Category Archives: BOAL

William Boal’s Grave

Photos of William Boal’s grave have been posted at the Find A Grave site. These were posted by a volunteer with the Solon History Group. He was buried in the Oakland Cemetery in Solon, Iowa, which is about midway between Iowa City and Cedar Rapids.

William Boal is my four-great grandfather (as in great-great-great-great or 4G). He was the father of Civil War vet John Shannon Boal, grandfather of Nettie Ann Boal, mother of my great grandmother. William was born in 1801 and died in 1880.

The stone is covered with some sort of moss and possibly lichen, so it’s rather difficult to read.

William’s parents were Presbyterians who lived in Northern Ireland, commonly known among the Protestants and the English as Ulster.


The First Memorial Day

The Aisne-Marne Cemetery and Memorial in France
The Aisne-Marne Cemetery and Memorial in France

The newspaper in Council Bluffs, Iowa — The Daily Nonpareil — has a little-known factoid on the history of Memorial Day. It began in a town in the heart of Pennsylvania, a place where some my Irish and Ulster Scot ancestors settled. In fact, it was named after them.

The first known “Memorial Day” observance was in Boalsburg, Pa., on October 1864 and it continued each year thereafter.

Back then and for years after, it was known as Decoration Day. The name was changed to Memorial Day in 1882.

By 1865 the practice of decorating soldiers’ graves from the Civil War had become widespread. There were events in 183 cemeteries in 27 states in 1868, and 336 in 1869. The northern states quickly adopted the holiday; Michigan made “Decoration Day” an official state holiday in 1871.

More than 20,000 people are expected to visit Boalsburg for the day.

Every year the town puts on a big celebration, including a parade, a community walk to the cemetery, military re-enactments and much more. One of the towns’ museums, the Pennsylvania Military Museum says volunteers make their demonstration possible.


Irish Intrigue

Baron Carrickfergus, a royal title recently given to Prince William, is causing some consternation among some Irish folk.

The British decision to revive the title and clearly make sure that nationalists who live in the town are under His Royal Highness is a curious one.

Is it “a deliberate effort to state categorically that a part of Ireland was still under British rule and that the Irish could like it or lump it?”

Carrickfergus is the oldest town in County Antrim. It has been a major port and town in the Province of Ulster for centuries. Its name means Rock of Fergus and it is an older settlement than the capital city of Northern Ireland, Belfast.

I find the historical background fascinating, especially given the fact that some of my ancestors lived in Northern Ireland and were Presbyterians.

Baron Carrickfergus certainly lays claim to disputed land between the Irish and the British, one settled by Protestant planters in the 16th century when the native Irish were driven off.

It was also the landing point for King William of Orange when he arrived in Ireland to enforce Protestant domination.


The Boal Family & Ireland

For years I had been searching for material on my great-great-great-great grandfather, John S. Boal. He was a veteran of the American Civil War and died a young man at the age of 40 or 42. (There’s some confusion as to when he was born, 1836 or 1838.)

I don’t know in what unit he served during the war, but it was one from Pennsylvania. Thankfully some cousins in Australia tracked me down and sent me some info.

They knew his middle name, Shannon. Among the Irish (and a few other cultures) there’s a tradition, unknown to me at the time, of using the maiden surname of the mother for a son’s middle name.

His father was William Boal, son of James Boal. William married Ann Marie Shannon. They were Presbyterians, possibly Ulster Scots, and lived for a time in Derry, Northern Ireland.

James, a linen and carpet weaver, was born March 17, 1764 in Ireland. In 1787, he married Elizabeth Welch. They emigrated to the United States in the spring of 1790, with a loom by his side, settling near Boalsburg, Centre County, Pennsylvania. James died on June 22, 1836  in Centre County.

During the insurrection of 1798 some of the Boal men returned to Ireland to fight the British.


Family Name History

I came across a Family Name History feature at a site called nameLab, so I decided to lookup a few surnames.

Americanized spelling of Dutch Van (der) Not, a habitational name for someone from a place called Ter Noot, for example one in French Flanders.

1. Dutch: habitational name from any of various minor places named with Middle Dutch ort ‘outermost point’.
2. Dutch: Alternatively, it may be from a misdivision of Van Noort, variant of Van Noord.

Dutch: topographic name for someone ‘from the north’ (Dutch noord) or habitational name from any of the places named with this word, in North Holland, Zeeland, and North Brabant.

English and Scottish: from Middle English derling, Old English dēorling ‘darling’, ‘beloved one’, a derivative of dēor ‘dear’, ‘beloved’ (see Dear 1). This was quite a common Old English byname, which remained current as a personal name into the 14th century. The surname probably derives at least in part from this use, probably in part also from a Middle English nickname.

Variant spelling of English Goodall.

