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Creating a Research Plan for John Moag

   Having discovered that I had a missing generation in my tree, I’ve spent the week trying to straighten out the family.  I have source documentation back to my great great grandfather, William Moag, and the name of William’s father from his marriage certificate is John.  The John I have him attached to is definitely wrong.  I’ve missed at least one and possibly two generations between this John and John and Mary Petticrew.  

   I have identified the question I’m trying to answer.

    Who are the parents of William S Moag, born abt 1823 in Down, Ireland?  I know that his father is John since that appears on his marriage certificate, but I don’t know his mother.  Also, who are William’s siblings?  Moag is not a particularly common surname which should be helpful.  I have been unable to find a baptismal record for William.  As I mentioned last week, the given names of the sons in the Moag family are repeated multiple times in each generation…they are John, William, Stewart, David and Samuel.   I decided to do a one name study to see what I could find for everyone of this name in Down and Antrim.  

   I began with the GRONI Civil Registration Indexes, which begin in 1864 for births and deaths and 1845 for Protestant marriages, which would include the Moag family.   You can only search five years at a time, but I went from the beginning to the end of each births, deaths, and marriages and copied the information into a spreadsheet.  The reason I used the GRONI index rather than FamilySearch is two-fold.  First, the birth indexes at GRONI back to 1864 give the mother’s maiden name.  Second, the marriage indexes give the name of the spouse. If you are searching for any birth or marriage records in Northern Ireland, use the GRONI indexes to get these important pieces of information. (Remember, Ireland wasn’t split until 1922 so the birth records are the same ones that are at the General Register Office in Dublin and indexed by FamilySearch.  The difference is the information captured in the index).  Births only go to 1914 (100 year law) so you can switch to FamilySearch for births between 1915 and 1921 when Ireland was partitioned.  Marriages go from 1845 to 1939 and deaths go from 1864 to 1964.  There were two additional names in 1817 and 1818 in FamilySearch.

   Next I checked the Irish Family History Foundation (IFHF) database.  This would primarily cover records prior to 1864.  You will sometimes find an overlap here with names listed as being either from Church records or Civil Records for the years after civil registration.  The earliest record I found was 1805 for a Sarah Moag.  The first William listed was in 1852…to late to be mine.  I copied the information for each of these records into my spreadsheet.  The other database I checked was the Ulster Historical Foundation database at Ancestry Ireland.  This is the company that created the database for Antrim and Down for IFHF.  What I found here was another interesting piece of information.  Their database added the name of the father (if recorded) to the baptismal records which does not appear in IFHF. I added that information to my spreadsheet and I now could begin to see family groups.  Between 1805 and 1827, I have ten children listed with the father, John, but no William around 1823.  Were these all the same John or multiple Johns?  I don’t know at this point because I have no mother’s names for these early records.  

   I have one additional source for early records and that is a printout of two pages from the 1st Boardmills Presbyterian Church.  I copied the pages (including the cover page) at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City back in the early 1990s when I began my search.  I have a copy of the cover page giving the call number as 941.65/K7, and it has a stamp stating it was microfilmed in 1970, film number 823750.  Since I don’t have time to order the film from Salt Lake prior to my trip, I tried to find the book in WorldCat to see if it was at another library either here or in Belfast, but came up with no hits.  

   Last week I said when you hit a brick wall, go back and read everything you already have in your files.  I have huge files on this family (William had 11 surviving children, 9 of whom emigrated to the US).  So I followed my own advise.   In the 1990s I found the largest group of Moags in the US were in Upstate New York and through an article I found in PERSI made contact with Imogene Moag, who was a family historian.  Her sister-in-law, Viola Pforter Moag had done extensive documentation on what was know as the Ancestor Wheel.  There is an active Moag Family Association which has reunions each year and I have received various pieces of information over the years.  In many cases I just quickly read and filed them.  There was no way in a week I could read all of them (I even have a 3.5” floppy disk with a GEDCOM and no way to read it)!  Copies of two letters caught my attention.  Both are addressed to “Dear Friend.”  One was written by James Moag, son of William and brother to my David, in 1931  and the second was written by his wife, Agnes.  Here is the transcription of the letter from James.

