English: The island of Ireland, showing intern...

The island of Ireland, showing international border between Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With My Aunt in It.

My father’s people were German and English.

My mother’s people were English and Scottish and Irish.

My uncle, my mother’s younger brother, who never knew his father, took on a life-long hobby of researching the family’s genealogy and history.

We are all in his debt.

But, the story of Ireland was mixed.

It seems our ancestor, Robert Notley, born in Manchester, England around 1720, was in the business of manufacturing linen.

His work took him to Scotland often and he married a Scottish woman, Catherine Smith.

As my grandmother explained, they were not Highlanders. They lived in Edinburgh.

So, they did not have one of those distinctive Scottish names that begin with “Mac.”

They were Presbyterians.

He also took many business trips to northern Ireland

When he was offered a free plantation in County Leitrim by the British Crown in the mid-1700s, in what is now north central Ireland, on the southern border of what is now Northern Ireland, he took it.

Great Britain had had a campaign to plant English settlers in Northern Ireland since the mid-1500s, and in County Leitrim since 1620.

Plantation lands were either confiscated from rebels fighting against the British or forfeited by Irish lords, in order to secure legal title to their remaining lands, which they had largely taken by force over the previous four hundred years.

My uncle’s recounting of the story says the Irish owners of the estate had been forced to move out.

Robert Notley named his new estate, Derrylaur, after his former home in Scotland.

He had seven children, the youngest, Francis, my ancestor, born in 1787 or 1788.

His second child and oldest daughter, Eliza, married an Irishman, Charles Flannigan.

She was burned alive in her home by her Irish neighbors.

Robert’s grandson, Francis, my ancestor, emigrated to the U.S. in 1850, settling in Vicksburg, Michigan, where he married another recent Irish immigrant.

This was in the middle of the Irish potato famine of 1845 to 1852, when a million people died and a million more left Ireland.

Although family lore says that during this time the British banned the export of textiles from Ireland, forcing our ancestor to leave, I could not find any record of this.

Ireland was a net exporter of food during the five-year famine.

Food and livestock continued to be exported to Great Britain and rents paid to absentee landlords while the Irish starved.

In an earlier famine in the 1700s, exports had been halted to feed the people who tilled the land, but not this time.

Jumping ahead to the early 1900s, my great-grandfather was contacted and offered ownership of the Notley estate, as the only surviving, bloodline Notley, on the condition that he return to Ireland and live there.

He declined.

It was eventually sold for taxes, but the new owners also stopped paying taxes.

There was a lien on the property when my uncle visited the house, still standing, still empty, in 1981.

He brought us back pieces of the slate roof.

The Plantation settlement policy, started in the 1550s, continued through the decision of Ireland to join the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in 1801.

With that vote, Catholics won back the right to vote, but could not serve in Parliament, adopt orphans, teach, inherit Protestant land or build churches of stone, only wood.

Ireland was partitioned into Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom, and the independent Republic of Ireland in 1920.

Although nationalists continued to fight for a united Ireland, separate from the United Kingdom, after 1920, the fight accelerated in 1969, in a nearly-30-year fight known as the Troubles between nationalists and unionists living in Northern Ireland.

In 1998, with the Belfast Agreement, nationalists agreed to stop trying to bring Northern Ireland into the Republic of Ireland and out of the United Kingdom, unless they voted for it themselves, peacefully.

Today, Ireland is split into Northern Ireland, largely Protestant and industrial, where most of the English settlers stayed, and the Republic of Ireland, largely Catholic and rural.

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day.


Carol Covin, Granny-Guru

Author, “Who Gets to Name Grandma? The Wisdom of Mothers and Grandmothers



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