The Bloody Hounds – a public lecture on the Fitzgeralds of Imokilly

The latest public lecture in Midleton Library will be a survey of the history of the Fitzgeralds of Imokilly from 1177 to the early 20th century.

It will cover the early Fitzgeralds in Imokilly to the 1280s, the intervention of the 4th Earl of Desmond in the 1300s, and arrival of Sir Maurice Fitzgerald. Knight of Kerry, before 1400 followed by the arrival of his sons in the decades following. The Seneschals of Imokilly have a starring role as does the Elizabethan loyalist Dean of Cloyne, Sir John FitzEdmund Fitzgerald of Ballymaloe. The lecture will then follow the fortunes of the Fitzgeralds of Ballycrenane and of Corkbeg – the latter being the last of the Fitzgeralds descended from Sir Maurice to have kept their estates in the area.

The lecture will take place on Saturday 28th May at 12.00 noon.

It’s free and all are welcome!

 

Tony Poster

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National Library of Ireland places Irish Catholic Parish Registers online.

Holy Rosary Church, Midleton, County Cork (diocese of Cloyne). Built between  1894 and 1896 (spire completed 1907/08) this replaced St John the Baptist Catholic Chapel, which, in turn, replaced St Mary's Chapel in 1803. However, only the registers from 1819 have survived - the older registers were lost when the then bishop described them as unacceptable.

As of 1.00pm Irish time today, the National Library of Ireland has placed its microfilm records of the Irish Catholic parish registers online.  This is a HUGE step forward in making genealogical resources available to people who cannot visit Ireland or who don’t have the time to visit the NLI in Dublin.  And all this despite the savage cutbacks in government funding for the NLI in recent years!  It’s a truly heroic achievement, so well done to all the people involved. Now all they need is a sponsor to do with the microfilm what the National Archives did with the 1901/1911 census records – make them more interactive and more readily searchable!

I’ll post more on this later, but before you dive in please remember – read the FAQs carefully!

Happy hunting – and it IS a hunt!

Link: http://registers.nli.ie/

Searching for the old homestead – a short guide to using Irish townlands in genealogical research.

Whaddya mean you're lost?  You can't get lost in Ireland! It's an island isn't it?

Whaddya mean you’re lost? You can’t get lost in Ireland! It’s an island isn’t it? And no, this isn’t an Irish signpost.  Well maybe not…….

Several months ago I published a post on townlands – Ireland’s original and ancient answer to postcodes.  This is an interesting item on using townlands as part of your genealogical research.I would suggest that readers take particular note of the similarity of townland names and their repetition in the same county. The golden rule is caveat emptor – don’t buy the first bit of information you get…..check it out, and then double check!

Link: http://www.from-ireland.net/genealogy-townland-importance-parish-records/

Good luck and happy homestead hunting!

Someone's old homestead somewhere in Ireland.

Someone’s old homestead…….. somewhere in Ireland.

Free weekend genealogical opportunity from FindMyPast.ie

Findmypast

Free weekend access Friday 6th March to Monday 9th March!

Anybody researching their family history soon discovers that it can prove expensive, especially if you use the well known paid subscription websites for access to data that is not available in your local public library/archive/repository. I usually advise people to curtail their costs as much as possible – use free resources wherever they are available.

The good news is that every so often – in fact quite frequently – the genealogical website FindMyPast.com (and its affiliates such as FindMyPast.ie in Ireland) offers free access to its huge database of genealogical records worldwide.  The latest opportunity to avail of this free access starts tomorrow Friday 6th March at 12.00 noon GMT to 12.00 noon GMT on Monday 9th March.

Yes, three full days of access to genealogical data! My advice is: USE IT! I would suggest that you assemble your known data. Decide exactly what you want to know and then go and search for that information. Be warned – it might not be there. None of these websites has a total database of every bit of information about everybody’s ancestors, but there is a huge amount of data available. I imagine that there will be many people planning a few all-nighters!

Burning the midnight oil

How not to do genealogy this weekend!

I imagine that there will be many people planning a few all-nighters! There’s nothing wrong with burning the midnight oil, but I would advise you to get plenty of rest to allow your little grey cells to sleep on the data.  You’ll wake up fresh and with a better head for research.

