Tag Archives: Northern Ireland

March 17ᵗʰ in the year 1764

On this day 257 years ago, somewhere in Ireland my ancestor James Boal was born. He came to America in 1790 from Derry, Northern Ireland, settling in central Pennsylvania. I wrote about him and a bit of the family history seven years ago.


Thankfully, the Troubles are over, mostly.

My interest stems partly from being a descendant of immigrants from Northern Ireland, Ulster Presbyterians.


Embracing my Irish heritage


Besides the potato famine and the resulting hordes of immigrants, Irish history is mostly neglected in America, despite the fact that many have some Irish blood in them.

In 1916, a rebellion began, or rather continued, and although successfully repressed by the Brits, independence finally came six years later, in 1922. The Irish, including some of my relatives, had been fighting the English for centuries. Some still are.

One branch of the family, on my paternal grandmother’s side, arrived in America in 1790. But when an insurrection against English rule began in 1798, some of the boys returned, itching to help in the fight, despite having to make the perilous transatlantic crossing yet again.


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?


On the Streets Of Belfast

Although the writer gets his facts wrong, it’s nice to know about the monument to the American Expeditionary Force in Belfast, Northern Ireland. It’s on the grounds of the city hall. It’s known as Donegall Square.

My great granduncle was on a ship in Belfast Harbor for a day or two, before disembarking at Liverpool. The troops then took overnight trains, making their way to Winchester, the ancient capital of England, where kings were crowned in the cathedral. They camped for about a week in Winchester, before heading to Southampton to board ships for France.

Various statues stand in the grounds, including one of Queen Victoria by Sir Thomas Brock. There is also a granite column dedicated to the American Expeditionary Force, many of whom were based in Belfast prior to D-Day.

Note that the American Expeditionary Force was the name of the American army during World War I while D-Day was the cross channel invasion of Nazi-occupied France in World War II.