Some people will go to great lengths, or distances, to return to their homeland.
It must be in the blood, because I was drawn to Ireland like a moth to a flame.
When I discovered the location in Ireland where Murtough McDowell was likely from, and then subsequently asked to speak at Genetic Genealogy Ireland with a promise of a visit to where Murtough lived, that cinched the deal.
On the Tuesday following the conference, four genetic genealogists, who I’m now referring to as the Irish Rovers, set out from Dublin for Belfast on a journey of discovery.
Our group of Irish genetic genealogy rovers, shown here in front of Carrickfergus Castle. Left to right, Maurice Gleeson, Michelle Leonard, me and Martin McDowell. Did you notice that last name? We surely had fun on our adventure!
I want to take just a minute to introduce you to my three fellow adventurers. It’s always great fun to have encouragement when getting into trouble.😊 It was wonderful to be with 3 other people with the same interests, that speak the same language – sharing conversations, research ideas and a lot of laughter. We had a spectacular day, and you’re coming along – so meet your travel partners:
- Maurine Gleeson is a physician, psychiatrist, part time actor and genetic genealogist, which means he can certify the entire carful of us as crazy! You can read his blog here and his wonderful YouTube Channel presentations here. I can’t stress enough how fortunate the genetic genealogy community is to enjoy the contributions of Maurice.
- Michelle Leonard is a professional genealogist living in Glasgow, Scotland, specializing in both genealogy and genetic genealogy. You can view the facebook page for her business, Genes & Genealogy here.
- Martin McDowell, to whom I’m forever grateful for his McDowell research, is the Education and Development Director for The North of Ireland Family History Society located on the outskirts of Belfast. Martin is available to perform genealogy and genetic genealogy research at email@example.com.
In a future article about visiting Ireland, I’ll include a list of resources provided by these fine folks.
Ok, now that you know the players, let’s set out on our adventure. First, I need to introduce you to Murtough McDowell, the man who is responsible for this quest.
We know very little about Murtough, yet, I’ve now stood where he did, or at least where he probably stood. I have trod the same land, looked at the same mountains that he would have seen standing on the farm in the boggy fields of Kingsmoss.
I first found Murtough, written as Murto, in Baltimore County Families, 1659-1759 by Robert W. Barnes on page 437, stating:
Morto McDowell was in Baltimore County by July 1722 when he surveyed 100 acres Pleasant Green on Sept 26, 1730, he and wife Eleanor conveyed 100 acres to Richard Gist in 1750 as Murto Mackdaniel. He owned 100 acres Bring Me Home, probably dead by 1752, leaving a son Michael McDowell.
I found the recorded deeds in Baltimore County which provide us with a little more information, although I have not been able to find the original patent to Murtough, or a sale to him.
Patapsco River Land
September 26, 1730, Murtough and Elinor McDowell, planter of Baltimore Co. Maryland sell to Richard Gist, merchant of same, for 1,764 pounds tobacco, 100 acres on the North side of Patapsco River, signed Murtough (x) McDowell witness William Hamilton, Thomas Linby.
This tells me that Murtough didn’t know how to write or sign his name.
This conveyance is the only record of Murtough’s wife, or her name. We can presume that she was the mother of his children, but that may not be true. We can also presume that she too was Scots-Irish and they were married in Ireland, but that might not be the case either.
The Patapsco River is shown above in green. We don’t know where on the Patapsco, but I’d bet, given that Gist is a merchant, that the land wasn’t far out of the settled portion of Baltimore at that time.
This area was still an undeveloped frontier in 1720. The map below, dated 1719 shows Baltimore County bordering Pennsylvania, where Murtough would have landed in an area that would one day become the port of Baltimore. At that time, Baltimore didn’t yet exist, but an earlier “Baltimore Town” did.
By http://maps.bpl.org – A new map of Virginia, Mary-land and the improved parts of Pennsylvania & New Jersey, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27806510
The city of Baltimore wasn’t founded until 1729, and then not by that name, when the citizens petitioned the county to establish a town for the ease of exporting tobacco and facilitating trade. The first brick building in what resembled a town wasn’t constructed until 1739.
