launch of ulster-scots surname map and history book

The Ulster-Scots Agency and the Ulster Historical Foundation have produced a surname map and pocket history about the Scots in Ulster. The publication was recently distributed at the Stone Mountains Scottish Highland Games in Atlanta and will appeal to the specialist or to those with a general interest in the 17th century Scottish Plantation and 18th century migration to America. For further information log on to


We take the view that it is good for people to stay close to where their ancestors came from.

We had people stay with at Tory Bush Cottages who discovered that their mother used a Right of Way across the fields in front of the Cottages to get from her home on Clonachullion hill to get to Tullaree School. They were shown stones that she must have placed her feet and hands on as she climbed a Stile out of a field, back on to the road and walk past the site of the cottages to the school on the hill to the West.

It is possible to see from Tory Bush the parallel lines of the ‘Lazy Beds’ of potato crops that where abandoned during the famine high up on Clonachullion Hill either after the family died out or emigrated, the land has not been tilled since. This Lazy Beds were anything but lazy as they were extremely hard work and were used on land that could not be worked by horse drawn implements either because too steep or too stony. A Lazy bed is created were the seed potatoes are laid on top of the ground, ‘the lazy bit’, and then about a foot wide of turf on either side of the line of seed potatoes was cut free and folded over the seed potatoes to give the ridges that can still be seen today. The potatoes would then grow up through the weed free ridges to form the potato plant and in the autumn the ridges could be unfolded to reveal a crop of new potatoes.

Obviously the people who created the ridges still visible today either emigrated or died out (possibly not the case in Co. Down as the landlords were quite good to their tenants) or just realised that because of the potato Blight that it was not worth going back to open the Beds as the potatoes were rotten because of the Blight.

The reason the Beds were so high up the hill and that they are visible on other hills in the area, such as Ballymagreeghan Hill is possibly for two reasons. Firstly it must be recalled that the population of Ireland was 8 million prior to the Famine and consequently every inch of workable land would have been used to sustain that population. The population declined to 4 million post famine and a lot less arable land was required given the higher reliance on imports and the bigger yields of land with modern tillage methods, fertilisers and pesticides.

But the main reason undoubtedly was that the farmers at that time thought that the blight disease of the potato crop was in the soil, so they thought that if they grew next years crop in new untouched land it would be disease free, hence the move to more and more inaccessible bits of workable land. They tried this for three years and each time the crop failed. Little did the farmers realise or indeed did anyone realise including the Landlords and the Government, that the disease was a fungus that was spread in the wind and rain. The disease could have been contained to an extend by burning the previous years potato plant stems sometime over the winter so that the fungus could not survive and produce spores to be spread next season, but this was many years before the Science of Plant Pathology.

We have created this Genealogy page on our Websites to direct people to other Websites that will assist them in their search for ancestors in the County Down area.

Irish Census

As of January 2009 it has been announced that the Irish Census for 1911 is now available online, it can be viewed at and click on 1911 Census under ‘What’s New’ on left of screen.

The good thing about these records is that they include a digital scan of the actual Census Form completed by the householder on the 2nd of April 1911, I have seen my Great-grandfather’s actual handwriting and the mistakes he made in completing the form.

Apparently as there is over a kilometre of shelving of these records they have only got round to scanning 4 Counties so far, Kerry, Dublin, Antrim and fortunately County Down.

Ireland was still one political unit then, Partition, i.e. the division of Ireland in to the Northern Ireland State and what was known as the ‘Free State’ in the South did not happen until the Government of Ireland Act 1920, hence these records are still held in Dublin. Some of the questions are interesting, including asking women total number of children born and then the number of children still alive ;which would in totality give a good indication of child and infant mortality. There is also a question asking is Irish spoken, which at the time, and even now, would permit a study of where there were still significant areas of Irish Spoken.

There is an area called Clonduff around the village of Hilltown which, apparently, had the last remaining native Irish Speakers in Co Down. This area has a very good local website which has lots of local information about the Mourne Mountains and this general area, click on ‘Places of Interest’, it explains what Boley means and why it is still commemorated in an annual fair.

Create your own family Tree.

The ‘WHICH MAGAZINE’, published by the Consumer Association in the UK, an independent consumer research and product comparison organisation, has rated a 12 Genealogy Research Software products and has come up with 3 ‘Best Buys’.

Top of the list with a score of 84% is Family Historian v3.1 and costing about 35 pounds.

‘WHICH’ says,

Family Historian is an easy-to-use program that has great features and produces the best-looking printed results. This is a solid package for creating and managing your family tree, but it won’t help with your research – although it does allow some access to records online.
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Second Best Buy with a score of 80% and only costing 10 pounds is Genes Reunited – Genes Reunited

‘WHICH’ says,

Genes Reunited is a great community-based website but it’ll cost you more to access official records. Creating your family tree using a genealogy website is a great starting point for those new to the subject and Best Buy Genes Reunited is free to use if you just want to access the basic features.

The third Best Buy with a score of 78% is RootsMagic v3 and costing about 50 pounds.

‘WHICH’ says,

RootsMagic is an intuitive software package with a wide range of features that makes getting started in creating a family tree easy.
When it comes to building and editing a family tree, RootsMagic is great. It comes with a trial to a genealogy website so you get access to online records as well as excellent features allowing you to build your tree and carry out research at the same time.

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Useful sites include, and etc.