Ireland Surname Research Project - Antrim / Armagh


Based on estimates from US Census data collected in 2000, there are about 17,100 people living in the U.S. who have the surname Ireland. This ranks it as the 2,342nd most common last name; it's unusual but not rare. Far more Americans, of course, have an ancestor named Ireland. If you're reading this, there's a good chance that you're one of them.

I can trace many of my other family lines back to the 1600s, but our Ireland-surname line gets very murky before 1800. For this reason, we're commissioning an Ireland-surname research project, perhaps by professional Ulster genealogist Bobby Forrest () at Forrest Research Services. Bobby has already provided an excellent report on our early McCool ancestors, so he may be the ideal researcher for us.

I've created this page to summarize what we know (and what we think we may know) about our Ulster Ireland-surname ancestors and relatives. Any time the term "Belfast" is used, it could mean "Belfast or surrounding area." Even specific dates and locations should be treated skeptically, as many of these are unsourced. Our researchers should understand that we are NOT asking them to research our family in America or Canada. The North America information is provided to help them verify information that they discover about our Ulster relatives.

Although we don't ask researchers to investigate or verify our North American relatives, several Ancestry trees may help them with their research:

Research Project Goals

Our primary goal is to learn everything we can about our early Ireland-surname relatives and their families in Ulster. However, we can break that into a number of specifics of what we hope to learn (in order of priority):

  1. Everything that can be found about my 4th-great-grandfather Robert Ireland Sr, his parents/ancestors, siblings, wife, his wife's family, and other relatives.
  2. We "know" that Robert is related to Wallace Ireland and Mary Ann Ireland (see below). But how are they related? Siblings? Close cousins? Other? Expand as much as possible. If Robert, Wallace, and Mary Ann aren't siblings, anything new about any of their families is helpful.
  3. Only one of Robert's children remained in Belfast: David James Ireland. Learn more about him and trace his line of descent to the extent possible. If the line shifts to America, tell me as much about who, when and where so I can track beyond that point. It would be interesting to learn about his wife, but that's a very low priority.

Four Ulster Ireland-surname Lines

Here's why we believe the four Antrim and Armagh area lines are related.

Y-DNA Confirmation on three lines

Our three male Ireland-surname lines are all y-DNA confirmed as being directly related, and members of an R1a subclade. No other known tested Ireland-surname men are R1a.

  • I've taken a y-111 and Big Y test on FTDNA, kit# B103907.
  • A descendant of Samuel Ireland has taken a y-111 test on FTDNA, kit# IN15962. His Big Y results are expected in early May 2018.
  • A descendant of Wallace Ireland has taken a y-25 test on FTDNA, kit# 20377. He has expressed a willingness to upgrade his test to at least some degree.

All three lines match at y-25 at a genetic distance (GD) of 0. The two y-111 kits also match at y-111 at GD 3. Until we have an upgrade of the Wallace Ireland descendant kit, it's impossible to determine if he matches one line closer than the other.

One caution to researchers: most Ireland-surname lines are R1b, including many in the Ulster area. This different haplogroup proves that they aren't related to us on their paternal line in the last 25,000+ years.

Mary Ann Ireland line

Robert Ireland Sr's second son, William, married Elizabeth Priestley, daughter of Samuel Priestley and Mary Ann Ireland. Our family record cites that William "married his cousin" Elizabeth. If that means first cousin, then Mary Ann is Robert's younger sister. However, cousin could have been used as a generic term for a number of close relationships - such as cousin-once-removed.

My father and two of his sisters match on AncestryDNA to at least one of Mary Ann Ireland's third great-granddaughters (who is not also a descendant of William). They could, of course, match on some other line - but this is at least a possible DNA connection between the two families.

We now know that at least three, and probably all four of the Ireland families are closely related, but we haven't identified their common ancestors. Here's a chart showing possible ways they may connected. Click on the image to zoom in:

Details about the four lines are presented below - as is a more detailed chart.

Robert Ireland Sr Line

Our early Robert Ireland Sr information is poorly sourced - when sourced at all. Details of what I think I know about Robert Ireland Sr are available in my Ancestry tree. Here's what may or may not be true:

Robert Sr was born in Belfast (could be the greater surrounding area) in or about 1765. We don't know the first or last name of his wife (high priority). Her surname may have been Eastburn. She died about 1816, probably in Belfast.

Robert and his wife had five sons and one daughter (details on each will follow):

  • Henry Ireland, born 1799 in Belfast. Married Rebecca, probably maiden name Young, perhaps born 1815 in Ireland. No children.
  • William B. Ireland, born 1802 in Belfast. Married his cousin, Elizabeth Priestley. One son and five daughters.
  • John Ireland, DOB unknown. Perhaps 1804 or 1810. No known wife or children. Reported to have been lost at sea. May have lived in OH in 1850, but that could be wrong.
  • Elizabeth Ireland, born 1805 in Ireland. Died 1831 in or near Tasmania. Reported to have been a missionary, but hard to know if that's correct. No known spouse or children.
  • David James Ireland, born 1807 in Belfast. Wife unknown. Had a son James, a daughter Sarah, and a son? name unknown.
  • My ancestor, Robert Ireland Jr, born Jan 1809 (1808?) in Belfast. Emigrated to America with his brother William in 1829. Married Sophia Elizabeth Morgan in Cincinnati. Seven sons; one daughter.

