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I'm searching for more information about John Higgins and Mary Bell, who were married 23 Nov 1840 at Aghagallon, Antrim. I have identified 3 children baptized at Aghagallon parish - Catherine on 1 Sep 1841, Bernard on 8 Jul 1843 and Sarah on 24 Jun 1846. The family moved to Scotland around 1850 and had additional children.  I believe Sarah passed away young as she does not show up in Scotland censuses and a subsequent daughter was given the name Sarah. I'm interested in learning if I have missed identifying any of the couple's children who were born or died in Aghagallon, as well as any information about the births or parents of John or Mary. Thanks for any help.




Friday 25th Oct 2019, 03:04PM

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    I can’t see any other children in the Aghagallon RC parish records apart from the 3 you have already identified.

    Scottish death certificates helpfully contain details of the deceased’s parents.  (Irish death certificates don’t). Mary Higgins (nee Bell) appears to have died in Shettleston in 1893 aged 62. (GROS ref 622/2 184). You should get her parents names and occupations from that. Likely weavers or labourers. Always a difficult occupation to trace in Ireland as folk moved about a lot. Ages on death certificates need to be taken with a pinch of salt. Errors of 10 years or more for someone in their 60s or 70s are not unusual. The informant often just guessed.  Folk didn’t celebrate birthdays in those days and few had any accurate idea of their age. (If Mary was 62 in 1893 then she was born c 1831. Since she married in 1840, she’d have been 9. Clearly that’s nonsense. She was probably nearer 72, or more. But as I say those sorts of errors are very common).

    The death certificate should also tell you whether Mary was a widow or not. That in turn tells you which side of 1893 to search for John’s death. And assuming you find it, it should have his parents names and occupations. That’ll get you back a generation.

    If the couple happened to have child born in Scotland in 1855, the birth certificates for that year only contain a lot of extra information. It should tell you where and when each parent was born, plus how many children they had had at that point, and how many were alive or dead. Also where and when the parents married (though you already know that). Most of this information was dropped after 1855 as being too time consuming. But definitely worth investigating if there was a birth that year.

    Aghagallon RC’s records start in 1828, so probably before John & Mary were born. You might struggle to get back much further than that. However, unusually Aghagallon has burial records from 1828 onwards (most RC parishes didn't keep any). So you might find their parents burials in those records.

    I agree that if there were 2 Sarahs then the first will have died. Re-using the name again was normal practice. Keeping a family name alive. The first might be in the Aghagallon burials, but if not, there’s probably no record of her death in Ireland as statutory death registration didn’t start until 1864.

    If the family are in the 1851 Scottish census then you should have a fair idea of who was born in Ireland.

    There probably aren’t many other records in Ireland that will have this family. There’s a Conway Bell in Crumlin, Co Antrim in the 1911 Irish census. I wouldn’t be too surprised if he’s not related to Mary Bell in some way. It’s an unusual name, and he was living a stone’s throw from Aghagallon.

    Conway looks to have died on 29.4.1922, aged 68. Death registered in Antrim. You can view the original certificate on-line on the GRONI website, using the “search registrations” option:

    You will need to open an account and buy some credits. It costs £2.50 (sterling) to a view a certificate. 


    Elwyn, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Friday 25th Oct 2019, 05:24PM
  • Elwyn,

    Thank you so much for your comments and suggestions. The first Sarah does appear to have died, but I was unable to find a record of her death. The most interesting discovery was learning (from her death certificate) that Mary Bell's father was named  -  Conway Bell. I would agree that location and name suggest the Conway in Crumlin and Mary's father are probably connected, and that's certainly going on my to do list. 

    Once again, thank you for the pointers. 


    Thursday 7th Nov 2019, 02:14AM

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