Gibsons, Hanlons and Other Northern Irish Relatives

Mum's family come, largely, from the South Armagh area of Northern Ireland. For various reasons I cannot trace them back before the mid 19th century and it may be that I never will. Let me say thank you at the start to Robert Williamson in Dundonald, Colin LLoyd in Dublin and Gary Phillips in Chelmsford for their research and assistance on this side of the family. I also must thank Canon Michael Barton for his assistance with church records.

The first documented references are to Cullentra or Cullentrough. That is where a small farmer called George Gibson and his wife Mary  were living in the 1860s. George is included on Griffith's Valuation Roll book which shows the rent he paid per year and a map shows us where his house was (well, one of three joined together). George paid rent to John Allen for a house and garden. They attended St Mary's Church of Ireland at Drumbanagher and that is where the family were baptised, married and buried.

Unfortunately I do not know Mary's maiden surname. George died on 11th November 1896 in Poyntzpass at the age of 85, giving a birth around 1811. Mary had died on 10th January 1892 at Tullynacross. Her year of birth was apparently around 1815. George was described as a labourer on the certificate, which was registered by his son Robert (who could not write). Both died of chronic bronchitis.

The electoral roll for 1885/86 elections lists inhabitants for Poyntzpass and George Gibson was the inhabitant occupier of a house at Tullynacross. George was not a voter as he did not pass the £10 qualification mark.

George and Mary had 4 children that I have located. These were John (born 1847 and died 24th March 1938), Robert, William and Mary Jane. I know from church records that William married Jane Browne who was a servant at Acton House on 1st August 1877. Unfortunately I can find nothing else on the couple. Perhaps they emigrated. I know that Mary Jane married a George Canning on 5th December 1884 at Acton Church. Again, I have not been able to learn more.

To make things easier for the reader I have used the next column for information on Robert Gibson and his descendants and this column for information on John Gibson and his descendants. I have colour coded individuals within each column as well.


John Gibson's family

George and Mary's son John married Mary Jane Cochran or Cochrane or Coughran on 27th February 1863. The wedding certificate tells us the names of fathers but not mothers. Her father was a labourer named James Coughran from Ballydogherty in Loughgilly Parish. There are many Cochranes buried in the old churchyard there. Mary Jane was described as being of legal age but John as a minor. This is certainly compatible with him being born around 1847.

I was able to find the death certificates for Mary Jane's parents, so we know that her mother Mary died of chronic bronchitis aged 60 on 31st March 1881 at Mount Norris. The William James Cochrane who registered her death was probably a brother to Mary Jane.

Why was this boy of 16 marrying an only slightly older woman? Perhaps she was pregnant but if so there is no record of a child being born. John was to outlive his wife, with Mary Jane dying in September 1899.  Eight children were recorded as born to them:

1. Sarah Jane Gibson, born 10th January 1864 Cullentrough, Mullaghglass

2. Jemima Gibson, born 1865 Cullentrough, Mullaghglass

3. George Gibson, born 14th August 1867 Cullentrough, Mullaghglass

4. Elizabeth Gibson, born  20th  April 1869 Cullentrough, Mullaghglass

5. Samuel Robert Gibson, born 4th May 1871 Drumbanagher, Poyntzpass (died 1927)

6. John Gibson**, born 17th February 1873 Drumbanagher, Poyntzpass (died 16th December 1946)

7. Mary Violet Gibson, born 16th May 1875 Drumbanagher, Poyntzpass

8. Anna Dora Gibson, born 23rd September 1877 Drumbanagher, Poyntzpass (died 12th September 1974)

John was a coachman, possibly at Drumbanagher House given that Colonel Maxwell Close's family owned the property. Presumably he worked for Maxwell Close after the family moved house around 1869/71. He supplemented this income or replaced it with a role as sexton of the Church of Ireland. After his first wife died I believe John was left a reasonable sum of money, £175 which equates to £20,000 in 2016 money. I think that he used this money to buy some land; hence he became a farmer.

He also supplemented his income by working as church sexton (this is how he was described when son johnny married in 1896).

John's death certificate tells us that he died at the ripe old age of 96 on 24th March 1938 of senile decay. His second wife registered his death on 1st April. Presumably this was at his home at Drumbanagher, Poyntzpass. John was recorded as a farmer at this stage, though presumably he was no longer working on his own behalf.

John's will was proved at Belfast in 1939. The image is not available on PRONI but apparently he left everything to Henry Reside. This amounted to £199. Why Mr Reside received everything I do not know. Perhaps Johnny was in debt to him and this was an attempt at repayment.This is equivalent to  £9364.85 in 2016 money, so it was not a large sum.

John Gibson remarried, his second wife being Sarah Whiteside. She was much younger than him and bore two daughters to him, Marion Susannah (1901-1997) and Florence Mabel (born 1903). Marion married a teacher name William John Hanlon and they in turn had a daughter called Vivien Florence Hanlon. Florence Mabel Gibson married a Thomas Ayton and later a Joe Dempsey.

The Newry Reporter of 2nd March 1907 carried a report of a planning appeal by one of the John Gibsons to build a house on the ground of Robert Whiteside at Drumbanagher, William McEwan at Killybodagh or Thomas Agnew at Killybodagh. He said that he "had no house at present. He had a wife and three children. He wanted a good house."  John also said he would work for anyone for 7 shillings a week and his food. This implies that he was not the sexton. When the council discussed the issue it seemed that there were actually vacant houses in the area, with John claiming Thomas Agnew would not let him have one [this begs the question of why John wanted to build a house on his land]. John said he would pay 1 shilling a week rent for a house and half acre or 1 shilling sixpence for house and one acre.

​John's application was rejected.

The two Johns Gibson were paying rates in the 1920s, as shown on the Rate Valuation Books held at PRONI:  VAL/12/B/15/10A (1924 - 1929). One was listed at Drumbanagher, the other at Killybodagh.

John's second wife Sarah Jane Gibson died in August 1943. The Newsletter carried a death notice for her on 15th August 1943. These were printed on the front page. I wonder if this was to communicate with family members who had dispersed, eg to those now living in Belfast.

I have a lot of information on some of John Gibson's children but almost nothing on others.

