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Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Early Records of the Stewarts of Crossnacreevy, Moneyreagh, Co. Down.

Our great-great grandfather, Joseph Stewart, ironmonger of Co. Down and then of Dublin, mentions on his marriage certificate that his father was Joseph Stewart a farmer. On the 1901 Census following his move to Dublin, Joseph Stewart, ironmonger, told us that he had been born in Co. Down.  Our great-great-great grandfather was, therefore, Joseph Stewart, a farmer of Co. Down.
I had narrowed an exhaustive search down to Joseph Stewart, a farmer of Crossnacreevy, Moneyreagh, Co.Down, or to a neighbouring Joseph Stewart in Gransha.   (I eliminated all other Joseph Stewarts - most already had a son named Joseph Stewart living closeby.)

There were actually two Joseph Stewarts farming in the same Moneyreagh/Comber area at the same time and they are definitely related, possibly cousins.  From their death certs - both lived from circa 1800 to 1870 - we see that one lived in Gransha and the other in the neighbouring townland of Crossnacreevy close to Moneyreagh town.   We descend from Joseph Stewart of Crossnacreevy.....

 I recently discovered that the daughters of our great-great grandfather, Joseph Stewart, travelled in 1914 to Philadelphia to visit a cousin, Jane Orr.  Jane, née Stewart, was the daughter of a William A.Stewart, who was a hosteler of Ann St, Prince's St, and New Lodge Road in the Shankill area of Belfast.  He was referred to as William A. Stewart in the street directories, and this seems to link him to a William A. Stewart of Crossnacreevy, who was a subscriber in 1844 to a local book of Moneyreagh poetry.  William A. Stewart, the son of Joseph, married Margaret Burke in Downpatrick registry office in 1851 and settled subsequently in Belfast.

Church Records:  Although they'd settled in Crossnacreevy and Gransha in Comber south of Belfast City, our Stewart family didn't use one particular church, but married in a variety of parishes, which has made tracking them down extremely taxing.
The following church registers have already been checked for records of our Stewart family, but have shown up nothing:
Bangor Church of Ireland - although a Joseph was born to a Joseph and Mary Stewart in 1840 here in Bangor parish, I think it's unlikely to be our Joseph.   The Joseph and Mary of Bangor don't reappear in the Bangor parish register, either prior to, or after, this one 1840 entry.
Comber Church of Ireland.
Comber Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church.
Moneyreagh Non-Subscribing Presbyterian.
Kilmood Church of Ireland.
Gilnahirk Church of Ireland.
Castlereagh Presbyterian.
There are, however, plenty more churches north of Crossnacreevy/Gransha, so perhaps a further visit to the Belfast public records office might be more successful.

Our Stewart ancestors married in the following churches:
Our great-great grandparents, Joseph Stewart and Elizabeth Madine, married in St. Anne's, Shankill, Belfast,  on 14th May 1859.
His brother, John Stewart of Crossnacreevy, married married Mary Mills in Gilnahirk Presbyterian Church (Dundonald) north of Crossnacreevy on July 9th 1859. John Stewart married, secondly Eliza or Elizabeth McGowan, the daughter of John McGowan of Ballystockart.  The couple married in York Street Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church in Belfast City on 26th October 1871 - the wedding was witnessed by John's brother, William A. Stewart, and by a Martha Cummings.
Their brother, Robert Stewart, married Jane Madine in Killinchy Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church (Unitarian) on July 9th 1860.
Their sister, Mary Stewart of Crossnacreevy, married Hugh Morrow, a labourer, the son of a sailor John Morrow (deceased) on 13th Sept. 1865 in York Street Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church (Unitarian) in the centre of Belfast. Both were living in Crossnacreevy at the time of their marriage, and Crossnacreevy has its own Unitarian church, so this makes their choice of venue even more bewildering.  Mary's brother, John, married Eliza McGowan in the same church in 1871.
Their brother, William Stewart, or William A. Stewart, married Margaret Burke in Downpatrick Registry Office on 27th December 1851.

The following records show that the Stewart family have lived in this Moneyreagh area of north County Down for a very long time:

The Stewarts of Moneyreagh appear in the Hearts of Steel Memorials of 1771 - 1772. The Hearts of Steel was a Protestant Agrarian protest movement set up to fight against the re-letting of farms in Antrim; the agrarian unrest later spread to other counties.  Those who abhorred the subsequent violence signed lists of protest known as the Memorials, which were published in the Belfast Telegraph.  These were the Stewarts who signed the petition:
Neven Stewart
John Stewart x 4
Simon Stewart
Alex. Stewart x 2
Arch. Stewart
Sam. Stewart
And. Stewart

The 40-shilling freeholders either owned or leased land worth more than 40 shillings; this entitled them to vote. They held the lease for either the length of their own life or for the length of three other lives which are named in the lease.  I accessed these records for free on the PRONI website.

1769:  James Stewart, John Stewart, William Stewart, all of Crossnacreevy.  All three of these men appear on headstones in the Moneyreagh graveyard.

 'Here lieth the body of John Stewart of Crossnacreevy who departed this life 27th of August 1795 aged 72 years.  Here resteth the remains of the late William Stewart of Crossnacreevy who departed this life the 19th of June 1813 aged 83 years. Also the remains of his wife Elizabeth Stewart alias ALLEN who departed this life the 17th of February 1814 in the 73rd year of her age. Here lieth the body of Ann Hill alias Stewart who departed this life the 27th of June.'

