A Farmer in County Down

Hugh Murray

According to the 1888 History of Washington County Missouri [1], my great grandfather, Hugh Murray, “was born in County Down, Ireland, December 18, 1839 [i]. His father, Michael Murray, also a native of Ireland, was a farmer by occupation; he married Catherine Murray, a native of the same place, and they had ten children, five sons and five daughters.”

Hugh Murray (1838-1916)


Where was Michael Murray’s farm in County Down?


1. According to Hugh’s biographical sketch in the 1888 county history:

a. “Murray” was the surname of Hugh’s father, Michael, and the maiden surname of Hugh’s mother, Catherine.

b. Michael Murray was dead by 1888.

2. This Murray family was Roman Catholic.

3. Hugh is remembered as having had a twin who remained in Ireland [2].

Roman Catholic Parish Registers

A search for Hugh Murray, born between 1835 – 1839 to Michael and Catherine Murray, in the birth and baptism database [ii] for County Down at the Ulster Historical Foundation (UHF) [3], results in only one transcribed record [iii]:

Name: Hugh Murray
Birth or baptismal date: 08 December 1838
Parents first name & surname: Michael Murray & Catherine Murray
Parish: Saintfield

Transcriptions of the Catholic Parish registers for Ireland form the content for the UHF baptism database. Page images of the registers themselves are online at the National Library of Ireland (NLI). The images are browse-able (but not searchable) by parish. The RC Parish of Saintfield and Carrickmannon (variant forms: Saintfield, Carrickmannon) is in the RC Diocese of Down and Connor. The online register for this parish includes:

Baptisms: 01 Oct. 1837 to 08 Jan. 1881;
Marriages: 18 Oct. 1845 to 18 July 1883.

The baptism register has entries for Hugh Murray and his twin, Daniel Murray, baptized 08 December 1838 [4]. Their parents are Michael Murray and Catherine Murray.

08 December 1838 Baptismal Register Entries for Daniel and Hugh Murray

Civil Parishes & Townlands

County Down includes 70 civil parishes (including Saintfield), which generally conformed to the ecclesiastical parishes of the Church of Ireland when they were created. Civil parishes are further divided into townlands. Knowing the townland and civil parish of an ancestor is critical to genealogical research in Ireland.

The four entries in the parish register image above include “B M” after the parents’ names. This is a notation of the townland in which the parents resided, in this case,  Barnamaghery. (In addition to BM, other spelling variants in the parish register include, Barneymaghery and B Maghery.) Barnamaghery is in the civil parish of Killinchy – not the civil parish of Saintfield, as might be assumed from the Ulster Historical Society database of births and baptisms.

So, while Hugh Murray was baptized in the Catholic Parish of Carrickmannon and Saintfield, the baptismal register confirms that the family resided in the townland of Barnamaghery within the civil parish of Killinchy!

Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church, Main Street, Saintfield Town, Down, N. Ireland [iv]
Griffiths’ Valuation (of Tenements)

Because there are scarcely any census returns for Ireland available prior to 1901, the General Valuation of the Rateable Property in Ireland, often referred to as the Primary Valuation (of Tenements), or Griffith’s Valuation, is commonly used to locate 19th century Irish ancestors. Valuations of individual properties within each county were published between 1847 and 1864. County Down valuations were published in 1864. Ordnance survey maps created in the 1840’s were the basis for the valuations.

Once the townland, parish, and county where a person lived are known, Griffith’s Valuation can be used to locate their individual tenement(s). Ask about Ireland enables searching of Griffith’s Valuation and, in the search results, links to both images of the valuation pages and corresponding Ordnance Survey maps.

Michael Murray of Barnamaghery Township, Parish of Killinchy, is the Occupier of a tenement consisting of just over 17 acres and including a house, office, and land. In 1864 the land and buildings are valued at an annual rate of 15 Pounds, 10 Shillings. (See the last entry in the following image.)

Michael Murray, 1864 Griffith’s Valuation

Mapping the Tenement

The Valuation of Tenements identifies Map reference location “3” on Ordnance Survey Map 16 as Michael Murray’s tenement. The boundaries of discrete tenements are drawn in red on the map below.

