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Hugh Hilferty and family

I am trying to verify if the information I currently have about my great grandfather, Hugh Hilferty Sr., is correct and to obtain any additional information about his father/grandfather/family that I can.  The info I have is as follows: born in 1851, in and around Letterkenny.  Married to Ellen McCafferty, Children: Daniel (1867), Anne (1875), Hugh Jr (1876), Michael (1886).  Hugh Jr. is my grandfather, who emigrated to the U.S and passed away before I was born.  I've checked civil records and found entries for the Hilferty's in Letterkenny, Ramelton, Kilmacrenan, Dunfanaghy, Church Hill, and Garan.  I've seen some entries in Griffith’s Valuation for Patrick, Michael, and John Hilferty for Kilmore, Lossett, and Glencoe, Irish respectively and I think I know where those parcels are now located, but I don't know how these 3 are related to Hugh Sr. Any information you can provide me would be greatly appreciated.  Also, any suggestions as to the best way to continue my search. 

I plan to visit Letterkenny as soon as it is safer to travel.  I am 65 years old, retired and currently live in San Diego, Ca.  I spent a career as a  U.S. Naval Officer, professional civil engineer and later as a software engineer.  Thank you for your voluntary service in providing this help to me and my family as we search for a better understanding and appreciation of our Irish heritage.

Tom Hilferty

Friday 10th July 2020, 02:09AM

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  • Tom,

    The births of the children you mention all seem to have been in Skerry townland where Hugh Hilferty/Helferty was a farmer.

    A John Helferty is listed in Griffiths Valuation of 1858 as having plot 2 in Skerry. That was a farm of just under 9 acres. There were about 10 houses in the townland then and no other Helferty households. So that looks strongly to be your ancestors’ home. I believe John Helferty was Hugh senior’s father. That property today is near Lake Keel a mile or two north of Kilmacrenan. There were McCafferty households in the townland so it’s possible Hugh married the girl next door.

    There are 2 possible deaths for John Hegarty. One in 1877 aged 70 and the other in 1876 aged 60. (Both registered in Millford). Neither is on-line yet but you can order copies from GRO Roscommon for €4 (euros), to see if either is your family.

    John’s wife Catherine died at Skerry in 1889 aged 90:

    You will notice that the informant was her daughter in law Ellen. So that pretty well proves John Helferty was Hugh senior’s father.

    I spotted this marriage in 1868 between Cecilly Helferty and Patrick McDevitt. I don’t see them in the 1901 census so suspect they left Ireland. Her father was John. So she looks to be Hugh senior’s sister.

    I found children to Hugh & Ellen as follows, all born at Skerry (farmers tended to stay in the one place):

    Daniel 31.8.1867
    Catharine 4.6.1869
    Ann 9.7.1871
    Patrick 11.10.1873
    Hugh 17.12.1876
    James 3.5.1881
    Mary 24.5.1883
    Michael 31.10.1886

    Civil registration of marriages started in 1864. I don’t see a marriage for Hugh & Ellen there so suspect they married before 1864 (in which case Hugh was probably born a bit before 1851). Unfortunately the RC parish of Kilmacrennan doesn’t have any marriage records before 1864 so there’s probably no trace of the marriage. (There are some trees on Ancestry which have the couple marrying in Dunfanaghy district in 1865 but I don’t see a marriage in the civil records that accurately matches that information. I suspect it’s wrong).

    Again some trees on Ancestry have Hugh Hilferty dying in Donegal in 1893. I can’t see a statutory death that confirms that though. His widow appears to have moved to Philadelphia in about 1894. There were no Hilferty/Helferty households in Skerry by the 1901 census:

    Friday 10th July 2020, 05:12AM
  • hi Elwyn,

    I can't thank you enough for this information.  There are many members of my family that are going to be very excited when they learn of this.  

    I remember when I was young in Philadelphia and my father Daniel Hilferty took us to see Uncle Pat Hilferty, who lived a few miles from us and was around 90 years old.  This was around 1963, so this is one more data point that confirms.

    Again, I am so grateful, words can not express.  Thank you so much.