Burning-the-Midnight-Oil-1

Good question! Although in Ireland, as a nation of night owls, we don’t consider 10.00 pm to be particularly late.

Participants will have to register their details.  If the website requests credit card details please remember that if you don’t wish to pay for access to further records beyond Monday at noon, you must cancel your registration or funds will may be deduct from your credit card.  This latter rule applies to ANY website that offers such free access to genealogical records.

Happy hunting!

Link: http://www.findmypast.ie/freeweekend.

Harpur of Wexford….and Ballinacorra!

Duiske Abbey

In 1278, Duiske Abbey in Graiguenamanagh bought out the land holding of David le Harpur at Coppenagh, in County Kilkenny. This photo shows the abbey church in the late 19th century. The church has been superbly restored since the photograph was taken.

Some years ago I discovered that there was an interesting document in the National Library of Ireland. This was a quit claim pertaining to a parcel of land in the townland of Coppenagh near the eastern edge of County Kilkenny, not far from the village of Graiguenamanagh. In fact the document even mentioned Graiguenamanagh in its guise as the Abbey of Duiske. The document noted that the man who signed it had inherited the land in question from his grandfather, Robert. The name of the man who issued the document was David le Harpur. The date was February 18th 1278 (hint, check your calendar!). Basically the document recorded the transfer of lands to the Cistercian Abbey of Duiske by David le Harpur and his landlord Raymond Roche. Sadly the original document from 1278 hasn’t survived, so National Library of Ireland manuscript D.287 is a sixteenth century copy of the original made for the Earl of Ormond, who was awarded the lands of Duiske at the Reformation. Ormond was clearly intent ion ensuring that no Harpur would ever reclaim the land at Coppenagh! What I love about this document is that it names David le Harpur and his grandfather, Robert – the original  Anglo-Norman occupant of the land. Clearly Robert le Harpur must have come to Ireland in the year 1169 or very shortly thereafter. If we didn’t come on the first ship from Pembrokeshire, the Harpurs of Ireland surely came on the second one or third one! Sadly the passenger lists didn’t survive the centuries – if there ever were any.  But at least we can look the FitzGeralds, Carews, Barrys in the eye as equals.  We might even have been here before the Butlers – just! For some time I thought this particular document was the earliest documented reference to my family name in Ireland, but I was wrong.

Ruins of Harperstown Castle

Twentieth century image of the ruins of Harperstown Castle in County Wexford – there’s even less to see now.

It seems we are linked to a ‘Sir William le Harper’ or Harpur who is sometimes described as Strongbow’s harper (well the surname had to come from somewhere!).  Sir William was granted the lands of Aghdare which he, or a successor, renamed Harperstown.  Aghdare means the ‘ford of the oaks’ – just like Adare in County Limerick!  A later successor was David le Harpur who held three carucates of land in Aghdare in 1324. That’s a mere 360 acres – hardly a vast estate, but a comfortable landholding in the fourteenth century. Note how the name David keeps cropping up – a sure sign of Welsh origins, after all St David is the patron of Wales. Raise a toast to him on 1st March, his feast-day. There were extensive ruins of a castle and house at Harperstown in the later 19th century. There is some argument over whether that original Sir William le Harpur or a second man of the same name built the castle – suspicion must fall on the second fellow because the ‘castle’ was a tower house – a gentleman’s fortified mini castle, the equivalent of a small English manor house. Such buildings only come into being in Ireland, the north of England and Scotland from the mid-1300s.  The main line of the Harperstown Harpurs ended in a daughter, Agatha, who married William Hore in 1336. She took the entire inheritance with her, so Harperstown in County Wexford was a chief seat of the Hore family for centuries thereafter (they had it until 1878!).  At least the property went to another Anglo-Norman family, thanks to the Great Hore of the Harpurs! Happily, I can write about the family Hore without any shred of embarrassment.   Although I have to confess that I feel that some of this story seems too good to be true. The fact that Aghdare townland was renamed Harperstown does suggest that at least one branch of the family were a cut above the rest as minor gentry.