'Underneath is interred the remains of the late James Stewart of Crossnacreevy who departed this life the 7th day of May MDCCCIII, aged 83 years.  Also his wife Margaret Anderson who died April 3rd aged 87 years (undated).'

In the same Freeholders lists, we find the name  Robert Stewart of Crossnacreevy mentioned in 1813, 1814 and 1824.

I recently visited the Northern Irish Public Records Office in Belfast and viewed the 1821 census abstracts for Crossnacreevy.  (T3707/1/35 and T3707/1/36).

The 1821 census recorded William Stewart, aged about 55, who was farming 12 acres in Crossnacreevy and who was single and living with his unmarried sisters, Ann Stewart aged 48, Eliza Stewart aged 40 and Ellenor Stewart aged 40.

There was also the family of 59-year-old farmer, Robert Stewart, who was farming 15 acres also in Crossnacreevy.  He was married to 40-year-old Agnes and had two young sons, James aged 11 and Francis Stewart aged 8.

Our immediate ancestor, Joseph Stewart of Crossnacreevy was noted, aged 26, an innkeeper and farmer of 5 acres.   His wife was named as Ann Stewart aged 26, and I presume this was his first wife, since his widow was later named as Agnes Stewart.   Their one-year-old son was William Stewart, who would later marry Margaret Burke in 1851.

The Tithe Applotments were land records drawn up by the established Church of Ireland in order to impose a system of taxation upon the Irish population.  The survey for Co. Down was carried out in 1835 and gives us the following information on the Stewarts of Crossnacreevy and the adjacent townlands of Ballykeel, Lisleen and Gransha, which all centre on the town of Moneyreagh.

Ballykeel Townland:  Joseph Stewart was farming 31 acres of land in partnership with William Madole. (Madole = McDowell.)

Crossnacreevy Townland:  Joseph Stewart, 6 acres/ William Stewart, 15 acres/ Robert Stewart, 23 acres.(This was most likely the same Robert Stewart who had been earlier noted in the Freeholder records and the 1821 census and may be the father of Joseph Stewart, farmer.)
Also in Crossnacreevy in 1835 was Alexander Johnston,(farming 4 acres)  whose son or grandson later witnessed the will of John Stewart, a second son of Joseph Stewart, farmer.

Gransha Townland:  Joseph Stewart, farming three plots of 6 acres, 14 acres and 15 acres.
                               Francis Stewart, 7 acres.

Lisleen Townland:  Samuel Stewart, 11 acres.
                              Alexander Johnston, 7 acres.

I accessed the records for the Tithes Appolotments on  microfilm at the National Library, Kildare Street, Dublin.

The Belfast Newsletter of 8th July 1845 records that the farmers of the Castlereagh district met to discuss the Landlord and Tenant Bill - amongst the attendees were Rev. F. Blakely of Moneyrea and Joseph Stewart of Crossnacreevy.

One of the most prominent farming families in this Moneyreagh area were the Huddlestons.  In 1844 Robert Huddleston, a poet, published a volume of his works, 'A Collection of Poems and Songs on Rural Subjects.' Included at the end of the collection was a list of subscribers, and these include Joseph Stewart of Gransha and William A. Stewart of Crossnacreevy -this William A. Stewart settled in Shankill, Belfast, and was the brother of our  great-great grandfather, Joseph Stewart, who migrated south to Dublin in the 1880's and settled there.

A 2nd land survey for the purposes of taxation was carried out in the 1840s to 1860s.  Co. Down was surveyed in 1863 and we see the following entries for the Moneyreagh area.
Joseph Stewart (1793 - 1876) of Crossnacreevy is leasing a house, shop, outhouses and 7 acres of land. Closeby his property William McDowell, who had been farming in partnership with him in 1835, is leasing 8 acres. Both men can both be found in the neighbouring townland of Ballykeel - Joseph is leasing 16 acres of land but no house which seems to suggest that this is the same Joseph Stewart of neighbouring Crossnacreevy. William McDowell is here again in Ballykeel, leasing a caretaker's house and 16 acres of land.

Francis Stewart of Crossnacreevy is leasing 27 acres, a house and outbuildings, and subletting two houses to James Floyd and William Anderson. He was leasing his land from the representatives of the late Rev.Fletcher Blakely, who had been the Unitarian minister of the Moneyrea Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church and from the Marquis of Downshire. 

Although the 2nd Joseph Stewart (1790 - 1870) of nearby Gransha is still alive, he doesn't appear on Griffiths Valuation; he had probably retired and was living with relations.

I purchased the death certificates of both Joseph Stewarts from the Registrars Office in the Irish Life building of Talbot Street, Dublin.  Joseph of Crossnacreevy died in 1876 aged 83. He died of debility. According to the certificate he was married but his wife's name was not mentioned. His son, John Stewart, of Crossnacreevy was present at his death.
The second Joseph Stewart died in Gransha in 1870 aged 80. He too was married and the cause of death was unknown. His son, William Stewart of nearby Moneyreagh town, was present at his death.




  1. Alison
    Came across:
    James Stewart who was married to a Agnes Huddleston
    Robert Stewart married to a Margaret McCafthery
    I am now up to 1860.


  2. Hi Des, this is interesting. By any chance do you have a time and place for the above marriages? I haven't come across either of your discoveries before. I'd love to hear more! Thanks for your input, Alison.