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Howdy folks

I'm trying to find records or information about my 3rd great-grandmother Martha Johnson. This is what I know so far.

Martha Johnson, servant, 21 years, birthplace Wicklow arrived in South Australia on 15 June 1850 aboard the Lysander, which departed from Plymouth. This was not one of the orphan ships, although it was an emigrant ship and the same time. Martha married James Barnes in SA in 1852 aged 22 and she died in Victoria in 1908 aged 76 years. Her obituary states "She came out at the age of 14 alone and friendless, leaving her mother and crippled brother behind, for whom she eventually sent." 

On 30 April 1855 other family members joined her in SA - her mother Anne Johnstone, aged 41, brother Edward 19 and a sister May 8 yr old. They also departed from Plymouth. I believe they were Wesleyan Methodists. The father seems to have either died or disappeared and his name is either Thomas or James (depending on what document i read!)

I have a bit more info about the brother Edward from a SA Biographical Index which states: Birth 30.06.1836 WIC IRL. Death 22.04.1915 Edithburgh SA. Burial Edithburgh SA. Arr SA 30.04.1855 from ENG 'DAVID MALCOLM'. Religion Meth.

I found an Anne Johnstone in the Griffiths Evaluations in Timmore, Upper Newcastle.

I've also found a death record for a James Johnson of Newcastle Co Wicklow 19 Apr 1833 (died 1 week old) so possibly a brother. This record is the only one I found on Roots Ireland.

Just wondering if I have exhausted all avenues for finding information about this family, or if members have suggestions about where I could look? I'll be in Dublin 1-4 May and then Wicklow in 5-7 May 2024.

Many thanks for all your suggestions, I greatly appreciate it.

Catherine Maughan




Thursday 22nd Feb 2024, 08:02AM

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  • Catherine,

    Methodism took a lot longer to become established in Ireland as a separate denomination than in England. In Ireland there was considerable resistance to separating from the Church of Ireland. In 1816 the main body of Irish Methodists (the Wesleyans) took the decision to allow baptisms in their preaching houses or chapels, but it was a practice which was only gradually introduced so that it wasn’t until the 1830s and 1840s that it became fairly standard. Because of continuing loyalty and other factors, many –including Primitive Wesleyans - continued to use the Church of Ireland for baptisms for years after this and it was 1871 before all Methodists routinely performed their own.

    For Methodist marriages, the earliest that I am aware of, date from 1835 (Belfast Donegall Square, the first Methodist church in Ireland). However in the mid 1800s there were only a few Methodist Ministers (Methodism relied heavily on lay preachers). So that shortage led to the continuing practice of marrying in the Church of Ireland. In addition, in the early years, many Methodist Meeting Houses were not licensed for marriages so that too contributed to couples marrying in the Church of Ireland.

    So to summarise, you are unlikely to find many Methodist baptisms before 1820. Few marriages before the 1840s and only a handful for many years after that. If there are no Methodist records in the location you are researching, I would search Church of Ireland records instead, as that’s the most likely place to find the relevant event.

    Not many Methodist Meeting Houses have graveyards and so they may be buried in public or Church of Ireland graveyards (which are open to all denominations).

    It’s important to know that rootsireland does not have all the baptism and early marriage records that exist. Many Protestant records eg Church of Ireland, Methodist & Presbyterian records are not on their site.  Quite a lot of early Church of Ireland records were lost in the 1922 fire.  Of those that still exist, some are in the RCB library in Dublin and others still held by the parishes.   There are 57 parishes in Co. Wicklow.  Methodist records will mostly still be held by the individual church.  If you don’t know where in Wicklow the family lived, it could be a lengthy search.

    Elwyn, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Thursday 22nd Feb 2024, 08:18AM
  • Thanks so much for your extensive reply, I am very grateful. The only clue I have to which Parish they lived in is the Griffith Evaluation saying Timmore so I might start looking there. I've heard about the RCB Library but I thought it was in Belfast - I'll see what I can find while I'm in Dublin. Once again thank you very much for your prompt response and taking the time to explain history of Methodism in Ireland. Catherine


    Thursday 22nd Feb 2024, 09:06AM
  • Catherine,

    My guide to Church of Ireland records states that the records for Newcastle parish (Wicklow) have survived and are in the RCB library.  They start in 1698. There is also a microfilm copy in the National Archives in Dublin.

    RCB library:

    No Johnstones in Timmore in the 1901 census:

    Mostly RC. No Methodists. Church of England & Episcopalian both mean Church of Ireland.

    Edgehill Theological College in Belfast is the training centre for most Methodists in Ireland. Their historian should be able to tell you what Methodist records exist for Co Wicklow and where they are kept. (Last time I spoke to him he was trying to gather many of the records across Ireland in).

    I do know that there was/is a Wesleyan Methodist meeting house in Wicklow town, which is not too far from Newcastle. There's a copy of its baptisms for the years 1828 - 1844 in PRONI (the public record office) in Belfast. No marriage records, so I assume they weren't performing any at that time. But there may have been other meeting houses in the area. Edgehill should be able to tell you.

    Elwyn, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Thursday 22nd Feb 2024, 10:34AM
  • Thanks again Elwyn, you prompted me to look at the RCB records and I too found that the records for Newcastle parish survived. I'll definitely look through them when I'm in Dublin. Do you think it would be worth my while looking through the Vestry Books?

    I checked the Delgany online records but didn't get lucky. 

    I will contact the Edgehill Theological College - again thank you for the info and link.

    Best wishes, Catherine


    Thursday 22nd Feb 2024, 11:22AM
  • Personally I wouldn’t bother with the Vestry Books. And if you do you might be there for days. It’s mostly about finances, provision for work eg repairs to the church; appointment of new officials and so on. Very closely written, and often hard to read. They do sometimes contain information on individuals but if you are not even certain your family did attend that church, I wouldn’t waste time on them.

    When searching for baptisms, bear in mind that firstly folk in Ireland didn't celebrate birthdays and often didn't really know how old they were, so ages given later in life can be wrong. Also that with Protestant denominations not everyone was baptised when they were born. You sometimes see batches of children in the same family being baptised together. So look a few years either side of the years you are expecting.

    Elwyn, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Thursday 22nd Feb 2024, 05:01PM

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