Michael Murray Tenement: Reference 3 19th Century OS Map

The next map positions Michael Murray’s tenement on a current map. It is located just southwest of the intersection of Carrickmannon Road and Drumreagh Road.

GPS coordinates for Michael Murray’s tenement:
Latitude: 54.45934971231707 Longitude: -5.765655040740967

Location of 19th C Michael Murray Tenement on 2017 Map

RC Church and Graveyard

The “RC Chapel” is marked on the 1840’s Ordnance Survey (OS) Map. On the 2017 map, this location on Carrickmannon Road is labeled “St. Joseph’s Church, Carrickmannon”, which is one of two church locations in the RC Parish of Carrickmannon and Saintfield. Perhaps because the Chapel would have been closer to the Murray farm than Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Saintfield Town, the Murray family may have worshipped at the Chapel.

R. C. Chapel and Kilrain Cemetery (Red Arrows)

Kilrain Graveyard is also identified on the 1840’s OS map. Clarke [5] describes the graveyard as being “largely used by Roman Catholics in modern times” and “in the Catholic parish of Saintfield”. Several of the Kilrain gravestones are for Murrays [v]. Although, I have as yet not documented any as my ancestors.

Kilcairn Graveyard is approximately on the NW corner of Kilrain Road & Drumreagh Road. (GPS Coordinates: Latitude: 54.47191, Longitude: -5.75526)

[1] History of Washington County Missouri. (1888) Chicago: Goodspeed Publishing Company.
[2] Reported by Anne (Murray) Lonnemann in a conversation on 04 April 2007.
[3] Ulster Historical Foundation. Irish Birth/Baptism Records – Co. Antrim & Co. Down, c. 1660-1930 [database online]. Accessed 19 March 2017 at https://www.ancestryireland.com.
[4] National Library of Ireland. Parish of Carrickmannon and Saintfield, Microfilm 05467 / 03. Baptisms 01 Oct. 1837 to 08 Jan. 1881, page 9. Accessed 19 March 2017 at http://registers.nli.ie/registers/vtls000633133#page/7/mode/1up.
[5] Clarke, Richard Samuel J. (Compiler). 1984. Gravestone Inscriptions: County Down (Volume 5). Belfast: Ulster Historical Foundation.

[i] Hugh Murray’s Missouri death certificate records his birth date as 14 December 1839; however, neither 1839 date may be accurate. As a primary source, Hugh’s baptismal record carries more documentary weight and establishes Hugh’s birth date on or prior to his 08 December 1838 baptismal date. Hugh may have had a reason to change his birth date after he immigrated to the USA in 1857. For example, the naturalization process was simpler for someone who immigrated at age 18 versus age 19: According to the US National Archives “from 1824 to 1906, minor aliens who had lived in the United States 5 years before their 23rd birthday could file both their declarations and petitions at the same time”, rather than waiting three years in between these two filings.

[ii] Database covers “virtually all Roman Catholic registers of baptisms for Counties Antrim and Down prior to 1900”.

[iii] A transcribed record for Daniel Murray, Hugh’s twin, includes the same information.

[iv] Rosalind Davies states that the Old Catholic Church of Immaculate Heart of Mary in Saintfield Town is located on Main Street. She includes the following historical information about the church. (2001. Old Catholic Church, Saintfield Parish, Ros Davies’ Co. Down, Northern Ireland Family History Research Site. Accessed 20 March 2017 at http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~rosdavies/index.html.)

“Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church was built in 1787 by Rev. Hugh Green. The parish priest in 1796 was Rev. William Teggart. The church measured 45 by 21 feet and had two galleries and contained seats for 300 people. The average attendance in 1837 was 150 people and the priest then was Rev. John Fitzsimmons whose salary was £35 a year. He also had charge of Killinchy chapel parish. The parish priest 1837- 1846 was Rev Richard McLogan/ McGlogan. He built the Parochial House.”

[v] Find-A-Grave includes 126 gravestone transcriptions for Kilrain Graveyard. A search for the Murray surname within the graveyard results in 55 records.


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