unlike the Wilsons, Atkinsons, Emersons, Dixons and Dyneses, the Abrahams were not represented in the Seagoe Hearth Money Rolls of 1664. They were, however, represented by two baptisms in the 1690s, and emerged over the next two hundred years as progressive farmers within the parish and are still well represented.

The Allen family, also a major farming grouping, were represented in the Hearth Money Rolls by Widow Allen of Killenergitt, (Silverwood), on the outskirts of Lurgan, a townland once claimed by Seagoe Parish, adjudged to have been more highly ranked than nearby Shankill Parish. In the Seagoe Archives, 1660-1821, the Allens have ten entries of which six are marriages, yielding a most unusual register profile.

The Blackers

In 1664, the Blacker family were already well-to-do. Valentine Blacker and George Blacker were dwelling in Ballinaghy and Carrick, in superior houses. The subsequent socio-economic and political progress of the Blacker family is relatively well documented. Their 18th century demographic profile is less well known. Various branches of the family were spread over three parishes. The forenames of Valentine and George were solidly maintained throughout a long period. In the 102-year period, 1691-1793, the Blackers are attributed with 33 entries in the early Seagoe parish registers. These comprised 14 baptisms, 14 deaths and five marriages.

The marriage entries are interesting as they are restricted to an early 30-year period, 1698-1728, and to Blacker female marriages. Throughout the 102-year period, no marriages are recorded for Blacker males in the Seagoe registers. Of the five Blacker women whose marriages are recorded, three are attributed with the appellation, "Mrs", suggesting that these women were widows. It must be kept in mind that the denoting of this title may have been a slip of the mind or a slip of the hand. Yet this early period was the era of widowhood. Of the 99 identifiable householders listed in the Cess returns of Shankill Parish, Lurgan, in 1693, eleven were widows; and in the same parish, in this era, better-off widows frequently remarried.

The five grooms in the Blacker weddings are all attributed with the title, "Mr.", as an indication of emanating from a background of means.

The five recorded marriages were:

  • Mrs. Jane Blacker to Mr George Baylie on 01/09/1698
  • Mrs. Mary Blacker to Mr. Thomas Warren on 29/10/1702
  • Miss Lettice Blacker to Mr. Willam Mathers on 08/03/1715
  • Miss Judith Blacker to Reverend Mr.Robert Stephenson on 20/08/1719
  • Mrs. Hanrietta Blacker to Mr. Henry Hops on 22/12/1728.

Three infants were named George Blacker in 1765, 1775 and 1777; one of these infants died in 1785. And in September 1793, Henry Blacker, the infant son of the Reverend Dean Blacker died. Many years earlier, in the period 1706-15, William and Hannah Blacker coped with great sadness as three young children died; Valentine was born, and died, in 1706. A second baby named Valentine (as was frequently the custom) was born in 1711, and died in 1713. Legard, a son born on October 24th. 1714, and baptised privately, died on 3rd April 1715. Life was not easy in the early 18th.century, even for advantaged families. In nearby Shankill Parish, it was not uncommon for families to lose two and sometimes three young children during periods of crisis, in particular during the years, 1708 and 1713, and the period, 1718-27. Overall, on the basis of recorded entries, Seagoe Parish seems to have escaped such periods of melancholy and death.

Similar to the material in Catholic registers, it becomes obvious through entries in Church of Ireland parish registers that certain families provide the identity and anchor roles for the parishes with which they are chiefly concerned, and vice versa. The family names of Dixon, Dynes, Gibson, Gilpin, Gracey, Greenaway, Kettle, Lutton and many more, are closely associated with Seagoe-Portadown. So also are the Bullock family of Seagoe Parish who had a significant presence in Shankill Parish, Lurgan, being listed in both Church of Ireland and Quaker documents. So also were the Kirks and the Porters, and it may well be that, at the end of the 17th.century, tugs-of-religious influence between Anglicism and Quakerism were strong in the areas near to Aghacornmon and Tamnificarbet, where the homes of Rodger and Anne Webb, and Francis and Isobel Robson, were places of Quaker worship and Quaker weddings.

