Joseph and Ellen Crothers: Family Background
3. The Voyage
4. In Tasmania
Attempts to find Joseph’s family in Ireland have so far failed, leaving us to speculate on his origins. Nothing definite is known about Ellen’s early life. But it can be safely presumed that both Joseph and Ellen received a reasonable education, given that they were among the minority of 19th Century Irish who were literate.
Families named Crothers, Carruthers, Crowthers and all such similar appellations, are derived from Carruthers, a village in Southwest Scotland, near Dumfries. Carruthers, pronounced Cridders in local speech, means “the fort of Rydderch.” The Crothers presumably settled in Tyrone from Scotland at the time of Oliver Cromwell, when land was allocated to Protestants.
As most of the Protestants from Scotland would have been Presbyterian, it is surprising to see Joseph and Ellen associated with the Church of England, particularly as the Presbyterians of Ulster had a high regard for education. Moreover, the fly leaf with the family details came from The Psalms of David, published by the Kirk of Scotland in Edinburgh in 1819. It may be that Joseph and Ellen transferred their allegiance to the majority religion when they settled in Liverpool and continued the association when they found the major Protestant church in Pontville to be St Marks Church of England.
There is some evidence, however, that at least one branch of the Crothers family in Tyrone was part of the Anglican ascendancy. A Coat of Arms (Gu. a bend wavy vaire az. and or., between two lions rampant ar. Crest - on a club lying fessways ppr an heraldic tiger pass. or. Motto - sperandum est) was granted to Robert Crothers Esquire M.D., Surgeon of the Tyrone Militia; son of George Crothers of Aughnacloy and grandson of Robert Crothers of the Barony of Trough, County Monaghan. (The General Armoury of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, Sir Bernard Burke, London 1884, Harrison, 59 Pall Mall)
The English names Rogers/Rodgers usually stand for MacRory, especially in Ulster. There were 5 of the name among the Cromwellian ‘adventurers’. (The Surnames of Ireland, Edward MacLysaght, Irish Academic Press Ltd., Dublin 1989, page 260)
Griffiths Valuation (1860) lists a number of Rogers in Tyrone, including a Henry in Clonfeacle Parish and another in Ardstraw, and two Williams in Drumragh and five Josephs, one in Clogher and four in Derryloran. These are possible locations of Ellen’s family, given the names of her sons. An Ellen Rogers was married, but not to a Crothers, in Parish Clonfeacle in 1842.
Joseph may have been the younger son of a James or John Crothers, given that he would probably name his first-born son James or his second-born John after his father and that it was likely that the son to emigrate would not have been the eldest in a family. The names of Joseph’s other sons (Henry, Robert, William) may give clues to his family connections, as could the name of his only daughter, Elizabeth, although she may have been named after Ellen’s mother.
Griffiths Valuation gives only one John Crothers in its Tyrone list: John Crothers of the townland of Dergenagh in Killeeshill Parish. The landlord was Sir William Verner, Bart., who evidently owned much if not all of Dergenagh. John occupied a house, office and land with an area of 6 acres, 0 roods and 23 perches. The land had a rateable annual valuation of three pounds 15 shillings, while that for the buildings was 15 shillings, making a total of four pounds 10 shillings. This John may have been Joseph’s father or his eldest brother. Perhaps, brother John stayed on the family farm while Joseph needed to emigrate in order to survive the great famine. “As division of the family plot was not seen as a viable solution to economic depression from well before Famine times, the surplus sons and daughters of tenant farmers had to migrate in search of marriage partners and employment.” (Over the Seas To a New Life – Irish Migration by Brian Mitchell, Family Tree Magazine December 2005, page 71)
The only other Crothers in Tyrone listed by Griffiths was a doctor, Robert Crothers, of Dungannon Street in the Town of Moy in the Parish of Clonfeacle.
The Vital Records Index of the British Isles lists a John Crothers as marrying Ane J. Jamison on 26 January 1855 in Killeeshill, Tyrone. This John was the son of George Crothers, of whom another son, James, married Sarah Henderson on 4 October 1860 in Clonfeacle, Tyrone. Perhaps, Joseph was another son of George.
Another marriage recorded in Clonfeacle was of Susan C. Crothers to James Porter Reid on 6 August 1862. Susan was the daughter of John Crothers, a possible brother of Joseph. Clonfeacle was a Parish to the east of Killeeshill, centring on Blackwatertown, about 17 kilometres from Dergenagh.
Ireland’s Gravestone Index lists a John Crothers as being buried in 1888 at Clogher, about 18 kilometres west of Dergenagh. (And another from 1962, indicating the Crothers clan were still in the area in the twentieth century.)
If Joseph did come from Dergenagh, much of the following information gathered from a display in the surviving buildings of the Simpsons, the maternal ancestors of U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant, would surely pertain to the Crothers family as well. The Simpson farm was in the eastern part of Dergenagh and any Crothers farm must have been reasonably close by.
- The Ulster Scots, as they became known, settled on the remaining good ground leaving the hilly scrub land to the native Irish.
- Dergenagh (meaning red, marshy ground) was part of the lands acquired by a titled English family, the Verners. They established a family home at Tamnamore on the Blackwater River (approximately 21 kilometres east north east of Dergenagh). Their agent lodged at Aghnahoe House, about 2 kilometres northwest of Dergenagh.
- A 1634 estate rent book shows John Simpson indentured to Sir William Verner as tenant of a farm at Dergenagh. (Research may show a Crothers as well.)
- Most farms tenanted by the Ulster Scots were nominally 10 acres but they were often cheated and may have had barely 9 acres. Rents were at a level to leave no margin, so the farmers were operating barely above subsistence level.
- The first official record of the Simpson farm, in 1858, outlined the exact boundaries with the area adjusted to 10 acres, 0 roods and 20 perches. The rateable value was shown as seven pounds for the land and 15 shillings for the home and offices. Any improvement was penalised. A “new pair of shoes or an extra hen usually meant an automatic rise in rent.” A tithe of 10% had to be paid to the Anglican Church. Failure to pay led to seizure of their crops.
- In 1894, the Irish Land Commission eventually vested the estates of the Simpson’s landlord, Harry Verner, and advanced the purchase price to the sitting tenants. At last, the Ulster Planters were landowners in their own right, free from the hated absentee landlords!
- Archaeological evidence indicates the Simpson farm possessed two cows, one goat, one horse, a few laying hens and possibly some ducks. The Simpsons took their grain to Verner’s Mill at Ballyreagh (about one kilometre west of Aghnahoe House), where they had to accept whatever price was offered. They took their produce to the market at Aughnacloy, about six kilometres south.
- The farm had three fields for grazing, one field for a grain crop (domestic and animal feed; straw for bedding and thatching), one field for root crops (potatoes, turnips) and three fields for cash crops, such as flax.
- “The established Anglican Church restricted social life and denied the Presbyterians the right to practice (sic) their religion.”
- The local Presbyterian Church was at Clonaneese Upper.
- Most if not all local Presbyterian families were educated at Showerflood School, which functioned until the early part of the 20th century. “These devout people held the education of their children very high on their list of priorities.”
According to a Dublin researcher, the naming pattern in the family of Joseph and Ellen would suggest that their origins were in two adjoining parishes, near Donaghmore, west of Cookstown. The best immediate means of locating their native places would be to look for their marriage in any surviving parish register.