I really should have issued a health warning in respect of the above tale of Sir William Harpur. The health specialists now tell us that all the stuff about avoiding salt is overstated – salt is good for us, so take the story of Sir William le Harpur with a good dose!  The fact that great-great-great-great-great-etc.(ad infinitum!) aunt Agatha married William Hore in 1336 makes the tale of Harperstown Castle suspect.  The Harpurs almost certainly had a house on the site, but I suspect the tower house was built by the Hores.  So we can’t even claim credit for the castle, however ruinous! But we CAN claim to have given our name to a townland a few miles due south of Taghmon in County Wexford – Harperstown.  This is bordered on the north east by the townland of Harveystown, on the east by Youngstown and on the south by Waddingstown!  Harvey and Wadding are both grand old names from Wexford. There’s even a Horestown – which must make life interesting for the postman.  On the first edition Ordnance Survey map it is clear that Harperstown is virtually a private demesne of the Hores, and is heavily planted with trees.  Just north west in the townland of Augfad is a junction of five roads (one is actually the driveway into Harperstown House) called the Hand of Harperstown, presumably for a five-fingered sign-post that must have stood there.

Harperstown Castle 1880

Sketch of Harperstown Castle – this is actually the country house erected by the Hore family who held the place much longer than the Harpurs.

Let’s tease out the Wexford links before dealing with the Ballinacorra Harpurs in County Cork.  We know that the lands of Bargy and of Forth were granted to Robert FitzStephen and Maurice FitzGerald, to be held jointly (see my previous post). This suggests that the settlers from Wales and England were brought over by FitzStephen and his Carew heirs as well as FitzGerald. Now we know from my previous post on Ballinacorra that Robert FitzStephen was one of the two men given leave to conquer the kingdom of Cork in 1177 – and his lands there included Imokilly. FitzStephen’s heirs in Cork were the Carews – keep that fact in mind for the moment.

harpers island map

The main dual carriageway from Cork to Midleton crosses Harpers Island just to the right (east) of the green emblem indicating E30 – the official name of the road. The railway from Glounthaune to Fota crosses the island from north to south – Harpers Island only became busy in the late 20th century!

Now, I was long aware of the existence of Harpers Island in the inner reaches of Cork Harbour, lying between Fota Island and Glounthaune.  I had assumed that this was linked to a family called Harper who had a house on Great Island in the later 1700s and early 1800s.  They seem to have been later arrivals, probably Cromwellian or Williamite settlers – but that could be wrong.  However, the Down Survey maps drawn up for the Cromwellian government shows the name in use by the 1650s. Clearly the island had the name since the middle of the 1600s, but does it go back further?  At present I have no idea.

Glounthaune Jul 83 C9

Harpers Island is the spit of land marking the upper edge of this body of water off Glounthaune (the village in the foreground). The island is utterly flat and even has reclaimed land – almost like a Dutch polder.

And yes, I know the spelling is different – Harper rather than my own Harpur.  When I was learning to spell words in primary school, one of the first things I tried to do was write my own name.  I wrote HARPER – which made a lot of sense to a five year old.  But my mother corrected me – it was HARPUR.  Which did not make sense to a five year old!.But she insisted so I stuck with it.  In fact the spelling of the name did change over the centuries – le Harpour, le Harpeur, le Harpur, Harpur, Harper.  My own line, and others from Wexford, preserved the HARPUR form. Another group of families with the name Harper moved into Ulster in the seventeeth century – they were Protestant planters.  Among them were Harpurs from Scotland – a branch of the Buchanan family, and staunch Presbyterians. These families do not seem to be related to my bunch.

Harpers Island causeway

The train from Cork to Cobh crossing the causeway from Glounthaune onto Harpers Island. From there it proceeds to Fota which has its own station and then on to Cobh. Harpurs Island made the building of this railway much easier in the 19th century.

Paul MacCotter mentioned in his historical introductory essay in Jeremiah Falvey’s Chronicles of Midleton that the Harpurs were among the earliest Anglo-Norman settlers of Ballinacorra.  I had a chance recently to ask him for further details – warts and all!  And he kindly gave me the sordid details.  You may recall from my previous post that many of the Anglo Norman settlers in Imokilly share names with Anglo-Norman settlers in south County Wexford.  Clearly there are family relationships at work here – after all, the Carews, FitzGeralds, Barrys and others were all related.  The Anglo-Norman ‘invasion’ of Ireland was a family enterprise. The overall leader, Richard FitzGilbert de Clare, Lord of Striguil, known as Strongbow, was the odd one out being barely related to the rest of the party, if at all.

