What's Happening?

  • Ireland Research Trip - July 20-30, 2013
A research team is making final preparations for a research trip to Ireland in July 2013.  Based on recent discoveries of where the McKennas and Singletons lived prior to moving to Belfast, we are hoping to find:
  • The parents, grandparents and possibly great-grandparents for Hugh and Mary McKenna and Robert and Ellen Singleton
  • Collateral family members including siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews and their spouses and children
  • Other possible ancestors who shared the same last name and lived in the same areas 
The team will also visit 9 family gravesites in Belfast the we have never visited before.  We hope to identify what it will cost to add a beautiful headstone for Hugh and Mary McKenna in the Belfast City Cemetery.

Let us know if you have any questions or suggestions.

Follow the research team at InSearchOfHugh.blogspot.com.  We will make daily postings and share what we are learning.


  • New!  Who is William McKenna? - On the marriage record for John McKenna and Elizabeth Shanks in 1858, one of the witnesses is William McKenna.  Previously we were aware of a William McKenna who married Mary Ritchie in 1867
    • William was born in 1845 in Belfast, about the same age as Thomas McKenna and Sarah Singleton. 
    • He and his wife Mary lived on Wilton Street, which is close to North Howard Street from 1872 to 1877 when three of their children were born.  
    • William's father was also named William and he was a carpenter, like George McKenna and later Thomas.
The younger William would have been too young to be the witness at John's marriage, but the older William is a possibility. Was William McKenna John's older brother or more likely his uncle?


  • New!  Hugh McKenna's Professions - We know very  little about Hugh McKenna, but from street directories and vital records, we know a little about his work and where he lived.  Prior to coming to Belfast, we believe Hugh was a farmer in County Tyrone, as were his fathers before him.  In the 1852 Street Directory, however, Hugh is living in Belfast at 6 Albert Street Place and is listed as a Fireman.  In the 1852 Christ Church Census, he is also living at 6 Albert Street Place and is listed as a Millworker.  It is likely he worked full time as a millworker and part time as a fireman.
    1868 Street Directory
     In the 1860 Griffiths Valuation Hugh is living on Galway Street and when his adopted daughter Mary dies in 1865 he was still living there.  In the 1868 Street Directory, he was still on Galway Street, but is now listed as a Bottler.  Then in the 1870 Street Directory he had moved to Boyne Square and was listed as a Packer.

    It is likely that Hugh’s job in 1868 was at the Belfast and Ulster Brewing Company that was founded in 1868 by Mr. Bernard Hughes.  The brewery was located on the West side of Sandy Row, between Rowland Street and Boyne Square.  This location is less than one half mile south of Galway Street and would explain why Hugh moved from Galway Street to Boyne Square.

    The brewery was build on a site that was “formerly the premises of Edward Tucker`s Glue and Starch Works, the location contained ten wells sunk by Tucker, and appeared ideal for its new purpose.”  The buildings were designed by Alexander McAlister, of Chichester Street in Belfast and built using many local suppliers and contractors.

    Unfortunately the brewery had a short life, closing down after about ten years in existence, around 1878.  Hugh died in 1880 living at 112 Malvern Street, which was close to where his son James and his wife Catherine lived. 

    The Brewery building still stands in Belfast today (2013).


  • New! The 1883-1905 Map of Belfast is now available.  Look at the "Maps" section under "Links to Resources" on the left column.

  • Recent Discoveries
    • We finally found a copy of Patricia McSorley's Book, "A While With Your Own Ones".  It is an incredible history about Eskra, County Tyrone; including the town lands of Tamlaght, Tullanfoile and Kilnaherry, where Hugh McKenna and his family lived prior to going to Belfast.  The first 80+ pages are a history of the area and the remaining 250 pages contains a variety of folklore from the area. Of particular note are:
  • Bryan McKenna leased land in Tullanafoile and Patrick McKenna leased land in Kilnaherry from Sir George Savile in 1769. This is exactly where the McKenna’s family live prior to moving to Belfast in 1851. This indicates our family may have lived in the Clogher area for quite some time before moving to Belfast.  Could Bryan or Patrick be our ancestors?
  • Rev. Francis Gervais, an Anglican clergyman, purchased the land from Sir George Savile’s descendants in 1811 and managed it until his death in 1849.  His descendants managed it until 1911 when it was sold to the tenants.  Reverend Gervais was dislikes by many in the area for:
    • Evicting tenants.  Tenants on small parcels were often evicted by their landlords, because Irish law required the taxes on parcels less than 5 acres be paid by the Landlord.  This may have been a contributing factor in Hugh McKenna moving to Belfast.  
    • Forcing Catholic children to convert to the Church of Ireland.  He and his wife ran a school in Beltany, very close to Hugh’s home.  His wife would take soup made of beef broth to the school on Fridays.  Since Catholic children could not eat beef on Friday’s they would often refuse the soup.  Mrs. Gervais threatened to expel them from the school if they didn’t eat the soup.  This could have been why Hugh McKenna’s family belonged to the Church of Ireland in 1852 in Belfast.
  • McKenna families lived in Beltany, Dunbiggan, Tamlaght, Tullanafoile and Kilnaherry
    • We also found the history of the Clogher Cathedral Graveyard – this is a history of the graveyard connected to St. McCartin’s Cathedral in Clogher, County Tyrone. This is likely where that you McKenna family attended church prior to moving to Belfast. This is one of the oldest graveyards in Ireland. About 500,000 people are estimated to be buried there. Only 500 to 600 headstones exist and inscriptions from them are included in this book. Of particular note are:
        • Inscriptions from 9 McKennas are included in the book. The earliest was Patrick McKenna who died in 1711 at the age of 70 years. This indicates the McKennas may have lived in the Clogher area for at least 150 years prior to moving to Belfast
        • One of the footnotes reads:  “There were 57 families of McKenna in Clogher Parish in 1860, making them by far the most numerous name. This numerical strength is upheld to-day by the fact that nicknames are essential still to distinguish one from another. Trough was  their original territory, and their name was the second-strongest in the County of Monaghan. Their large estates were lost at the Plantation, mainly to the Anketell's, Moutray's and Singletons. One of their name, the Catholic historian, Canon James Edward McKenna, M.R.I.A., in his “Parishes of Clogher” gives some account of their lineage and ramifications. The Rev. John McKenna, who was P.P. at Clogher from 1885- 1895, was a noted scholar.”
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