Edgars of Newry (ropemakers)

Records of the Edgar family in Newry start with two advertisements in the Belfast Newsletter the first August 1765 when Robert Edgar placed an advertisement for his services as a Physician …

…  and in 1785 when J Edgar advertised his School in Newry.  How these two records relate to my family is uncertain but is probable.

My first confirmed record is in my family bible when Joseph Edgar married Jane Burns in 1805. Over the years they had eleven children, eight died young and one, Robert, died just before the birth of his own second child in 1840. Jane and her nine children are buried at the rear of St Patricks, Newry.

Two of Joseph’s sons, Joseph Jr and Hugh, survived and married, both worked with their father at 47 Upper Water Street where they manufactured ropes. Hugh and Joseph Jr are both on record as living at various addresses on High St and also renting land on Lindsay’s Hill. There is a photograph in the Newry Museum with a long narrow building on Water Street which I believe was their ropemaking premises. In the Newry records there is also a reference to a James Edgar ropemaker, I believe that he was Joseph’s brother. The records in Newry at this time are pretty scarce and I have had to do some speculation. One firm record is that Joseph leased some land in Keggall near Camlough. The lease was secured on the lives of Joseph, Samuel and George Jr. This hints that Joseph had two other brothers Samuel and George.

A contact in California has identified Samuel and George migrating to Ohio in the 1850s. The George Junior mentioned was the son of Samuel and was nicknamed “windy” due to the fact he was born in 1838, the year of the hurricane in Ireland. George became a Presbyterian minister in Ohio and one of his fellow ministers was the father of Wilbur and Orville Wright.

The family grew flax in Keggall and it appears that they lived there in the early years as there are partial records of attendance at Camlough Church.  Samuel’s son Hugh is buried there after he was killed in a fight in a schoolyard at the age of nineteen.  The family also owned land in the area as a record shows that before the emigrated they sold their land (or possibly the lease) to a ‘Priest Penance’.

Joseph’s business over the early years flourished and he became a prominent person in the town making donations to various charities and supporting the rebuilding of St Patrick’s church.  Herein lies a problem.  The family tradition says that the family were from Scotland and were Presbyterian.  Joseph and his family in Newry became Church of Ireland whilst his two brothers remained Presbyterian.  This may be the result of a conflict of opinion with the minister at the First Presbyterian Church in Newry.  There is a documented split in the church at this time.  This may be the cause of my family becoming COI.

Newrys problems as a port during the middle of the 1800s must have had an effect on the ropemaking business.  The access was too narrow for the larger boats and when steam took over from sail the need for rope will have declined.  My bible shows that Joseph Jr had three children Benjamin, Joseph and Sarah Maria.  In the 1860s Benjamin migrated to Selby in Yorkshire where he shows as a ropemaker from Ireland on the census. He had two children.  Joseph and Sarah Maria migrated to Salford in the 1880s.  Joseph married Elizabeth Phillips from Newry in Salford.  Sarah Jane married John Fletcher late in life also in Salford.  There are census records of other Edgars from Newry in Northumberland and Liverpool; these must logically be the grandchildren of Hugh.

There are no Edgars left in Newry. At one time there were at least twenty in the town and other than their charitable donations and rentals, nothing is left.  In England the only Edgar descendants I can confirm are my sister, my son and I.  In the USA there are around three hundred.  The family are not related to other Edgars in the Co Down area.  The Edgars in Kilkeel and Portadown have been proven by DNA testing to be completely unrelated; in fact the connection is not even within 10,000 years!

I am keen to fill in more detail into my family in Newry.  I suspect that the Keggall connection is the most likely lead.

 I have been told that there is a possible connection to Belleek in Co Armagh.  

The two records in the Belfast Newsletter are also intriguing.

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