Jemima moved to Rathdrum Parish in County Wicklow and was working at the vicarage there when she married a Dubliner named William Smith. William was a gardener. They married on 25th October 1887. Jemima must have become pregnant almost immediately (or it may have been a premature birth) as she had a baby girl on 28th July next year. This daughter was named Florence Violet Geraldine Smith.

Their next child was Sylvia Eveline Smith who was born on 27th December 1891. William  described himself as a coachman when he registered the birth. They had a son named Ernest Victor George Louis Smith on 17th August 1897 with William again saying he was a coachman.

By the time of the 1901 census he was a gardener and the family home was of stone or brick with a slate or tile roof. There were 5 rooms and one window at the front. This was house No 7 in Newcastle Upper (Newcastle Lower, Wicklow). The two girls were attending school.

In 1911 they were living at River Terrace, Bray. William was still working as a gardener and the girls were dressmakers. Ernest was at school. All the family could read and write. This house had 4 rooms.

Florence married from Waterside Cottage, Dargle Rd, Bray on 24th April 1916. Her husband was John Clarke Graham, a hardware merchant of Main Street in Roscrea. Sister Sylvia witnessed the marriage. Sylvia was a victim of influenza towards the end of WW1. Florence died of leukaemia on 22nd September 1939 in hospital. She was a widow by this stage, her home address being 80 Leinster Road, Rathmines. 

A population weakened by rationing was susceptible to this virulent illness which was to claim millions of lives. She died on 16th October 1918 at her home address.

Ernest went on to become a motor mechanic and married on 4th October 1924 to Margaret Peacock. He was living at Cappagh, Ballinode at the time. His wife came from Co Monaghan. Correction March 2019: Ernest served in the Royal Navy during WW1. He joined the navy on 16th July 1914 and served in the navy until October 1921, working his way up from "boy" to "able bodied seaman." He seems to have served on a variety of ships but from December 1915 until the end of the war he served on HMS Attentive II. Earlier he had served on HMS Lion from Feb 1915 until until the end of November 1917. 

The description given says he was 5 ft 6 ins tall, had a 34 inch chest, dark brown hair and brown eyes. He had a fresh complexion. Ernest had been working as a clerk before enlistment. Ernest was invalided at Plymouth in September 1921 because of epilepsy. Presumably this is why he was discharged. His service number was J32156. FOLD 3 apparently has papers relating to him for a price. 

Ernest was faced with difficulties on returning to civilian life: Ireland had just come through a bitter civil war and as an ex-serviceman he may have faced some hostility, though he had grown up around Rathdrum which had been home to the moderate Nationalist leader Charles Stewart Parnell. More of an issue, perhaps, was his medical state: Ernest may have struggled to retain his old job or find a new one and although he was likely to have received a pension this would not be enough to sustain him. 

The question became academic, however, as poor Ernest died of TB of the spine on 23rd June 1923 at his parents' home of 113 Main Street, Bray. His father registered the sad event. 

Mother Jemima seems to have died at Grangegorman Mental Asylum in April 1945.

Son George was doubtless named after his grandfather and was born on 14th August 1867, again at Cullentrough in Mullaghglass. The record number is U/1867/189/1023/2/408. George started Drumbanagher National School on 8th October 1877, a week after his brothers for some reason. He spent 188 days in Class 2, 169 in Class 3 and 175 days in Class 4. I have found no more about him.

Samuel Robert Gibson married Emma Higginbotham in June 1893. They had 8 children. These were Henry John Gibson, born in her home county of Tipperary in 1894, Anna Dora (1896-1922), Emma Mary Violet who was born in 1899 and Charles Victor, born around 1901. Catherine Florence was born in 1904 and Samuel Vandeloir Gibson, followed in 1906, though the spelling of this varies. In 1912 George Disney Higginbotham Gibson was born and last came Lydia in 1916. I would love someone to explain the origin of the middle names Victor, Vandeloir and Disney.

Catherine Florence emigrated to New Zealand in the late 1920s, travelling as a children's nurse, according to a document on Ancestry. My snipping tool is not working so I cannot show it here. She married a Polish man and they continued to live in New Zealand according to electoral rolls. More on this at a later date.

Samuel Robert was a coachman. His son Henry moved with the times and was a mechanic at the time of the 1911 census. I know that both parents died in 1927. Robert died on 28th January that year and Emma died of disease on 14th March.

The 1901 census extract below shows that Emma's mother was visiting at the time. The family were living in a house at The Mall, Armagh City. Charles Victor may not have been born yet.


The census for 1911 is below. It shows that relatives of Emma had come to visit.

Image from Ancestry. My thanks to Colin Lloyd in Dublin for this.                 .

Charles Victor Gibson joined the army and served in the Royal Marines band. After WW1 he joined the RIC. Some of his service record is available at Find My Past. He had a good record in the army but his police record was more mixed. This may reflect the very difficult circumstances the police found themselves in, with officers boycotted by many and in danger of assassination. A lot of police officers quit the force under these pressures whilst others responded by acting unprofessionally against suspects or by taking to drink. This latter seems to have been Charles's course as his police record showed one demerit for being absent from parade and two for being drunk.

He served in the police for less than two years. The general feeling of the RIC men was that they did not want to be a part of the new police force to be set up in the new Irish Free State and they were pensioned off. According to a recent history of the RIC many were encouraged to join the Palestine Gendarmerie and Charles appears to be one of these.

Whether he ever made it to Palestine I'm not sure. Perhaps documents will become available to make this more clear. I know that he married and then he and his wife and infant daughter emigrated from London to Australia. The picture below shows Charles Victor Gibson's son of the same name, born in Australia in 1932 (from Ancestry, my thanks to  JT178 ).

I know that George Disney Higginbotham Gibson married a woman named Ellen Violet Byrne in Dublin. He was a plumber. I have not found his death in either Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland and have not located any descendants yet. George and sister Lydia were living at Hume Street, just across from St Stephen's Green.

I understand that he died in Dublin in March 1997 and that Violet had died in May 1993. My thanks to Colin Lloyd for the photo of the couple on their wedding day, taken from Ancestry.

Here is the birth registration for Lydia. It shows that the family were now living at Mall View in Armagh and that father was working as a caretaker rather than a coachman now.

