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RootsIreland shows that my supposed ancestor Jane Downey was baptized in St Anne's, Shankill, Antrim on October 2, 1805.  Her father was Andrew Downing and mother Jane.  There were two younger brothers, both Robert, baptized 12 February 1800 and 14 April 1802.  The copyright to the records is held by the Ulster Historical Foundation.

My confirmed ancestor Jane Downey married Daniel Clifford in Dungiven, Co. Derry/Co. Londonderry on October 21, 1820.  Daniel Clifford was in the police and for some years stationed at Kilrea and then at Muff. They had eight children (two presumably died in infancy but I cannot find a record thereof).  The parents and the six surviving children migrated to Australia/New Zealand between 1848 and 1853.

I would be grateful for any assistance in locating records about the Downey family.

Best wishes to all

Raymond Clifford (from Australia)


Ray Clifford

Wednesday 13th Sep 2023, 09:45AM

Message Board Replies

  • Raymond,

    If Jane was baptised in 1805 and married in 1820 then she was only 15 when she married. That was possible, but pretty unlikely.

    There were exceptions, especially in the early years of the Royal Irish Constabulary, but normal RIC practice was to not to post an officer to a county where he or his wife had family connections. (His RIC service record should show his county of birth).  Was Daniel moved from Kilrea to Muff after his marriage? If so, that probably tells you his wife came from Co Derry. If she came from Co Antrim there would have been no need to move him.

    And if the couple married in Dungiven, I would wonder whether the bride came from there. Tradition was to marry in the bride’s church. So in the absence of any other harder information about her origins, I’d be inclined to search that area.  Dungiven is a small town 50 miles from Belfast.  Why would a woman from Belfast marry there unless she lived there?

    You haven’t said what denomination the marriage was but I am guessing Church of Ireland. The PRONI guide to church records indicates that it’s the only denomination in that parish with any records that far back. They start in 1795. My guide to Church of Ireland records says that rootsireland has some years for that parish but not all. So possibly they don’t have the early baptism records. I don’t know. PRONI has a full copy of the records but they are not on-line and so a personal visit is required to view them.

    Be aware that not all churches have records for the time of Jane’s birth. She was probably around 20, that was the normal sort of age to marry, so born c 1800.  And of the churches that do have baptisms for the early 1800s, many are not on-line, especially many protestant records. So finding someone of the right name on rootsireland or the UHF (who share the same records by the way) does not mean that was the only Jane Downey in Ireland at that time. I searched the 1901 Irish census for Jane Downey/Downie and found 44. The name would have been equally prevalent in 1800.

    The geographic distance and the fact that the Belfast girl would only have been 15 makes me doubtful she’s the right one.

    The only factor that goes against what I have said about Dungiven being more likely to be where Jane was born is that I cannot find any Downey/Downie families in Dungiven in the 1831 census (which has survived). The name is found fairly widely in Co Derry but not in Dungiven. So maybe she came from somewhere else in Co Derry and work took her to Dungiven. Did she come from Kilrea perhaps, as Daniel was serving there? How else would they have met, I wonder.

    There was a George Downey living in Caraloon, parish of Kilrea, in 1831 (family of 3, all Church of Ireland). Is George a family name?

    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).

    Elwyn, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Wednesday 13th Sep 2023, 11:26AM
  • Thanks Elwyn for such a thoughtful, comprehensive and prompt reply.  I think you are right about the Jane Downey of St Anne's Shankill.  It was me "clutching at straws" and I should have known better.  So Jane will have to wait, perhaps until more records come on line or I get to Ireland.

    I am trying to access the RIC Service Records through FindMyPast but am I baulking at taking out a free trial for fear that I will not be able to cancel it.  I already pay for TheGenealogist and Scotland's People, and I can access Ancestry at the local library.  If the library does not have FindMyPast, I will bite the bullet and sign up for the trial.  It claims to have found one record of Daniel Clifford in its RIC record set.  That Daniel, although he married and fathered eight kids in Derry, was actually born in England (don't know where).

    Your message shows me how much I have to learn before visiting Ireland again.  Covid caused the cancelation of our last trip, which I now know would have been partly wasted because I did not know enough.

    Again, many thanks


    Ray Clifford

    Monday 18th Sep 2023, 07:21AM
  • Raymond,

    I have subscription to fmp. I see several mentions of Daniel Clifford in the RIC pension records. At least one record gives his rank as “S.C.” which means Sub-Constable. He appears to have qualified for a police pension on 1.9.1852, of £20 5 shillings a year which he collected in Hobart, Tasmania. His file has the word “emigrant” alongside his name. That suggests he was in Australia by September 1852, if not earlier. There is a note to say he died on 8.2.1884 and on 17.12.1884 another note to say a payment had been made to William Clifford, his son. Presumably William was his executor and this was uncollected pension money, due up to his date of death.

    There are also some RIC records on Ancestry and there is a listing for Daniel Clifford born Londonderry who enlisted in 1828 when he was aged 28. Might be your ancestor. In later years you had to be single or a widower without a family to join the RIC and also under 27, but I suspect in the early years (RIC was founded in 1816) those rules may not have applied.  And obviously if this is the correct Daniel, he served in the county he was apparently born in which was not normally allowed. But again that rule may not have been in place in 1828. Or he may have been born in England, as your information apparently indicates.

    There is a website that specializes in RIC staff. You could post there to see if anyone can provide more information on his service records and his origins. You may also find him mentioned in newspaper articles in connection with his duties and in the Petty Sessions court records.

    Photo of the old police station in KIlrea, where you say he served, taken from the Kilrea local history group Facebook site:

    I notice one of the contributors has the old RIC plaque from above the police station door.

    This is the only Clifford family in Co Derry in the 1831 census. Jane Clifford plus one other female, both Church of Ireland (Episcopalian).  They lived in Catherine St, Newtown Limavady (today just Limavady).

    You mentioned that Daniel served in Muff. There are 2 Muffs, both with police stations. One is part of the village of Eglinton in Co Derry. The other is a few miles away in Co Donegal, just on the border with Co Derry. What denomination was the family?  You may be able to find the children’s baptisms, and, if Church of Ireland, burial records (Most other denominations didn’t bother with burial records).  Muff near Eglinton is in the parish of Muff. Muff in Co Donegal is in the parish of Culdaff. This link explains what records exist, parish by parish. Copies of most held in PRONI in Belfast:

    If you are unable to go yourself, you could employ a researcher. Researchers in the PRONI area:



    Elwyn, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Monday 18th Sep 2023, 12:25PM

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