Baltimore wasn’t more than a small town, so the land where Murtough lived was assuredly a rural farm. The first census taken in 1752 lists only 30 residents of “Baltimore Town,” with another 11,345 free whites in surrounding Baltimore County, 1,501 servants and convicts, 4,143 black and mulatto slaves and 204 free blacks and mullatos.
This drawing of the City of Baltimore in 1752 by John Moale is the first known.
Richard Gist laid out the city of Baltimore and was a burgess, so a sale to him does not suggest a family connection. He owned a lot of land and seemed to be somewhat of a land speculator – and the town of Baltimore was expanding. The land is mentioned again, below:
289 – Sept. 4, 1749 Charles Carroll surgeon of Annapolis, Ann Arundel Co., MD to William and Jemima Seasbrook, planter, of Baltimore County deed in exchange of 100 acres patented by Murtough McDowell who sold and Richard Gist who devised and his son Christopher Gist, brother of Jemima Seabrook.
This would have been the Patapsco land.
I initially thought the land sale above to Gist was Pleasant Green, the land in the patent below, but based on later deeds and location, it appears that the land sold in 1749 to Seasbrook and Pleasant Green were two different tracts. The Patapsco River and Jones Falls do not intersect until very near the outlets of both – and the head of the North Branch of Jones Falls was quite distant from the fledging town of Baltimore at that time.
The 1722 survey for the 1724 Pleasant Green land tells us that this land was actually surveyed for Morto Mackdual, which is how McDowell is pronounced today in Ireland, on July 4, 1722, independence day but before independence occurred. The land was patended on May 20, 1724.
The survey itself tells us a little more. We know that Murtough was in Baltimore County before May 24th of 1722. The land is named Pleasant Green and it’s located on the North side of Jones Falls – beginning on the west side of the north run on the north side of a pocoson (swamp) descending into the run descending into Jones Falls.
Could I find Jones Falls today? Indeed, I can. Jones Falls is a 17.9 mile long stream that is impounded to create Lake Roland before running through the City of Baltimore and emptying into Baltimore Inner Harbor.
The great news is that this description tells us enough that we can locate the land, at least approximately, today, because the survey tells us that Murtough’s land is located on the west side of the North Run on the north side of a swamp. A 1768 deed says this land is the head of the north run of Jones Falls.
According to Wikipedia, the North Branch begins at about the intersection of Park Heights Avenue and Walnut Avenue in Worthington, about 10 miles north of the center of Baltimore. This distance does cause me to wonder if the North side of Jones Falls might then have been different than the North Branch today. However, a later 1768 deed specifically says the head of the North Run of Jones Falls.
Now, with a satellite view.
I wonder if the little green lake, above, was the pocosson mentioned. If so, it’s actually on another small branch.
And the beginning of Jones Falls Branch.
If the description is accurate and translates to today’s language as well, this should have been the land owned by Murtough. Unfortunately, we can’t “drive down” Walnut Avenue, but we can drive by the pocasson on Park Heights Avenue.
Murtough’s residence in Baltimore County in 1722 would suggest that he was probably born before 1700. Murtough’s son, Michael, is clearly of age in 1752 when he sells his interest in his father’s estate from Halifax County, Virginia.
Bring Me Home
On September 19, 1752, presumably after Murtough’s death, Michael McDowell conveyed his share of 100 acres of Bring Me Home to Joseph Murrey and in September 1752, he gave power of attorney to John Hawkins to sell the aforesaid tract.
I had not been able to find any references to Bring Me Home, that is, until today, as I finished this article. I decided to look one more time. It’s a good thing that I did, for two reasons. First, I found the land patent, with Murto’s name butchered. Second, the grant is in Prince George County, not in Baltimore County. Furthermore, the grant says that Murtough was “of Prince George County.”
Uh-oh. I think I’d better go back to the library and look for a will for some spelling of Murtough McDowell in Prince George County instead of Baltimore County where I’ve been searching. All other deeds, including the sale of this land are recorded in Baltimore County, which is somewhat confusing.
Update – In December of 2017, the Prince George County, Maryland probate index and will indexes were both checked on microfilm, with no McDowell entries prior to 1768. Murtough isn’t in those records.
Clearly the index and the actual name are different. Martin, above, and Murtue below, probably spelled the way it sounded when Murtough pronounced his name.
