LETTER TO JOHN REYNOLDS FROM HIS SISTER MARY MAXWELL
Transcribed May 1996 by: Robert G. Moore, 77 Metcalfe Street, St Thomas Ontario N5R 3K6. Tel 519-631-6065
LETTER DATED MARCH 16 1836
Mr. John Reynolds
Bruce, Mecome County
County Antrim Portglenone March 16 1836
My Dear Brother
We wrote to (you) some time ago but we received no answer. Therefore we supposed you never received it. My husband is dead now eighteen months past the 4th of this month. We were put out of the place we occupied when you were here, now two years past and are living a short mile from the town my letter is dated from, which place cost us 40 Pounds of purchase money and under 18 pounds of a yearly rent and has to pay a heavy cul(?)[i] tythe[ii] along with all. So you have some idea how a widow with eight children can meet so many demands.
I am sorry to inform you that your uncle Bally Brown is dead about two months ago but I did not hear until a day or two ago.
Victually[iii] is not so much out of the way considering the sort of winter we have had, the only that is in any way dear is fodder. We would wish very much to go to you but our stock is run completely out and by selling off we would not have as much as would take us to you. Therefore if you could send us some help we would be very glad to leave a place that is reducing us more and more every day we are in it. The sooner we leave it we think the better. My son John is a promising boy and seems to be the making of a very steady young man, in fact they are all working their best indeed, I may say that I can make very little distinction among them, they are all so willing but all will not do.
Our Landlord is Lord O'Neill, a very strict one indeed for he thinks rent must come when rent is due. Therefore if we are not able to pay we will not get any in longer in it than the first half years but we are on clean scores with him at present but do not know how much longer we will be able to have this to say.
The death of my brother James was sorrowful heart to me but my dear husband's death was far more. Now my dear brother you and I are the only remaining ones of our family and many a time I wish we were nearer each other than what we are. I send my best & kind love to you and my dear sister and family
Hoping this will find you all in good health may the blessing of him who seeth all things be with you and your family and my children send their best wishes along with me for your welfare
The trouble had set so long on myself that I am greatly failed.
We think this some time. No more but remains yours.
Your affectionate sister till Death
P.S. John would like to go to you very much
Please direct to Portglenone for Widow Maxwell of Aughanahoy.
This letter was written to my second great grandfather John Reynolds by his sister Mary Maxwell in March 1836
It was given to me by my late Cousin James S Reynolds of Flint Mi and Tucson Ar. who said he more info and would check.
John Reynolds who was born in Ireland in 1797,(perhaps of Welsh parents). He worked as a youth in the cotton mills in Manchester England and migrated to New York State about 1823 where he worked on the Erie Canal for some 5 years. He married in 1828 and moved to Bruce Township Macomb County Michigan in the spring of 1832. By the time this letter was written a third child had been born to them. A fourth and fifth were born by 1840. John's wife died within several months of the birth of his fifth child.
It is not known if John was able to help his sister Mary or if her family came to the US.
[i] May have been a “cultivation or cultivating tythe” (see Tithe Records of Ireland)
[ii] Tithe Records of Ireland. Tithes (meaning a tenth) are levies collected in support of a church, which could be a single church or all churches of one faith. In Ireland from the 1500s to the 1800s, tithes were taxes on the agricultural system to support the Church of Ireland. Tithes made everyone cross, for many reasons. Those who were Catholic or Presbyterian resented the contribution to the established church. Land proprietors resented the impact of tithes on rents.
Tithes existed in Ireland as long ago as the 1100s, giving support to monasteries. The system that came to be resented so much was formalized in law in 1541. In 1736 legislation exempted pasture from the calculation so the burden fell upon farmers who cultivated the soil. Not all tithes went to the Church of Ireland; in 1832 a little over 15% went to “lay” (non-religious) tithe owners who acquired the right to collect tithes at the dissolution of the monasteries.
