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Martin Armstrong came to Ontario, Canada in abt 1859 from Enniskillen, Fermanagh.  He was about 18 yo.  We can find no records to connect him to this pariush, parents etc.  Any help would make a difference.  We even came to Dublin (from Alaska) in 2018 and visited the archives with no luck.  Thank you

Mary Ann

Wednesday 9th December 2020, 04:41PM

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  • Mary Ann,

    Your Martin was born around 1841. Birth registration didn’t start in Ireland till 1864. Prior to that you have to rely on church baptism records. To do that you need to know the person’s exact denomination and the likely church they attended. Not all churches have records for the 1840s and of those that do, not all are on-line. 

    As far as Co. Fermanagh is concerned, most RC parish records are on-line free on the National Library site:

    For other denominations the main repository (for Ulster) is PRONI – the public record office – in Belfast. You haven’t said what denomination Martin was though statistically, he is likely to have been either Methodist or Church of Ireland. (Armstrong is a very common name in Fermanagh, being descendants of folk who moved there from the Scottish borders in the early 1600s. Most Armstrongs in the county are one of those 2 denominations, and prior to Methodism starting as a separate denomination around 1820, they’d have all been Church of Ireland).

    The main Church of Ireland church in Enniskillen is St McCartan’s. Many of its records were lost in the 1922 fire. According to the PRONI catalogue this is what remains:

    [Earliest registers destroyed in Dublin]

    Extracts of baptisms, 1667-1789, marriages, 1668- 1794, and burials, 1667-1781; burials, 1879-1907 and 1941-50;vestry minutes, 1731-1920; copy deeds, 1796-9; select vestry minutes, 1871-80; register of church members, 1871 and 1946-50; preachers’ book,

    1895-1928. Extracts from baptism, marriage and burial registers, 1666-1826.

    Printed copy of Old Enniskillen Vestry Book, with extracts of births, marriages and deaths, 1666-c.1797. Extracts from vestry minutes, 1666-1912, which include some baptism, marriage and burial entries.

    There is a second Church of Ireland church in the parish at Tempo, with records as follows:

    Baptisms, 1836-1954; marriages, 1837-45; burials, 1837-1944.

    Enniskillen Wesleyan Methodists:

    Baptisms, 1823-1953; marriages, 1864-1906; circuit schedule book, 1866-80; quarterly meeting minutes, 1877-93.

    Tempo Methodists

    Baptisms, 1841-1954; circuit schedule books, 1865- 1909.

    Where there are no marriages in the Methodist records it would be because they were still using the Church of Ireland, even though their baptism and routine church services were in the Methodist Meeting House. This reflected the great reluctance amongst many Methodists in Ireland to separate from the Church of Ireland.

    Just in case the family was Presbyterian, there is also:

    Enniskillen Presbyterian church:

    Baptisms, 1819-35 and 1837-1986; marriages, 1819- 34 and 1838-45.

    If you are unable to go to PRONI yourself, you could employ a researcher. Researchers in the PRONI area:

    So to summarise, if looking for Martin’s baptism, if he was Church of Ireland and baptised in St McCartan’s, the records for the 1840s are lost. However if he attended Tempo Church of Ireland or was a Methodist or Presbyterian then there appear to be records you can search, but they are not on-line. I am sorry you made no progress in your visit to Dublin in 2018 but as you’ll realise from this, if they exist at all, the records you need are in Belfast.

    Nearly all pre 1901 census records in Ireland have been destroyed, and there are limited sources for searching for someone born in 1841 who had left Ireland around 1859.

    Have you checked marriage and death records in Canada for his parents names?  If you can find his parents names, and they died post 1864, I can search for deaths. Have you checked passenger records to see who he was travelling with etc?

    Elwyn, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Wednesday 9th December 2020, 05:49PM
  • Mary Ann,

    Do you have any other info about Martin? His parents' names? His children's names? His wife--and did he marry in Ireland or Canada?

    Whatever info you have might help with the search.


    Wednesday 9th December 2020, 09:26PM
  • He married Catherine Reid of Canada in Canada (Otonobee, Ontario) Oct 22, 1858.  They had 7 children: Richard 1860, Francis 1862, William 1870, John 1871, J Martin 1873, Amy 1877 and George 1878.  Martin died in 1890 after hitting his head while leading a cow to pasture and subsequently falling, and is buried at Little Lake Cemetery Peterborough, Ontario.  His wedding nor death record do not mention parent's names.  He shows up in 1861, 1871, 1881 census and lists Church of Ireland as religion and comes from  Enniskillen Fermanagh (found on one of his chioldrens wedding records). I have one record of laborers in Peterborough, 1851 showing him as a single boarder age 18.   I seem to have that he came in 1851 on a ship "Achilles" but dont have that info in front of me, listed as a laborer travelling alone age 18 (may not be the truth).  I am travelling currently and will be home with my box of records in two weeks to be more specific.  His census records shows a conflicting DOB, varying from 1826-1833 depending on the census.  Thank you for anything.........Mary Ann

    Mary Ann

    Thursday 10th December 2020, 03:14PM
  • And sorry that was  a typo in my first post, he came in 1850 or 1851. 