Lydia married a John Joseph Cahill in Dublin in March 1937. We can be sure that this is the right Lydia because the address is that of her brother when he married! The wedding was at a Roman Catholic church; this was a time when mixed religion marriages were frowned upon.


Emma Mary Violet Coe moved to England and married Alfred Frederick Coe in Tonbridge, Kent, early in 1925. He was 5 ft 6 ins tall and had brown hair and brown eyes. He served in the navy in 1916 on HMS President II and then seems to have transferred to the RAF on 31st March 1918.

Mary Violet married an older man named Robert Clifford who was a police constable. Robert went on to become a superintendent. Find My Past has some information on his police career. He had joined in December 1880 at the age of 18 and was posted to County Fermanagh. They married in September 1899 in Co Monaghan, probably in the Castleblayney area as that is where they lived on the 1901 and 1911 censuses. Home was the Alms Houses in Connsbury. Robert had 2 children to his first wife Sarah-  William James Clifford (born in 1895) and Mary Ann Elizabeth Clifford (born in 1898); Mary Violet and Robert had a daughter of their own, Violet, who was born in 1900.

I know that Robert held a medal from the Royal Society for the Protection of Life from Fire and that he died in May 1915 at the age of 53. Son William died in 1921 but I have not been able to find out how.

Below: the Cliffords on the 1911 census.

William Clifford joined the army but I have not been able to find out which branch or regiment. He died aged only 25, on 1st May 1921. This was a very dangerous time for young men in Ireland, including those with connections to the police and army even if they were now in the past. Having been able to view his death certificate (Dec 2017) it shows that his death was not Troubles related after all. William was described as a "chemist and ex-soldier" on the certificate, which said he had died after suffering peritonitis for 9 days.

Anna Dora Gibson attended Drumbanagher National School, which she left in June 1892. She left Ireland and married a man named Robert Fawcett in Clampton in Lancashire. This was on 30th March 1902. The previous year's census saw her living at 5 Christchurch Rd, Birkenhead. She was a general domestic assistant. Robert was a railway platelayer. The 1911 census and information from Gary Phillips in Chelmsford has given detail to their family.

They were to have many children. Anna's eldest child was Thomas, who apparently had been born in Co Armagh in 1898. As a woman born in Ireland, Anna was eligible to sign the female form of the Solemn League and Covenant which opposed Home Rule for Ireland. Her name is not found on the record, however.

The picture below, from Gary Phillips, shows Anna Dora in later life.

The picture below shows the Fawcetts on the 1911 census:

Young Tom applied to join the army when WW1 broke out. He was rejected on medical grounds in May 1915 but Gary Phillips has told me that Tom actually then went to a different recruitment office and was accepted into the Royal Field Artillery, where he became a driver (service no 677018). My thanks to Gary for the photo below of him in uniform:

The letter below shows the recommendation to discharge Tom Fawcett on medical grounds (from Ancestry).

Tom was a dairyman in the city of Liverpool before the war and because he was familiar with working with horses he had an aptitude as a driver in the Royal Field Artillery. While on leave during the war Tom met a young woman named Florence who lived near Chelmsford. After the war he married her and settled to work on a farm near Chelmsford. Their descendants still live in the area today.


Anna and her husband remained in Liverpool and were still living at 44 Exley St in Liverpool when WW2 broke out as they are shown there on the 1939 register. This was a register taken in order to help the government plan for the coming war and was used for organising ration books. The information is available on Find My Past but is rather expensive and information on people who would still be under 100 years of age today is redacted unless proof can be given that someone is dead. Nonetheless it is a very useful resource (the Scottish government has no plans to release the Scottish records and the Northern Irish government has none but information is available in response to a Freedom Of Information request. I have tried this and had no response for my mother's family).


Dora Josephine was born in West Derby, Liverpool on 17th May 1903. Ancestry indicates that she married a man named Hughes and died in February 1996 in Liverpool.This has been confirmed to me by Gary Phillips (verbal, November 2016). She was known as Dot.

Florence was Florence Mary Fawcett, born 24th August 1907 and who died in August 1995 at Wallasey, Merseyside.

Richard John was only 6 months old when the 1911 census was taken. Richard died in 2010.

I am still adding to this page!

In the meantime, if you are related to the Gibsons or Hanlons of Drumbanagher Acton Poyntzpass Demoan Aghantaraghan or the Browns and Smiths of Bessbrook in Co Armagh and the Browns of the Lower Newtownards Road in Belfast or McLoughlins of Mullaghglass please do get in touch!

Local newspapers can add a lot of flavour to family tree information. Find My Past has access to the British Newspaper Library resources and I am endebted to it for snippets added on this page. The Newry Reporter is available- for a limited number of years, unfortunately- and adds information about church and school events. Even accounts of funerals are of use to genealogists, eg the funeral reported on 29th February 1908 of Mrs McMurray listed mourners. Among those present were Robert Gibson, Thomas Mooney, Arthur Moody, John Gibson, Robert Gibson junior.

The funeral of Sarah McComb was reported on 28th December 1908. She was a neighbour, presumably, of some of our relatives. What is important to us is that the newspaper gave a list of mourners.

Named are William Hanlon, Edward Hanlon, John Hanlon, John Gibson, John Gibson jun. 


Loughgilly Parish Church, Co Armagh (own photo)


Drumbanagher House at Drumbanagher, home to the Maxwell Close family who were buried at St Mary's church there. Sadly, the house no longer exists.

Below: the view south from St Mary's Church of Ireland at Drumbanagher:

Family of Robert Gibson

George Gibson's son Robert married Mary Jane Cairns on 2nd April 1868 at Acton Church of Ireland. At the time he was living at Corcrum and she lived at Ballinaleck. He was a weaver. They had 6 children that I have found using births, deaths and marriages.

1. George Alexander Gibson, born 11 January 1869 at  Rathconville, Newry

2. William John Gibson, born 8th October 1872 at Rathconville, Newry

3. Mary Jane Gibson (Minnie), born February 1878 at Rathconnell, Loughgilly

4. Annie Gibson, born 6th March 1883 in Poyntzpass, Armagh

5. Charles Frederick, born December 1887

6. Robert James Gibson, born around 1876

7. Agnes Gibson, born around 1874

I know that George Alexander died young, on 11th July 1887 at Brannock, Poyntzpass and that William John died in January 1963.

