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Hello everyone, and thanks so much for your help in the past. My 2nd great grandfather, John Gilmore was born in Dechomet around 1832. He left Ireland when he was just 10, around 1840, and came to the United States. I am not sure if he came with his parents or not (but I think not) since he doesn't show up in a US census until 1860 in UnionVale NY, newly married with one child. I am hoping to get more of a sense of why John came to the US at this time, especially before the Great Famine? Can anyone give me a bit of social history here that may help me tell John's story? Thanks in advance to all of you wonderful volunteers!


Sunday 19th Feb 2023, 01:00PM

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  • 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 but there had bene various partial failures all through the 1800s. The late 1840s was a very bad famine but it wasn’t the first.

    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.

    There was a massive tide of migration all through that century, including long before the famine. Years after the worst of the famine it’s impact was still being felt across Ireland, and there were still plenty of much better job opportunities in Australia and the USA. (After Scotland and England, the USA was the most popular destination for emigrants with about 40 to 50% choosing it. Only about 5% of Irish emigrants chose Australia and New Zealand, possibly due to the costs and length of the voyage).

    Elwyn, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Sunday 19th Feb 2023, 01:52PM
  • Thank you so much, Elwyn, this is exactly what I was hoping to learn! A few more questions if you don't mind, how did they get information on how to go the US? And how did they get to the port, what is the likely port that someone living in Decomet would have taken off from? 


    Sunday 19th Feb 2023, 03:01PM
  • They got information from others who had emigrated before them and written back to give advice on what work was available etc, plus there were endless adverts in the newspapers offering passage to North America and elsewhere. Plus endless articles explaining about life there. For example, I have attached a page from the Roscommon & Leitrim Gazette of 20th April 1844 in which there is a lengthy article warning  prospective emigrants not to arrive ill-prepared for life in the US. (Left hand column).

    There were sailings from Belfast, Newry, Dublin and other ports in Ireland but the biggest port of departure by far was Liverpool which acted as a clearing house for migrants from all over Europe. Liverpool often had several departures every day. Competition for the business was great and shipping agents often threw in the cost of the voyage from Ireland to Liverpool free, together with a couple of nights accommodation in a seedy lodging house in Liverpool.

    They would likely have walked from their home to the port. (Around 30 miles from Deehomed to Belfast, for example). They might have paid a carrier to take some luggage for them to the port or they might have carried it themselves.

    I have attached a page from the Morning Chronicle of 1st Jan 1840 which advertises sailings from Liverpool to New York (and for all over the world too for that matter).

    Little bit about Deemomed on the Ros Davies site here:

    In 1901 census there were 94 homes in Deehommed and a population of 333.

    Elwyn, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Sunday 19th Feb 2023, 05:03PM
  • Elwyn, thanks for your care and time in answering my question. You are the best!!!


    Sunday 19th Feb 2023, 06:11PM
  • Attached Files

    If you are particularly interested in a more detailed explanation of why folk left Ireland in the 1800s, this book  by Sean Connolly: “From Ballymena to Boston” (published in 2022) might help. Or you might get enough information from the fairly detailed review without needing to buy the book itself!

    Elwyn, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Monday 20th Feb 2023, 06:03PM
  • Hi,

    I wouldn't disagree with anything Elwyn said, but another possibility for emigration is to do with inheritance. In the early 1800s a father could divide his tenancy among his children, even before his death or retirement. This resulted in landlords having to deal with an increasing number of small tenancies. In 1826, a law was brought in to prevent this division of land. As a result of the law, a father could leave his tenancy to one person only on death or retirement. This was usually to the eldest son. Therefore, younger sons had no prospects of getting land at home. If the eldest son emigrated, the second son inherited the tenancy, but then the third son had no prospects. Under the old system a son could get a few acres from his father, based on that could get a wife and have a family. Under the new system this wasn't possible. It would have taken a few years for the new law to take effect, but I would think that by the 1840s it would have had some impact.

    Just another consideration.

    Best wishes, Kieran

    Kieran Jordan, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Thursday 9th Mar 2023, 10:20AM
  • Attached Files

    Kieran, thank you so much for this information! I have not been able to find any information on John's siblings, so I don't know where he falls in the childbirth order. Someone posted this map on Facebook from 1852, 8 or so years after John Gilmore left for America, but perhaps the John Gilmore in the map is his father? My great great grandfather was only 10 when he came over and I don't think he came with his parents.


    Saturday 11th Mar 2023, 12:37AM
  • PRONI holds a number of documents you might find helpful.

    D 1954/4/444 dated 1st Jun 1793 is a lease to Arthur Gilmore of Deehommed for his land there. Leases in the 1700s were often 3 lives leases, and gave the ages and relationships (where there was one) to those named in the lease. (A 3 lives lease lasted for the duration of the lease eg 30 years or till all 3 named persons had died. Hence the mention of ages).

    D1954/6/3 is a 1790 map of Deehommed with tenants and the acreage each held.

