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Creating a Research Plan for John Moag

Updated: Apr 29

   Having discovered that I had a missing generation in my tree, I’ve spent time trying to straighten out the family.  I had source documentation back to my great great grandfather, William Moag, and the name of William’s father from his marriage certificate was John.  The John I have him attached to is definitely wrong.  I’ve missed at least one and possibly two generations between this John and John and Mary Petticrew.


   So my research question is: Who are the parents of William S Moag, born abt 1823 in Down, Ireland?  I know that his father is John since that appears on his marriage certificate, but I don’t know his mother.  Also, who are William’s siblings?  Moag is not a particularly common surname which should be helpful.  So far I have been unable to find a baptismal record for William.  As I mentioned last week, the given names of the sons in the Moag family are repeated multiple times in each generation…they are John, William, Stewart, David and Samuel.   I decided to do a one name study to see what I could find for everyone of this name in Down and Antrim.


   Back in 2014, I began with the GRONI Civil Registration Indexes was not yet online). The indexes began in 1864 for births and deaths and 1845 for Protestant marriages, which would include the Presbyterian Moag family.   At GRONI you can only search five years at a time, but I went from the beginning to the end for births, deaths, and marriages and copied the information into a spreadsheet.  One of the benefits of using the GRONI Index is that the index lists the mother’s maiden name for births and the marriage indexes give the name of the spouse. Once you are registered, the indexes are free to use, but for anything prior to 1922, I would now move to the for the images as they are free. Remember, Ireland wasn’t split until 1922.

   Next I checked the Irish Family History Foundation (IFHF) database at  for church records prior to 1864.  You will sometimes find an overlap here with names listed as being either from Church records or Civil Records for the years after civil registration.  The availability of church records will vary. For the Loughaghery Presbyterian Church the records begin in 1803. Other churches, however, may begin much later. Check for the dates of church records (if you don't know how, check out this blog). The earliest record I found was 20 May1805 for a "Sarah Moag to Jno of B:murphy."

The first William listed was in 1852…to late to be mine.  I copied the information for each of these records into my spreadsheet. I also checked the Ulster Historical Foundation database at AncestryIreland (this is a membership database).  The Ulster Historical Foundation was the Heritage Centre for Antrim and Down and created the database used by RootsIreland.  What I found here was another interesting piece of information.  At AncestryIreland they added the name of the father (if recorded) to the baptismal records which does not always appear RootsIreland. I added that information to my spreadsheet and I now could begin to see family groups.  Between 1805 and 1827, I have ten children listed with the father, John, but no William around 1823.  Were these all the same John or multiple Johns? Even though they apparently found the mother's name to be unnecessary, they did include the townland information which allowed me to separate the children of John of Ballymurphy from the John of Ballycrune.


   I have one additional source for early records and that is a printout of two pages from the 1st Boardmills Presbyterian Church.  I copied the pages (including the cover page) at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City back in the early 1990s when I began my research.  I have a copy of the cover page giving the call number as 941.65/K7, and it has a stamp stating it was microfilmed in 1970, film number 823750.  

I have continued to add to this over the years, and now have additions up to the 1990s. The GRONI indexes which, because of privacy laws are restricted online (100 years for births; 75 years for marriages; 50 years for deaths) are available offline in Ireland without restrictions. There is a terminal at PRONI which can be used to research up into the 2000s. Since I had not been able to find my 2x great grandfather's baptism in the online databases, I decided to do a manual search of the registers. The Loughaghery Presbyterian Church records are available from 1803 at PRONI on microfilm, but there is also a manuscript (paper) copy. After trying the microfilm, I opted for the paper copy and headed to the restricted Reading Room (where all original records must be viewed). I thought I had the various spellings...I knew that records were recorded under both Moag and Moak(e). But I hadn't considered other spellings, which did not show up on a database search. When you can't find someone in a database, a manual search may provide the answer. The name could be spelled differently. Spelling doesn't count! Wm Moge appeared with a baptismal date of 1 May 1825, son of John of Ballycrune. Unlike Catholics, Presbyterians didn't always baptize their children right after birth. Sometimes they baptized them together years after birth. I still had multiple Johns. I could separate them by locality...there was John of Ballymurphy and John of Ballycrune. One of these was likely the son of John and Mary Petticrew born prior to 1782. Who was the other one?

The solution to this last question came from the Estate Records (not online) of the Marquis of Downshire. In 2019 a Moag cousin was on the research trip to Belfast. Her ancestor was Samuel Moag, born about 1803. No baptismal record had been found for this Samuel, and he married in Ireland and emigrated to Upstate New York about 1830. Deb found an 1805 lease for John Moak (Moag) of Ballymurphy which named three lives. (A "lease for lives" was a system whereby the lessee named three individuals and the lease did not expire until all three had died. It was used primarily for larger leases, very often, Protestant.) The lease was for John's life (he was 58 years old, born about 1847) and one life was his son, Samuel, who was 2 years old (born about 1803). There was also a notation that the lease passed to Stewart Moag. Based on his age, this John was was most likely the same John whose son Stewart was baptized in 1783. The theory is that Mary Petticrew, his first wife died and he married a second time. A marriage for John Moag and Ann Furey in an online database gives the date of their marriage as 15 Apr 1904, however, the original shows the date the marriage as 1803. Another reason to always obtain the original record. It would appear that John Moag of Ballymurphy fathered children with (assumed) Ann Furey until about 1815. John Moag of Ballycrune married Mary McCleau in the Parish Church of Annahilt (Church of Ireland) 31 March 1814 with the Certificate received at Loughaghery. This John had children at Ballycrune between 1814 and 1827. It is likely that this John is one of the first three children of John and Mary Petticrew born before records were kept at Boardmills.

So updating the original blog from 2014, the answer to the research question is...Wm Moge was baptized at Loughaghery Presbyterian Church 1 May 1825. His siblings were John (abt 1815 who likely died before 1822); Margaret (abt 1820 and married Joseph Scott); John (abt 1822 and since there have been no additional records found for this John, he may have also died); and David (abt 1827 who married Mary Lavery).

Sometimes you need to visit Ireland to view original records that are not online. More next week.

Happy Hunting and Stay Safe!

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