So my suspicions are raised by the FitzStephan/Carew links between Bargy and Forth in Wexford and Imokilly in Cork. Bear in mind that, at this early stage, the FitzGeralds also had a short-lived foothold in Imokilly.  But the Harpurs identified in Ballinacorra by Paul MacCotter were also settled on Carew lands.

Bargy & Forth

The baronies of Bargy and Forth in south Wexford were shared between Robert FitzStephen and Maurice FitzGerald. FitzStephen’s share was inherited by the Carews. The Harpurs were settled in Bargy in the century following the Anglo-Norman arrival in 1169. The links between this area and Imokilly were very strong – because FitzStephen took Imokilly from the local Irish lords. The Carews probably settled people from Bargy and Forth in Imokilly.

The earliest reference for the Ballinacorra Harpurs is 1260, when Henry le Harpur was impleaded by Richard de Carew for 14 acres in the vill of Castle Corth.  Basically Henry Harpur was arguing with his landlord over possession of 14 acres in Ballinacorra, and the landlord took him to court.  It is not certain if the Richard de Carew named here was the son or grandson of the Richard de Carew who bought the manor of Castle Corth/Ballinacorra from Thomas des Autres in the 1190s.

The second mention is more sordid. John, son of Theobald le Harpur, was accused of violent disseisin with members of the Cod family at Ardraha near Cloyne in 1295.  There was a row between John le Harpur and the Cods of Cloyne – and violence was used, or threatened. I wonder if it was over land? That could cause a row!

The last mention is from 1336 – now that’s an interesting date because it is shortly before Thomas de Carew sold Castle Corth or Ballinacorra to William de Barry. There is simply a mention of a David le Harpur residing at Castle Corth – he’s probably a burgess or townsman, a tenant of the estate, with a small plot of land.

There seems to be no further reference to the Harpurs of Ballinacorra after that – perhaps the Black Death finished them off in 1348. But note the year 1336 – this was also the fateful year in which Agatha Harpur of Harperstown in Wexford married William Hore.  It’s been downhill since.

There’s more research to be done here, but one thing is clear – the Harpurs of Ballinacorra must have been settled in Imokilly after 1220 by the Carews. And they probably came from County Wexford – just like my father’s family.  No wonder I feel so much at home here in Midleton!  Now if only we can reclaim Harperstown….or maybe Harpers Island. I fear asking for the return of Coppenagh might be too much to hope for (sigh).

Many thanks to Paul MacCotter for the information on the Harpurs of Ballinacurra given above!

Link to an online article on Harperstown and the supposed origins of the Harpurs of Wexford. (Take a dose of salt before reading this):

http://www.taghmon.com/vol1/5hore/5hore.htm

Townland subdivisions – examples from Castleredmond and Townparks in Midleton

Townlands have been the basic unit of land division in Ireland since the medieval period, with origins perhaps going back much further.  some are relatively new – such as the townland of School-lands in Midleton which certainly didn’t exist before 1696, when Midleton School, or Midleton College as we now call it, was founded.  As I mentioned in my previous post on the subject, townlands (or ploughlands) are not of a uniform size – being dependent on the fertility of the land contained within the townland boundaries.  And they were not always rigidly fixed either – several of them changed over the centuries, such as the cre.  Many of them have local sub-divisions which never appear on a map because these sub-divisisons are unofficial.  Castlredmond townland, which lies between Midleton town and Ballinacurra village is a classic example.  It sprawls from the shore of the Owenacurra estuary and Ballinacurra creek to Carrigshane rock.  A sprawling townland needed to be subdivided by the inhabitants as a way of ascertaining who actually lived where.

Bailick, Lakeview, Cronin’s Rock, Rocky Road, Ashlin Road, Carrigshane Rock (which is NOT in the townland of Carrighane!) all mark out divisions of the townland.  But these names may not appear on official maps except for very specific locations or reatures, such as a road or a house.  Technically these names should only apply the specific feature but in Ireland, this is usually disregarded.  Well, rules were made to be broken.