Murtue acquired Bring Me Home in 1732, but it was surveyed on June 23, 1730. The 100 acres was in Prince George County “on the western shore of this province” at the head of a small branch which ?? into a run called the North Run.
Prince George County was formed in 1696 and formed the entire western portion of the state, but has been since subdivided. I was unable to find a watercourse called North Run.
Adding to the confusion, the Maryland Archives Patent Index shows that Bring Me Home is now in Harford County, Maryland.
Harford County was formed 1774, so may well have been part of Prince George’s in the 1730s. I clearly have not attempted to run this deed forward to current in Prince George’s and subsequently Harford County, but if this can be done – it might tell us more specifically where Murtough’s land was located. Given that Pleasant Green was his first patent, and he appeared to still own it at his death, I suspect that he actually lived at Pleasant Green. He would also have selected the names of his land. Perhaps Pleasant Green and Bring Me Home reminded him of Ireland.
340 – September 9, 1752 Michael McDowell of Halifax Co., VA to Joseph Murray Jr. of Baltimore Co., MD 100 acres. Signed Michael McDowell – witnesses Richard Hooker, Thomas Hooker.
Sept .19, 1752 – Michael McDowell of Halifax Co., VA power of attorney to John Hawkins. Signed Michael McDowell wit Richard Hooker and Thomas Hooker.
The last mention of Michael McDowell is in September of 1768 when Dr. William and Mary Lyon of Baltimore sell to Charles Motherby 100 acres and 15 acres head of the North Run of Jones Falls purchased on September 19, 1752 from Michael McDowell, planter, of Halifax County, Virginia.
However, this 1768 transaction is confusing, because the September 1752 deed which we have is for Bring Me Home, not for Pleasant Green.
It appears that Murtough owned three tracts of land, although I don’t find any record of a patent for the land sold to Gist.
|North side Patapsco – 100 acres
|Pleasant Green – 100 acres – North Run Jones Falls
||July 4, 1722
||May 20, 1724
||September 19, 1752 by Michael McDowell of Halifax Co., VA
||William and Mary Lyon
|Bring Me Home – 100 acres – Prince George County
||June 23, 1730
July 31, 1731
|Feb. 2, 1732
||Sept. 19, 1752 by Michael McDowell or Halifax Co., VA
||POA John Hawkins, sale to Joseph Murrey
The only other mention of Murtough in the documents for Baltimore County is a reference to “153:93 Debt book for 1750 also in Calvery papers,” which I was unable to find. There is also a reference to Murto McDuall 280 which I suspect may be the page number in the Calvery papers.
Michael is the only known child of Murtough, although clearly, he probably wasn’t the only child.
It’s Murtough’s DNA, through his descendant, that led us back to Ireland, and in particular to Kingsmoss Road.
Murtough’s grandson, also named Michael, served in the Revolutionary War and died an old man in Claiborne County, Tennessee in 1840. It had been a long way from Ireland to Tennessee – two generations, three wars and 120 years.
The Scots who became Irish and then Scots-Irish in America had spent generations fighting, so warfare was nothing new.
Michael Jr., Murtough’s grandson, born about 1747, never knew his grandfather, but I’d wager that he heard stories of Ireland. We don’t know if Michael’s father, Michael, was born in Ireland or the colonies.
Unfortunately, we really don’t know why Murtough left Ireland about 1720. I wonder if Michael knew. Perhaps the history of that region in Ireland will shed light on the question.
Michael Jr.’s great-great-grandson, Lewis, some 164 years after Michael’s 1840 death would take a Y DNA test that would connect Michael and Murtough back to a McDowell family in Ireland. Michael’s great-great-grandson matched another McDowell man whose McDowell grandfather was born in Kingsmoss, County Antrim, about 12 miles northwest of Belfast, in what is today Northern Ireland.
Given that we’ve lost our Murtough McDowell line in paper records, it was time to do the genealogy of Lewis’s match to see if we can connect.
Fortunately, Lewis’s match’s father was born in Ireland, at Kingsmoss in either 1907 or 1908. The family and church records disagree by a year, but the date and parents are the same.