Genesee Co., NY
March 6 1931
Dear Friend

   Yours of late date received very grateful to you for
answering my letter.  I am 66 years old son of William S.
Moag who was a son of John Moag whose father is buried 
at Board Mills near Saintfield Co Down.  I think his name was
William am not shure.  Father had 2 brothers, John and David
and one Sister Margaret all dead years ago  uncle David
had one Son William John.  Father and Mother had 15
children.  I am the 8th my oldest brother John lives at 
Bangor, Co Down.  William Stewart died here.  David died
here.  Robert lives near Uniontown penn.  Alex died at 
Mount Plesant, PD [PA].  I am next  Joseph lives in Belfast, Ireland
3 Sisters. Annie McIntyre and Elizabeth [illegible] Kitchen
in Pittsburg.  Sarah died here the rest died young.
There was 2 families cousins of my Father, John and Alex
Moag lived near us when in Ireland.  John had 3 Sons
William S, James Henry and Alex lives there yet
Dr. James Henry died there.  William S last heard from
near Pittsburg.  Wife and I were in Ireland last year
July and August could not git much news as the erley
Records were destroyed at the time of the Royists
My namesake was James Moag who migrated to 
Smith Falls Ont. Canada.  Father said he was a school
Teacher but he must be Dead years ago as Father is
dead 50 years.  Our foreFather’s may have come from 
Germany but the name is French and according to
History quite a number of French prote Prostentants escaped
into Germany when persecuted in France.
   My Grandfather spelled his name Moak in his Will.
My son Alfred said he looked through Rochester
directory did not find any Moag but one Moak.
   The best road from Rochester here is West Ave
on R 33 to 63 through Pavilion
to first right hand turn we live 2nd House on 
West side of road.

   The second letter, written by Agnes, gives details of her family in Pavilion, New York.  The one hint found in the letter is the first line.  It also begins “Dear Friend,” but then states “Mr. William Moag a line or to in answer to your very welcome letter.”  It would appear then, that the recipient of the letter was a William Moag, and that he was from the Rochester, NY area (based on the directions given in James’ letter).  

   The letter is full of information.  I learned

William S. Moag who was a son of John Moag whose father is buried
at Board Mills near Saintfield Co Down.

   This confirms the connection to Boardmills.  The pages I have from the Boardmills transcription states that John Moag and Mary Petticrew had a son Stewart and daughter Margaret who were their 4th and 5th children.  Unfortunately the records for this parish don’t start until 1782 so it is unlikely that’ll I’ll find baptismal records for the earlier children.  It’s time to look at a map.  William was in the townland of Ballycrune in the parish of Annahilt.  So where is Saintfield?  According to the Alphabetical List of Townlands, Saintfield Town is in the parish of Saintfield, barony of Castlereagh Upper, Poor Law Union of Lisburn in County Down.  The two parishes are fairly close although not quite adjoining.  I also found a map online that showed the relationship of the townlands in Annahilt where the various Moags resided.  The Boardmills Presbyterian Church, however is in the parish of Killaney which is between Saintfield and Annahilt.1

Map of County Down

My Grandfather spelled his name Moak in his Will.

   I’ve seen this spelling, mostly in the US, but always discounted it as being a different family.  A search in IFHF turned up three additional children of John in 1814 and 1816 and a gravestone inscription in 1st Boardmills in the civil parish of Killaney,  in Carrickmaddyroe.  I didn’t find a will.

Father had 2 brothers, John and David and one Sister Margaret all dead years ago uncle David had one Son William John.

   The David fits with the one who married Ellen or Eleanor Lavery in 1850 and had a son, William John in 1852.   Margaret may be the one who married “Scott” on 18 Jul 1845 w/father John.  I can’t find a marriage for a John that would fit.  Perhaps he didn’t marry or he emigrated.  

There was 2 families cousins of my Father, John and Alex
Moag lived near us when in Ireland.  John had 3 Sons
William S, James Henry and Alex lives there yet
Dr. James Henry died there.  William S last heard from
near Pittsburg. 

   Another John!  This is likely the John (son of Stewart) who married McMaster and lived in Ballylintagh in the 1901 census.  There is also an Alexander, son of Stewart who married Blakeley in 1875 who lived in Ballymurphy in 1901.  Stewart appears to also have had daughters, Sarah who married McIlwain on 16 May 1846 and Mary who married Dunwoody on 13 Mary 1857. So, since John and Alexander  are identified as cousins, it would be likely that William S. also had an uncle, Stewart, the brother of his father, John.2


My namesake was James Moag who migrated to
Smith Falls Ont. Canada.  Father said he was a school
Teacher but he must be Dead years ago as Father is
dead 50 years. 

   There is a James Moag, born in Ireland, age 31 in the 1881 Census in Smith Falls, Lanark South who is a carpenter.  There is also a Stewart who is the teacher so there may have been some confusion.  I have not found any James in my spreadsheet who could have been this individual.  

   I have more documents to read and I have been writing a report as I go along, citing all of the sources for the information and noting what I need to follow up in Ireland.  Stay tuned!

   Happy Hunting!

1Mitchell, Brian, A New Genealogical Atlas of Ireland, (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1986), 43.

2Ros Davies' Co. Down, Northern Ireland Family History Research Site, Permission granted to reprint research for non-profit use only.

© Donna M. Moughty 2007- 2018