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I am planning a trip to Ireland July 17th- 26, 2023.  I have researched my family history and have several relatives who came from Ireland.  My great-great grandfather was Thomas Greer born May 9, 1871 in Ahoghill, County Antrim, Ireland.  His parents were Andrew Greer and Matilda Boyd.  

I am very curious if I have any relatives in Ahoghill as I will be visiting this area around July 21, 2023.  I am also curious about when they immigrated to the US, and what caused them to leave Ireland.  

I appreciate any information on my family roots.  Thank you!


Saturday 18th Mar 2023, 08:31PM

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  • You ask why your ancestor Thomas and 2 siblings might have left Ireland. I am sure they all left for the same reasons that millions did. To find work, or better paid work. Ireland has very few natural resources (no oil, coal, iron ore etc) and so did not benefit from the industrial revolution in the 1800s, the way Scotland, England, the US, Canada & Australia did, which created hundreds of thousands of comparatively well-paid new jobs in new industries (coal mining, steel making, railways, ship building etc). So that was a big pull factor. There had also been a huge population explosion in Ireland going up from about 3 million people in 1750 to 8 million in 1830. There simply weren’t jobs for all those people. In much of Ireland the only employment was subsistence farming topped up in Ulster and one or two other areas with a bit of linen weaving. And then the straw that broke the camel’s back, along came the famine, numerous times throughout the 1800s.

    Other factors encouraged emigration, eg early mechanisation on farms. With new machines to turn the soil and plant seed, farmers no longer needed an army of agricultural labourers to help on the farm. So those jobs were rapidly disappearing. Likewise mechanisation had led to linen factories being set up in places like Belfast. These made home weaving uneconomic and so also upset the labourer’s family economy. Probably why Andrew switched from weaving to being a grocer. Agriculture was the biggest single employer in Ireland, but it was mostly a barter economy. Few people had any ready cash save what they could make from weaving or any government sponsored work such as building new roads. So when the opportunity arose to get jobs with a regular wage packet, as opposed to a few pence from your father each week, the decision to migrate wasn’t really all that hard to make. So it was as much about economic betterment as anything.

    There was a massive tide of migration all through that century, including long before the famine. Years after the worst of the famine it’s impact was still being felt across Ireland, and there were still plenty of much better job opportunities in Australia and the USA.  When Thomas and William reached working age (around 16), they will have read in the newspapers about job opportunities elsewhere and will undoubtedly have known folk who had already emigrated. Most emigrants wrote letters home and these were shared around, so folk in Ireland knew what the opportunities were. They will have compared them with the limited opportunities in Ireland and will probably have jumped on a train in Ballymena to head for the docks with grins on their faces. Most emigrants had an address to go to in the US so they probably went to stay with a friend or relative till they established themselves.

    I notice that Matilda emigrated in 1910, a year after her father’s death. So for her, probably not having parents to look after left her free to leave. That was her trigger.

    When Andrew married in 1864 he was a weaver (as was his father) and was living in Glenhugh. In October when daughter Elizabeth was born he was a weaver but living in Ballyconnelly. In Feb 67 (John’s birth) he was back in Glenhugh and still a weaver. By Thomas’s birth he was a grocer, and that occupation appears against the later childrens births (Sarah, Matilda & Andrew). So he wasn’t making enough at weaving (for the reasons mentioned earlier) and tried his hand running a shop. But it clearly wasn’t a very big shop (and probably couldn’t have supported all siblings. For example, the 1901 census shows Andrew & Elizabeth running the shop and Andrew jr and John working as labourers). So the economics probably weren’t all that good. I notice from the 1911 census that Andrew junior was living alone and running the Glenhugh shop after his father’s death. Possible deaths for him 16.3.1934 age 52; 22.1.1937 age 62 or 1.1.1953 age 71. (All are pay to view on the GRONI website).

    From the Valuation Revision records on the PRONI website I can see Andrew’s name in Glenhugh from 1889 onwards (plot 3b) which was a small cottage. The 1901 census tells you it had 2 rooms, 3 windows at the front, the roof was either thatch or wood (probably thatch) and the walls stone or brick. Andrew junior was still living there in 1929 when those records run out.

    You ask about possible family in the area today. I can’t see what happened to daughter Sarah, and you would need to find Andrew’s death cert to confirm he didn’t marry, but all the other children appear to have either died single or emigrated.  So there don’t appear likely to be any immediate descendants.

    Elwyn, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Saturday 18th Mar 2023, 10:33PM

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