Aerial view Castleredmond

Aerial view of the Ballinacorra and the western part of Castlredmond. The Creek of Ballinacorra runs from the bottom left to the right midground. This creek is part of the inner reaches of Cork Harbour. The stretch of water leading off from the center to the left midground is the estuary of the Owenacurra River which flows from the north. This view is taken from the south west towards the north east. Ballinacorra village is right at the end of the creek. Ballinacorra House and its farm buildings are on the centre foreground (bottom of picture). Slightly to the left of these (follow the angled wall) is a small peninsula on which stands the ruined medieval St Colman’s church and graveyard. On the other side of the wall from the churchyard is a high tree-covered mound in the ground of Ballinacorra House – most likely a motte or earthwork castle from the late 12th or early 13th century.  Castleredmond stretches from the shoreline in the centre to the top and right of the photo. Bailick is the shoreline by the Owenacurra estuary, Charleston is the north bank of the creek leading to Ballinacorra. The wooded point in the left midground is Ballyannon Wood dating from at least the 17th century.

In fact the subdivisions were derived from local usage and existed for the convenience of the inhabitants themselves. For example, if you take the townland of Castleredmond, which lies between Midleton and Ballynacorra, this covered 486 acres, 3 roods and 33 perches, containing 259 inhabitants in what was then a mostly rural district in 1881 when these figures were published.  Now many of these inhabitants probably lived close to the wharf on the Owenacurra estuary in the west.area.  But there might be clusters of inhabitants in other parts, say bordering the Youghal Road or on the Rocky Road or perhaps on the Ballinacorra Road.   That gives four different clusters of housing where people were concentrated..Imagine a townland where several men bear the name Patrick Murphy.  There might be several Pat Murphys spread among the different clusters in different parts of the townland.  And one ot two living in more apart in isolated farms or cottages.   How would you recognize which Pat Murphy someone is talking about?  In speech a nickname was given – Pat Jim Murphy might be the Pat Murphy who is the son of Jim Murphy.  Pat Michael or Mick’s Pat might be the Patrick Murphy, son of Michael Murphy.  But an official letter is likely to be addressed to Mr Patrick Murphy, Castleredmond, Midleton, County Cork.  To whom does the postman deliver the letter?

Bailick Cottage

Bailick Cottage. This is actually a very substantial house – a middle class ‘cottage’ from the early 19th century (seen here) with more recent extensions, all giving the house a charming appearance. It stands on the Bailick Road, or Bailick as it is popularly called, in the townland of Castlredmond.

One way of getting over this was to insert a local designation into the address – somewhat unofficial, but useful for the postman.  So, Pat Jim Murphy might live in a cottage on Bailick Road and might give his address as Patrick Murphy, Bailick, Castleredmond, Midleton while Mick’s Pat could be Patrick Murphy, Lakeview, Castleredmond, Midleton.  Perhaps there’s another Patrick Murphy called Pat John, or PJ, for identification, living on Bailick Road – he might liver near Charleston Maltings (run by Bennetts) so his address might be given as Patrick Murphy, Charleston, Bailick, Castleredmond Midleton.  Remember these are not entirely official designations, but they were useful for the postman who had to distinguish between the several Patrick Murphys living in one townland.  It is possible that similar designations might appear in the local church registers – but this was entirely at the discretion of the priest or clergyman.  The practice was probably also used by local landlords who sublet to small tenants.

Lakeview_House

Tarquin Blake’s atmospheric image of the north (entrance) front of Lake View House in Midleton. This early 19th century late Georgian villa was a lovely house, but sadly is neglected by the current owner, a property developer, and is subject to vandalism. The house gave its name to a whole area of Castleredmond townland. The pointed windows on the left indicate a billiard room, not a chapel. The Check out Tarquin Blake’s  vwebsite AbandonedIreland.com, below, for more striking photos.

