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My 3RD Great Grandfather Thomas William Fletcher 1810 was born in Blaris Parish in County Down. This was according to two military records I have been able to find. He was with the British Navy and sailed the high seas to such places as the Caribbean.

He immigrated with his family to Ontario Canada in 1848.

Most of his children were baptized in Belfast.

I have never been able to find any records except the military records for him. I would appreciate any suggestions on how to find more records. I would like to know his Father's name.

I also would like to know if he is a Descendant of the English or Scottish who settled in Northern Ireland.

Thomas' Wife was Mary Esten. I can find no records for her except what is in Canadian records.


Diane Gilhula

Diane Gilhula

Tuesday 12th Mar 2024, 03:59AM

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  • MacLysaght’s “The Surnames of Ireland” says of Fletcher, “See under Lister.” Under Lister he says: “This name in Ireland has four distinct origins: 1 an abbreviation of MacAlister; 2 in Ulster the Scottish Mac an Leastair alias Fletcher; 3 an occasional synonym of St Leger in Co Kilkenny ; 4 English Lester (dyer) of Leycester.” To that, I’d be inclined to add that, if English, Fletcher could well be an occupational name. In this case from the French “flechier”, ie arrow maker.

    You haven’t said what denomination your ancestor was. Knowing that may give a clue as to his more likely origin, especially if you can point to a precise denomination. What were they in Canada?

    Looking at the 1901 census of Ireland for Co Antrim (where your ancestors’ lived) there were over 300 Fletchers then. Almost all were of one Protestant denomination or another, so that points strongly to them being incomers at some time in the past. A high percentage were Presbyterian which indicates likely Scottish origins, but there were many Church of Ireland and Methodists (which is a breakaway from the Church of Ireland) and that tends to point to English or Welsh roots. A detailed DNA test might tell you a bit more if you match with any British origins.

    You say you cannot find any baptism records in Belfast. Not all Church records are on-line, especially for some Protestant denominations. If you knew what precise denomination the family was it might be possible to suggest which sets of records to look at in PRONI (the public record office) in Belfast. But a personal visit is required to view them.

    You mention his wife’s surname was Esten. That is not a common name in Ireland. In the 1901 census, in the whole country, there was just one. He lived in Belfast but was born in England. He was Church of England (which is the same as Church of Ireland).

    But as an overall comment, it does seem fairly likely to me that your ancestors are descended from folk who probably moved to Ireland in the 1600s. Possibly as part of the Plantation (though Co Antrim wasn’t involved in the Plantation because so many folk had already moved there, particularly from Scotland, for other reasons) and there were a few waves of later movement due to things lie famine in Scotland in the 1690s. There are no Fletchers in Co Antrim in the 1630 Muster Rolls so that suggests an arrival after that period.

    Elwyn, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Friday 15th Mar 2024, 07:00AM
  • Thank you Elwyn!

    My Fletchers were Church of England according to the 1861 Census of Canada.

    I can go back to the Grandfather of Thomas William 1810.  He was Abraham Fletcher Abt.  1756.

    From Thomas William's 1810 military records I know the date of his birth and where - Blaris.

    He served in the British Navy in the Caribbean, and in Canada. I think there should be more military records as he attested at age 17 in 1827 accirding to one recird. I have found only two records.

    His Children were all baptized in Belfast according to their oral history.

    Can you tell me about the Census of Elphin in 1749.  Is there online access to that.

    I hypothesize the Ancestry of Thomas William Fletcher 1810 goes back to England as an overwhelming number of my Mother and my Matches lead back there. To places like Yorkshire and Cumberland.



    Diane Gilhula

    Sunday 17th Mar 2024, 05:10AM
  • Diane,

    Church of England and Church of Ireland are the same thing. The full title is “The United Church of England & Ireland”. You will see both C of I and C of E as terms in Irish records, as well as Episcopalian. They all mean exactly the same thing. Anglican communion.

    Blaris is the parish around Lisburn, just south of Belfast. Their C of I records start in 1637 (with a few gaps here and there). My guide to C of I records says that rootsireland has some years records on their site (subscription) but it doesn’t say what years. A full copy of all the Blaris records is held in PRONI (the public record office) in Belfast but they are not on-line. A personal visit is required to view them. They are on microfilm.

    The main C of I parish in Belfast was Shankill and the main church in it was St Ann’s. Its records are mostly on-line, on both rootsireland and the Ulster Historical Foundation sites. Rootsireland is subscription but UHF is pay to view. Have you checked them for the baptisms? You can search the indexes free on the UHF site. If they are not there then they might have been baptised in one of the minor C of I churches in Belfast whose records are not on-line eg St George’s or Christ Church. In that case, again someone needs to go to PRONI to look them up.

    Regarding additional military records, they are likely to be in the National; Archives in Kew, London (and not on-line). I don’t know very much about British military records but there are specialist sites where you can ask for help. An example is British Genealogy:

    British Genealogy & Family History Forums (

     But it may involve a London based researcher going to Kew for you.

    I don’t know if the Elphin census is on-line. You could start a fresh thread with that as the subject title. Someone else may know the answer. I’d guess that the original is in the National Archives in Dublin but that’s not really much use unless you live locally.

    Your theory that the family may come from the north of England seems perfectly reasonable. Literally half the population of the counties of Ulster have similar origins in England or Scotland. But in most cases, apart from big landowners and others appearing in a few lists, there are no comprehensive records of who came from where. DNA hints are probably as good as you’ll get.

    Elwyn, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Sunday 17th Mar 2024, 08:17PM
  • Thanks again Elwyn. I am wondering if a genealogical society in Blaris, Lisburn or Belfast would have any information on my Fletcher Family. I havent checked there yet. 

    Diane Gilhula

    Diane Gilhula

    Thursday 11th Apr 2024, 03:47AM
  • Diane,

    You could contact the North of Ireland Family History Society.  They have a Lisburn Branch. You can send the NIFHS your family tree to see if anyone else matches with it, plus there are newsletters where you can appeal for anyone knowing about the family to contact you.

    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. If you have already tested your DNA with Ancestry, My Heritage or 23&Me you can upload your DNA results to Family Tree DNA for free and then join the North of Ireland Family History Society DNA Project. Simple instructions on how to do this can be found here:



    Elwyn, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Thursday 11th Apr 2024, 10:21PM

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