Later, in the mid-1700s and beyond, some Church of Ireland/Catholic marriages are recorded in the Seagoe registers and a few Church of Ireland baptisms are listed for infants belonging to families perceived to be Catholics. The strength of the Bullock family grouping in Seagoe during the birth of the Anglican parish can best be illustrated by listing the six Bullock couples who brought infants to church for baptism, in the period, 1692-1702:19/06/1692, Jane of Peter & Mary Bullock; 01/04/1694, Jane of Peter & Helen Bullock; 08/03/1696, George of Timothy & Mary Bullock; 22/03/1699, William of Richard & Jane Bullock 16/04/1701, Mary of Robert & Sarah Bullock; 17/07/1702, Anne of William & Mary Bullock.

One can only wonder if William Freer, of 1699, William Frere, of 1704, Robert Friar of 1692, Robert Frire of 1698, John Fryar of 1702, and Mary Fryers of 1718 were all related and perhaps belonged to the same family or family grouping. One can only wonder even more about how the news of the Friar triplets was received in December 1692 by the family circle and by people within Seagoe Parish. Sadly, one baby died soon after birth and, in the registers, the Christian names of the infants were omitted, a result no doubt of the confusion which the birth of triplets would have generated at the end of the 17th.century.

The Gardiners also had various spellings bestowed upon the family name, including, Garner, Gardner and Gardener. Two young men who died in the prime of life may have been members of the same family; John Garner, died, 30/03/1815, aged 23 years, and Thomas Gardiner, died, 13/04/1816, aged 25 years. George and Mary Gardner were blessed by two sets of twins, George and Bradshaw Gardner, born in October 1806, and Anne and Elizabeth Gardner, born in April 1812.

All the aforementioned rites were solemnised in and around the old church, the ruins of which remain within Seagoe cemetery. The foundation stone of the present church was laid on a site in Upper Seagoe in June 1814. The church was completed, blessed and consecrated on June 28th 1816. An entry in the parish records recalls the first marriage to be solemnised in the new church. The entry reads:

James Ewing, Parish of Armagh, to Anne Watson, of Seagoe, married, 14/07/1816. Said to be the first 'By Licence' marriage to be licensed in the new Church which was opened this year, 1816 A.D.

Difficult days

Although Seagoe had an elegant new church, good clergy and some supportive affluent families, the beginning of the 19th.century and afterwards were difficult days for the parish. Methodism flourished in and around Portadown as it did nowhere else in Ireland. And when, in 1818, Irish Methodists seceded from the Church of Ireland (except for the Irish Primitive Wesleyan Methodists), the Church of Ireland in the parishes around Portadown faced a serious depletion in their numbers of regular adherents. Some historians stress the positive aspects of the separation. Alan Acheson recently wrote:

"Although Wesley had boasted, 'I live and die a member of the Church of England' and counselled his societies never to separate from her communion, within 30 years of his death, in 1818, Irish Methodists seceded from the Church of Ireland."

But although, despite himself, Wesley ultimately launched a new denomination, he left a fuller legacy. Methodism was the catalyst of change. Evangelicals were recovering from the effects of individual secessions from the Church of Ireland. The secession by 1818 of most Methodists, though ostensibly, a more serious loss to the church, was in reality but the formal climax to years of spiritual alienation. By then the revival within the church had come of age, and moved closer to general acceptance.