I have suggested that these subdivisions of townlands were somewhat unofficial, but sometimes they were recognized by the Post Office – Lakeview Terrace still stands at the northern end of Castleredmond right next to the modern by-pass,  The small terrace of three good houses appears in the first edition Ordnance Survey map so it has been in existance since the early 1840s or late 1830s.  But it takes its name from the large house next door – Lakeview or Lake View in the original designation.  This house was inhabited by Mr Swithin Fleming, a lawyer, from the 1830s to the 1880s.  The lake viewed from the house was actually a broad stretch of the estuary of the Owenacurra River to the west.  I suspect that the view as better from the upper floor of the house since the site stands well back from the estuary, at the top of the slope.  Today, Lakeview is the name given locally to this area of the townland of Castleredmond – indeed the junction of by-pass with the Midleton to Ballinacorra Road is called Lakeview Roundabout (Rotary to you Americans), and the nearby service station is called Lakeview Service Station.  But the houses in the area can be designated ‘Castleredmond’ or ‘Lakeview, Castleredmond’.

Why does all this matter?  In searching for one’s Irish ancestors, it is necessary to be careful that the correct person in the correct part of the townland be identified.  If you are dealing with a name like Murphy, MacCarthy, O’Sullivan, O’Brien, O’Neill etc, this can pose difficulties.  If there is another placename linked to the family this can prove to be a subdivision of the townland name – a very useful aid in finding one’s ancestral homestead – even if it is now a ploughed field.

Midleton has several areas like this in different townlands.  For example, the townland of Townparks, which covers the town center and extends well south of the Roxborough River, includes two areas with very local identification within its boundaries. These are Coolbawn and the Rock.  They are not official designations – Coolbawn is the locally employed name for Brodrick Street.  Imagine the confusion on the faces of a visitor who is told you can find the Farmgate Restaurant on Coolbawn.  Now there are not many streets in Midleton – just five in fact.  These are Main Street, Thomas Street, Connolly Street, Oliver Plunkett Street (formerly Bridewell Lane), McDermott Street (formerly Free School Lane)….and Brodrick Street.  Every other route is a road or lane, as in Mill Road, Youghal Road, Cork Road, Old Cork Road, St Mary’s Road (still called Chapel Road by locals) or Bridewell Lane (now Oliver Plunkett Street- although its dimensions haven’t changed – it’s still a lane!), Church Lane, Coach Horse Lane (self-explanatory really) Dickinson’s Lane, Darby’s Lane – and the former Free School Lane (which is still a lane!).

Brodrick St Terrace

The late Georgian terrace on Brodrick Street…..or is it Coolbawn? Confused. Not really. Just remember who’s asking for directions – it’s Coolbawn to the locals, but Brodrick Street to everybody else! Simples! The second house from the right was recently sold and is undergoing restoration at present. Yippie!

The point of local designations is that they sometimes tell us something about an area – Coolbawn is the AREA in which Brodrick Street stands, being originally the whole area bounded by the Owenacurra River to the west, the Roxborough River to the south, Main Street to the east and the south wall of St John the Baptist’s Church on the north.  The name suggests an meadow between two streams (check!) and subdivided into paddocks, prior to the building of Brodrick Street.  However, Coolbawn now refers to Brodrick Street itself in popular parlance….to the dismay of visitors!

Rock House

Standing on remains of the limestone spur that gives this area of Townparks its name, Rock House was recently sold and is undergoing refurbishment – including a whole new roof.

The Rock is somewhat different.  This lies just south of the Roxborough River on higher ground.  Crossing Lewis Bridge over the Roxborough Riverg at the southern end of Main Street, the road splits in two.  The route to the right continues up a steep hill, passing Holy Rosary Church towards Convent Cross (a T-junction at the top of the hill where St Mary’s Convent once stood) and then continues down the other side towards Ballinacorra via Castlredmond (and its Lakeview subdivision).  From Lewis Bridge the other road forks off to the left cutting through the rock (!) towards Castlemartyr, Youghal and Waterford.  The Rock is literally that!  A rocky outcrop of limestone. Actually if you drive along the Youghal Road, you’d be hard pressed to spot it.  There seems to have been a spur of limestone going from the hill towards the north.  This seems to have been cut through at a very early date to create a direct road to Youghal, but this was probably too narrow for most carts or coaches. For a long time the main route to Youghal ran up St Mary’s Road and through Ballinacorra. Gradually the need to ease the passage of heavily loaded carts in and out of Midleton and the desire to speed up the mail coaches to and from Youghal led to a change. The limestone rock was cut away, perhaps to provide building stone, and a wider road was created.  The good news for carters and coachmen was that this route was a much gentler slope for draught horses.  By the end of the 1700s this area where the two roads fork began to be built up – and it’s been called the Rock for as long as anyone can recall.  The Coppinger family, who had property on the north side of the Roxborough, built the National Bank of Ireland at the Rock in the 1830s.  They later built Rock Terrace next to their bank in 1861.  Yet the terrace on the rock itself doesn’t even have this name, being simply The Rock!

