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I’m confused!  Separating John Moags

Updated: Apr 29

This is a repost of a blog I wrote in 2014 while preparing for my Ireland Research Trip. When I changed platforms in 2019, I only pulled old blogs back to 2018 as it was a manual process to bring each one over to the new platform. I've moved ahead on this research in the last couple of years and I frequently refer back to this blog as I think this provides a good case study. I'm sure many of you have a similar problem of trying to differentiate people of the same name, living in the same area. Enjoy!


   For the past 10 years, I haven’t done much work on my own family.  Client work and lectures keep me busy and occassionally, when someone contacts me, I’ll delve into someone in my own file, but it doesn’t happen frequently enough.  I have less than a month before I’ll be heading over to Ireland with a group of researchers.  This year, I’m taking a small group to Belfast as well as a much larger group to Dublin.  

   Last year in Belfast, I had the opportunity to meet and have lunch with a cousin, Andrew Moag.  It was great to meet him and talk about our family and when we walked back to his car after lunch he popped the trunk and showed me the Family Bible!  He was taking me back to the train station, so I didn’t have time to really look at it, or take photographs, so I’m hoping this year to be able to spend a bit more time with him. In preparation, I took a look at my family file and realized I had a problem.  Like many Irish families, the Moags used the same given names over and over…John, William, Stewart and David.   I am well documented back to my great great grandfather, William S. Moag born about 1823, and I have the name of his father, John of Ballycrune, from his marriage certificate.  

I have no document that actually gives me his mother’s name, but in my file I had attached Mary Petticrew as William’s mother and the wife of John.  Is that correct? I don’t think so.  The John having children in the 1770s and 1780s would likely be too old to have fathered William. Going through the GRONI Civil Registration Indexes, I’ve got a number of Johns marrying after 1845 (the beginning of Protestant civil registration of marriages) as well as deaths after 1864.   It’s time to pull out my files and re-read everything to see if I can straighten this out.

   A John Moag and a Mary Petticrew did have children and as they are not marked illegitimate, I have to assume that there was a marriage.   I have a copy of two pages of transcriptions of baptisms from the 1st Boardmills Presbyterian Church, pages I likely copied in the early 1990s in Salt Lake City when I first started researching.  Although I didn’t do a very good job with the source citation, I did make a copy of the cover page (above) which states that this transcription covers 1782 to 1889 for Births (and it does state birth, not baptism); Marriages from 1782 - 1844 and Irregular Marriages from 1784 to 1842.  The pages I copied show a birthdate for a Stewart Moag, 4th child of John and Mary Petticrew of Saintfield as 4 July 1783 (p.1).

It also shows  a Margaret, 5th child of John and Mary Petticrew born ? Apr 1786 (p.4).   Unfortunately I three hole punched the page right through the day, but my file says 1 April.  Based on the dates covered in the transcription, the records of children 1 - 3, as well as the marriage would not be included in this transcription. In fact, 1782 is when the records for this church began. 

   Since my William S. Moag was born about 1823, I’ve clearly missed a generation.   So was one of the other children, born prior to this transcription a John that was the father of my William, and if so, who was his wife?

   Now I have a question to begin my research and I can begin to create my research plan.

1.  Review all of the information in my file.  Do I have the answer already, and just haven’t put it together?

2.  Look at what other research has been done.  Are there Ancestry Trees out there with documented evidence to answer this question?  If undocumented, are there sources that could prove or disprove the information?

3.  What online sources are available for this place and time?

4.  Look at the locality information.  My William Moag was in Ballycrune and there was a John Moag in Ballymurphy (in Griffith’s) as well.  Their church was the Loughaghery Presbyterian Church where both Johns were married and where William is buried.  I need to get a map to identify where this is vs. townland of Saintfield where John and Mary Petticrew Moag lived.

5.  Since I will be in Ireland, what resources are available in Ireland?

   So at this point I have identified the question to be answered and made a research plan identifying what resources I need to identify in order to solve this problem.  Check in next week to see what I found.

   Happy Hunting!

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