Lewis’s match was able to give us his parent’s and grandparent’s information, but for the rest, I engaged the services of Martin McDowell, a very nice gentleman, who, ironically, lives very close to Kingsmoss Road today, although his ancestors were in Antrim in the late 1700s. However, his Y DNA proves that his mcDowell line and the Kingsmoss line are not one and the same. I just knew we had to be related, somehow, and needless to say, I was disappointed.
Martin was able to document the matches’ line back through two James, the oldest of which was a laborer with no further details. The oldest James would have had to have been born before 1835.
The son, James (Jr.), was born about 1855 in County Antrim and was a railroadman, living in Ballyrobert in 1876 when he was married in the May Street Presbyterian Church in Belfast, built in 1829, long after Murtough left. They lived in Kingsmoss from about 1890. James Jr. died in Carnmoney in 1935 and his wife, Sarah, died at Kingsmoss in 1909.
James Jr.’s siblings were born in Ballycraigy, Ballyhenry and Kingsbog, another name for Kingsmoss. These people were baptized or married in Carnmoney Presbyterian Church and St. Anne’s Church in Belfast, which had not yet been built when Murtough lived in Ireland.
Many of James Jr.’s siblings are buried in the Mallusk Cemetery, but we have no recorded burials prior to that time. It’s likely that earlier burials took place at either Carnmoney or Mallusk.
James Jr.’s son, Samuel James was born in Ballycraigy in 1877, married in the Carnmoney Presbyterian Church in 1897 and lived in Kingsmoss, his children all being born there between 1898 and 1909.
His son, Samuel is the father of the tester who matches Lewis McDowell.
Unfortunately, with the records destruction in Ireland, Martin wasn’t able to go back further. He checked the church records in surrounding areas as well as civil registrations, which began in 1864, wills and other documents – all to no avail.
Martin did find that an Andrew McDowell lived in Carnmoney in the late 1700s, but was unable to connect him forward or backward
Even though we don’t know exactly where Murtough was from, we can map the various locations mentioned in the records, shown on the map below which covers about 2 miles by 2 miles. This entire driving route is only 13 miles.
Let’s visit some of these locations and see what we can fin!
Carnmoney, from the ancient Irish word Carn Monaidh, meaning “cairn on the bog,” is the closest Protestant church to Kingsmoss and was established as a meeting house in 1622 at the site of a holy well, St. Brigit’s, still visible at the rear of the contemporary church. You can see a photo of the well in this article.
An earlier Carnmoney Presbyterian Church, one of the oldest Presbyterian churches in Ireland, dates from 1657 but has since been replaced by a new church. The old church was reported to have been built on the foundation of an original church dating from the time of St. Patrick’s arrival in Ireland.
The original church was built near Carnmoney Hill, where local rumors of an ancient cemetery on the hillside persist and where Celtic festivals and fairs were once held on the summit.
The old church was located in the center of the current graveyard, where newer graves clearly delineate the former location of the church.
You can read more about the old church and the history of the region when it was established in this article, from which we discover the following information about the church as it was in Murtough’s time:
The inside of the church was as plain and bare as the outside. There were six square pews on the south side with the “three decker,” and seven on the north side. The pulpit had no canopy, nor was there any stove, so that on a cold Sunday the few attenders often adjourned to the surrounding glebe where prayers were said around the drawing-room fire. The windows were wide and slightly pointed, with plain wooden sash frames, the east one being similar, with the communion table below it. A pathway led to the church door from the old road on the north side. The existing road along the south side is more modern. The only fragment of the old church that I know of is the circular stone window-casing from the tower, which is now built over a well on the glebe avenue.
This was probably the church where Murtough attended, the pews where he sat and the doorway in the tower where he entered. His feet probably helped to wear the entry stone smooth, over time, and Murtough’s prayers were offered from inside this humble church, surrounded by the graves of his ancestors. Did they speak to him, encouraging him to migrated, as they once had? To dream, to take what he had and board a ship for a journey to the new colonies where he would have the opportunity to own land? Was Murtough married here in this church? Did he bury his parents in the cemetery before he left, someplace close to his grandparents perhaps? Did Murtough bury children here, or a wife perhaps?
The old road mentioned is the Old Irish Highway running from Carrick to Antrim, now the O’Neill Road. Parts of the old road are reportedly still visible in places running alongside the O’Neill road, now B513, visible below.
