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Friday, December 30, 2016 Finding Margaret McConnell

Margaret McConnell was born in Lisburn in Ireland in 1837.

Her marriage certificate states her parents as Samuel McConnell and Margaret Gillespie, and that she lived in Lisburn in Scotland.  Those details were written by her husband, and it would seem that her accent or lack of educational skills could be to blame.  There is no Lisburn in Scotland, there is one in Ireland, to the north and near Belfast.

For some reason the person writing the marriage details recorded her name as Margaret Brown McConnell.

Samuel McConnell and Margaret Gillespie had at least two children, and going by the strict naming patterns, they probably also had a son named Samuel McConnell.

The known children were John McConnell and Margaret McConnell.

It is highly likely that Samuel McConnell's father was John McConnell.

It is highly likely that Margaret Gillespie's father was Thomas Gillespie who married Christina.

However there are very strong links that Margaret Gillespie may be related to or associated with the family of  James McConnell and his wife Margaret Ann Diffen

James born in 1812 and was the son of John McConnell.

 Were Samuel and James brothers?

He married Margaret Ann Diffen born 1810. The McConnell's were most probably of Scottish origin who settled in Ireland as part of the Plantation Settlers.

They would have been Presbyterian, and they formed the Irish Church.    The English were given land to grow crops.

 The Irish families were not allowed to own land.

King James at first chose fifty-nine Scotsmen of high social standing and influence and nearly as many Englishmen, together with fifty-six military officers or "servitors" and eight-six natives, as undertakers who were to receive estates of 2,000 acres of less, in all counties but Londonderry which was reserved for the Corporation of the City of London. Eventually, by 1630, some undertakers acquired as much as 3,000 acres, and estates in County Londonderry came into private hands.
. . .
A rich source of genealogical information regarding Presbyterian ministers and their families is the Fasti of the Irish Presbyterian Church, 1613-1840. The records were compiled by the late Rev. James McConnell, and revised by his son, the late Rev. Samuel G. McConnell. The work was published by the Presbyterian Historical Society, Belfast, 1951.

James and Margaret McConnell  had               8 children:

James  McConnell                                b     1834    d   1896  m Mary Jane Birmingham
Mary Ann McConnell                          b     1835    d   1921 m Thomas Pettit and Thomas Dawson
Margaret McConnell                            b     1837    d   1915   m Arthur Tillot
Robert  McConnell                               b     1839    d  1863
Susan   McConnell                               b     1841    d  1920   m Robert Henry Morris
John Joseph McConnell                       b     1844        1937    m  Lily Forrest
Eliza Jane McConnell                          b     1846        1937     m  George Vye
Elizabeth McConnell                            b    1851        1856     died on the ship

In 1856 the family travelled to Australia on the ship "Winifred".  They were sponsored by the eldest son James.

In 1852 a James McConnell from Killyleagh  in Armagh arrived in Sydney on the Switzerland as did his sister Mary Ann McConnell who was a house maid.

Interestingly the family lived in Leyburn, (Lisburn) Ireland.

We travelled to Lisburn one Sunday morning in 2014, and realised just how close the town was to Belfast.  Almost every shop had roll down shutters over the windows and doors. While peace exists, and driving down the infamous streets of Belfast is now quite safe, it was confronting to see.


Lisburn's original site was a fort located north of modern-day Wallace Park. In 1609 James I granted Sir Fulke Conway, a Welshman of Norman descent, the lands of Killultagh in southwest County Antrim. During the 1620s the streets of Lisburn were laid out just as they are today: Market Square, Bridge Street, Castle Street and Bow Street. Conway brought over many English and Welsh settlers during the Ulster Plantation; he also had a manor house built on what is now Castle Gardens, and in 1623, a church on the site of the current cathedral. In 1628, Sir Edward Conway, brother to the now deceased Sir Fulke, obtained a charter from King Charles I granting the right to hold a weekly market. This is still held in the town every Tuesday.The Manor House was destroyed in the accidental fire of 1707 and was never rebuilt; the city's Latin motto, Ex igne resurgam ("Out of the fire I shall arise"), is a reference to this incident.
Lisburn Market House – now forming part of the Irish Linen Centre/Lisburn Museum
Lisburn Market House – now forming part of the Irish Linen Centre/Lisburn Museum
Lisburn is also known as the birthplace of Ireland's linen industry, which was established in 1698 by Louis Crommelin and other Huguenots. An exhibition about the Irish linen industry is now housed in the Irish Linen Centre, which can be found in the old Market House in Market Square.
In 1920, disturbances related to the ongoing Irish War of Independence saw almost all of Lisburn's Catholic businesses burned out and many of the town's Catholic population forced to flee. The town was one of the first to recruit special constables, who went on to become part of Northern Ireland's Ulster Special Constabulary.

