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Hello, I'm new to the website. I have been searching frantically for information regarding my ancestors. Its proving a little difficult to do from the west side of the United States. My ancestor's name was Henry Robinson. His father was Clarke Robinson and mother was Ellen Rea. I found he had a brother John (b.1849), sisters Mary (b. 1852) and Margaret (b. 1854). Those records I found in the Catholic Parish of Glenravel. Their town is listed as Killyharan, but I cannot find that on a map. 

Henry went to Dumbarton, Scotland to work in the ship yard in his early 20's where he married. By this time he says both his parents have died. He moved to Belfast to work in the shipyards as a Rivetter in 1892. I cannot find any information on his parents or siblings other than the three records found for his siblings. 

I would love to learn more about the area and if anyone has heard of these people. I have found bits and pieces of information like land evaluations, Masonic records, Presbyterian Revend's brief notes. But I cannot connect these specifically to my direct line. When Henry came to Scotland he was a iron worker journeyman, so he must have spent some time on the coast learning his trade, I believe possibly in the Glenarm/Larne Area. 


Wednesday 5th Apr 2017, 06:51PM

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  • Fiona,

    I suspect the townland that your ancestors lived was KIllycarn. It’s 875 aces of mostly agricultural land. Up in the Antrim hills. Griffiths Valuation for 1862 lists Clarke Robinson there in a house with a small garden on James Reid’s farm. So Clarke was evidently a labourer/weaver. There were several other Robinsons living nearby Henry, William, Patrick & Neal. Some of whom are probably relatives. The modern Kilycarn Rd runs through part of the townland. There is a way of identifying where Clarke’s house is (or was, because it’s probably gone now). I can explain if you are interested.

    There’s a Clarke Robinson death registered in Larne on 9.12.1866 that may well be your man. He was aged 56. 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. The death cert will tell you whether his wife Ellen was still alive in 1866 and you can then search for her death, save that death registration only started in Ireland on 1.1.1864 so if she died before that it may be hard to trace.

    In the 1901 census of Killycarn there were 27 houses with a total of 127 inhabitants. 3 of the households were Robinsons.

    2 of the households were Presbyterian and 1 was RC. So it’s possible that the Presbyterian & RC families are unconnected, or it is also possible that there was a mixed marriage over the years and that someone converted to the other faith. The Presbyterians probably attended Buckna Presbyterian Church. I found this gravestone inscription at Buckna graveyard:

    Erected by William J Robinson Killycarn In memory of his beloved Wife Elizabeth who died 2nd February 1880 aged 37 years 'She is not dead but sleepeth' Also his son William John Robinson who died 1st November 1912 Isabella Robinson sister of above named who died 17th June 1922. And the above named William J Robinson who died 3rd April 1923 Also Nancy Robinson who died 25th April 1965

    I searched Glenravel RC graveyard but did not see any Robinson gravestones there. However agricultural labourers were rarely wealthy enough to afford a gravestone (whereas farmers generally could) and so most were buried without a gravestone. So the family might well be there but in an unmarked grave.

    There were some iron ore mines around Cargan in the Glens of Antrim but they weren’t big employers, and they eventually proved too small to work at a profit and were closed down. However it’s possible that if Henry arrived in Scotland with iron ore skills, that’s where he acquired them. But many agricultural labourers went to Scotland to find work and just learned their new trade there.

    One of Ireland’s problems is a lack of natural resources. No coal, oil, iron ore etc, and so apart from a modest amount of shipbuilding in Belfast and the Belfast linen mills (which mostly only employed women), it did not really get the industrial revolution that benefited England and Scotland where mills, steelworks, ship building, coal mining and all their support industries were major employers creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs. Much better paid than subsistence farming or weaving. Added to that you had the effects of a massive population explosion in Ireland – up from 3 million in 1750 to 8 million in 1841 (no-one is really sure of the reasons why but reduced neo-natal deaths seem to be a factor) and the famine. So some push factors and some pull factors saw huge numbers of people leave Ireland. Something like 2 million people emigrated from Ireland in the 1800s.

     If you look at the Scottish censuses for the Glasgow area in the late 1800s, you will see that about every fifth person recorded there was born in Ireland. Scotland was a particularly popular place to go to work because it was easy and very cheap to get to. Several sailings every day from Belfast, plus regular sailings from Portrush, Ballycastle and Londonderry, not to mention Dublin. The shipping companies main business was cargo and the passengers were just top-up revenue. Competition was fierce and passenger fares very low. People working in Scotland could come home for weddings or the harvest, as well as holidays (Glasgow used to shut down for 2 weeks every July, known as the Glasgow Fair holiday and there would then be a huge exodus to Ireland).  You could also send children back to stay with their grandparents, thereby leaving the wife free to work. You couldn’t do all those things so easily from Australia, America or Canada.  For Presbyterians, Scotland also had the benefit of being culturally very close as well as geographically very close. Something that persists to this day, in religion, music eg piping, sport etc. The experience and welcome offered to a Presbyterian from Ireland was generally much better than that given to a Roman Catholic. For further information see:




    Elwyn, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Saturday 8th Apr 2017, 07:35PM
  • I would love to learn how to possibly look up his house/area. I have been unsuccessful with finding the area on Google earth as I am not familiar with the locations. 
    I believe my Clarke Robinson was related to at least Neal and Patrick living in the area. I found an online transcription of a Reverend's notes on the area and it lists a Clarke being the brother of Neal and Patrick. I also have looked at the Griffiths land evaluations, but again I am not familiar with the territory or how housing was established. 
    We think there may have been a split in the family when it came to religion, but could never verify it. I do know my family was living in Belfast by 1901 and on their census sheet, they are still listed as Roman Catholic and only one of the few Robinson families living in Antrim at the time. 
    These are great links! Thank you for providing them! 



