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Day 17 - A Visit to County Down

Updated: Apr 29

Loughaghery Presbyterian Church, Annahilt, Down

Wow! What a day. Deb Thalner and I spent the day in Moag country in County Down. Deb was renting a car to drive to Dublin so we hit Annahilt parish and she dropped me off at the train station in Newry to return to Belfast.

The car rental company was dropping her car off at the hotel about 9 am. Unfortunately they brought a standard shift car. If you’re renting a car in Ireland, make sure you specify an automatic. It’s hard enough to drive on the left side, with the steering wheel on the right, without worrying about shifting with your left hand. Luckily they had an automatic and drove us to the rental car lot to pick it up. Off we went.

The first stop was 1st Boardmills Church in Killarney Parish where the first record of the Moags occurred. John Moag and Mary Pettigrew baptized their 4th and 5th children (Stewart and Margaret) there. There is also an entry in the Gravestones of County Down stating that “John Moak of Ballymurphy” was buried in their cemetery. The notation indicates that the stone was broken and probably dated to around 1850. Since the book was published in the 1970s, I didn’t think we had much chance of finding the stone...but as Deb and I roamed in different areas of the cemetery I heard her yell, “I found it!”

As you can see, the condition isn't great. I think that it was a tall stone that was broken and the top half just stuck into the ground. I took some pictures of other graves in the area which had the same style of gravestone and they dated from the late 1820s to the 1840s which would fit with what we know about John. There are two broken stones on either side with no detectable writing. Based on research this week, we think that John might have married a second time and had another family. Deb's Samuel is listed on a 1805 lease for lives as being 2 years old, and John is listed as being 56 years old (born about 1847). This would make him a good candidate for the John baptizing children in Boardmills in the 1780s. More research to do!

Boardmills was closer to Annahilt that I thought and we were able to find the land of John Moak/Moag in Ballymurphy (now a dairy farm). We then hit the Loughaghery Presbyterian Church where the baptisms and marriages were recorded for the Moags beginning about 1804. This is where the gravestone of William Moag was located (many of you have the picture) until it was knocked over and broken in the early 2000s. The Rev. Patterson was kind enough to meet us there and unlock the church for us to visit. The church is quite different from 1997 when I visited and took the picture of William's gravestone. Twelve years ago when Rev. Patterson arrived the church was is desperate need of renovation, so much work has been done since then, including adding about 30 feet to the front of the church. The church has been on this site since the late 1700s and was given it's previous update in the 1890s.

In blog I wrote last May on Maps I showed an example of using AskAboutIreland to overlay a current map over the 1860s Griffith's maps. I was able to identify the property of William Moag and see that the Fort William Country House appeared to be across the street from the property. I called to see if we could stop by and take a picture of the property and we were welcomed by Terry and Mavis, the owners. They indicated that the Google map had them in the wrong location (and on the wrong side of the road) and I think the property behind them, was actually the property of another branch of the Moag family (again, more research). They were lovely, and Terry had us follow him down to the property where he remembered the Moag living in the 1970s and 1980s.

Looking back toward the Fort William Country House at the Moag land

It was really an exceptional day and I took so many pictures I ran down the battery on my phone. Deb dropped me off at the Newry train station so I could get back to Belfast, and she continued to Dublin. Although the research trip is over, I'll be here until Wednesday. Tomorrow I'll be doing a lecture for the 40th Anniversary of the North of Ireland Family History Society on Finding your American Cousins. If you're in the Belfast area, it's at the Templepatrick Hilton on Sunday (Oct 20th) at 2:30 pm.

Happy Hunting!

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