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My Balfour/Balfourd/Belford ancestors left Drumkeeran in 1838 and 1840 to emigrate to Australia. They included my gt gt grandfather James Belford who left in 1840, 2 years after his brother Robert Belford left. Other names associated with the family include Rankin and Marshall (from the shipping records in Australia).

I'm visiting Fermanagh 10-13 August 2016 and would love to meet with family, volunteers, historians or anyone who can tell me more about this. I am wondering if my family came from Scotland a century or two earlier and is linked to Balfour Castle.


Friday 15th Jul 2016, 09:14PM

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  • You don’t say what denomination your ancestors were but if Church of Ireland, the Drumkeeran parish records start in 1801 for baptisms and marriages and 1836 for burials. There’s a copy in PRONI (the public record office) in Belfast. The records are free to view but a personal visit is required to see them. If RC, the parish is called Carn and their records only start in 1851.

    I looked in the 1901 census for Fermanagh and there were only 10 people named Belford. All were RC. So probably native Irish. There were 68 Balfour & 5 Balfourd, nearly all Church of Ireland or Methodist, implying plantation descendants, probably from Scotland in the 1600s.

    Balfour is a pretty common Scottish surname (there’s 1679 in the 1901 Scottish census) and found widely across Scotland. I wouldn’t assume that everyone of that name in Fermanagh is related to Sir James Balfour of Castle Balfour in Lisnaskea, though I suppose some might be. He didn’t stay very long in Ireland, and sold up and went back to Scotland a few years after the castle was built around 1618, so probably didn't leave many descendants in Ireland.

    Knowing your ancestors denomination is probably key to finding their origins.

    Elwyn, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Friday 15th Jul 2016, 10:36PM
  • HI Elwyn,

    Thanks for replying. They were Wesleyan/Methodist, and on some of the shipping records to Australia, the name Balfourd was used, but once they arrived here, they adopted Belford. There are loads of descendants in Australia.



    Saturday 16th Jul 2016, 01:10AM
  • Patrice,

    Methodism took a lot longer to become established as a separate denomination in Ireland than was the case in England. In Ireland there was considerable resistance to separating from the Church of Ireland. It was 1816 before Methodists could conduct their own baptisms. However because of continuing loyalty and other factors, many Methodists continued to use the Church of Ireland for sacraments for many years after this date and it was 1871 before all Methodists routinely performed their own baptisms.

    For marriages, the earliest ceremonies conducted by a Methodist Minister that I am aware of in Ireland, date from 1835 (Belfast Donegall Square). However in the mid 1800s there were only a few Methodist Ministers (Methodism relied heavily on lay preachers). So the shortage of Ministers contributed to the continuing practice of marrying in the Church of Ireland.

    So to summarise, you are unlikely to find any Methodist baptisms much before 1830. Few marriages before the 1840s and only a few for many years after that. If there are no Methodist records in the location you are interested in, I would search the Church of Ireland instead, as that’s the most likely place to find the relevant event.

    Looking for Methodist meeting houses in Drumkeeran I see one in Pettigo (Wesleyan Methodists). They have baptisms from 1835 and marriages from 1872. Also in the area is a Meeting House at Terwinney with baptisms from 1829 and marriages from 1878. Copies of both sets of records in PRONI in Belfast.

    So, given that your two ancestors were presumably born before 1829/1835, you should search Drumkeeran Church of Ireland instead.

    If looking for graves, likewise try Church of Ireland graveyards. Most Methodist Meeting Houses have no graveyard and use the Church of Ireland (which is open to all denominations) instead.




    Elwyn, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Saturday 16th Jul 2016, 05:59AM
  • Thanks Elwyn. That's good advice. Yes, I definitely want much earlier records - 17th and 18th century if they exist. However, I won't be in Belfast. I'm staying in Enniskillen for a few days before I have to go back to Dublin. Can I get to any of this online?



    Sunday 17th Jul 2016, 03:04AM
  • Patrice,

    You could try Rootsireland (subscription site) to see if they have Drumkeeran’s COI records, but otherwise I don’t think they are on-line anywhere.  The Rector/Vicar appears to have the originals with PRONI in Belfast having a copy. You can contact the Rector/Vicar and ask to see the originals. If he/she agrees there’s usually a charge. Something like £12 an hour.

    There are no church records for this parish pre 1800 and few other records for the area either. Most Irish research comes to a stop around this time period for that reason.

    Elwyn, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Monday 18th Jul 2016, 05:28AM
  • Hello, I have DNA connections to the Orkneys though Trail, as well in Fife and Fermanagh. I have just uploaded my DNA to My heritage and living DNA to see what else I can find out. Right now with certainty I can go back to James H Belford 1776 who married Sarah Percival. They are my 4th great grandparents. My 3rd great William was born in 1810 in co. Longford, Ireland. I have a main tree on Ancestry and several practice trees attempting to follow my Balfour connections from Scotland to Ireland. I am coming for a visit and am planning on visiting the Balfour Castle. Thank you for any help. Barb


    Thursday 4th May 2023, 02:48PM
  • Hello again, I'm hoping to find which ancestor decided to migrate from Fife or Fermanagh to Longford. My Belfords  were Protestant if that helps. There is another generation on ancestry after James H Belford but the dates do not make sense so I have not added that information. I'm really trying to find different avenues in order to find the missing pieces that connects me to Scotland. Thanks in advance. Barb


    Thursday 4th May 2023, 02:55PM
  • I don’t want to sound too pessimistic but you may struggle to link back to Scotland. The main migration of Scots and English to Fermanagh (and much of the rest of Ireland) was in the 1600s and there simply aren’t any records of who came, save for the major landowners. The average labourer or farmer was not documented and there are no records in Fermanagh for the 1600s to identify those living there then either.

    Elwyn, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Thursday 4th May 2023, 03:38PM
  • Elwyn, Thank you for your insight. I'm hoping others see this board on Balfour. I have several DNA lines that I refer to. One is Robert Balfour III 1812-1872 who married Ann Kirk. Robert's line goes next to Robert Jr Fife 1785-1855...John Balfour 1755, Robert 1735 -1789 . Another DNA line Eliza Balfour married Bracken. Her father's line parents Samuel Balfour 1817-1870, Samuel 1770-1831 who married Catherine Mitchell, Samuel George Balfour 1740-1871, Andrew, James 1705-1795, Baron John 1653-1713, Balfour Ferman 1594-1670 and it keeps going. Have a wonderful day! I can't wait for my visit. Barb


    Monday 8th May 2023, 11:18AM

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