The 1901 census shows the family headed by 52 year old labourer Robert Gibson (who could not read or write) living in Poyntzpass in 1901. His wife was Mary Jane, who was 53 and could read and write. Both were from Co Armagh. Living with them were children Agnes (27, an unmarried lady's maid), Robert James (25, a postman), daughters Minnie and Annie (19 and 16, both clerks in the Post Office) and son Fredrick Chas (sic) who was a 13 year old schoolboy.

By the time of the next census in 1911 the couple lived alone. I am sure this is the same couple, though there is a discrepancy over the ages on this as they are said to be 68 and 69.

There were 4 rooms in the house, which was a second class dwelling. The walls were stone or brick and the roof of slate or tile.

Their son Robert, however, was still in the village, along with his wife Mary Hanlon and was still the postman. Their marriage had taken place at Drumbanagher on 1st June 1910, so the couple had been married less than a year. Robert's father, Robert senior, was recorded as sexton at the time of the wedding.

A married Robert Gibson died on the last day of 1943 at Poyntzpass and was buried 2 days later. His occupation was given as postman and he died of "exhaustion due to cancer of the tongue" (Reference D/1944/194/1023/6/369). The informant was his nephew Thomas Gibson of Killybodagh who was present at the death.

The Newsletter of 1st January 1944 carried his death notice, describing him as Robert James Gibson, thus we can confirm that this is Robert James, born 1875, dearly loved husband of Mary. The house was private.

The Newsletter of 31st July 1917 carried the story of a cycling accident involving Mr R Gibson and Mr Joseph Robertson on the Sunday afternoon near Poyntzpass, at the corner of the Newry and Demone roads. 

Below is a photo of the old Post Office at Poyntzpass, with a letter box outside. The PO moved twice after this before closing.

I have not been able to trace Agnes's wedding through the parish records or  the 1911 census. She may have moved further afield.The same goes for Annie and Frederick Charles.

Frederick Charles is recorded as Charles Frederick at baptism. He was born 6th December 1887 and baptised on 1st April 1888. Annie was born on 6th March 1883 and baptised on 3rd June 1883. There is a Charles Frederick Gibson who married in 1905 in Belfast.

The birth and baptism of a Mary Jane is also recorded. Mary Jane was born in February 1878 and baptised on 7th August 1881. She is absent from the family home on the 1901 census when she would have been 23 years old. She may have been dead, living and working elsewhere or married. There is a burial record of a Mary Gibson on 12th October 1944 at Drumbanagher, aged 66. This would be compatible with Mary Jane but is not conclusive. There is no will record to help us, either.

Mary Jane was known as Minnie. She married a Robert Moody at Acton Parish Church on 21st April 1909 (M1909/Q1/82/2/21). Robert was in the army at this time and his papers are to be found at Ancestry. Robert had joined up aged 18 in Belfast in May 1902. His mother lived at Montclone, Scarva. Robert joined the 10th Royal Kent Fusliers. He received a mounted infantry certificate in 1904. Robert was 5ft 5 and 3/4 inches tall and weighed 115 pounds. His chest measured 32 inches, 34 when expanded. His health was described as good.

He was of fresh complexion, blue eyed and brown haired. Robert had a scar on his right knee. Robert's regimental number was 7520 in the Royal Irish Fusiliers. In September 1902 he was admitted to hospital in Dublin for 18 days with tonsilitis.

The Newry Reporter of 24th April 1909 carried a report of the wedding. It referred to her role as a relief clerk at the Post Office for many years, "in which position she was highly respected." She was also said to be an esteemed member of the choir. The choir gave a "beautiful" present but this was not elaborated upon.

This explains her absence from home in 1911, then. Robert and Minnie had emigrated to Canada and in 1911 were boarders at no 18, Cobourg, Northumberland West, Ontario. Both were clerks in a Post Office and they had worked 60 hrs per week with no unemployment in the previous year. Both could read and write, neither had life insurance. The 1916 census informs us that they emigrated in 1910. By now they were living in NE Calgary. It can be hard to make sense of house number, family number, range etc on these census forms and I am stumped by it. With the couple was Robert's brother. They were now Canadian. Minnie was a housewife and Robert was a clerk in a supply house. Brother Charles was a soldier.

Robert was discharged from the army in Canada in May 1914. I would have thought he would be recalled when the war broke out, especially as he was of very good character. He seems to have rejoined in September 1915, giving his address as 650 9th Avenue, NE Calgary. He was now almost 34 years of age. He was then discharged at Halifax on 17th August 1916. He was said no longer to be physically fit. His character was described as good but then it adds "as far as is known."

By this time Robert had a tattoo on his right forearm, a red cross with flag. Whether this was in the English or the Irish style is not stated.

On the 1921 census the couple lived at 620 9th NE Calgary. There is a slight discrepancy in that they said they emigrated in 1909 rather than 1910. Robert worked as a warehouseman, earning $880. He had been umemployed on June 1st 1921 and was unemployed for 16 weeks.

The Moodies returned from Canada to Northern Ireland after the war and Robert became a farmer. His will tells us he lived at Loughadian, Co Down and had died on 3rd June 1939. He left effects of £131-15-0 to Minnie (£6975 in 2016 money). She died on 26th February 1966 (D/1966/85/1007/21/460).

George Alexander Gibson was born on 11th January 1869 at Rathconville, Newry (U1869/194/1023/2/340). His death was registered by father Robert who left a mark on the page. He was a weaver at the time. I understand that George died around 1887 but have not seen this myself yet.

William John Gibson married a Marjorie Whiteside at Acton Church. William was a railway guard, though when they married in 1893 he was described as a railway porter. At the time of the 1901 census Marjorie was living with her parents at their home in Lisduff, in the Newry area. She was described as being a dressmaker. In 1911 she was living in Poyntzpass with a boarder. Again, she was a dressmaker.