1. English (chiefly Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire): habitational name from Gowdall in East Yorkshire, named from Old English golde ‘marigold’ + Old English halh ‘nook’, ‘recess’.
2. English (chiefly Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire): from Middle English gode ‘good’ + ale ‘ale’, ‘malt liquor’, hence a metonymic occupational name for a brewer or an innkeeper.

1. English (especially Yorkshire) and Scottish: occupational name for a fuller, Middle English walkere, Old English wealcere, an agent derivative of wealcan ‘to walk, tread’. This was the regular term for the occupation during the Middle Ages in western and northern England. Compare Fuller and Tucker.
2. The name was brought to North America from northern England and Scotland independently by many different bearers in the 17th and 18th centuries. Samuel Walker came to Lynn, MA, in about 1630; Philip Walker was in Rehoboth, MA, in or before 1643. The surname was also established in VA before 1650; a Thomas Walker, born in 1715 in King and Queen Co., VA, was a physician, soldier, and explorer.

1. English: probably an early variant of Doughty.
2. Edward Doty (c.1600–55) was one of the passengers on the Mayflower, a servant of Stephen Hopkins. He became comparatively wealthy and moved to Duxbury MA, where he left nine children.

English and Scottish (also established in Ireland, especially Dublin): nickname for a powerful or brave man, especially a champion jouster, from Middle English doughty, Old English dohtig, dyhtig ‘valiant’, ‘strong’.

1. Irish: variant spelling of Connor, now common in Scotland.
2. English: occupational name for an inspector of weights and measures, Middle English connere, cunnere ‘inspector’, an agent derivative of cun(nen) ‘to examine’.

Irish: reduced form of O’Connor, which is an Anglicization of Gaelic Ó Conchobhair ‘descendant of Conchobhar’. 

1. English: patronymic from Reynold.
2. Christopher Reynolds of Gravesend, Kent, England, arrived in America sometime before his marriage in 1644 in Isle of Wight Co., VA.

English: from a Germanic personal name composed of the elements ragin ‘counsel’ + wald ‘rule’, which was first introduced to England by Scandinavian settlers in the Old Norse form Rǫgnvaldr (see Ronald), and greatly reinforced after the Conquest by the Norman forms Reinald, Reynaud. The surname is occasionally also borne by Jews, in which case it presumably represents an Americanized form of one or more like-sounding Jewish surnames.

1. English, Welsh, and northern Irish: variant of Bowell.
2. Irish: variant of Boyle.

Irish (Donegal): Anglicized form of Gaelic Ó Baoithghill ‘descendant of Baoithgheall’, a personal name of uncertain meaning, perhaps from baoth ‘rash’ + geall ‘pledge’.

1. Welsh: variant of Powell (see Howell).
2. English (of Norman origin): habitational name from Bouelles in Seine Maritime, France, so named with Old Norman French boelle ‘enclosure’, ‘dwelling’.

1. Irish: reduced form of Shanahan.
2. Irish: reduced Anglicized form of Gaelic Ó Seanáin ‘descendant of Seanán’, a personal name based on a pet form of seán ‘old’.
3. Irish: in County Clare, a reduced Anglicized form of Mac Giolla tSeanáin ‘son of the servant of St. Seanán’. In the Irish midlands Leonard and Nugent have been adopted as equivalents of this name.

Irish (Munster): reduced Anglicized form of Gaelic Ó Seanacháin ‘descendant of Seanachán’, a diminutive of Seanach, a personal name from sean ‘ancient’, ‘old’.

1. German: topographic name from any of several swamps so named.
2. German: from the Low German and Frisian personal name Radde, a short form of any of the various Germanic personal names formed with rād, rāt ‘counsel’, ‘advice’, for example Radebert, Radebold.

English: habitational name from Tydd St. Mary in Lincolnshire or Tydd St. Giles in Cambridgeshire, named probably with an unattested Old English word, tydd ‘shrubs’, ‘brush’, ‘wood’.

English: habitational name from Northorpe in the former East Riding of Yorkshire, named with Old Norse norðr or Old English norþ ‘north’ + þorp or þrop ‘dependent outlying farmstead’, ‘hamlet’.

1. English: occupational name for a gamekeeper employed in a medieval park, from an agent derivative of Middle English parc ‘park’ (see Park 1). This surname is also found in Ireland.
2. Americanized form of one or more like-sounding Jewish names.

1. English, Scottish, and Irish: from an Anglo-Scandinavian form of the Gaelic name Niall (see Neill). This was adopted by the Scandinavians in the form Njal and was introduced into northern England and East Anglia by them, rather than being taken directly from Gaelic. It was reinforced after the Norman Conquest by the Anglo-Norman French and Middle English forms Neel, Nihel, and Nigel, which were brought to England by the Normans.
2. Scottish and Irish: reduced form of McNeal (see McNeil). 