From Carnmoney Hill, still covered woodlands, one can clearly see Belfast, and on a clear day, the western coast of Scotland is within view.
By Gary Thompson, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13809989
I wonder if the Scots who resettled here climbed the hill from time to time to view their ancient homeland and longingly reflect on those left behind.
Come along on a lovely walk on Carnmoney Hill in this YouTube video.
Protestants and Catholics
We do know one other piece of important information and that is that the McDowell family is protestant, not Catholic. As Louis’s match said, that’s very important in Northern Ireland. The records bear this out – meaning both the importance of religion in Ireland, then and now, and that fact that the McDowell family was Protestant.
This confirmation would suggest strongly, along with the surname and the Irish location, that the McDowell family was one of the Protestant families seated in Ireland from Scotland during the Ulster Plantation era wherein the English confiscated the Irish lands and redistributed them to English nobles known as “undertakers” in parcels of about 3000 acres each. These undertakers were then obligated to “seat” at least 20 Protestant English-speaking families (48 adult males) on their land.
County Antrim was one of two unofficially seated counties where Presbyterian lowland Scots began settling in 1606. In 1607 Sir Randall MacDonnell settled 300 Presbyterian Scots families on his land in Antrim.
By 1622, there were 4000 adult Scottish males living in County Antrim and County Down. The poster below, found at the North of Ireland Family History Society includes the McDowell surname.
However, the displaced Irish were not happy having their land confiscated and being evicted, and Civil War was on the horizon.
After 1630, Scottish migration to Ireland waned for a decade. In the 1630s, Presbyterians in Scotland staged a rebellion against Charles I for trying to impose Anglicanism. The same was attempted in Ireland, where most Scots colonists were Presbyterian and a large number returned to Scotland as a result.
Civil war raged until after 1650 when the area was once again brought under English control. At that point, Scottish immigration from the southwest of Scotland to Ireland resumed, along with some immigrants from the Border Reiver region of Scotland along the English border.
Another wave of Scottish immigration to Ulster took place in the 1690s, when tens of thousands of Scots fled a famine (1696–1698) in the border region of Scotland. It was at this point that Scottish Presbyterians became the majority community in the province. Whereas in the 1660s, they made up some 20% of Ulster’s population (though 60% of its British population) by 1720 they were an absolute majority in Ulster.
Despite the fact that Scottish Presbyterians strongly supported the Williamites in the Williamite war in Ireland in the 1690s, they were excluded from power in the postwar settlement by the Anglican Protestant Ascendancy. During the 18th century, rising Scots resentment over religious, political and economic issues fueled their emigration to the American colonies, beginning in 1717 and continuing up to the 1770s.
The early date would fit nicely with the immigration of Murtough McDowell to Baltimore County and this political unrest may have been his motivation.
Scots-Irish from Ulster and Scotland, along with British from the border region comprised the most numerous group of immigrants from Great Britain and Ireland to the colonies in the years before the American Revolution. An estimated 150,000 left northern Ireland. They settled first mostly in Pennsylvania and western Virginia and from there moving southwest into the backcountry of upland territories in the South and the Appalachian Mountains.
I couldn’t wait to visit Murtough’s homeland. My friend, Maurice Gleeson was kind enough to arrange this trip as well as drive. Martin McDowell accompanied us, as did Michelle Leonard who discovered that her ancestor lived down the road a few miles, in Templepatrick along the Old Irish Highway. Are we perchance related too?
We had a brilliant day, as the Irish would say, even though the weather was a bit drizzly. First stop – a visit to the cat gardens at Belfast Castle, built in 1862. Yes, cat gardens!
If it was before, it’s no secret now that I’m a cat lover! So you’ll just have to excuse this distraction. SQUIRREL…no, wait…CAT!!!
Murtough would never have seen this castle, of course, because wasn’t built for another 140 years after he left, but the view over the bay from the castle grounds would have been stunning then as now.
Michelle and I had a great time searching for all of the cats in the garden, and I suspect we missed a few.
There are actually two cats in the above photo, one sitting in the yard and one directly behind in the rock wall – a memorial to a beloved cat gone on to the great catnip field in the sky.