Our family lore states that Robert abandoned his wife and six young children in or about 1813 when he emigrated to America. We have no further information about him until he encountered his son, Robert Ireland Jr, on the streets of Cincinnati OH about 1846. Robert Sr. died in Cincinatti in 1848.

Henry Ireland - low priority

Although we have some gaps in our information about Henry, he and his wife figure prominently in our family history. However, because we believe that Henry didn't have children, information about him should be considered lowest priority. We don't know their path to NY, but Henry and his wife Rebecca Young appear to have been middle/upper middle class residents of Yonkers, NY, where he owned a print shop and book bindery. He died in 1859.

Some reports say that his wife's maiden name was Barry and that he died in 1863. However, our family record is very clear and very specific. The conflicting information could indicate that two different Henry Irelands lived in NY in an overlapping time period and confused casual researchers.

William B. Ireland - high priority

We know a great deal already about William. Our high priority is learning more about his mother-in-law, Mary Ann Ireland (see main section below), rather than William himself.

  • William B. Ireland was born in Belfast in 1802. He died in Aug 1864 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
  • He arrived in Baltimore with his younger brother Robert Jr in Dec 1829. His occupation was listed as bookbinder; our family records indicate that he was a tea merchant.
  • Our family record shows that William traveled to America with his brother Henry - who WAS a bookbinder. Perhaps all three traveled together, but Henry doesn't appear in the ship manifest with William and Robert Jr.
  • William "married his cousin" Elizabeth Priestley about 1830 in America.
  • Elizabeth was born on 26 Aug 1810 in Dublin. She's the daughter of Samuel Priestley, born 23 Nov 1781 in Woodhouse, Yorkshire, England and Mary Ann Ireland (see below).
  • William and Elizabeth had one son and five daughters, all born in America.
1850 US Census

The 1850 US Census shows that William and Elizabeth lived in Philadelphia in 1850 with their six children and Alexander Priestley (Elizabeth's 26yo brother), and 14yo Jane Campbell (relationship unknown).

John Ireland - low priority

Date of birth unknown. Our family record says that John was lost at sea. It's not stated if that was during an emigration from Ireland early in his life or if it happened some time later.

Interestingly, there is a John Ireland who appears in the 1850 U.S. Census with all of the family members of Robert Ireland Jr - except for Robert Jr. According to the (often inaccurate) Census, John was 40 years old, so born about 1810. Three theories come to mind to explain this:

  • John is the brother of Robert Jr; if he was lost at sea, he died after 1850.
  • Robert Jr's full name was perhaps Robert John or John Robert Ireland. The birthdate would be about right, but there is no record anywhere that this might be the case. Robert's 1838 citizenship papers clearly show his name as Rorbert Ireland of Belfast.
  • Perhaps John was a cousin who lived with the family temporarily (pure speculation).

No other record of John Ireland has been located.

Elizabeth Ireland - low priority

Our family record says that Elizabeth was born in Belfast in 1805. We're told that she was on a missionary trip when she died in or near Tasmania, Australia, in 1831 (perhaps at sea). Because Tasmania was a top destination for prisoners, some consideration could be made that she was actually a convict. I have no evidence or report that this was the case.

We're unaware of any marriage or children by Elizabeth.

David James Ireland - high priority

David James is believed to have been in Belfast in 1807. He was the only member of the family who remained in Ireland. It's not known if he went by David or by James. Although his wife's name is unknown, he had a son James, a daughter Sarah, and a second son (name unknown).

There is a James Ireland in the Belfast Death Registrations Index shown to have been born about 1805 and died in 1868. This could be our David James, but there's no evidence that it is. Vol 1, page 319, FHL film number 101584.

I've found a records of several James Irelands who could be his son, and one who is definitely not. Some of these records could refer to the same person as another does:

  • Not: James Ireland, born 13 Dec 1826 in Rosemary St Church. Son of John Ireland and Jane Cooney.
  • Maybe: James Ireland, born about 1827, died 1893 (Jul-Aug-Sep) in Belfast.
  • Maybe: James Ireland, born about 1827, died 1910 (Apr-May-Jun) in Lisburn.
  • Maybe: James Ireland, born about 1827, 1901 Ireland Census, lived with wife Mary, b 1831, in Dunarod, Tullyrusk, Antrim.
  • Maybe: James Ireland, born about 1831, died 1891 (Jul-Aug-Sep) in Downpatrick.
  • Maybe: James Ireland, born in 1831 in Northern Ireland (no location). Died 24 Jul 1891, Killinchy, Down, Northern Ireland. Wife Sarah, daughter Lizzie.
  • Maybe: James Ireland, born about 1832 in Belfast. Crew member of ship Baroda in 1871, registered out of Liverpool. Presumably the same James appears on the crew list of ship Cambay in 1874.