German (also Höh): topographic name or nickname from Middle High German hōch, hō ‘high’ (see Hoch).
Chinese: variant of Hu.

1. Scottish and English: topographic name for someone who lived by an enclosure, Middle English hay(e), heye (Old English (ge)hæg, which after the Norman Conquest became confused with the related Old French term haye ‘hedge’, of Germanic origin). Alternatively, it may be a habitational name from any of various places named with this word, including Les Hays and La Haye in Normandy. The Old French and Middle English word was used in particular to denote an enclosed forest. Compare Haywood. This name was taken to Ireland (County Wexford) by the Normans.
2. Scottish and English: nickname for a tall man, from Middle English hay, hey ‘tall’, ‘high’ (Old English hēah).
3. Scottish and English: from the medieval personal name Hay, which represented in part the Old English byname Hēah ‘tall’, in part a short form of the various compound names with the first element hēah ‘high’.
4. French: topographic name from a masculine form of Old French haye ‘hedge’, or a habitational name from Les Hays, Jura, or Le Hay, Seine-Maritime.
5. Spanish: topographic name from haya ‘beech tree’ (ultimately derived from Latin fagus).
6. German: occupational name from Middle High German heie ‘guardian’, ‘custodian’ (see Hayer).
7. Dutch and Frisian: variant of Haye 1.
8. The surname Hay is particularly common in Scotland, where it has been established since 1160. The principal family of the name are of Norman origin; they trace their descent from William de la Haye, who was butler of Scotland in the reign of Malcolm IV (1153–65). They hold the titles marquess of Tweeddale, earl of Kinnoul, and earl of Erroll. The earl of Erroll also holds the hereditary office of constable of Scotland, first bestowed on the family by Robert I in 1314.

English, Welsh, French, South Indian, etc.: from the personal name George, Greek Geōrgios, from an adjectival form, geōrgios ‘rustic’, of geōrgos ‘farmer’. This became established as a personal name in classical times through its association with the fashion for pastoral poetry. Its popularity in western Europe increased at the time of the Crusades, which brought greater contact with the Orthodox Church, in which several saints and martyrs of this name are venerated, in particular a saint believed to have been martyred at Nicomedia in ad 303, who, however, is at best a shadowy figure historically. Nevertheless, by the end of the Middle Ages St. George had become associated with an unhistorical legend of dragon-slaying exploits, which caught the popular imagination throughout Europe, and he came to be considered the patron saint of England among other places.

1. English: nickname from Middle English chitte ‘pup’, ‘cub’, ‘young (of an animal)’ (apparently related to Old English cī{dh} ‘shoot’, ‘sprout’).
2. English: habitational name from a place named Chitty in the parish of Chislet, Kent, named from an Old English personal name Citta + ēg ‘island’, ‘dry ground in marsh’.
3. Possibly an Americanized form of German Schütte (see Schutte).

1. English and Scottish: extremely common and widely distributed topographic name for someone who lived on or by a hill, Middle English hill (Old English hyll).
2. English: from the medieval personal name Hill, a short form of Hilary (see Hillary) or of a Germanic (male or female) compound name with the first element hild ‘strife’, ‘battle’.
3. German: from a short form of Hildebrand or any of a variety of other names, male and female, containing Germanic hild as the first element.
4. Jewish (American): Anglicized form of various Jewish names of similar sound or meaning.
5. English translation of Finnish Mäki (‘hill’), or of any of various other names formed with this element, such as Mäkinen, Heinämaki, Kivimäki.

1. English: variant spelling of Bellow.
2. German: habitational name from any of three places in Mecklenburg named Below.
3. Jewish (eastern Ashkenazic) and Russian: variant of Beloff.


What Do Northern Ireland, Pennsylvania, Iowa & Australia Have in Common?

Some distant Boal cousins from Australia responded after finding some of my posts on John S. Boal. We then began communicating via email. They tracked down connections, which I had never successfully made before. The family came to Iowa from Pennsylvania. Some of them then left the United States for Australia. Prior to this they were in Northern Ireland.

John’s father, William, lived and died not far from John, near Iowa City. John died before him and is buried in the Wassonville Cemetery in Washington County. William is buried in the Oakland Cemetery in Johnson County.

The Boal Museum is located in the heart of Pennsylvania, where most of the Boals lived after coming from northern Ireland. Life was centered on the town of Boalsburg. It’s not far from the main campus of Penn State, known to me because of Joe Paterno, a great coach and, what’s better, a great man. He and his wife have literally given millions to support the libraries at the university, culminating in the Paterno Library. For a few terms I was a student at the other PSU, Portland State. But I digress.

Now returning to the Boals, John’s mother was Anne or Anna Marie Shannon, taking his middle name from her maiden name, a common practice among some Irish families. John served in the Union Army during the Civil War, but I am still trying to determine the precise unit.