Rock Tce

No 1, Rock Terrace, is one of four houses built by the Coppingers in 1861. The ISC made out in yellow brick was long thought to represent Isaac Samuel Coppinger – but who was he? I can’t find him. In fact the initials might be John Stephen Coppinger, or in Latin Johannes Stephanus Coppinger – much more likely! This house, recently sold, is also undergoing thorough refurbishment – even the brick has been cleaned and is now showing up the century and a half of grime on the rest of the terrace. The former National Bank of Ireland, later Bank of Ireland, The Rock, is on the left.

Thus, if you are looking for your Irish ancestors, it is worth bearing in mind that even a small townland can have unofficial subdivisions within it. This is a particularly useful point to recall if your ancestor is one of several people with exactly the same name living in the townland at the same time – remember, the number of names in use in the nineteenth century was remarkably limited by our standards.

Tarquin Blake’s Abandoned Ireland website: http://www.abandonedireland.com/Lakeview_House.html

Joseph Coppinger ‘of Midleton’ and two American Presidents

Sometimes it really pays to simply snoop around on the web.  And a couple of nights ago I came across something that astonished and surprised me.

The US National Archives has published online four letters from a correspondence between a Joseph Coppinger and President Thomas Jefferson and two letters in a correspondence with President James Madison.  Jefferson and Madison were, of course, two of the Founding Fathers of the United States as well as holding the office of President.  In the notes to the correspondence, Joseph Coppinger is described as having ‘immigrated to the United States in 1802 from Midleton, County Cork, Ireland.’  As you can imagine, this intrigued me and I decided to explore a little further before letting you in on the whole mystery.

Great fire of Pittsburgh 1845

The Great Fire of Pittsburgh in April 1845 destroyed the city that Joseph Coppinger had moved to in 1803. He entered into a partnership to run a brewery there, but did not get on with his business partner, James O’Hara.

The US National Archives commentary says that Joseph Coppinger settled first, for a very short while, in  New York.  Then in 1803 he moved to Pittsburgh where he entered into a partnership with James O’Hara to  set up the O’Hara, Reed and Coppinger Brewery (or the Point Brewery as it later became).  With his twelve years of experience in the business, Coppinger was the master brewer in the firm.  Sadly, issues with his partners and with the brewery’s financial backers led to his resignation and he quit the city and went to Lexington, Kentucky.  After that he went to St Louis (1807), Washington DC and Baltimore (1809), South Carolina, Georgia and New York City (1810).  In 1810 he tried to get James Madison to take an interest in the establishment of a national brewery in Washington DC, seemingly to no avail.

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson corresponded with Joseph Coppinger whilst President and later when in retirement in Monticello, Virginia. His advice to Coppinger was always practical.

Joseph Coppinger’s correspondence with President Jefferson (as he then was) began early, in 1802-03.  Coppinger had come up with an invention he wished to patent, but US law required that patents be registered by US citizens and Coppinger wished to know how to go about this.  President Jefferson gave him some straightforward advice – and it was probably cheaper than consulting a lawyer!  Clearly Coppinger became a naturalized US citizen because he went on the patent several devices or inventions of his own design.   These included machines for splitting shingles, planing wood, threshing and cleaning grain, and many others.

James Madison

James Madison was solicited by Joseph Coppinger whilst President with a view to setting up a national brewing company in Washington DC.

Although unsuccessful in his 1810 correspondence with Madison, Joseph Coppinger went on to solicit the retired Thomas Jefferson to take an interest in his ‘national brewery’ project in 1815.  Thomas Jefferson again offered Coppinger some sound advice, but again nothing came of the project.  However, Jefferson WAS interested in a book that Joseph Coppinger was proposing to write on the subject of brewing, which the author hoped would improve the brewing of beer in America, even among the pioneers in the Louisiana Purchase territories.  Jefferson asked Nicholas G Dufief, a French bookseller based in Philadelphia, to acquire Coppinger’s book for him as soon as it was published.