We found one last cat from inside the castle, looking down at the back garden from the wedding venue. The bride descends the spiral staircase into the piazza, but the cat sleeping between the hedges directly in front of the stairs never wakes up. Being a cat, if it did wake up, it would look at the bride disdainfully for interrupting it’s nap.
What a fun diversion on the way to find Murtough! Next, we’re on to Carrickfergus Castle where we had lunch in the restaurant across the quay from the castle.
Carrickfergus castle would have been known by Murtough, as the old Irish Highway went from here to Antrim, right past where the McDowell family lived.
Carrickfergus castle is massive and guards the entrance to Belfast, originally surrounded on three sides by water.
Carrickfergus Castle is about 900 years old. I wonder if Murtough was ever inside this castle? It’s hard to imagine that Murtough went from a place with a building like this to a frontier with Indians still inhabiting the region and no stone buildings at all.
The side of the castle, shown above, behind me, is much longer than the width.
A building depicted to show what life was like in medieval Belfast. Whatever you do, don’t walk under the windows!
We visited yet a third castle, briefly, later in the day – or maybe I should say we visited behind a castle.
Behind Castle Upton in Templepatrick, we visited the Templeton graveyard and mausoleum that would have been a dynamite set for a Halloween movie.
It’s down a one lane, lonely, dark, winding road. Why, they would never find a body here!
There is also no place to turn around – you’re trapped at the end, so we parked and walked. We should have told ghost stories on the way.
Michelle’s ancestors are probably buried here.
I love these ancient vines and moss covered walls.
At the end of the walled tunnel of trees, we find the cemetery gate.
The entrance to the cemetery is gated, but virtually no one visits. I kept half-expecting Dracula to jump out and chase us!
If you slip down this long dark tunneled road behind this ancient castle and murder someone back here in ye olde graveyard, and burn the body, don’t even think about putting the hot ashes in here!!! OK?
Now that we’re done with Halloween’s fright night in this beautiful old walled cemetery, on to Kingsmoss. Yes, finally!
In the records, this location wasn’t called Kingsmoss Road, just Kingsmoss as a location. Today, it’s Kingsmoss Road.
Kingsmoss Road isn’t very long, which means that if the Murtough McDowell family originated here, we know within a mile or so where they lived.
Kingsmoss Road is less than a mile in length.
Unless our common ancestor is further back in time and therefore migrated to a different part of Ireland, or remained in Scotland, Murtough was likely from someplace in this region where his family would have been “seated.”
Martin indicated that back in the 1970s, the houses on this road today didn’t exist. Instead, the original old cottages were still in place. In Ireland, you can’t build a new house anyplace you want – even if you own the land. You are required to build on an old foundation. The only exception is if you build a house on your property for a relative, like a child – and they must live there for at least some amount of time before it can be sold.
This means that the houses then were likely in the same locations as the ones today, minus a few that have simply been torn down. This house was built on the curve in the road.
This old wall at Sallybush Road where it intersects with Kingsmoss Road may have existed in the time that Murtough would have lived here.
This bridge may have existed in some format then as well. Of course, there’s a cluster of houses by the bridge, because a stream means fresh water.
We drove down the road until we found what looked to be an original farmhouse, although clearly not as old as the homes from the early 1700s. Martin indicated that farm homes at that time were probably mud huts.
Regardless of the house, the view of the mountains wouldn’t have changed.
This is clearly a rural farming area, even today, although some people do now commute the dozen miles to Belfast. In the past, Belfast was too far to go for a job.
We saw a few fences and gates constructed from old wagon or cart wheels.
Still a working farm today. Martin said the original farms would have been quite small – smaller than those today.
This oh-so-cute goat thought we were bringing food, at least that’s what we thought he was saying!
The Orange Hall
Moving up the road less than a mile to Ballyrobert, we discovered the Orange Hall. In fact, we saw several Orange Halls in this region.
The Orange Order is a Protestant fraternal organization found primarily in Northern Ireland and the Scottish lowlands.
The Orange Institution commemorates the civil and religious privileges conferred on Protestants by William of Orange, the Dutch prince who became King of England, Scotland, and Ireland in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. In particular, the Institution remembers the victories of William III and his forces in Ireland in the early 1690s, especially the Battle of the Boyne, an event in Ireland that Murtough or his parents surely remembered. The battle occurred about 80 miles south of the Kingsmoss area.