Roll a doors on shops
Lisburn city centre

Shankhill Road
This are the gates dividing the sectors

Some possibilities in this puzzle

The details on Margaret McConnell's marriage certificate have been changed by someone who works in Victorian Births Marriages and Deaths.  The name Brown has been added, possibly trying to match people, but this has provided no end of trouble in trying to find information.

But like a jigsaw puzzle, this is no different.

The missing parts to the puzzle include:

Common links 

  1. James Gillespie arrived in 1838  
  2. Margaret Gillespie was the mother of Margaret McConnell
  3. Samuel Gillespie married Ann Diffen
  4. Ann Diffen's sister Margaret Diffen married James McConnell
  5. Most lived in Newcastle.

Firstly she had to arrive in Australia, and as she married in Melbourne,

Marg McConnell arrived 31st August 1857 in Melbourn on the Ben Nevis aged 20 seems the most likely, as this Margaret was an Irish spinster.
Was her brother also with her?   Jno McConnell  aged 23  occupation ???

In December 1857, Margaret married Montagu John Felton Durnford, at the property which both of them were working.

Her life with Montagu was not easy and that has been detailed in his posts.

They moved about the country, as he seemed to be working on the gold coaches, as a gold policeman, but where-ever they lived it would have been quite difficult, raising children under a tent.

In 1871, they had a daughter Harriet, however she then died in the same year.

In 1872, she formed a relationship with George Bills.  She had her daughter Charlotte with her, and at the time, Charlotte was 4 years old.  She and George were living near Gravesend, in Northern New South Wales, and the area was mined for gold.

George was a miner.  He lived at Sofala, and life must have been a lot more settled for Margaret, as she and George had two more children.

William Bills born 1875 and John George Bills born 1878.

However, at this time, she also had left behind in Newcastle, her daughter Francella.

Charlotte was placed in care, and when she married aged 16, she was required to seek the permission from the appointed guardian. James Muir.  Did this occur due to her mother's death?

Leaving her second daughter Francella, must have been difficult for Margaret, as she then took the name Francella Bills.

Unfortunately she died at Bullock Island in Newcastle in 1879,

As it happens, this information was sourced the day prior to us leaving on a holiday to NSW.  A lot of research occurred on that day, which then allowed me to "Walk in Margaret's Footsteps"

But none of this would have been found, if it had not been for another of our cousins contacting me earlier in the year.  Her great grandmother was Charlotte Durnford.  Charlotte wrote poems and had a great memory.  Then it occurred to me that Charlotte was expressing her life in her poems.

George Bills may of course have had limited knowledge of Margaret's history when he completed the Birth certificate.

He states that Margaret, Francella, daughter of Samuel McConnell, was born in Charleston USA.
He also stated they married in 1872 in Gravesend, NSW, and they had 3 children, 2 boys and a girl.

Not quite correct!   That will be shown in following posts.

Unfortunately there are no records of Margaret McConnell, Francella Bills at the Christ Church Cathedral Cemetery in the grounds, Church Street Newcastle.

The view from the Cemetery looking towards Stockton.

Whether by co-incidence or relationship, the focus on the McConnell's who lived in Bolton Street Newcastle, is due to the fact that Charlotte Durnford also lived in Bolton Street when she married.

Who did she live with?

