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My 2nd great Grandmother, Martha Francis McDowell, born Birr in 1843 (The 1871 England Census states Warwickshire, which I believe should be Offaly, Ireland). She died in India in 1873.

According to her marriage certificate she was married in Athlone on September 12th 1860. Her marriage certificate gives her fathers name as John, a Sargeant in the Constabulary, and living in Castle Street, Athlone.

Any help, suggestions to her Irish family would be most grateful.

Out in the Cold

Wednesday 4th Oct 2023, 08:33AM

Message Board Replies

  • Just clarifying...was her maiden name McDowell? If so, what was the married name? Her husband's name? What were the children's names? Thanks.


    Wednesday 4th Oct 2023, 04:21PM
  • Hi Patricia,

    Her maiden name was McDowell, she married my G G Grandfather Joseph Hornsby in 1860 at the registry office in Athlone. the Hornsby's side of the family is traceable, through family living in England but very little information has come to light regarding the McDowell side.
    All we know is she that she died from Cholera and was buried on 21/9/1878 in Fyzabad, India, 2 of her daughters were also buried with her.
    Her first daughter Sarah Jane Hornsby, was buried in Birr military cemetery in 1864.


    Out in the Cold

    Wednesday 4th Oct 2023, 05:11PM
  • In 1854, Griffith's Valuation of King's (Offaly) showed one head of household named McDowell in Birr, as follows:

    Griffith McDowell Archibald Town Of Philipstown Main-Street Killaderry Co. Offaly


    Wednesday 4th Oct 2023, 06:11PM
  • There was one McDowell head of household in Griffith's in Westmeath in 1854:

    Griffith McDowell Anne Joanstown Rathaspick Co. Westmeath


    Wednesday 4th Oct 2023, 06:13PM
  • You may already be aware of them, but there are records for that Hornsby-McDowell family in the FamilySearch database [].  If you search there, you can find Martha under ID number 9JVM-DCC, and can access the records for the others easily through that record, as you will see.


    FamilySearch is operated by the LDS church, and is free to use.  You have to create an account to use the database, but they don’t ask for much personal info, and no missionaries will contact you or anything like that.  The database does not have separate family trees, and is essentially one huge tree of linked records, in which there is a single record for each person, with a unique identification number (although sometimes people unknowingly create duplicate records for the same person, which you can merge when you spot them).


    The entries in Martha’s record do not add much to what you already have, except that they show Martha and her husband, Joseph, as having seven children, and that Sarah was not the first-born.  Instead, a son named John is shown as the eldest.  His record shows that he lived until 1909, and had nine children of his own.  In each record, at the right hand side of the screen, you can see the screen names of those who have created or modified the record, and can send them private messages, so you might be able to get more info by contacting them (and perhaps also locate some new relatives that way).


    The MacDowell surname [in its Gaelic form, Mac Dubhghaill, meaning "son of the black foreigner", sometimes also anglicized as MacDougall] is common in Ulster, particularly among those who migrated from Scotland since the 17th century, but there were also Mac Dubhghaill’s who migrated to County Roscommon from the Hebrides centuries earlier, before the Reformation, as what were called “gallowglasses” (foreign mercenaries, or gallóglaigh in Irish).  Gallowglasses were often recruited from Scotland to assist local Irish or Norman-Irish lords in their disputes with one another, and they frequently settled down and became part of the local population (many people in Ireland have gallowglass ancestors).  Most remained Catholic after the Reformation, like the general Irish population.  Athlone borders on County Roscommon, so there were probably at least some MacDowell’s in the area.  If Joseph met Martha there, then you might be able to search the (Catholic) Athlone parish register for a baptismal record for Martha, which should also give you the names of her parents.


    The Athlone parish registers which are available online go back to 1813 (with some gaps), and the ones for St. Mary's parish in Athlone can be accessed at this link:



    Luckily, the target year you have (1843) doesn’t fall in one of the gaps, but be prepared to treat that year as a starting point, because people in those days often did not really know when they were born.  The registers appear to cover several years before and after that year, though, so you might be lucky and find her.


    There is a second Athlone parish you can search, St. Peter’s, which is actually in Roscommon, just across the county boundary.  The records for that parish go back to 1789, and can be accessed here:


    Unfortunately, that set of registers also appears to have gaps, and 1843 appears to fall in one of them.  Even so, you might be able to locate some of Martha’s siblings, since you have her father’s name, if there are not too many MacDowell’s in the register.


    Thursday 5th Oct 2023, 06:46PM
  • Hi Kevin,

    Many thanks for the additional information relating to the MacDowell surname, and the Athlone and Roscommon links.

    The Hornsby-McDowell family in the FamilySearch database is the one I am building based on family information and records.


    Out in the Cold

    Friday 6th Oct 2023, 08:28AM

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