Category Archives: WELCH

250 Years Ago Today — March 17, 1764

Londonderry, Ulster/Northern Ireland
On St. Patrick’s Day in 1764, somewhere in Ireland, a little baby boy was born. He was christened James. Born to a man named Boal and a mother whose name is lost.

It was a Saturday. An ocean away, in British North America, New York City had just begun the tradition of celebrating the day, the first five years without a parade.

Meanwhile, in Ireland, life went on for James. He became a linen and carpet weaver, trades probably learned from his father. James wed in 1787.

James left for America in 1790 with his wife Elizabeth and two children, Margaret and George. They left from Londonderry in the North.

ireland_mapBeing poor, “the trip was made by the cheapest passage.”

It was not a pleasant journey.

“The voyage of three months was a stormy one, during which the ship sprang a leak, and much of the cargo, including some of the goods belonging to the Boal family, was thrown overboard.”

They were devout Presbyterians.

At least one grandson of James, John Shannon Boal, fought in the Civil War.

I doubt James could fathom the chain of events he had instigated with his decision to leave Ireland. How could he foresee that a descendant would write about him on the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of his birth and that the day, a truly Irish one, would be so widely celebrated?


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.


Cemetery Science

Since I have ancestors buried in Boalsburg, this caught my attention.

At [a] cemetery . . . in central Pennsylvania, Boalsburg Cemetery, she and her students have undertaken a wide range of projections, including comparing weathering rates of different types of stones (nearly all are granite or marble), and gleaning information about the history of the local community, such as how long people lived.

It’s an article about how gravestones have weathered through the years and what that can tell us about pollution. The group of researchers have dubbed it the Gravestone Project.

To a geologist, a gravestone can offer information other rocks can’t. One project is using gravestones to better understand how the elements, particularly acid rain, are weathering rocks around the world, and how that’s changed over time.


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.