Research on the Gillespie/McConnell connections.

James Gillespie

James Gillespie arrived on the Portland, in 1838.    The Portland was a ship which had been organised by Dr John Lang.  James Gillespie was a baker.

Usually Dr Lang chose people who may have relatives already in the colony, or particular trades.

The immigrants were expected to work for 2 years to repay their fares to the Government. They were assigned to Gilchrist and Alexander.

For more informaiton  or  "The History of Bald Hills and Bracken Ridge" available through Queensland Library or Trove, as a free e-book.  

James Gillespie (1811 - 1871) married Margaret Colquhoun,(1809 - 1892) and they had 8 children.

James Gillespie      b  1830  in Scotland and died 1838
Thomas Gillespie   b  1833  in Ireland  and died 1918 in Burwood  
Margaret   b 1836  d  1837
Margaret Colquhoun Gillespie  1838   d 1906 m James Smith 1864 in Liverpool
wife of late James Smith, Surgeon. b. Glasgow, Scotland, 21 Mar 1838. Died at Lewisham, N.S.W.

Christina Margaret Gillespie  b  1841 d 1916 in Lismore m William Condie Renwick 1864
His father was the Hon Sir Arthur Renwick MD FRCS.

Janet Gillespie   born 1843  died 1843

Adam Colquhoun Gillespie    1844  d 1923  Springsure Queensland  m Clara Nutter 1878
Janet Hamilton Gillespie        1846  d 1918   Hawthorne Victoria m Rev Arthur H Cresswell 1866

Margaret Diffen had a sister Ann.  She married Samuel Gillespie.  He was the son of Hamilton Gillespie, one of the oldest male convicts ever sent to Australia.  He arrived in 1834, and died in 1839 in the Port Macquarie Hospital.

11). County Armagh Assizes - Fourth day - Tuesday - Sentences - Hamilton Gillespie, passing base coin, seven years transportation. Belfast Newsletter 30 July 1833

He was born in 1753, and died aged 86.  He arrived aboard the James Laing.

GILLESPIE . Kilmore married Martha Adams 17 Aug 1839 at Kilmore Presbyterian Church PR
. Hamilton GILLESPIE . Saintfield son of Hamilton Gillespie; married Margaret Lemmon/ Lemon 17 Aug 1854 ; father of Robert John b. 18 Aug 1869 

James McConnell Junior settled in Newcastle area.  In 1862 he married Mary Jane Birmingham in St Peter's Church East Maitland.  His occupation in 1862 was a farmer and he lived in Bolton Street Newcastle.

In 1865 James was listed as a baker and drayman.  He had been stung by a fly which caused considerable reaction.

He and Mary had 9 children, two sons died as infants.

James operated the McConnell's Family Hotel in Bolton Street Newcastle.

The pub remained operating for many years.

James died in 1898 and Mary died in 1908 and are buried in the Sandgate Cemetery in Newcastle.
 His parents and siblings arrived in 1854 on the Winifred, and James paid the Immigration Bond for them.   They settled in Newcastle, and James became a bootmaker.

Robert McConnell died in Newcastle in 1863

Susan McConnell married Robert Henry Morris and had 8 children

John Joseph McConnell married Lily Forrest and they had 4 children  John was a furniture restorer.
Lily had been subject to a few mentions in the Police Gazette for theft before and after her marriage.

Lily May McConnell married William Henry McGuire
Their son Henry Charles Augustus McConnell married Lucy Debrridge in 1908 and they had a child.
He then proceeded not to pay maintenace for the child and ended up a couple of times in jail.
He then relocated to Armidale and was selling cleaners for shoes.  He married Myrtle Amelia Turner and then changed the name to McConnelly.

Their son  David Howard Sidney McConnell was in the 3rd Battalion and killed 6th August 1915 at Galliopoli.

James McConnell died in Newcastle in 1873 and Margaret died in 1863.

Both are buried in Sandgate Cemetery in Newcastle, where their granddaughter is named on their memorial.

47 Bolton Street Newcastle - Where the McConnells lived.
There was also a Samuel McConnell who was a tailor who lived in Newcastle.