    Mary Ann

    Thursday 10th December 2020, 03:16PM
  • Knowing that he was Church of Ireland and with the revised years for his birth (1826 – 1833) means he was likely baptised at St Macartan’s in Enniskillen. (The COI church in Tempo only started in 1837). St Macartan’s records for the years you need were all burned in the 1922 fire in Dublin during the civil war. Ironically they had been sent there for safe keeping.  Church records are probably the only source for someone born c1830 who had left Ireland by 1850.  

    Some families in Ireland and Scotland used a naming tradition:

    The 1st son was usually named after the father's father

      The 2nd son was usually named after the mother's father

       The 3rd son was usually named after the father

        The 4th son was usually named after the father's eldest brother

         The 5th son was usually named after the mother's eldest brother

     The 1st daughter was usually named after the mother's mother

      The 2nd daughter was usually named after the father's mother

       The 3rd daughter was usually named after the mother

        The 4th daughter was usually named after the mother's eldest sister 

         The 5th daughter was usually named after the father's eldest sister

    Not all families followed it slavishly (and some didn’t follow it at all), and there were lots of things that could skew it, like two parents with the same forename, children dying etc.

    However if Richard was the first born male, then you could speculate that Martin’s father was named Richard. I searched for Richard Armstrong deaths in Enniskillen 1864 – 1900, but did not find any.

    I think you are probably going to struggle to get any information about Martin’s parents or his early years in Ireland.


    Elwyn, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Thursday 10th December 2020, 05:16PM
  • Thank you Elwyn.  My conclusion also.  My only other thought is that he joined another family member in Ontario who moved there earlier because there are other Armstrongs in the Peterborpough but no way to know if they are connected and how.  Mary Ann

    Mary Ann

    Friday 11th December 2020, 02:12PM

    Mary Ann,

    DNA might tell you whether there is any connection to those other Armstrongs, but not everyone wants to go down that route. And there is a financial cost.

    The only other information I can give you is of a very general nature, regarding the Armstrongs background. It is not a native Irish name. (If you go far enough back it is probably Norse coming from Norse invaders to England and Scotland in the period 600 - 900 AD) but as far as Fermanagh is concerned they nearly all came from the Scottish Borders. They are known as Border Reivers (a Scottish word for robbers).

    The broad historical background to the Reivers arrival in Ireland is that when King James I became King of England in 1603, he was already King of Scotland and so then became the first King of both countries.  For hundreds of years the Scottish Borders had been fairly lawless and travellers were routinely robbed, and cattle often stolen and herded across the border by moonlight.  The new King was particularly keen to stamp this out because he saw it as an obstacle to commerce between the 2 countries, and being joint ruler that bothered him more than his predecessors.

    At the same time he had the problem of Ireland. The Spanish Armada had recently attempted to invade England and further invasions by the Spanish or French were feared. Ireland was seen as a possible jumping off point for such an invasion and understandably, the native Irish could not be relied on to support the English or resist any invasion. So the solution was to plant trusted settlers from England, Wales & Scotland in Ireland in large numbers, to subdue the native Irish and be on hand to deal with any invasion. King James I was a Scot and so particularly favoured his fellow countrymen. Much of Ulster, including Fermanagh was heavily settled by Scots. During the 1600s, some 200,000 Scots settled in Ireland representing something like 15% of the entire Scottish nation. 

    As far as the Border Reivers were concerned, King James I decided to move large numbers of them to Ireland around 1610 onwards. He needed settlers in Ireland and he wanted to get rid of the Reivers from the Borders, or at least stop the criminality by breaking their control of that area. So moving them to Ireland was a bit of a masterstroke which killed two birds with one stone. So your ancestors probably arrived in the first 20 years of the 1600s, as part of the Plantation of Ireland.

    There are no records of individual settlers at that time. We do know the names of the big landowners (Scots & English) but not of their tenants and others who followed them. There are no comprehensive paper records in Scotland or Ireland which record individuals names or arrivals.

    If you visit Border towns like Selkirk, Hawick, Galashiels & Jedburgh, you will find a strong Reiver tradition with folk & food festivals every summer.  You can go for a Reiver walk by moonlight and have a 16th century banquet. (The usual tourist nonsense). For example, see:

    Armstrong is I think the second most common surname in Co. Fermanagh after Maguire. Their ancestral home in Scotland was Whithaugh Castle in Liddesdale, Roxburghshire and their chief lived nearby at Mangerton:

    If you want a detailed read about the Reivers, a good book is Godfrey Watson’s “The Border Reivers” published in 1974, ISBN 0 709 4478 4. Plenty of bloodthirsty and cruel tales. The Armstrongs get regular mention.

    One of the most famous songs in Ireland, after Danny Boy perhaps, is the Parting Glass. A lament performed here by Liam Clancy & Tommy Makem. However it started life as “Armstrong’s Goodnight” and was reportedly written by Sandy Armstrong, on the eve of his execution in Scotland in November 1600 for murdering the Warden of the Middle Marches (a Government official in the Borders).

    I have attached an article from a tourist newsletter here in Northern Ireland in 2014 which tells you a little about the Border Reivers and Armstrongs.

    Hopefully this gives you a bit of general background history about your ancestors if not specific family details. 


    Elwyn, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Friday 11th December 2020, 10:48PM

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