Sometimes you need to re-evaluate


"Estate Records of the Marquis of Downshire,” Public Records Office of Northern Ireland, D671/A4/18.

You have information in your family tree that you believe is correct. The evidence is indirect from multiple sources and you’ve even written a proof argument. And then, someone provides information that contradicts your proof argument. It’s time to re-evaluate. Proof arguments are always subject to re-evaluation when new information becomes available.


I’ve written a number of times about my Moag/Moak family from Annahilt in County Down and the difficulties I’ve had in separating the various Johns. A Moag cousin (Deb) was part of the 2019 research trip and her ancestor was Samuel Moag from Ballymurphy, Annahilt, and we weren’t sure how we were related. Samuel married in 1820 and emigrated to New York between 1828 (his son Robert was baptized in Loughaghery Presbyterian Church in Annahilt) and 1833 (son Samuel was born in New York). No baptismal record has been found for Samuel Moak/Moag, although other sources indicate his birth between 1795 and 1900. There is no location on the Marriage Proclamation at Loughaghery for Samuel and Dorothy Mack, however the baptism of his first child, Ellen, indicates Samuel was “of Ballymurphy.


In 2019 working through the Estate Books of the Marquis of Downshire, Deb found a Lease for John Moak. The lease book above (dated 1816) showed that John Moak signed his lease in 1805 and under “Names of the Lives in the original Lease” it stated John Moak, Lessee, age 58, Living. If John was 58 in 1805, that made his birth about 1747. Based on his age, it appeared to answer one of my research questions. John Moak of Ballymurphy was likely the father of Stewart and Margaret baptized at 1st Boardmills (Presbyterian in Killaney parish) in 1783 and 1786. The very detailed baptismal record states that Stewart is the 4th child of John Moag and Mary Petticrew, and Margaret is the 5th child. The Register only begins in 1782, so the names of the first three children of this couple are unknown. Another piece of evidence supporting this was the gravestone of “John Moak of Ballymurphy” in the 1st Boardmills Graveyard and the notation in the Lease book under John Moak which stated that the property passed to Stewart Moak in 1830.

Photograph taken by the author at the 1st Boardmills Presbyterian Church, Killaney, Down, Ireland

Back to the question of Samuel’s parents. In the block where John Moak’s name is located, are two additional lives, one of which is Samuel, a son, 2 years old (birth about 1803). This appeared to answer the question of Samuel’s father as John Moag/Moak. Samuel’s age was off slightly from the possible birth years, however, the Irish weren’t great about dates. There was a Proclamation of Marriage of John Moag of Ballymurphy to Anne Furey at Loughaghery on 15 April 1804, which again brought into question the age of Samuel, if he was the child of John of Ballymurphy and Anne Furey, but this seemed like a logical theory.

Stop the Press! Deb contacted me in June and said…

“I’m reviewing all my MOAG stuff prior to the reunion (and some additional research we are doing in NY). I’ve determined that I was reading the lease book incorrectly, and that the ‘Samuel’ who was a son listed in Ballymurphy is really the son of Samuel Scott who was listed just above John Moak in the lease books. I’ve tracked some of the others, and it does indeed appear that the ‘for lives’ would be on the lines below each lessee, not above as I had originally thought.”

I agreed with Deb when she pointed it out...I had made the same assumption. It seemed to indicate that Samuel was the son of John and this “proof” made fitting him in clean and tidy (with an age discrepancy which didn't seem major considering the issues with the Irish and ages). Had I looked at the Lease Book more carefully, I would have seen that John Boyd at the top of the page had his “lives” listed below his name, as did John Scott and Samuel Scott. The Samuel age 2 was more likely the son of Samuel Scott (although I haven’t found a baptismal record for him yet, either). I still believe that the evidence points to the fact that Samuel Moag/Moak was the son of John Moag/Moak. Although Deb and I don't have a DNA match she does match both my sisters. I do match another of her relatives at 23.4 cM of DNA. If Samuel was the son of John Moak/Moag and Ann Furey my relationship to this match would likely be half 4C 1x removed. If, however, Samuel was the son of John Moak/Moag and Mary Petticrew our relationship would be 4C 1x removed. When I added 23.4 cM to Shared cM Tool at DNA Painter half 4C 1x removed is not listed as one of the possible relationships. However 4c 1x removed is in the highest category of relationship at 57%. I ran the same test with my sister and Deb (5th cousins) and again, the result is a 58% chance of the 5C relationship. It appears that Samuel was born prior to 1800 to John Moag/Moak and Mary Petticrew. I also went back and checked the baptismal records for 1st Boardmills (since the lease in the Estate Records was signed 1805) and found no record. The baptismal records for Loughaghery begin in 1801.


Stewart Moak written below John Moak’s name in red (the same color crossing out John Moak) would add weight to the theory that he is the son of John and likely the same Stewart baptized at 1st Boardmills. Also, now that I’m looking in what I believe is the correct place, the words “At Will” appear just below John’s name, meaning he didn’t have a lease for lives, but his lease was “at the will of the landlord.”

What does all of this mean?


  • Proof, based on indirect evidence, is always open to re-evaluation! It appears that I fit the evidence to what I believed, rather than letting the evidence speak for itself.


  • Make sure you understand the records you are reviewing.


  • Don’t let your preconceived theory color your evaluation of the evidence.


  • DNA may help to rule out certain relationships.


I arrived back from vacation in the midst of the controversy over Ancestry's new terms and conditions. If you haven’t been following my Facebook page for the past week, make sure you read about the change from Ancestry. Here’s a post from Judy Russell, The Legal Genealogist to bring you up to date. I’ll write more on my reaction to this next week.

Happy Hunting and Stay Safe!



The Ireland Research Trips have been rescheduled to 2022. I have confirmed space for two sets of trips...one in May and one in October. There are currently spaces available for all trips. For information, click here.





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