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I am trying to find out more about my husband's relative that first emigrated to the United States.

His name is Alexander Freel (or Friel) which I believe came from the Templemore, Londonderry or Convoy, Donegal region.  He was born in 1808 or 1809.  I believe Roman Catholic.   I think birth records before 1864 might be difficult.  Anyway he left his homeland and arrived via Canada brig ambassador to of Saint John, NB) then Maine in 1834.  His wife is Jane Doherty (birth 1813, town of Culmore, Templemore) who I also believe came that way too a few months later in 1834.

This has been my brick wall.  I think Alexander is an unusual “Irish” name.  I’ve seen the Templemore valuation records for Freel in 1832.

My questions:  Do we know anymore about Freel and Doherty families?  Was there some advertisement at the time that drew these young people to go to Canada, then America?


Lucy Friel


Monday 28th Feb 2022, 09:36PM

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    Alexander is not a rare forename in Ireland. In the 1901 census there were 14,757 of whom 2088 were Catholic. I noted 1 Alexander Friel from Treanboy townland (Convoy) who was RC. Obviously not your direct ancestor but Irish families did like to repeat favourite family names, and so if you get no other leads, might be worth pursuing.

    Convoy RC parish has no records before 1876 and Templemore (Derry) has no records before 1823 (Long Tower). So if you are looking for Catholic baptisms for Alexander & Jane in either of those parishes, prior to those years, sadly no records exist.

    Possibly DNA testing may be a way of matching with others who have additional information about where the family originate. Family Tree DNA reportedly has more people with Ulster roots than any other company. That obviously increases the chances of finding a match. You might want to try them or, if you have already tested, you can transfer your results to them for no fee.

    The North of Ireland Family History Society is running an Ulster DNA project in conjunction with FTDNA and can offer testing kits at a reduced price. (Go to DNA project on the website).

    You ask why your ancestors might have left Ireland. I am sure they left for the same reasons that millions did. To find work, or better paid work. Ireland has very few natural resources (no oil, coal, iron ore etc) and so did not benefit from the industrial revolution in the 1800s, the way Scotland, England, the US, Canada & Australia did, which created hundreds of thousands of comparatively well-paid new jobs in new industries (coal mining, steel making, railways, ship building etc). So that was a big pull factor. There had also been a huge population explosion in Ireland going up from about 3 million people in 1750 to 8 million in 1830. There simply weren’t jobs for all those people. In much of Ireland the only employment was subsistence farming topped up in Ulster and one or two other areas with a bit of linen weaving. And then the straw that broke the camel’s back, along came the famine, numerous times throughout the 1800s. The worst period was when the potato crop failed almost completely 3 years in a row in the late 1840s, and then partially several more years after that. 

    Other factors encouraged emigration, eg early mechanisation on farms. With new machines to turn the soil and plant seed, farmers no longer needed an army of agricultural labourers to help on the farm. So those jobs were rapidly disappearing. Likewise mechanisation had led to linen factories being set up in places like Belfast. These made home weaving uneconomic and so also upset the labourer’s family economy. Agriculture was the biggest single employer in Ireland, but it was mostly a barter economy. Few people had any ready cash save what they could make from weaving or any government sponsored work such as building new roads. So when the opportunity arose to get jobs with a regular wage packet, as opposed to a few pence from your father each week, the decision to migrate wasn’t really all that hard to make. So it was as much about economic betterment as anything. 

    In addition, the British Government often placed adverts in the press encouraging people to migrate to take advantage of land that was available overseas. (I have attached as an example an article from the Belfast Commercial Chronicle of 1st November 1828 offering lands in Upper Canada).

    Elwyn, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Tuesday 1st Mar 2022, 01:52AM

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