It is hard to identify William John on the 1901 census- certainly there is no William John Gibson working in the railway service from Co Armagh; there IS a John Gibson, aged 25, boarding at a house in Holywood Co Down who said he was from Co Armagh and an unmarried agricultural labourer. The same man seems to have been a farm servant in Carrowreagh near Dundonald in 1911. In 1911 there was also a William Gibson working as a railway guard living at Garvaghy Rd in Portadown, but he was a Presbyterian and living with him was his wife Ellen.

William was lucky to still be around in any case as he had evaded death in a railway accident, reported on 1st August 1908 in the Newry Reporter. Railway waggons had run away and Guard Gibson had to jump from the guard's van to safety at the station at  Goraghwood. He was said to be making a good recovery. 

​The Newry Reporter of 11th June 1910 carried a report regarding her late father's will, which apparently had been lost, with Marjorie agreeing with her brother's account of the contents.

Marjorie died in December 1919 at her home at 138 Fitzroy Avenue in South Belfast.

Agnes Gibson married a coachman named John Babe or Bebe on 3rd June 1904 in Tandragee, Co Armagh. Both lived there. They had two sons named Ernest and Charles. Ernest was born in Poyntzpass on 16th July 1904. Charles was born on 22 March 1906. They were living at Drumnaleg, Tandragee at the time.

The Sinton Family webpage includes a list of 8 Babe family members buried at Mullavilly Parish Church, Tandragee.  

The couple were living at House 2, Drumnaleg, Tandragee at the time of the 1911 census with their sons. Agnes died on 8th June 1959, it seems (D/1959/85/1007/6/394). Her address was 132 Donnybrook St off the Lisburn Rd in Belfast. Agnes was a widow and it seems that she had no living descendants as her effects were left to her sister Mary Moody, who was herself a widow. Agnes left £1907-15-0. This equates to £31,000  in 2016 money.

John Gibson's Family **

I will present the information I have on John Gibson's family here, rather than imbalancing the 3 columns even more.

John was born to John Gibson and Mary Jane Coughran in 1873 in Drumbanagher. PRONI holds some information on his schooling at Drumbanagher NS. He started school on 1st October 1877 and left on 11th August 1888. I know from my uncle Desi Gibson that he was known as Johnny. Johnny could write but his signature on the wedding certificate is very large.

Below: birth record of Johnny Gibson in 1873.


Johnny was a labourer and he married at a very young age in February 1893, to Harriet Hanlon. He was a father before the age of 20. Harriet was many years older than him and already had a daughter named Emily. The picture below from Richard Gibson shows Johnny later in life.

The census for 1901 shows Johnny with his family. With him and Harriet were her daughter Emily, born around 1884 and thus only 12 years younger than Johnny. They had 3 children of their own, John (Jack), Jessie and Violet. I know remarkably little about Johnny, in part because I failed to ask people who may have known him or known of him until it was almost too late. Perhaps someone reading this is descended from one of Johnny's daughters and can tell me more.


I also have the 1911 census information. It shows that Emily went on to have her own children, Mabel and Bertie.

The picture below shows Harriet Hanlon somewhat later in life:

Robert Williamson was able to find ration book information on Johnny from WW2, shown below. It shows that he and Harriet were still living in Demone with Harriet's daughter and a William Gibson. Note that payment was cancelled from 31st December 1946 when he died and her's from May 1943.

Johnny and Harriet were typical of most Northern Irish Protestants at that time in that they both signed the Solemn League and Covenant in September 1912 opposing Home Rule for Ireland, their address given as Demone.

Their eldest child was John, known as Jack. Jack was born before the wedding day as his birth date is given as 27th March 1892. He was baptised privately by the rector of Drumbanagher parish on 22nd May 1892. Whether this was to avoid wagging tongues or because of illness we cannot know but the former seems more likely. Finding his birth proved difficult but I was eventually able to locate him under the name Hanlon.

The registration is very useful indeed, showing that he was born at Killybodagh, ie Harriet's parent's home. The registration proved much more useful in another way as Harriet did not register it and Johnny didn't either (nor is he named as the father) - her mother (who could not write) did so.

This is brilliant for us because Harriet's birth record has not been found despite the efforts of several of us over many years. Thus we can now say for sure that her mother was named Catherine.


Johnny and Harriet's daughter Jessie was Jessie Georgina. She was born in 1895 and married a man named Fred Wilson, according to Robert Williamson who supplied the picture below. Jessie was mentioned as singing 3 songs at Drumbanagher NS (20th July 1909, Newry Reporter) at a "most enjoyable entertainment" in aid of school repairs.


I know that Violet was Violet Mary Elizabeth Gibson. She married William Magill and lived in Banbridge. Mum had a newspaper cutting in a scrapbook about him and I knew was a WW1 veteran. He was one of those 40% of veterans for whom military files survive relatively intact. Readers of the pages about my Scottish forebears will be familiar with this story of loss of information about my grandfather.

Violet was mentioned in the Newry Reporter for being given a prize for achieving 3rd Standard. Major Close presented the prizes. This was reported on 11th January 1908.

I have a lot of information about William Magill and will add some of it here.

Emily's Family. Emily was baptised as Marion Emily in September 1883 and attended Drumbanagher NS from July 1890 until April 1895, suggesting the need for her to bring income to the family and possibly that she was not regarded as a scholar. She had several children. Her eldest child was Mabel Daisy Harvey, born in March 1903 and who attended school from July 1907 until June 1918. Then came William Hanlon (known as Bertie), who was born in February 1909 and died in 1988. His address was Corcrum, Poyntzpass at the time. He attended school from May 1914.

The third child was Stanley or Thomas and he was a huntsman. He was born in January 1912 and started school in April 1914. The last child was Gwyneth who was born around 1927. My mother recalled being taken to visit relatives when she was young (if only I had thought to ask questions like, how did you get there, who was living there, what was the house like?) and Gwyneth was there, an unexplained older girl.

I know that Stanley/Thomas had sons and their relatives still live in the area. My thanks to Robert Williamson who has shown me a picture of Bertie which I hope to be able to post soon.