One hundred years earlier, structured worship was relatively less flexible as parishes began the long uphill task of reforming splintered strands of Christianity with people from the various regions of England, Wales and Scotland. Loyalty to district roots was paramount as illustrated by the tragedy borne by John and Katherine Gibson, from the Parish of Tartaraghan, whose three children died within a four-week period in March- April 1718, and who brought their children to Seagoe churchyard for burial. So also did the Kettles of the Parish of Ballymore, Tandragee, who recorded many deaths in the closing part of the 18th.century. The Lawsons of Drumcree Parish whose time of tragedy and distress centred around the period, 1715-46, when ten of their deaths were recorded in the Seagoe registers.

This sequence of deaths recorded in the registers came to a halt with the marriage of John Lawson to Miss Judith Gilpin, on January 24th 1751. Another marriage of much significance to Seagoe Parish was recorded in the Seagoe registers but was solemnised 'by Mr. Carroll in ye Chapel in the Mointaghs'. The marriage partners were William Corner (or Cordner) and Rachel Bodle, both of the Montiaghs, and they were married on May 5th 1750. Letters surviving from the period emphasise the great difficulty of the 1740s and early 1750s on account of flooding, storms and poor harvests. The resilience of the people and their will to establish a daughter church of Seagoe, in a quite remote district, is not unexpected. This recorded marriage is the first reference to a Church of Ireland chapel in the Ardmore/Derryadd area.

In 1751, the Seagoe Parish Vestry set aside four pounds to pay the clerk of "the Chapel in the Montiaghs". This was two and a half years after the Reverend Arthur Fforde had left Seagoe Parish on being collated to the Rectory of Shankill, in Lurgan, and 14 years before the Montiaghs became a separate parish under Church of Ireland jurisdiction. The Montiaghs clerk's salary remained more or less the same until 1757 when the Seagoe parishioners, by a majority, refused to donate any money towards his upkeep. In the following year, however, the sum of ten pounds was levied on several inhabitants as an allowance for the clerk in lieu of dues for 1757 and 1758. The Constablewick of the Montiaghs was also reserved for the clerk.

Ardmore Church

In 1760, the Seagoe Vestry donated thirty shillings "to buy forms for the Chapel in Ardmore", this being the first reference to mention the actual site of the church. The original church which stood on the eastern slope of the Ardmore promontory, close to the Lough Neagh shore, was blown down in a storm on November 4th 1783. The sites of the church and adjoining graveyard were uncovered by John Emerson of Ardmore, in 1929, while excavating gravel on his recently purchased farm. In the 1780s, Reverend John Carroll, first Rector of the Montiaghs, was holding 80 acres of land in Derryadd, including a hill site, some good agricultural land, and an area of wet sour pasture. The hill-site was chosen for the replacement church, erected in 1785. To this day, the church is known as Ardmore Church, in spite of being located well inside the townland of Derryadd.

Finally, the excitement generated by the arrival of triplets into a community is characterised by the method of recording their birth and baptism in the Seagoe registers of 1719. The Dale triplets, Elizabeth, Anne and Sarah, daughters of Robert and Margaret Dale, were afforded individual entries in the Baptism register and given the full spiritual support of the Anglican Church, to the great credit of a fervent rector.

Elizabeth Dale (Triplet), 21/09/1719, daughter of Robert and Mary Dale. Baptised Privately. Received into the Church publicly along with her sisters, 22/09/1719, and the rest of the Office performed on Sunday 27th September, according to the Rule, Book of Common Prayer.

Anne Dale (Triplet), 22/09/1719, daughter of Robert and Mary Dale. Baptised Privately. Received into the Church publicly along with her sisters, 22/09/1719, and the rest of the Office performed on Sunday 27th September, according to the Rule, Book of Common Prayer.

Sarah Dale (Triplet), 22/09/1719, daughter of Robert and Mary Dale. Baptised Privately. Received into the Church publicly along with her sisters, 22/09/1719, and the rest of the Office performed on Sunday 27th September, according to the Rule, Book of Common Prayer.

It would have been a sad and sombre rector whose duty it was to record the deaths of the three little girls, aged two weeks, on October 6th, 1719.

"Suffer little children to come unto Me."