    Wednesday 19th Apr 2017, 03:53AM
  • Attached Files
    100_0030.JPG (2.1 MB)


    If you want an overview of Killycarn, go to Griffiths Valuation site and click on Griffiths Places.

    Then enter Killycarn & Antrim. Click on occupants. You will see Clarke Robinson’s name there. Click on occupants. You will see Clarke Robinson listed on plot 7e. That was a house and garden. The farm itself was occupied by James Reid (plot 7a). It was a total of about 19 acres. So I know from these records that Clarke had a small house on James Reid’s farm. (Though Clarke's landlord was not the farmer but the O’Neill estate at Shane’s Castle, near Randalstown).

    Next click on one of the 2 map views buttons. Enlarge the screen and focus on the red line up the middle of the red box. You should see Killycarn to the right hand side of the red line. If you then use the slider bar to switch to a modern map, you’ll see the modern Killycarn Rd running through the middle of the townland.

    Now with most Griffiths on-line maps, the individual plots are shown, normally in red. In this particular map that hasn’t been done. For some reason, whoever compiled this area didn’t have access to those versions and so used blank maps instead.  You can still use it to see where Killycarn is but you can’t tell where the houses were. However there are versions of the maps that do have that information shown. Both PRONI in Belfast and Ballymena library have copies with the Killycarn houses shown. Those copies are not on-line and so you would need to go in person (or get a researcher to do that) to find it. It’s quite hard on the eyes as the maps have been overwritten with other information but it can be done.

    You might get lucky and find plot 7e, but in my experience of those particular maps, the best you’ll probably get is to find where plot 7 was/is. That should enable you to find it today, but unless the current farmer happens to know where the agricultural cottages stood (and they mostly don’t) then you may not get further than that. However you will be within a few hundred yards of where Clarke lived and that’s not too bad.

    The area today is still farmland. Plot 7 is still likely to be a farm, but over the years the need for agricultural workers has diminished, due to mechanisation and other factors, and so the farm workers cottages have generally disappeared. I looked at the Valuation Revision records, which take the original Griffiths information forward to 1929. They show that by 1929, plot 7e was “land only” ie the cottage had gone. No longer required, it would have just collapsed or been cleared away by the farmer for other agricultural purposes.

    There are still a few agricultural cottages around. Unoccupied. I have attached a photo of one near where I live in Co Antrim, to give you a rough idea of what your ancestor’s would have looked like. (They tended to be fairly standard in design). The property in the photo is a row of 3 cottages. There were originally 4 but the end one has collapsed. In the photo there’s a tin roof but in the 1800s it would have been thatched. Bare earth floor, no running water, outside toilet, 2 rooms max. Heating from a turf (peat) fire. A small bit of land nearby to grow vegetables. Rent was often paid in kind ie an agreed number of days labour on the farm per year, after which the tenant was free to do whatever he or she wanted eg work on another farm or on government contracts such as road building.  In this particular case the landlord wasn’t the farmer whose land the cottage was on but the O’Neills, so I suspect the rent was paid in cash, as they probably didn’t need the labour.

    You mention googling for Killycarn. The place is very small and unlikely to come up on most searches. There’s not a lot there.

    Finally, a note on the surname Robinson. In Ireland Robinson is also spelled Robertson. The 2 are interchangeable.  That may seem bizarre today but it was quite common then. Other examples are Kilpatrick and Kirkpatrick, Connor & Nogher which amazingly are the same. People then weren’t bothered about having a single “correct” name and for various cultural and linguistic reasons there were many variants of names. So bear in mind that you might find some of your family recorded as Robertson as well as Robinson.

    Robinson is very common in Co Antrim and is apparently of an English origin (according to John Grenham’s site). The distribution pattern shows the majority in Ulster (suggesting they were descendants of settlers who arrived from Scotland or England as a part of the Plantation of Ireland in the 1600s) but the spread also suggests some may be of Irish origins. (Though depending on how far back you want to go, they too might have originated in England). See:

    If yours were in Antrim, statistically and geographically, that increases the chances of them being of English or Scottish origins but that is only speculation. I note that some of the other Robinsons in Killycarn were Presbyterian. So that tells you they are of Scottish origins. So if your family are connected to them (and they could well be. Farmers liked to stay put. They didn’t move around a lot). That part of Ireland was heavily settled by Scots, mostly in the 1600s. The majority were Presbyterian but just to make it a bit more confusing some were Roman Catholic. The first Earl of Antrim encouraged lots of his tenants from the Kintyre peninsula, and the islands of Islay & Jura in the Hebrides to move to his estates in north east Antrim in the 1500s (which then included Skerry). They were a mix of Presbyterian and RC, whereas most of the other Scots settlers were Presbyterian, so much so, that even today it remains the most common denomination in the county. If I were to be pressed, I’d guess your family probably originated in Scotland. 

    Elwyn, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Wednesday 19th Apr 2017, 10:02AM

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