The Hanlons

In as much as I ever asked Mum about her family  as I grew up I would hear mention of the Gibsons being from the Poyntzpass direction and the Hanlons being from down there too. She would add that originally the Hanlons were O'Hanlons and were Roman Catholic but were so well treated by their Protestant neighbours that they changed their religion and dropped the "O." The problem with stories like this is that they are not time-related in any way so there is no way of really checking the information.

Certainly Hanlon is an Irish name and there can be little doubt that they were originally O'Hanlon indeed. The O'Hanlons were a famous and numerous family in the South Armagh area. But we don't know if the name and religion change was around the time of the famous Redmond O'Hanlon  or induced by the Williamite Settlement and Penal Laws or around the time of the Famine.'Hanlon_(outlaw) will tell you more about Redmond O'Hanlon.

Harriet Hanlon's parents were Catherine (maiden name unknown) and John. Harriet was present at their Aughantaraghan home when each died and she registered their deaths. Father John died of senile decay at the age of 81 on 24th January 1896. Her mother died of chronic bronchitis on 11th February 1900, presumably in the same house. She was 82. Both were described as labourers.

There are many Hanlons in the South Armagh area in the official and church documents and it is quite difficult to disentangle them at times but it is certainly helpful that we can now be sure of the names of both Harriet's parents. Several Hanlons married several Gibsons.

When was Harriet born?

Harriet's birth record is not to be found (though I suppose it is possible that she was baptised under her mother's name). Another possibility is that no Christian name was given to her when registered- I found an example of this with a more recent relative. The obvious starting point for me was that she was the Harriet Jane Hanlon born in April 1874 to John Hanlon and his wife Elizabeth. That would make her around the same age as Johnny and I'd have her tree tied up nicely too. Sadly, it is not as straightforward as that. The Harriet born in 1874 can be seen on the 1901 and 1911 censuses living with her parents, she signed the Solemn League and Covenant in 1912 with her maiden name and was buried under that name in 1955.

PRONI holds school information and I examined that for Drumbanagher  in detail many years ago at a time when there was little easily accessible information. The point is that I found Harriet Jane Hanlon on the school register. She started school on 25th November 1864 apparently at the age of 6. This would place her birth around 1858. Her religion was Established Church and her father a labourer, living at Drumbanagher. Harriet left school on 10th July 1875.

The ration book information shown above appears to show Harriet as being born on 12th January 1860. This is compatible with her death certificate which suggests that she was 80 when she died in 1945.

According to the 1901 census Harriet was 35, which would place her birth around 1865. Interestingly by the time of the 1911 census she admitted to 51, placing her birth around 1860. This is compatible with the birthdate she claimed for herself when the Register was taken in 1939. It seems likely that she had lied to Johnny when they were courting and when they married. It was obvious that she was older than him but the exact difference in age she was unwilling to disclose even when they had been married many years.

I have searched the Roman Catholic baptism registers for the local parishes of Killevy Upper, Killevy Lower and Creggan for 1860 but not found any trace of Harriet having been baptised at these places. Robert Williamson has suggested that Harriet could have been adopted informally by the people we think are her parents, perhaps on behalf of a close family member.

I cannot tie Harriet in to the "main" family of Hanlons in the area but am certain that she was related because a girl born in 1874 was given her name and Harriet registered the birth of one of these children. Harriet could not be a sister of the John Hanlon below as she registered the deaths of both her parents in the 1890s. This larger, better documented, branch intermarried with the Gibsons at various stages.

This second branch was started by John Hanlon and Elizabeth Anne (Betty) Thompson. They married at Newry Registry Office in February 1866. John was a farm labourer in Killybodagh and she was also living there. The Hanlons were to have 9 children, I believe. These were:

1. William John Hanlon, b 1868

2. Kathleen Elizabeth Hanlon, 1869 - 1956

3. James Hanlon, b 1873

4. Harriet Jane Hanlon, b 1874

5. Thomas Hanlon, b 1876

6. Esther Hanlon, b 1878

7. Mary Hanlon, b 1878

8. Hugh Hanlon, 1881 - 1929

9. Annie Hanlon, born 1867?

Elizabeth and Harriet did not marry. Thomas was a coachman. He married Matilda Field from County Londonderry and they moved to the Ballyedmond area of Co Down. On the 1901 census they had 2 children, Alice and Charles.

Hugh Hanlon and his wife Mary did not remain in the Killybodagh area. Hugh was an engine driver. They had children in Portadown.


Emily Hanlon was the daughter of Harriet Jane Hanlon. Emily's name is mentioned in the Belfast Telegraph of 5th September 1940 on a page listing people who had collected money or contributed money to the Telegraph Spitfire Fund. E Hanlon of Drumbanagher is listed along with Bertie Gibson of Demone who contributed 2 shillings.

                                                     The Whitesides


Annie Hanlon's birth registration could not be located. She married William Whiteside in December 1890. He was a farmer and a mason. The Whiteside family can be seen on the 1901 and 1911 censuses. Annie's age as stated suggests she was born around 1866/67. They lived at House 8, Drumbanagher on the 1901 census. An Annabelle Hanlon is recorded in the school register which could be her.


Smiths and Browns and Hunters

Probably the two most common English surnames meet in our family and prove quite difficult to find firm details on. Part of the problem was inaccessibility of resources until recently and part was illiteracy.

John Gibson, born in 1892, married Christina Brown who was born in November 1900 at 44 Wolff Street at the bottom of the Newtownards Road. John (Jack) was living in Dunmurry at the time, probably as a boarder. Even knowing where my granny was born a few months before the census of 1901and knowing the names of her siblings from my mother it was hard to locate the family on the excellent free website for Irish census information, because I was searching for a common surname but most of the Christian names I entered did not lead to the right people because they were spelt wrongly on the census entry!

Christina was the eldest of five living children born to Mary Ann Smith and a man (or two men) named Brown. Christina may never have known that another child had been born before her as a Sarah Jane Brown had been born in May 1898 and died a few days before her first birthday. 



The 1901 census shows that they were boarding with a Mrs Carson. It is interesting to see that they were Presbyterian as Mary Ann's parents had married at a Church of Ireland church. Her husband is named as James Brown and was a stone polisher from Co Armagh. Mary Ann was working as a linen warper. Note that they both were said to be able to speak Irish. The age given for Mary Ann was 31, ie born around 1870. She was admitting to being 4 years older than her husband but actually it was nearer to 6 as she was really born in 1868.

