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I am trying to find information about James Wilson (b. circa 1844 in Creevedonnel, d. 1885 in Carnafarn) and Eliza Dunn (b. circa 1852 John Dunn/ Margaret Hanna) who both lived in Carnafarn.  James, a blacksmith, had a known brother, Robert, who emmigrated to Philadelphia, PA, USA in 1873 with his wife Eliza Jane Watson. Their father may have been William Wilson. 

Elizabeth Dunn (Wilson) is listed as still living in both the 1901 and 1911 census on Drumahoe Carnafarn with her daughter Eliza Jane Wilson (unmarried).  James and Eliza had 8 children together including Eliza Jane Wilson (b. 1875) who I believe might be my great grandmother.  My grandfather, James Wilson born 26 February 1894 and lists his mother as Eliza or Isa. Wilson.  I think that James might have been an illegitamate child as James Wilson died in 1885 and Eliza Dunn might have been too old to bear a child at that time.  I can not find any birth records for my grandfather born in 1894 that match the information that I have.  Nor can I find death records for either Eliza Dunn or her daughter Eliza Jane Wilson.  My grandfather, James (b. 1894) does not appear on 1901 or 1911 census.  He emmigrated to New York City in 1912.  He consistently states on papers that his mother was Eliza Wilson of Carnafarn and visted her several times in Carnafarn after he moved to NYC.  He also states that his father was James Wilson but I have proof that James Wilson died in 1885 so this is just not possible.

Any information about the Wilson family in Carnafarn, Clondermot Parish would be greatly appreciated.  I would like to solve the mystery of James Wilson's parentage.



Friday 14th July 2017, 11:36AM

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  • Jeanne,

    James Wilson married Elizabeth Dunn on 4.1.1866. Marriage registered in Strabane. If you view that marriage cert it should give you his father’s name. Likewise Robert Wilson married Eliza Jane Watson on 17.4.1873 in Londonderry. Again that should allow you to compare the fathers names. You can view the original certificates on-line on the GRONI website, using the “search registrations” option:

    You will need to open an account and buy some credits. It costs £2.50 (sterling) to a view a certificate. Judging by Griffiths Valuation for 1858, the farm was held then by William Wilson, so I'd guess that's James & Robert's father.

    I agree there’s no birth in Londonderry for a James Wilson 26.2.1894. No child named Wilson with that date of birth was born anywhere in Northern Ireland.  Date of birth may be wrong of course. (People often just guessed them). Have you searched the church records for a baptism? Family were Presbyterian. Might be worth a try. There are 4 Presbyterian churches in the area. According to the PRONI guide to church records, they don’t hold any baptisms for 1st Glendermott Presbyterian (so you might need to check with the Minister as to whether any exist). 2nd Glendermott’s baptisms cover 1855 – 1910, Gortnessy’s cover 1839 – 1983 and Waterside’s 1866 – 1930. Copies of all of those are in PRONI on microfilm. They are not on-line.

    There were only 8 households in Carnafern in 1901 with a total of 35 people. Only 1 household was named Wilson and there was only the 1 Eliza Jane of child bearing age. So it points fairly firmly to her being the mother. With illegitimate children, the grandparents often pretended to be the parents (though in this case that’s a bit silly since James was dead) but it gave the child a father's name to put down rather than “not known”, when officialdom needed a name. Chances are the real identity of the father was information that went to the grave, unless it’s in the baptism records.

    Eliza died in 1925. Here’s her probate abstract from the PRONI wills site. The will itself is in paper format at PRONI. They’ll copy it for you for a fee, or it’s free to view if you go in person.

    Wilson Eliza of Carnafern county Londonderry widow died 8 December 1925 Probate Londonderry 8 February to David McClay farmer. Effects £91 12s. 6d.

    Eliza Jane never married and died in 1937. She died intestate so there won't be a will but the probate file may list her assets and next of kin.

    Wilson Eliza Jane of Carnafern county Londonderry spinster died 7 February 1937 Administration Londonderry 21 August to Andrew Thomas Wilson farmer. Effects £24 10s. 2d.

    Here’s someone else named Wilson from Carnafern. Perhaps you know who they were? If not, the probate file may explain. Intestate again unfortunately, so no will.

    Wilson, Samuel Hanna of Carnafern Drumahoe county Londonderry retired farmer died 16 October 1962 at Altnagelvin Hospital Londonderry Administration Londonderry 3 December to William James Wilson farmer. Effects £959 0s. 8d.

    A document that might interest you at PRONI: D3482/1 dated 1771, as it should tell you whether the Wilsons were farming in Carnafern then. This is from the e-catalogue. The document itself is not on-line and you need to go to PRONI to view it, or pay PRONI to copy it and send it to you:

    "Plantation of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmith near Londonderry. A manuscript survey of the Manor of Goldsmiths for the Hon. Richard Ponsonby, made by Alexander Calhoun, comprising 16 part coloured, manuscript maps. Scale 20 Plantation Perches to one inch. Facing each map is a manuscript list of the tenants, the area they farm and the annual rent. The maps have references to the quality and kind of soil. The volume, which has a manuscript title-page and index, is enclosed within the original limp leather wrappers. Townlands listed in the titles are Crossballycormick, Fawney, Ballynamore, Killennan, Lismacarol, Gortica, Drumahoe, Gortree, Altnagelvin, Lisaghmore, Carnafarn, Creevedonnell, Curryfree, Tirkeeveny, w Warbleshinny, Glenderowen, Drumconan, Cloghore, Map of five townlands in the Manor of Goldsmith, Craightown, Clampernow and Tully, Ballyore Primity and Magheracanon, and Dunhugh".

    Note: The Goldsmiths were a London Livery Company. They were the overall landlords for the area your ancestors lived in. They got ownership by putting up venture capital to develop the area in the early 1600s, as part of the Plantation.


    Elwyn, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Friday 14th July 2017, 01:09PM
  • Dear Elwyn,

    I don't even know how to begin to thank you for all this valuable information.  I had reached a total dead end trying to find death information for Eliza Wilson and Eliza Dunn.  I have Samuel Hanna in my tree so very helpful to know his death info as well.  I am beginning to wonder if James Wilson b. 1894 might have never been registered or baptised.  I have quiet a few American records (WW1 draft, Passport application, ship's records and cadet in the Canadian AF ) that all give 26 Feb 1894 as his birthdate.  I know he was not adopted since I have matched my DNA to the Dunn/Hannah side of the tree.  It is possible he may have been born somewhere else.  Perhaps Eliza was sent away to have her child and he does not appear in the 1901 or 1911 census which I find rather odd.  It is possible that another relative might have raised him.  Thank you so much for providing this priceless information!!!  Kind regards, Jeanne


    Friday 14th July 2017, 08:36PM
  • Jeanne,

    I think you need to search the Presbyterian baptism records in PRONI. That's probably the only finding anything more. It's quite possible the birth wasn't registered. That happened a fair bit. Poeple often lied about their ages to get into the military, and once having used an incorrect date of birth they had to stick to it. So search a year or tow either side of 1894.


    Elwyn, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Friday 14th July 2017, 09:05PM