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My McCloskey ancestors came from somewhere in Ulster province, to a specific part of Philadelphia (PA).
My Francis McCloskey (1840) had parents David McCloskey and Elizabeth Bradley.
I see entries in Irish Catholic Parish Records (on showing that David and Elizabeth had baptized children  in Magera and Killylough in county Derry in the 1840s, witnesses Alexander McCloskey and Mary McCloskey.
I don't see a townland.

Roman Catholic, was in Philadelphia by the 1850 census.
David, the father, presumably died because I don't see any evidence of him in Philadelphia.

Can anyone help me find a townland for this family?

Is there a family history center or researcher that can help me find out more about this family?


Thank you!

Colleen McCloskey

Colleen McCloskey

Wednesday 1st Feb 2023, 05:47PM

Message Board Replies

  • Colleen,

    Maghera is in the county of Derry/Londonderry.

    The 1831 census of Co Derry has 13 McClosky and 2 McClusky households in the parish of Maghera. One of those seems likely to be your family.

    They were in Craigmore, Tamnymullan (3), Moyagall (2), Ballymacpeak, Drumconready, Fallagloon (2) Craigadick (2) & Dreenan.

    None headed by a David but he probably wasn’t married in 1831 in which case he was likely living with his parents. But these may be the townlands to focus on.

    Bradley is more common, with 77 households. Some in the same townlands as McClosky which might be a clue.

    Maghera RC parish records only start in 1841 which makes things tricky. Were they farmers or weaver/labourers in Ireland, do you know?

    RC parishes generally didn’t keep burial records and statutory registration of deaths didn’t start till 1864 so if David died c 1850 there may be no record to find, unless he had a gravestone (a farmer might but a labourer probably wouldn’t, unless paid for by someone in America).

    Researchers in the PRONI area:

    Apart from the baptisms you have already found, if the family left Ireland around 1851, there may not be many other records to find.

    Farmers tended to stay put but labourers often moved about to follow the available work. That makes tracing folk difficult too.

    David’s baptism in 1846 was witnessed by Letitia McCloskey. A less common name. I searched for a death or marriage for her but without success.

    Mary’s was witnessed by an Alexander McCloskey. This was the only one I could find but, if his age is accurate (and it may not be)  he would have been 13 in 1844 so too young. He lived in Grillagh.

    There’s about 8 possible Mary McClosky deaths. Can’t really narrow them down.

    Elwyn, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Wednesday 1st Feb 2023, 07:03PM
  • Elwyn, thank you so much for your work!

    I had understood that the Irish census records had been destroyed, so I thank you for your diligence; I will look there now.

    A baptism for a David in 1846 is consistent with a David who came to Philadelphia, but died in the American Civil War. So sad!

    The names Letitia and Alexander puzzle me, as I don't find them in later generations.
    The names of the family in Philadelphia are pretty consistent -
    David, Francis, James, Mary, Margaret, Ellen -
    and pass into future generations.
    James in particular is important, as his name in Philadelphia is James Eugene McCloskey, and occurs in every generation down to the present, when the latest James Eugene, b 1990, died in the 2000s without issue.
    Would Eugene be spelled Eoghan? Pronounced 'Owen'? Just curious.

    My McCloskeys were listed in our city directories and censuses as laborers. Would that suggest a farmer back in Ireland?
    The neighborhood, Kensington, was a weaving center, so relatives of my McCloskeys were weavers and dyers, and one specialized in leatherwork for Moroccan slippers. 
    The family home was just two blocks from the docks on the Delaware River, so I believe the laborers would have worked on the docks somehow.
    One Francis McCloskey was a skilled gold-worker and jeweler. The only actual artifact that I have from my Francis McCloskey is a gold pocket watch, dated from the year of his marriage. I believe the jeweler was a cousin, as he had a different family than my ancestors.

    I now have new leads to research. Many thanks!

    I was looking for an excuse to visit Ireland; my poor relatives have their own lives to live and so it will be a godsend to say that we are off on an ancestor hunt in county Derry. 


    Colleen McCloskey


    Colleen McCloskey

    Thursday 2nd Feb 2023, 07:25PM
  • Colleen,

    Most Irish censuses pre 1901 have been destroyed but some fragments exist for various reasons. It appears that the 1831 census for Co Londonderry was out of the Public Record Office in 1922 for research purposes and so survived the explosion and fire.  Some other fragments of pre 1901 censuses have survived for various reasons too. For example, when the old age pension was introduced in 1909, you had to prove you were 70 or older.  The 1841 & 1851 censuses were used for age purposes, to check whether you qualified. Knowing you were, say 3 in 1841 would demonstrate that in 1909 you were 71, and so eligible. The clerk doing the verification in the PRO often transcribed the relevant entry with all members of the family and their ages, and if that happened that information has survived. But many people had baptismal certificates or other proof of age, and so not everyone needed a census extract. So the extracts are patchy.

    Yes Eugene is the anglicised version of Eoghan, which as you surmise, is pronounced Owen. (And can be spelled Owen too).

    If the family were laborers then that’s not the same as a farmer. Laborers might have a little land (usually a few perches) to grow potatoes or flax but a farmer would have anything from 2 to 50 acres. More importantly a farmer would normally stay in the one place. You don’t spend time improving your farm for a few years and then move to another location if you can avoid it. Farmers would also be listed in the tithe applotment records (which were essentially a tax on land to pay for the Church of Ireland).  No point searching them if the family were laborers. And laborers often moved around to follow the available work, so they can be hard to locate in official records.

    Most laborers in Ulster were also weavers. In rural areas most weaving was done at home using hand loom weaving machines, such as are still used in the Outer Hebrides in Scotland to make Harris Tweed. These machines were collapsible, so as to be stored out of the way when not needed and for ease of transport should the weaver move home, as they often did.

    Most weavers in Ulster were labourers who earned a bit of extra money by weaving in the winter months when there wasn’t much labouring work required on farms.  This meant that labourers in Ulster had a slightly better standard of living than elsewhere in Ireland. It also gave them some ready cash (in a society that mostly operated by barter) for the things that could not be bought by barter, eg a ticket to America. At one time weavers wove a lot of cotton but the interruption of supplies from the southern US states during the American War of Independence in the 1770s meant they focused on other materials, notably flax (which linen is made from) and which grows well in Ireland in contrast to cotton which won’t grow at all.  They did weave other products eg calico and wool as required, but by the 1800s it was mainly linen. Linen made at home was taken to the local linen market and sold there.

    As the 19th century progressed, water powered linen mills were introduced all over Ulster. These were faster than home weavers and often made better quality material and so gradually made the home weaver redundant.  In addition, the factories also mostly employed women and children (being nimbler and cheaper) so this impacted on male employment too. At a time when farms were starting mechanise and so needed fewer labourers, the average labourer/weaver therefore faced a bleak future and so these combined changes were a major factor in many a labourer’s decision to leave Ireland during the 1800s.

    A little more information on this link:

    Good luck with your research in Co Derry.  If needing somewhere to stay, I can recommend Laurel Villa in Magherafelt. Owned by Gerardine and Eugene Kielt who is a local historian.



    Elwyn, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Friday 3rd Feb 2023, 05:58AM
  • Thank you!

    Colleen McCloskey

    Tuesday 7th Feb 2023, 06:47PM

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