This is interesting information the list of name of settlers in the first Plantation into the areas to the North East of Northern Ireland.  -  Any wonder it is hard to find Irish ancestors - the names are all possibly deritives of some of these.  Mainly the only people to write were the clergy, and they transcribed what they heard.


Acheson x2, Allen x2, Archeson, Arkles, Bell x2, Brown, Calte, Carcott, Carothers, Cunningham, Davidson, Deans, Douglas, Dowling, Elliot, Ferguson x2, Flack, Gamble x2, Gilmore, Granton, Greer, Grier x2, Grindall x2, Hall, Hamilton x5, Hope, Johnston, Kirk, Leitch, Maxwell, x2, Moffatt, McKernan, Parker, Pringle, Rae, Richardson, Ritchie, Shirloe, Sturgeon x2, Syne, Trimble, Watson, Walshe, Walker, Wilkie, Wilson


Adair, Agnew, Barr, Black, Blair x2, Boyd x4, Bozwell x2, Brown, Brisbane, Burns, Buthill, Colville, Cunningham, Dewar, Dickie, Dobbin, Dunbar, Dunlop x4, Edmonston x2, Ellis x2, Fenton, Fullerton, Futhie, Haldane, Hamill x2, Hamilton, Hutchins, Johnston, Kennedy x2, Kinnear, Kirkpatrick, Kyd, Laderdeill, Logan, Luke, Lutfoot, Maxwell, Melvin, Millar, Montgomery, Moneypenny, Moore, Macauley, Macawley, Mcgoogan, Mackay, McNaughton, McNeill, McPherdirish, McRobert, Niven, O'Greeve, Ritchie, Ross, Shaw x4, Stewart x13, Thompson, Todd, Trane, Tullis, Wallace

Abercrombie, Adair x3, Adams, Agnew x2, Aicken, Allen, Anderson x2, Andrews, Bailie x2, Barkley, Barkie x3, Bayly, Beatty, Blackwood, Blair x5, Boyd x3, Brackley, Brown, Carlile, Carmichael, Carr, Carson, Cathcart x2, Catherwood, Chambers, Chermsides, Cooper, Cowper, Craig, Crawford x3, Crear, Cummings, Cunningham x13, Danielston, Davidson, Dick, Dickson, Dodds, Douglas, Drennan, Drummond, Dufferin, Dunbar, Dunleath, Dunlop x3, Echlin x4, Edmonston, Forsith, Frazer, Galloway, Galt, Galway, Gelston, Gemmil, Glen, Greenshields, Hamilton x14, Hare, Haper x2, Harvey x2, Hilton, Hogg, Howie, Howson, Hunter, Innes, Julius, Keevet, Kelly, Kelson, Kennedy x7, Kerr, Kilpatrick, Kirkpatrick, Kyle, Kylr, Leckey, Leslie, Lindsay, Lloyd, Logan x2, Magee, Martin, Mathyson, Maxwell x5, Millar, Monett, Moneypenny x3, Montgomery x18, Moon, Moore x7, Mowlane, Murray x2, McBurney, McBride, McCappin, McCartney, McCashin x2, McClelland, McCleery, McComb, McCrae, McCreedy, McCullen, McCurry, McDonnell, McDougall x3, McDowell x2, McEwen, McGarry, McGee, McGifford, McIllevrath, McIlveyne, McKay, McKee, McLarnan, McLellan x4, McLean, McMakene, McMaster, McMillan, McMullen, McNabb, Nesbitt, Nevin, Nugent, Orr, Patrick, Patterson, Peacock, Peebles, Pollock x2, Read, Reid x2, Reynolds, Robb, Ross x5, Rudd x2, Rutherford, Scott, Semple, Seton, Shaw x3, Spier, Stanehouse, Stanhouse, Stevenson, Stewart x2, Tate, Thomson x2, Trail, Waddell, Walker, Wallace, Wanchop, Wardlaw, Watson, Welsh, Williamson, Wilson x4, Wylie, Wyms, Young

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