The Presbyterian Tradition

The First Presbyterian Church in Derry, Northern Ireland
The First Presbyterian Church in Derry, Northern Ireland

While at the central library the other day, I walked down an aisle and noticed some books on Scottish and Irish ancestry.

One, the Handbook on Irish Genealogy, had some good notes on the Presbyterians. It was published by Heraldic Artists Ltd., Trinity Street, Dublin.

My Boal ancestors and related lines were Presbyterians, in Northern Ireland and America. Because of this fact, it is overwhelming likely that they were originally from Scotland.

PRESBYTERIAN RECORDS. The Presbyterian tradition has always been very strong in Ireland ever since the first Minister Edward Brice settled in Ballycarry near Larne in County Antrim in 1613.

I’ve never heard of Brice before nor read of the significance of the year 1613.

[T]he Presbyterian Historical Society has an impressive list of baptismal and marriage registers prior to 1820. Also among the Society’s records are copies of the Religious Census of 1766 for many parishes in Ulster, lists of Protestant householders for counties, Antrim, Derry and Donegal 1740 as well as a census (or what virtually amounts to one) of Presbyterians taken in the year 1775.

Being a rebel in church matters was frowned upon.

Another source of information are the Certificates of Tranference which were given to members leaving a district to show that they were free of church censure. They took the form of brief life histories.

The Presbyterian Historical Society’s HQ is listed as Church House, Fisherwick Place, Belfast. I don’t know if they are still there.

After looking through lists of records on microfilm, sadly, the ones for Derry (also known as Londonderry, which I finally found an explanation for) are quite limited. I am hoping I might find what I’m looking for in Catholic or Anglican archives.

Finally do remember that for historical reasons records of Presbyterian births and marriages will often be found in the registers of the Established Church. So do not overlook that source if your ancestors happen to be of Irish Presbyterian stock.


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