The book eventually surfaced in New York in 1815 where it was published under the title ‘The American Practical Brewer and Tanner.’  Clearly Jefferson’s advice about the practical nature of Americans had struck home, hence the title.

Coppinger Brewing book title

The title page of Joseph Coppinger’s book The American Practical Brewer and Tanner (New York, 1815). The book is still in print as a classic of American brewing literature. This copy was obviously acquired directly from Coppinger in 1820.

Joseph Coppinger finally settled in New York City in 1817, where he published a book on flat roofed buildings and another on Catholic doctrine and principles (presumably to combat any anti-Catholic feelings among the Nativists, a political movement with a strong anti-Catholic stance.   In 1819, he published a book on whiskey distilling. The US National Archives suggests that Coppinger died in New York around 1825.  Needless to say he is unknown in Midleton, but his book on brewing is still considered a classic in brewing circles in the United States.

Coppinger Brewing book

One of the woodcut illustrations from Joseph Coppinger’s book The American Practical Brewer and Tanner.

If you examine Pigot’s ‘Directory of the County and City of Cork’ (1824), you will find a group of Coppingers named as inhabiting or doing business in Middleton (as they still wrote it).  Under the heading of ‘Nobility, Gentlemen & Clergy’, we find Edmund Coppinger, Esq, of Rosmore.  The others are listed as ‘Merchants’. These are John and Joseph Coppinger, brewers and maltsters, and Thomas Stephen Coppinger, merchant.  Now I’ve mentioned John and Joseph Coppinger in the context of brewing in an earlier post.

But I’m baffled by the Joseph Coppinger in the United States.  He clearly had plenty of experience in brewing before he went to Pittsburgh. It is very likely that he acquired this experience in Ireland prior to emigrating to the United States.  So where exactly did he fit in a family that spread from Cork to Midleton?  The answer seems to come in Burke’s Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain and Ireland.  If we look at the entry under Coppinger of Midleton, there is no Joseph Coppinger mentioned in the lineage.  But if we look under the entry for the principal stem of the family, we find that Coppinger of Ballyvolane (and Barryscourt!) produced TWO Joseph Coppingers. The first of these was Joseph Coppinger who married a Miss Arthur of Limerick. They had six sons and four daughters.  The sons were: Stephen, William (who became Catholic Bishop of Cloyne), Thomas, Peter, Joseph (our naturalized American) and John (who died in Sainte Croix in the West Indies).

The first Joseph Coppinger, being a third son, is likely to have been the brewer in Midleton in partnership with John Coppinger.  The brewery building still stands but is much altered. The business was sufficiently successful to allow Joseph to have a son educated abroad as a cleric, to give two of his four daughters into good marriages (two others became nuns), and to permit two of his sons to make good marriages.  What is revealed here is the usual pecking order in such families, the eldest son getting the lion’s share and the portions meted out to the rest of the family getting smaller and smaller. it also explains why two sons emigrated.

Old Brewery Midleton

Part of the surviving buildings of Coppinger’s Brewery in Midleton. The business had closed by the early 1840s. Now the premises is divided up into individual business units, such as these restaurants.

So there we have it – Joseph Coppinger of New York almost certainly learned the craft of brewing from his father in the brewery at Midleton.  Isn’t it a pity that Americans don’t have a choice between Budweiser and Coppinger beer?  Perhaps they could buy a copy of the book on the bicentenary of its publication – a nice little gift for Christmas!  Now, if anyone in New York could tell me where Joseph Coppinger was buried, I’d be grateful.

Note: There was another Joseph Coppinger from Midleton in the US about half a century later.  He was Lt Col John Joseph Coppinger of the US Army.  He’s buried in Arlington National Cemetery as a hero of the US Civil War.  But that’s another story.

Links: The US National Archives has the following link to items pertaining to Joseph Coppinger and his correspondence with Jefferson and Madison:

http://founders.archives.gov/search/Author%3A%22Coppinger%2C%20Joseph%22.

Joseph Coppingers book The American Practical Brewer and Tanner can be bought:

http://www.amazon.com/The-American-Practical-Brewer-Tanner/dp/0554399520/?tag=midwit1d-20