By the early 1800s resentment had become very serious. Tithes had been part of the cause of rural unrest in the late 1700s; in the 1830s, the disruptions came to be called the Tithe War. The campaign against tithes began in County Kilkenny and spread quickly to other counties. By 1833, more than half the tithes due in 22 counties had not been paid. Many landowners supported non-payment because legislation of 1823 restored pastureland to the calculation. The resistance became violent, and some deaths occurred among protestors and police.
Faced with an impossible situation, the authorities stopped trying to enforce payment and clergymen without income could apply for relief. In 1838 the tithe ceased to be paid by occupiers and landlords were levied a “rent charge.” The problem completely disappeared at the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland (1869).
The Tithe Composition Act, passed in 1823, set out the process by which the tithe was converted to a monetary payment due twice a year. Property value was assessed, meetings were held in parishes, and records made of all those who were to make the payments. These are the Tithe Applotment Books.
At the time of the Tithe War any clergyman applying for relief was required to report on the situation in his parish including the names of all those who had failed to pay--the tithe defaulters. Lists of roughly 30,000 defaulters survive.
The Tithe Applotment Books are available in Dublin and Belfast (for the six counties), and on microfilm in the Family History Library (FHL) or on loan through any of the Family History Centers. If using the FHL resources, you need to be aware that the collections for the 26 counties of Ireland and the 6 counties of Northern Ireland are listed separately in the catalog. A national index to surnames (combined with an index to surnames in Griffith's Primary Valuation) known as the Householders Index is also available. More on using this index is among the resources in the Research Helps area of FamilySearch (www.familysearch.org--look for the title Ireland Householders Index).
The 1831 Tithe Defaulters have been combined recently on a CD-ROM compiled by Stephen McCormac and published by Eneclann, who have issued several data CDs for Irish family historians (www.eneclann.ie). Names are from 13 counties, with the best represented being Kilkenny and Tipperary (around 10,000 names each), then Waterford, Wexford, and Cork (about 2000 each). The information names all defaulters in a parish, gives their location and adds the details of the local situation as explained by the Church of Ireland minister. It is an easy-to-use resource and particularly interesting beyond the names it provides for it includes the words of people on the scene. There were 136 defaulters in Knocknagaul, County Limerick, and here is part of what the applicant had to say:
“Your Memorialist from time to time applied for these Arrears and was invariably refused payment, the Parishioners having in a body attended the several anti-Tithe Meetings which have been held & are still holding in the Neighbourhood & throughout the entire County. ... This feeling Memorialist has no doubt is much increased by the sanction which some Magistrates & other Gentlemen gave by their attendance at these Meetings so that the only alternative left to Memorialist endeavouring to recover his rights was a dangerous excitement of the people ending it might be in bloodshed--Memorialist is assured that His Excellency will give him credit for prefering to relinquish his rights altogether to having to recourse to legal steps which must be necessarily unproductive of good & might probably lead to loss of lives--”
Tithe records never receive the same attention as that other mid-1800s land resource, Griffith's Valuation. True, they are not as comprehensive (no mention of town dwellers, for example), but they are worthwhile. They present evidence of location at a particular date, useful facts for sorting out people in church records or for searches in other records, and information about land quality, agriculture, and local history.
Sherry Irvine, CGRS, FSA (Scot) is an author, teacher, and lecturer specializing in English and Scottish family history. She is the author of Your English Ancestry (2nd ed, 1998) and Your Scottish Ancestry (1997) and she is a regular contributor to several journals including Genealogical Computing. Since 1996, she has been a study tour leader, course coordinator, and instructor for the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research at Samford University. She teaches online for the family history program of Vermont College and has lectured at conferences in Canada, the United States, and Australia. She is past president of the Association of Professional Genealogists.
[iii] vict·ual (vtl) n. 1. Food fit for human consumption. 2. victuals Food supplies; provisions.
v. vict·ualed or vict·ualled, vict·ual·ing or vict·ual·ling, vict·uals v.tr. To provide with food. v.intr. 1. To lay in food supplies. 2. To eat. In the context of the letter, Mary may be referring to a harvest of crops (for food).