For daughter Sarah:

  • Not: Sarah Ireland, b 29 Jan 1839, Belfast. Died 1929 in Philadelphia. Daughter of Isaac Ireland and Jane Coulter.
  • Maybe: Sarah Ireland, born about 1831. Died 1891 (Jul-Aug-Sep) in Belfast.
  • Maybe: Sarah Jane Ireland, born about 1839. Died 1900 (Jul-Aug-Sep) in Belfast.
  • Maybe: Sarah Ireland, married in Belfast in 1848.
  • Maybe: Sarah Ireland, married in Newtownards in 1852.
  • Maybe: Sarah Ireland, married in Armagh in 1862.
  • Maybe: Sarah Ireland, died in Down, Northern Ireland on 27 Jan 1908. Record date in Belfast on 1 Feb 1909.
  • Maybe: Sarah Ireland, died in Down, Northern Ireland on 2 Nov 1914. Record date in Belfast on 28 May 1915.

Possible unknown son:

  • Maybe: a Belfast resident, William Thomas Ireland, born about 1831, died on 16 Jun 1847. Son of the late James Ireland.

Mary Ann (Ireland) Priestley line

Mary Ann Ireland - high priority

Mary Ann Ireland was born on 1 Dec 1780 in Dunmurry, Lisburn, Antrim. She married Samuel Priestley on 23 Nov 1808 in Belfast. According to the Priestley family bible, their address in Dublin in 1808 was No 10 Lower Bridge Street. Their first four children, Mary Ann, Elizabeth, John and Amelia, were born in Dublin between 1809 and 1815. Their final two children, Letitia Maria and Alexander Cox, were born in Smyrna, Kent, Delaware in 1817 and 1826. Presumable they emigrated to America in or around 1815.

There is unsourced speculation on Ancestry that her father could have been named George, may have been born in 1855, and may have died in Down. Because of the middle name of her last child, there is speculation that her mother's maiden name may have been Cox. Note that the father of Mary Ann's husband was named George Priestley; perhaps this is where the given name George originated (and the two fathers were confused).

Our family record states that Robert Sr's son William "married his cousin," Elizabeth Priestley, daughter of Mary Ann Ireland and Samuel Priestley. If that meant first cousin, then Mary Ann was Robert Sr's brother. Her father couldn't have been born in 1755 because Robert Sr was born in 1765. It's very possible, though, that it was Mary Ann's father (possibly George) who was Robert Sr's brother; the timing for that makes sense. If that's true, then William actually married his first cousin-once removed, who could easily be referred to as "his cousin."

My father and two of his three sisters match on AncestryDNA to user camdenkit, the third great-granddaughter of Mary Ann Ireland and Samuel Priestley. This isn't proof that the two lines are related, but it is another possible piece of evidence.

Samuel Priestley - low priority

This information is provided only to help identify Mary Ann Ireland's family; I don't request research on the Priestley family.

Samuel Priestley was born on 23 Nov 1781 in Woodhouse, Yorkshire, England; he was baptised on 25 Dec 1781 at St. Peter's (Leeds Parish Church). He was the first of eight or so children of George Priestley, born 3 Apr 1757 in Yorkshire England, and Deborah Midgley, born there about 1760.

David Ireland line

Much of the earliest information about this line is speculative. We know:

  • Samuel may have been born about 1822 (from his second marriage records) or about 1815 (from the 1901 Census and from Death Records).
  • Samuel was the son of David Ireland, a farmer (from both of his marriage records).
  • Samuel was first married in the City of Armagh to Mary Ann Morton (of Eglish parish, probably in the barony of Tiranny), daughter of James Morton, on 29 Oct 1845 at the 1st Presbyterian Church of Armagh.

MORE coming soon...

Wallace Ireland line

The Wallace Ireland line is often referred to as the Allegheny Ireland line, based in Allgeheny County, western Pennsylvania. Although we know quite a bit about Wallace's decendants, his early years (and his children's) are full of conflicting, unsourced information.

Wallace Ireland - high priority

Discovering an exact y25 DNA match doesn't necessarily carry a lot of weight - unless you're a member of one of the rarest haplogroups in the world as we are. I'm trying to convince the matching Wallace Ireland descendant to upgrade his yDNA test (he seems supportive of the idea).

Perhaps I just haven't researched this line enough myself, but many Ancestry trees from the early years contradict each other. One possibility is that there are multiple Ireland-surname lines in Allegheny County PA in the very early 1800s, not just one. About Wallace:

  • Born in Ireland about 1775. Some researchers state he was born in Belfast, but don't provide a source.
  • Married Mary Rodgers, probably born in Ireland about 1778.
  • Wallace is believed to have arrived in Allegheny County about 1808.

Four Family Lines

Here's an expanded, speculative view of how the four lines could be connected, carried down to the present day. After opening the image, click to zoom in to a readable level:

We need as many descendants as possible in the four Ireland lines to take an AncestryDNA test. I feel strongly that we're on the right track, and your contribution could have the clues we're missing.

Here's how to get the best price on an AncestryDNA test.


Are we related?

Here are the GEDmatch Kit #s for my father and mother:

GI: A909282
CL: A216073

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Grandma Ireland's 100th Birthday