In 1689 during the Williamite War in Ireland, County Antrim was a centre of Protestant resistance against the rule of the Catholic James II. During the developing crisis James’ garrison at Carrickfergus successfully repulsed an attempt by local Protestants to storm it. So, perhaps Murtough or his parents did know Carrickfergus Castle, but not quite in the way I might have thought.
County Antrim is heavily Protestant and it’s here that the 1798 Irish Rebellion was at its strongest with orangemen recruited from the yeomanry.
We know that several McDowell family members are buried in the Mallusk Cemetery, but we don’t know the age of the cemetery. The church built in the 14th or 15th century fell into disuse when King Henry dissolved the monasteries and no longer remains. Certainly there would be burials from this timeframe, because the land around the church would have been consecrated, and the cemetery has probably been in use one way or another ever since.
If Murtough’s parents and ancestors did indeed live in this region, it’s very likely that some could be buried in the many unmarked graves.
The cemetery isn’t far from the Kingsmoss area. The entire mapped area is about two and a half miles by two and a half miles.
The day was ending as we visited.
The older section is towards the rear.
Many areas have small fences, probably designating family plots, but few of the old graves have stones. At that time, everyone knew who was buried where, so stones were unnecessary – as well as expensive.
The ground is very uneven, probably indicating unmarked graves, along with the roots of trees grown thick over the years.
The stones that do exist are arranged in a haphazzard way.
Probably a stone for an unmarked grave – like so many in Appalachia.
The crows supervised our visit.
Did I just visit the graves of my ancestors?
The Garden Center
We took the opportunity to stop at a garden center on Ballyrobert Road which has reeds and a spiral pathway sculpted into a field. I couldn’t resist after discovering this phenomenon using Google maps, because I have a labyrinth in my own yard at home.
Visitors can pay to walk the gardens during the summer. The garden center was closed, but a kind-hearted soul let us take a peek.
You can’t tell in the photo above, but we are standing at the entrance to the spiral, the reeds in front of us forming the dark area on the aerial view.
However, on this particular day, we discovered why this area is also called Kingsbog – because it is – literally.
Water squishes up from the ground wherever you walk. Can you see it, reflecting, above? We had not had heavy rains. This is just the nature of the land here. The people “seated” here certainly didn’t receive prime farmland. It’s like the water table is above the ground, or even with the ground, rising and retreating at will just at ground level.
A beautiful grove of trees on a slightly higher area.
Before the McDowells settled in Ireland, they lived in Scotland and were a Scottish clan.
The name Macdowall is from the district of Galloway, shown on the map below, which itself was named after the Galli or Gaelic settlers of the seventh and eighth centuries.
Galloway is quite close to Ireland, about 20 miles by water and is the area that could be seen from Cornmoney Hill.
The surname Macdowall and its variations are Anglicised forms of the Gaelic Mac Dubhghaill, meaning “son of Dubhghall”. The Gaelic personal name Dubhghall means “dark stranger”.
Today, the Irish pronounce the same like “McDuel,” except with an Irish brogue thrown in.
We know that our McDowell line does not match another McDowell line. Both may have originated in the same place and belonged to the same clan, but the male progenitors are not the same person.
The history of the McDowell Clan indicates that the lesser status McDowells were among those recruited by the English for the Irish plantations, and many moved.
There is somehow a great irony that we know so little about Murtough’s life, but his DNA, passed to his descendants, was the light that guided us home.
I’m sure that when Murtough departed Ireland, probably right behind Carrickfergus Castle in Belfast Lough, for Baltimore County, he never dreamed that eight generations and almost 300 years later, his descendant would fly in a big silver bird back to Ireland in less than a day – a crossing that would have taken him weeks, to stand here, on the boggy land that he left, with the cold Irish bog water squishing up between her toes.
We have come full circle and found our way home through an unmarked labyrinth of time, thanks to Murtough’s DNA. Our Holy Grail.
Murtough, go raibh maith agat as na mbronntanas. (Thank you for the gift, in Gaelic.)
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Thank you so much.
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