Category Archives: SHANNON

PA Frontier History Day

A day of events, called PA Frontier History Day, is focusing on colonial life in Pennsylvania. It is a joint venture of Midtown Scholar Bookstore and the Ned Smith Center for Nature and Art, both in the Harrisburg area.

I love reading about the period. Different branches of my family lived in Pennsylvania during the colonial and early republic eras.

It is sometimes hard to re­member amid the urban and rural sprawl surround­ing Harrisburg, but this re­gion was once the frontier for European settlers, and that even once the colony of Pennsylvania was founded, the western edge of the state was still a wilderness.

Some authors will be there, including Brady Crytzer and Pulitzer Prize nominee Scott Weidensaul. Crytzer is the author of Fort Pitt: A Frontier Histo­ry and Weidensaul wrote The First Frontier: The Forgotten His­tory of Struggle, Savagery and Endurance in Early America.

The book [The First Frontier] . . . traces more than two centuries of widely forgotten clashes and culture shock between European settlers and the natives living be­tween the Atlantic and the Appalachians.


Sinking Creek Presbyterian Church in Rebersburg

An Amish buggy heads into Rebersburg.
An Amish buggy heads into Rebersburg.

Yesterday I began browsing through all of the database collections at One such collection, Pennsylvania, Church and Town Records, 1708-1985, caught my attention.

I began looking for information on James Hill, supposedly born on June 22 in 1763 in Pennsylvania. I didn’t find anyone or any information to connect to James, so I went down another avenue of possibilities: the Boal family.

More than four thousand records (4,356 to be precise) with the surname Boal are within this particular database.

I first started looking for John Boal. John Shannon Boal was the grandfather of my great grandmother, Geneva Estella Darling. John’s daughter Nettie Ann Boal, her mother, married Jerome Harvey Darling.

One my recurring problems is that there are multiple men named John Boal. In fact, there are a few men sharing the middle initial as well, John S. Boal. It has been impossible to find his Civil War unit. Now I’ve come to learn some of them likely shared precisely the same name: John Shannon Boal.

One “J Shannon Boal” died in 1896. He was buried on March 29, 1896 at the Sinking Creek Presbyterian Church in Rebersburg.

Rebersburg is a town in central Pennsylvania. It is in Centre County.

Another “J Shannon Boal” was buried on April 14, 1911, once again at the church in Rebersburg.

My John S. Boal died in 1878 in Iowa.

As early as 1784, there is a John Boal in Pennsylvania. He was associated with a man named Henry C. Krupp, perhaps an employer.

The earliest recording of the Boal name at the Sinking Creek Presbyterian Church that I can find is 1841.

George Boal was listed on June 30, 1841. Some of the Shannons are listed there too, and his wife Sarah. A George W. Boal (“Geo W Boal”) is recorded again in April 1846.

A William Boal, the same name as John Shannon Boal’s father, is listed as having “left” and is now “dead,” according to whoever was logging the information. I assume this was the pastor. Just below William’s name is Melissa Boal, with the same notation as having left, except apparently still living at the time.

I was beginning to think this was indeed John’s father. William Boal left Pennsylvania for Iowa, where he died in 1880.

A William Boal is listed as having been buried sometime between 1868 and 1917. This time frame fits with the date of William’s death in Iowa.

However, I later learned more about William and Melissa. The years don’t match.

So not only are there a few John Boals running around, there were multiple Williams too.

The source is microfilm reel 361 in Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.


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.


The Irish in America

The Irish population of the United States based on statistics from the 1890 census.
The Irish population of the United States based on statistics from the 1890 census.

I discovered this map at a site dedicated to Irish genealogy. The Irish ancestors I know about, the Boals and Shannons, came from County Derry in Northern Ireland, and earlier from possibly County Donegal. It’s nice to have this map, as most of the 1890 census originals were destroyed in a fire.


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.