    Tom Hilferty



    Friday 10th July 2020, 04:24PM
  • hello Elwyn,

     I found in the 1665 Hearth Money Roll for the Barony of Kilmacrenan, Co Donegal, under Kilmacrenan parish, an entry for

    O' HELFERTY DONELL Ballyscanlan (Townland) 1 (hearth).

    And, in the 1858 Griffith's Valuation, there is a plot 1 and plot 3 in Portleen for John Halferty. So, I noticed that this land is very close to Lower Ballyscanlan and the property in Skerry (plot 2) for John Helferty is close to Upper Ballyscanlan.  I don't see any entries in the 1665 Hearth Money Roll for Skerry, so it is possible that Ballyscanlan covered a larger area than Upper and Lower Ballyscanlan back then and may have covered Skerry?  I do see entries for Portlyna, which may be the current Portleen.

    Is there any way of knowing what the boundaries were for Ballyscanlan in 1665? 

    Also, is it possible that the Helferty family has continuously been on this plot of land since 1665?

    And that the other Helferty, Hilferty, Halferty, Holforty, (O’hAilbhearthaigh) families in the Kilmacrenan area originated from the great Donell O' Helferty?

    Are there any land records or documents which may shed more light on this?


    Tom Hilferty (O’hAilbhearthaigh)


    Friday 21st August 2020, 12:12AM
  • Hi,

    There were Hilferty's in the Termon/Kilamecrenan area in County Donegal area next to my McGee family. All of my McGee great aunts and uncles had immigrated to the SF Bay Area except for the eldest who would inherit the property.  Colum Hilferty lived with my great uncle, Hugh McGee,  and his family in Oakland in the 1940s.  So when my great uncle Patrick McGee in Termon died the property was sold to Colum Hilferty and his family who had an adjoining property.  

    Teresa Emory

    Santa Rosa CA

    Friday 21st August 2020, 11:59PM
  • Tom,

    MacLysaght’s surnames of Ireland says Hilferty – O hAilbheartaigh (probably from ilbeartach, accomplished). A Donegal name. Halferty and Helverty are variants.

    There  are 63 in Donegal in the 1901 Irish census.

    Skerry information:  

    The name Skerry seems to have been in use in 1654 so I would say that it was not part of Ballyscanlan in the 1600s.

    Hilferty is a name found only mostly in Donegal so that suggests they have lived in the general area for a long time. I wouldn’t like to speculate how long they lived in Skerry. There are very few records for the 1600s and 1700s and so establishing where they lived then is nigh on impossible. Likewise whether they are descended from Donell. (DNA might establish a link but there are no paper records to consult, so far as I am aware).

    Saturday 22nd August 2020, 05:35PM
  • hi Elwyn,

    Thank you again for the quick response and great information.

    I think I found the death certificate for my great grandfather Hugh.  It is listed under Hugh Halferty, death on 2 Feb 1892, residence Skerry, age 58; Annie Halferty, daughter, Skerry. That puts his birth abt 1834, assuming that the age is accurate. 

    I also found a baptism record for Rose Boyce on 19 May 1863, daughter of Michael Boyce and Mary Helferty of Skeary. 

    I suspect that John and Catherine Helferty had a few more children (in additon to Hugh, Mary and Cecilly), but this would be pure speculation. 

    My great grandmother Ellen (Hugh's wife) emigrated to Phila. in 1894 and was living on Olney St in the 1900 census with 4 of her 9 children. Cecilly (Hugh's sister) married Patrick McDevitt in 1867, and they emigrated to Phila. in 1883 and were also living on Olney St in the 1900 census. I suspect the McDevitts were instrumental in easing the transition for Ellen and family. Olney St is only about 2 miles from the house where I grew up in Philadelphia.

    I've started the DNA testing process and building the tree on  Hopefully, the DNA results will provide some additional information and help fill some of the gaps.

    Tom H

    Oceanside, CA



    Monday 24th August 2020, 01:18AM
  • hi Teresa,

    Thank you for providing the information about the Termon property.

    Tom H

    Oceanside, CA

    Monday 24th August 2020, 01:28AM