My mother had told me a strange tale of Mary Ann marrying two men and that she thought Christina was one of the later ones, to her second husband. As seen above this was not true as Christina was the eldest.

The next part of Mum's tale was that Mary Ann had married two brothers. I thought this could not be true as it was not lawful but actually a legal change in the early 1900s allowed this to happen and the 1911 census shows it very likely that Mary Ann and her children were actually living with her husband AND his brother. This is not definitely his brother but I suspect it to be so.

The third and strangest part of Mum's story was that both men were named James! Looking at the 1911 census again this shows that the two men of the house were James Robert and Samuel James Brown.

I wish she were alive so that I could show her what I have found and be able to tell her that she was right. I never appreciated when she was alive the extent of her knowledge.

She also told me that Samuel Brown came from Mullaghglass in South Armagh and that Mary Ann Smyth came from Bessbrook, which amounts to much the same area. Further, she said that Sam was a stone mason.

I don't know when the first husband died (or if he really had died) as I have not been able to identify his death and burial for sure, and I have not been able to find the marriage of Mary Ann to Samuel James Brown. I am pretty sure that it was aroiund or before 1921. A Samuel Brown was the tenant of a house known as The Ink Bottle near Holywood from 1922 until 1930. Family members have spoken about the family living at this house and Christina Brown had a son there in 1922 which makes it likely that her mother was living there too.

Mary and her second husband Samuel moved from The Ink Bottle around 1930 because a child in the family was sickly and a doctor had advised moving away from the seaside and up to higher ground. Thus the family moved to the Rocky Road at Gilnahirk.


The Brown children were:

Sarah Jane Brown, 1898-1899

Christina Brown, born 1900

Elizabeth Brown, born 1903

Mary Ann Brown, born 1904

Sarah Jane Brown, born 1907

Isabella Brown, born 1909

Elizabeth Brown was known as Lizzie. Lizzie was born at 21 Josephine Street in April 1903. Her full name was Margaret Elizabeth Harkness Brown. She started Bloomfield National School in April 1912 when she was living at 58 Humber Street. Her father was working as an oiler at this time. She was struck off the school register in October 1916 then readmitted a few weeks later until December when she finally left, presumably to start work. Lizzie married a man named Charlie Irvine in 1923 and they lived at 109 Ardgowan Street in East Belfast for many years. I gather that he served in the RAF in WW2. Charlie died at Ardowan Street in 1963. They had sons Frank and Charlie. Lizzie, however, died of TB in 1927 at or close to her mother's home, at Richmond Cottage near Holywood.

Charlie went on to marry Lizzie's sister Sarah Jane (known as Sadie) in 1929 at St Donard's Church. Sadie was living at 7 Connswater Street at the time. I'm told that Sadie was of a very religious nature. She died in 1987 and is buried with Charlie at Dundonald Cemetery. Sadie's mother Mary Ann is also buried there. Sadie had been born in 1907 at 17 Bangor Street in Belfast.

Charlie and Sadie had children of their own, John, Samuel James, Robert and Ruth.

Mary Ann Brown was known as May. She was born at 27 Saunders St off the Newtownards Rd in Belfast. The next door neighbour registered her birth.

Isabella was born at 39 Imperial Street. She was known as Bella. Bella married a man I was told was Maltese named Arthur Caines in May 1933. I have found that he was indeed born in Malta as his father was in the army out there. Caines was in the army during WW2. Bella died in 1968. I understand that the marriage had not been entirely successful from several relatives. This is borne out by a newspaper article in the Londonderry Sentinel of 14th January 1958. The headline read, "Belfast Man Told Wife, 'Next Time I'll Send You to the Morgue.'" This probably tells all that is needed of his assault on Bella, drunkenness and irresponsibility with money. Caines was sent to jail for 2 months.Caines died at an address in Knocknagoney in 1981 and is buried separately from his wife. They had children. 

Mary Ann Brown had been born as Mary Ann Smith in July 1868 in the Bessbrook area. I had difficulty finding this out because when she died in January 1945 her age was given as 65, ie born around 1880. When I spoke to an aunt lately she cast doubt on this age, thinking she was 75. I used a Freedom of Information request to PRONI to see the details of who was at House 9, Rocky Road, Gilnahirk in September 1939. Most of the names and dates of birth were redacted  as they related to people born less than 100 years ago (I could apply to see several of these by sending photos of the gravestones, it seems) but the key one was Mary Ann. as it showed me her true birthdate.

Having found her birth in 1868 I went on to find her parents' wedding the year before in the Bessbrook area. Her father was Robert Smith and her mother Sarah Jane Hunter (my mother had told me the family came from Bessbrook and that the name Hunter featured in the family). I have not found other children born to them in that area.

The house below is where Mary Ann Brown lived with her daughter Christina, son in law John Gibson and their children. Her second husband Samuel James Brown died here in May 1935. Several members of the family remember her as being distraught at his untimely death, crying something along the lines of "Oh Sam, what will I do without you?"

A late uncle, Desi Gibson,  explained to me that Sam had lately started a new job at the Harland and Wolff Shipyard in Belfast. He was eager to make friends and fit in so he went along with a group of new colleagues to a football match one Saturday afternoon. It was a wet day and he got soaked. Sam developed pneumonia and died as a result. My uncle said that the shipyard were very good about paying his pension to Mary Ann even though he had only worked for them a short time.

Sam was buried at Dundonald Cemetery in an unmarked grave but a very helpful member of staff (this was before the database was accessible online) helped me to locate the grave and name the other occupants of it.

The unmarked grave is at E3 706, Dundonald Cemetery; it is around the highest point of the graveyard. Buried there are Eliza Brown, aged 63, buried on 29th March 1908, John Brown aged 1 and a half, buried on 9th April 1912, another John Brown who was 76 when he died on 25th January 1928. The fourth occupant is Samuel James Brown himself, who was 58 when he was buried on 21st March 1935.

Now, the ages may prove to be accurate or they may be as reliable as Mary Ann's when her death was registered. The easy way of reading this data is to say that Sam was buried with his parents. As to the young boy, perhaps that was a brother to Christina and the other girls.

