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I'm curious to find more information about the ancestry of my 3rd great-grandfather, Robert S. Graham (1823 - 20 December 1877).
Robert was born in Maghera, and later moved his entire family to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
Robert is also a veteran of the U.S. Civil War.

Robert's father is William Graham (1786, Crumlin, County Antrim - July 1849, Philadelphia, PA, USA).
Robert's mother is Rebecca McKeown (1787, Ballykennedy, County Antrim - 1848, Crew, Maghera, County Derry).

Rebecca's father is Arthur McKeown.
William's parents are Thomas Graham (19 July 1771?, Scotland - 1850, Kilminchy, County Queens, Ireland.

All I have are their names, births and death dates.
I'm fine with as many new ancestors as possible.


Friday 23rd April 2021, 09:04AM

Message Board Replies


    My first comment is that there’s a most unusual spread of locations in this tree. I wonder what evidence there is to confirm all the information?  You say that Thomas Graham was born in Scotland and died in Queens County, and that he had a son William born in Crumlin, Co Antrim who then ended up in Maghera Co Derry. These places are all hundreds of miles apart. People in Ireland in the 1700s and early 1800s did move around sometimes but mostly they married the girl next door and lived locally. Particularly so, if the family were farmers, as yours appear to have been.  Farmers spend years improving their farms, so they don't move around much if they can avoid it, as it means starting all over again. The travelling this family apparently did rings alarm bells for me. I would wonder how accurate some of the information is.

    Turning to Robert born in Maghera in 1823, you haven’t said what denomination he was. For births and marriages around that period there are no statutory birth records and you have to rely on church records, where they exist. Not all churches have records for that period and where they do exist they are not all on-line.  In the case of Maghera, the Church of Ireland (ie Episcopalian) has records from 1785, the Methodists from 1825. There are 4 Presbyterian churches (Maghera, Culnady, Curran & Swatragh) but none has any records before 1843. The RC records start in 1841.  The Church of Ireland records are held in PRONI (the public record office) in Belfast but a personal visit is required to view them. (Or you could hire a researcher to look them up).

    There is a William Graham in Crew in the 1831 census. The family was Presbyterian and consisted of 6 males and 3 females:

    There was a James & a John Graham in that townland too, so perhaps related. There was also a William in the townland of Craigmore.

    The Crew family appear to have been farmers as they  are listed in the 1828 tithe applotment records. There’s a William senior and a William junior so 2 separate farms.

    Griffiths Valuation of 1859 lists a John Graham farming plot 6 and an Archibald Graham farming plot 19. They were the only 2 Graham farms in the townland by that year.   Crew is about half a mile outside Maghera town.

    The 1901 census for Crew has just 1 Graham family farming there. I note that a grand-daughter Susan, born c 1875 was born in America:

    The nearest Presbyterian church to Crew is probably Maghera.  The original building was destroyed by fire in the 1798 United Irishmen’s uprising. The Minister had been one of the local leaders and had to go to America to avoid being hanged. Any records up to that year were lost in the fire. His successor was Rev Charles Kennedy. Unfortunately he wasn’t big on keeping records and there are none for his 40 year career. Records only start when he retired in 1843.

    There is a graveyard attached to the church and your ancestors might be buried there. However Presbyterians often used Church of Ireland graveyards so worth checking there. There is also the old graveyard, again used by all denominations.

    You might find some useful information on the Maghera Historical Society site:

    Most Presbyterians in Co. Londonderry/Derry are descended from Scots who settled there in the 1600s. That’s the typical background, and is what I would think most likely are your family origins. By the 1700s they were starting to leave again so whilst it’s perfectly possible William Graham’s father arrived in the 1700s, he’d be going against the flow so to speak. But it’s not impossible. Scots did arrive then, often soldiers and gardeners. The big estates loved Scots gardeners for some reason. But it would be very unusual for a farmer to have arrived in the 1700s.


    Elwyn, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Friday 23rd April 2021, 10:08AM
  • Further to the above message, I overlooked mention of there being a couple of trees in Ancestry which list this Graham family from Crew. One (Herron/McGarrah family) has William Graham 1786 born in Crew (which seems slightly more likely to me than Crumlin, Co. Antrim).  William’s wife is named Rebecca McIlree. His father is named Walter Graham (aka Watty Graham) born Crew 1785 who died in Maghera in 1798.  Walter was married to Ann Stewart.

    If the tree is accurate (some aren’t) then you have a famous ancestor. Watty Graham was executed as part of his involvement in the 1798 United Irishmen’s uprising which I mentioned earlier.  Here’s a link to an account of his life:

    The local GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) club in Maghera is named after him to this day.

    Another tree with information on the family is the Graham tree which gives information about other apparent relatives.  Some of the information on it is a little puzzling to me.  For example, it has Robert born Crew c 1812, then a half brother John born Broughshane Co Antrim 1814, sister Hannah in Crew 1815, brother James in Crew 1820 and another half brother James born Co Antrim at the same time followed by half-brother Robert in Co Antrim in 1825. I am unclear how that might be possible, but the tree owner might be able to explain. Rebecca is reported to have died in Crew in 1848.

    You might want to contact the 2 tree owners to see the sources of their information in case they have documentation to help you.



    Elwyn, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Saturday 1st May 2021, 09:00AM
  • To the above posters - I have since discovered that Walter "Watty" Graham & Hannah Anne Stewart are Robert's parents.


    Sunday 2nd May 2021, 10:56AM