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The Descendants of William and Jane Williscraft of Ireland
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The Descendants of William Williscraft of Ireland

Shankill Parish Church, Lurgen

The original work on this branch of the family was carried out by Bea Williscroft (1895-1992). Her work is now deposited at the archives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Over the years the information has been added to from many researchers. Bea’s ancestors had emigrated from Ireland to Ontario, Canada in the 1820’s. She was the Great Granddaughter of William and Sarah Williscraft.

On the 4 May 1827 at Flurry Bridge, County Louth, Northern Ireland William Williscraft applied to emigrate to Canada wife Sarah and eight of their children. On the application he stated that he had been a sergeant in the Yeomanry for 30 years. William and his family sailed for Canada on the 14 August 1827 and settled in Ontario. In 1800 William had married Sarah Neil at Shankill, Armagh. The couple had nine children between 1804 and 1821. John 1804-1874, George 1807-1895, Mary 1810-1850, William A. 1812-1869, Margaret b.1812, Sarah b.1814, Elizabeth Burton 1815-1893, Benjamin Burton 1819-1903 and James 1821-1885.

Records in Canada suggests that their eldest son was born in County Down. However, William and Sarah were living in Portadown when their daughter’s Sarah & Elizabeth were christened.  A William Williscroft is listed in “Bradshaw’s General Directory of Newry, Armagh, and the Towns of Dungannon for 1820” living in Portadown. He was a ‘reedmaker’ an occupation associated with the weaving industry.

Freeholder Record 1823

There is also a William Wiliscraft listed for Clonlum Townland, Killevey Parish, Armagh, Northern Ireland amongst the Freeholder Records of 1823. This William was a tenant of Powell Farrell. The document also mentions James Wiliscraft who was most likely William's son. Leases were often taken out on the life of the youngest child to maximise the length of the lease.

In 1796 William Williscroft who was an ‘Orange Boy’ was living in Armagh. He was involved in an assault with others and committed for trial at the Lurgen Quarter Sessions. The event is mentioned  in two books ‘The Beauties of the Press’ and “The History of Orangeism” both are available online. This is possibly the same William as he was a member of the Orange Order when he arrived in Canada.

Bea's records state that William was the son of George Williscraft and Mary Carlan who married at Shankill, Armagh in 1760. He was baptised there on the 5 November 1770. George and Mary are known to have had two more children, William in 1768 and Jane in 1773. Bea thought that George was the son of George Williscraft and Margaret Smyth who married at Shankill, Armagh in 1737. George and Margaret are known to have had six children christened at Shankill between 1739 and 1756. Ann b.1739, Ann b.1743, Mary b.1745, Samuel b.1750 and an unnamed son in 1756. However, a baptism for a son George has so far not been found. George is listed on the Protestation Returns for Lurgen in 1740. 

St Peter’s Church of Ireland, Drogheda

George, who married Margaret Smyth in 1737, was most likely the son of William and Jane Williscraft christened on the 2 May 1714 at St. Peters Church of Ireland, Drogheda, Louth, Ireland. Marjorie Buckham on her visit to Ireland was unable to confirm all the entries from the parish records mentioned on Bea's original tree but she did say the records were very difficult to read. 

More recent evidence from England suggests to me that perhaps the original tree is incorrect. I believe it is possible that the George who married Margaret Smyth is the same George who married Mary Carlan. George died in 1795 and was buried at Lurgan the 14 July. His wife Mary most likely died in Tullylish, Co. Down in 1808. If Williams mother was living in County Down it may explain why his eldest son John was born there.

I think George and Mary also had a son called George, who is the George who’s will was proved at Portadown in 1831. This George is possibly the father of Alexander b.1789, Jane b.1793 and Mary b.1796. We know from Alexander's army records he was from Shankill, Armagh. Both Mary and Jane moved to England with their husbands. Jane's maiden name is recorded on the baptismal records of her children born in England. When Mary married for a second time in Manchester she said her father was George Williscroft a 'reedmaker'. This is the same occupation as the William who was living in Newry in 1820. 

A 'reedmaker' was involved in making 'reeds' for the weaving industry. It may be that George also had another daughter, Elizabeth, born about 1818 who also moved to England but I think this is less likely as she gives both Jersey and Ireland as her place of birth. There is also a considerable age difference between her and the other children. However, when she married her second husband Samuel Broadbent she said her father was George Williscroft 'an agent'. Jane states she was born in Dublin but Mary only gives Ireland as her place of birth.

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