Knowing the family lived on the lower Newtownards Road and were Church of Ireland members I asked for help from the local Church of Ireland rector but was disappointed to receive none. 

My thanks to Marie Houston for providing long-protected newspaper snippets and other information on various relatives. Looking at a couple of prescription slips it seems that Mary Ann may have been treated for convulsions in the last year or two of her life.


I used www.geni.nidirect to search for this John Brown who died in 1928 and established that this was indeed "our" John Brown, the father of Martha, Elizabeth, William, Robert, James and Samuel.  John had been living at 30 Tamar Street off the Newtownards Road at the time of his death. He was a widower and living with his son in law, John Watson. This means that John had a daughter but gives us little idea of when she married John Watson. Street Directories show that this was John Watson's home and had been since around 1920.

James Brown and Mary Ann Smyth were living at Douglas Street in 1911. Douglas Street was off the Beersbridge Road. Belfast historian and writer Joe Baker has written an account (Old Belfast 15) of how 3 young children named Larkin from that street died in August that year. They were playing in the street when a ship's distress rocket exploded, causing the whole street to shake and smashing windows. The police constable investigating thought the rocket had been stolen from the deck of a ship named the Calorie, moored at Hamilton Dock during a strike. A witness reported that the children had been bent over the rocket on the pavement trying to open it with a hammer.

The map here shows George Gibson's holding (from Griffith's valuation). His house and garden were at 17a in the lower left area.

A map of the Drumbanagher area from around 1860 which may be around the time the Gibsons came to the area as the name cannot be found before then in the church records.


The OS map section above shows Richmond Lodge, where Lizzie Brown died in 1927. The lodge may be the house otherwise known as The Ink Bottle where her mother Mary Ann Smith and second husband Samuel Brown lived in the 1920s.

I know that Samuel James Brown was buried in a specific grave at Dundonald Cemetery. In the same grave are Eliza Jane Brown and John Brown. With them is the young John Brown who died aged 1 and a half the week before the Titanic sank.

I could not find the birth registered of John Brown to James Robert Brown and Mary Ann Smyth. I then looked for his death and found that his father was named as Robert Brown of 58 Humber Street. Next I located his birth and found only one possibility- Robert Brown of Humber Street and his wife Mary Sands. Yet this boy was buried with Samuel Brown and his parents!

The solution was that there were more Brown brothers than I had realised, this being the child of one.

I conducted further searches and noted that there were several births of children recorded to Robert Brown and Mary Sands between 1904 and 1911. I did not recognise any of the names but the births were recorded in the Lower Newtownards Road area of East Belfast.

I also located Robert Brown and his wife Mary on the 1911 census, living with their children Elizabeth Jane, Eva, Robert, Agnes and of course little John. Robert Brown said he had been born in Bessbrook, Co Armagh. A daughter named Emily was born in 1914.

The Browns must have loved to recycle names in the same generation (James Robert, Samuel James and yet another Robert)!

The children of John Brown and Eliza McLoughlin were:

Martha Brown, 1871-1953. She married Thomas Deeney in Belfast and lived at 10 Bloomfield Street until her death. They had children Agnes and George.

John Brown, born 1873. I have found out no more about him.

Robert Brown, born 1874. Robert was a labourer in East Belfast. His children attended Bloomfield National School.

Samuel James Brown, born 1875.

Elizabeth Jane Brown, born 1877. She married John Watson in 1915. He was serving on HMS Prince at the time. After the war he became a fireman. They lived at 30 Tamar Street.

William Brown, born 1881. William was a blacksmith, living at 32 Foxglove Street in East Belfast between 1910 and 1932. His children attended Bloomfield National School.

James Robert Brown, born 1884.


I was able to find a marriage registered for Mary Sands and Robert Brown- unlike James Robert and Mary Ann Smyth or Mary Ann and Samuel Brown.

The children of Robert Brown and Mary Sands were:

Elizabeth Jane Brown, born  June 1904

Eva Brown, born March 1906

Robert Brown, born August 1907

Agnes Brown, born April 1909

John Brown, September 1910- April 1912

Emily Brown, born July 1914


William Brown was a blacksmith. He lived with his family at 32 Foxglove Street for at least 20 years. He married Sarah Martin and they had children:

John Brown, born 1908

Violet Brown, born 1910

Mary Ross Brown, born 1911

Eliza Jane Brown, born 1913

Sarah Brown, born 1915

The Northern Whig of 10th August 1916 carried a little snippet regarding this family, telling us that Sarah Martin's brother, Rifleman TW Martin had written from a prison camp in Germany to tell her that he was alive but injured and in enemy hands. He had previously lived with her, presumably at Foxglove Street. 


                                                         More Browns

Ironically, the one Brown I cannot find birth, marriage or death records for is James Robert Brown. Family tradition and his claims on the 1901 and 1911 census returns tell us that he was born around 1873/4, presumably in Mullaglass rather than Belfast. We know that he said he married around 1894 and we know the places he lived between 1900 and 1911. I have the impression, rightly or wrongly, from older relatives that he was not of the same nature as his brother Samuel James. Other than that I can find nothing about him.

Not finding his marriage or birth made researching his siblings harder but now I know that Eliza Jane McLoughlin and John Brown had several children after they married, though seemingly not for several years.

It's remarkable the things that surive and the things that don't by chance. My thanks to Marie Houston for some newspaper cuttings and other scraps which her mother had saved. These included two scripts for medicine for Mary Ann Brown. Decyphering the writing and then consulting Dr Google it seems that Mary suffered from seizures towards the end of her life.

Going Further Back

Expect this section to be updated over the next several days. In February 2017 I found the wedding of John Brown and Eliza Jane McLoughlin on 13th August 1863 at Mullabrack Church of Ireland. I am uncovering their story, including locating places on Griffith's Valuation.

This map shows where John Brown farmed in 1863. This was the grandfather of James Robert and Samuel James Brown, both of whom had a relationship with Mary Ann Smyth. My thanks to for their excellent support package for Griffith's Valuation. John held land at 1 below (shared with 2 others) and then more land at 2. 1 is just above the M in Moyrourkan, 2 is below it.