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Petty session courts

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PETTY SESSIONS COURTS Local petty sessions were held in regional market towns throughout Ireland and these dealt mainly with minor crimes. They are often a good source of names for the family historian. At a petty sessions held in Limavady in 1877 twenty two local men were halued before the courts for bringing their carts into town without proper labelling and identification. 12 Oct. 1877 Derry Journal Limavady petty sessionsPetty Sessions were held on Tuesday before Mr. Henry TYLER (Chairman), Mr. S. M. ALEXANDER and Mr. Hugh LANE. Constable Patrick WARD charged Robert BOYD with having a horse and cart in Limavady on the 1 Oct. without having his name and residence attached to the cart, as required by the Act. The bench inflicted a fine of 6d and costs. Like penalties, for similar offenses, were also imposed on Robert PERRY Robert DYSART Drumalief John CHERRY, Lomond George DOUGLASS Ardinarriff John Alexander JACKSON Andrew DUNN Ballykelly Edward REILLY Henry M‘FADDEN William M‘LAU…

Crime & Punishment in the 18th century

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CRIME & PUNISHMENT IN THE EIGHTEEENTH CENTURY There is something exciting about reading through old newspapers - one gets a sense of a place and time long since gone - and also occassionally one comes across something that simply takes your breath away. This is especially the case when one reads through old court proceedings or sentences given at the local assizes. Times were much stricter. People were executed by hanging for commiting burglary, robbery, horse-stealing and other similar offences. In 1779 one William Blacker was convicted in Co Tyrone of burning down the house of James Heathers near Moy and was hanged and beheaded at Omagh for his crimes (LD Journal 9 April 1779). The following year in Sligo Robert Bunton and Michael Rorke were both found guilty of the murder of James McGaurian and both were hanged and quartered (LD Journal 23 March 1780). A Mrs O'Neill was found guilty of an unspecfied offence at the Lifford Assizes August 1774 but was with child and would not …

Ten most common surnames in Ireland 1890

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Ten Most Common Surnames in Ireland 1890

1    Murphy 62,600
2    Kelly 55,900
3    Sullivan 43,600
4    Walsh 41,700
5    Smith 33,700
6    O’Brien 33,400
7    Byrne 33,300
8    Ryan 32,000
9    Connor 31,200   
10  O’Neill 29,100

Estimated population of Ireland 1890: 4.7 million.

Source: Matheson, Special Report on Surnames in Ireland.

Common surnames provide a real challenge for the genealogist since the names can be so prevalent in certain areas that it is hard to separate not only individuals but familes as well. In the period after civil registration birth certificates provide the most genealogical information providing the name of both parents; marriage certificates give only the name of the father of the spouses and death certificates only give the name of the informant for the deceased (although this was often a relation and occassionally registrars did specify relationship to the deceased).


Derry in 1871

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Derry in the late nineteenth century was a fast expanding urban-centre (with a population of some 30,000 in 1871). Streets were orderly and there was an effective sewage system as a result of a city Improvement Act in 1848. The city also had a jail (with 170 cells), a workhouse, two dispensaries and a lunatic asylum, in effect, the beginnings of an embryonic regional welfare system.

Derry was a hub of the regional transport system. Several railway companies competed for the passenger trade – Irish North-West Railway; Belfast and Northern counties railway and the Londonderry & Lough Swilly railway company. One could send a parcel to any part of the world through Globe Parcel express a service provide by Edward Gillespie on Foyle Street. One could catch a steamer to Glasgow every day of the week except Sunday and there was a twice weekly service to Liverpool and also to America. The old wooden bridge (that had been assembled in America and brought to Derry in 1790) had been destroyed…

Local newpapers an invaluable tool

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Local newspapers can provide a wealth of information on local and family history.


The Northern Constitution was a Coleraine newspaper that had weekly sections covering many local towns and villages including Limavady. No newspaper was printed in Limavady so the Constitution bought into the Limavady market by providing regional coverage through a dedicated column called Roeside Echoes.


The local Limavady news appears to have been compiled by a local correspondent (not named) who often provided a fascinating insight into local news and characters. There is excellent coverage in Roeside Echoes, for example, of Limavady men who fought during the First World War, 1914-1918. Coverage was given to soldiers who were killed or injured and also of men who had travelled home for respite.

In the Roeside Echoes column in the Northern Constitution dated 28 September 1918 was an interesting article on the discovery of a headstone in Balteagh Parish Church graveyard dating back to the seventeenth cen…

The Siege of Derry 1688-1689

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The Siege of Derry/Londonderry

The walls of Derry were completed by 1619, eight metres high and nine metres wide and 1.5 km in circumference. By the time of the siege the population inside the walls was estimated as 2500. Four gates allowed access to traffic going in and out of the city. The river Foyle came up close to the walls on the waterside an effective barrier from attack.

he Siege of Derry was the first major event of the Williamite Wars in Ireland. The Gates of Derry were initially closed in December 1688 by 13 apprentice boys who seized the keys and locked the gates upon the approach of the Earl of Antrim's forces. The real action did not begin until April 1869 when the Jacobite forces arrived in substantial numbers. It is estimated that during the siege the population inside the walls swelled to over 30,000 people. Over 7000 of these were troops and the rest civilians who had fled to the safety of the walled city.

The Jacobite force was estimated at some 15,000 and were…

1813 census of Ireland

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1813 CENSUS IRELAND

The first reliable statutory census of the population of Ireland was taken in 1821. An earlier census authorised by statute had been taken between 1813 and 1815. The results, however, were defective and neither printed nor presented to parliament. The census was a substantial failure.

The census was to be statistical in nature only, although in a few baronies heads of households names were recorded (the returns for the six completed baronies of Dublin county, and the half-barony of Upper Lecale, Co. Down).

A bill for a census of Ireland became law on 18 July 1812 and the enumeration was to start on 1 May 1813 and continue without delay until completion. The data to be collected for each enumeration district were the number of inhabited houses, families, houses under construction, uninhabited houses, families engaged in agriculture, in trade, manufacture, handicrafts, and other occupations, persons of each sex exclusive of soldiers, militia, and naval personne…