    D1954/6/27A is an 1830 map with the same info

    D1954/6/27B is a more detailed version of same map

    D1954/6/56 is a July 1847 version

    D1954/6/72 is an 1852 version by Hugh Hanna (so that’s the map you already have).

    D1954/6/98 is an 1860 version and records that John Gilmore’s farm consisted of 15 acres, 2 roods and 8 perches. (40 perches in a rood, 4 roods in an acre).

    D1854/6/100 is a c 1860 map of Owen Gilmore’s farm in Rehomed (10 acres 1 rood, 2 perches).

    None of these records is on-line at PRONI. A personal visit is required to view them. If you are unable to go yourself, you could employ a researcher. Researchers in the PRONI area: 

    Given that you have the 1852 map, it looks as though someone has been to PRONI in the past. Perhaps they have additional records?

    It might also be worth checking the Registry of Deeds records on Familysearch in case there are other leases to be found there. Search under the townland name and then look for deeds relating to Gilmore. It’s a fiddly set of records to work with till you get the hang of how they are compiled. Some years are broken down by Barony, so you need to know Deehommend is in Upper Iveagh barony.

    There’s various mentions of the family in the newspapers. For example in 1928 an Arthur Gilmore of Deehommed was trading as an auctioneer.

    This household here evidently:

    Newry Telegraph of 9th Dec 1831 lists John & James Gilmore of Decomed both applying to be on the freeholder’s list. (Voting in those days was dependent on having a specified quantity of land. So each of those evidently had enough land to get a vote). So there were evidently at least 2 Gilmore farms in the townland at that time.

    Belfast Morning news 18.2.1863 mentions the marriage of Mary, daughter of the late Patrick Gilmore of Decomed to Robert O’Hear of Ballyroney on 12.2.1863 at Gargory Roman Catholic Church.

    And so on.

    Elwyn, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Saturday 11th Mar 2023, 11:20AM
  • Wow, such great leads, Elwyn. Thank you so much! I am excited to check out Family Search. 

    I am confused about townlands. I was under the impression that Deehomed was in Drumgooland. But in the link you included (, is that implying that Deehomed is in Moneyslane? 

    Also, I am having difficulty finding the Registry of Deeds link that you suggested in Family Search. Would it be easy to send me a link?



    Saturday 11th Mar 2023, 12:26PM
  • Roberta,

    Deehommed is in Drumgooland parish. Moneyslane is the local electoral area. So for electoral purposes, a number of townlands are grouped together. In this case the name of that electoral district is Moneyslane but it doesn’t alter the parish. There also happens to be a townland of Moneyslane within Moneyslane electoral district.

    There’s about 19 townlands within the civil parish of Drumgooland. (RC parish of Drumgooland Lower whose records start in 1832). You can find all the townlands, and their parishes etc on this site:

    You’ll have spotted that the spelling of many townlands varies all the time. The site uses what might be called the standardized version, as found in Griffiths Valuation. The Griffiths clerks in the 1840s and 1850s tried to standardize the spelling, for obvious administrative reasons. They weren’t always entirely successful and many townlands are still spelled in several different ways to this day.

    These links give a little background and a map of the parish showing where all the townlands were in relation to each other:

    In case you haven’t used the site before there are dozens of Gilmores (spelling varies) from Deehommed listed here, eg the burial of what is probably the Arthur in the 1790s lease, on 5th May 1837 aged 77.

    There were obviously several large families of Gilmores in the townland in the 1800s. Good luck with piecing them all together.

    Here’s a link to the  deeds on the Familysearch site. The deeds are indexed under Grantor’s name and also Land index (townland).  You should search under the Land Index (townland) because you don’t know who the grantor is going to be nor does the index tell you which county the deed was in.

    If you find a likely deed in the index, you note the deed number and then look the actual document up in the main batch of records. You will need some patience. It’s fiddly. The indexes have been in use for 300 years (they start in 1709) and the bottom of many pages are grubby from thousands of hands turning the pages over. The handwriting is hard to read, and the deed numbers require a lot of peering to be sure you have the correct reference. Then reading the actual deed can be challenging too. However the documents tend to be formulaic and you get used to the standard working after a while. There's a lot of repetition, reciting the same names and terms and conditions,  so you can skip some of it. Good luck anyway.

    Explaining the general background, when someone entered into an agreement eg a lease, mortgage, a marriage settlement etc, each party got a copy of the document. But there was always a risk that they might be lost or disputed in the future, especially a very long lease for example. Records were always being lost as a result of flooding or fires in those days.  So as a form of insurance the Registry of Deeds was created and, for a fee, a copy of the document could be kept there. It was a transcript known as a memorial.  It wasn’t obligatory to register these documents and many people didn’t thereby saving the fee. But many did, especially if a bank was involved. They like their security.

    To save you some effort I looked at the indexes for 1739-1810 for Co Down. There’s only 1 mention of Decomed, and that’s on page 68. It’s blank! Whatever the clerk intended to enter in the book, 250 years ago, he didn’t. But you may have better luck with earlier or later years.

    Elwyn, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Sunday 12th Mar 2023, 12:00PM

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