Matthew Barrett 1749


Matthew Barrett (1749-1815) and wife, Brigid Grelish seem to have been the first Barrett family to settle in the parish of Killummod (Croghan).  All Barretts seeking their ancestry in the parish of Croghan (Killummod & Killukin) are descended from them. 


18th Century Records

In the 1749 Elphin Diocesan Census, no Barretts were recorded in the Croghan area (nor in Loughlynn, Frenchpark).  There are no parish records for Matthew’s lifetime because he lived during the “Lost Centuries” when Penal Laws forbade Catholic record-keeping. We are lucky to know about him at all. His gravestone is probably the oldest in Killapogue Cemetery, and can be found in the centre of the Ballinvilla Barrett plot: 

[Headstone Transcript]

Erec’d by Jn. Barrett

in Memory of his father Mathew Barrett [...] who dep’td this life 

August the 1st 1815 age 66 years.  Also his mother Bridgid Barrett alias Grelish who departed this life the 2nd September Anno Domine [...]


The Barretts of Finnor

Matthew’s headstone, erected by his inheriting son, John Barrett Esq. (1790-1844) of Finnor House (aka Finner) is the key link between the Ballinvilla & Finner lines. At first, both Finner and Ballinvilla Barretts were buried together.  Later, third generation Finner Barretts erected a seperate gated plot, a notable feature of the cemetery today. 

By the close of the 18th Century, Matthew Barrett & sons were part of a small circle of gentry in Killummod parish, Croghan. They were tenant farmers, grazing sizeable holdings, and subletting houses to herdsmen.

It is highly likely that Matthew, was acting in some capacity as a bailiff, squire or agent for his absentee landlord, Robert Caddell of Harbourstwon Co Meath.  


The Barrett MIgration into Croghan

We may never know where exactly Matthew Barrett (1749-1815) was born (although there is some suggestion in local, that he was among a number of large grazier familes who migrated into the parish from Co. Mayo. The provisions of the Catholic Relief Act of 1778 (allowing Catholics to inherit and hold leases of land) presented the first opportunity for Catholics to lease a sizeable holding. It was during this decade of change, that Matthew migrated to Finnor, near the village of Croghan.

I suspect that his migration had something to do with the Dillon family, who held a large estate on the border of counties Mayo and Roscommon. Later evidence, reveals  that Caddell (Matthew’s landlord) and the Viscount Dillon of Loughlynn used the same land agent.


The “Big” Barretts & the Dillons of Ballaghadereen

One look at Barrett family history on local record, beit marriages, land titles, or newspaper articles, confirms that the children of this Matthew Barrett were very wealthy and well-connected. The reference to the Barretts of Killummod Parish (Croghan) as “Big Barretts” has survived to this day in local memory (as far as Drumlion).

The son who erected Matthew & Brigid's headstone, John Barrett Esq. (1790-1844),  had strong connections with the Dillons of Ballaghdereen (descendants of the 1st Earl of Roscommon). Two of John Barrett’s sons were matched with daughters of Charles Dillon Esq. (brother of John Blake Dillon). The Dillons, like the Barretts, were of Hiberno-Norman origin. In 1835, no Barretts appear in Co. Mayo parishes where the Dillons owned land. One might expect that the Barretts of Loughlynn (Frenchpark) would be connected, but it seems not. They were a much later migration (small farmers and cottiers) and tenants of De Freyne.  


Family Origins

So where did the Big Barretts originate from? The Barrett name, is prolific in Co Mayo yet Grelish is a strong Galway name.   Our only hope would be if estate records have survived for Strickland, Caddell, or Domville, we may find the missing piece of the Mayo origins jig-saw.

Additional Information
Date of Birth 1749  
Date of Death 1st Aug 1815 VIEW SOURCE
Associated Building (s) Finnor House  
Spouse (First Name/s and Maiden/Surname) Brigid Grelish  
Occupation Grazier / Gentleman Farmer (only this class of farmer could afford such a headstone back then) VIEW SOURCE
Place of Death Finnor (Killummod Parish) Croghan, Boyle, Co Roscommon, Ireland Interred at Killapoge Cemetery (Killummod Parish).  
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Buildings Associated with this Ancestor