This is the second of three posts about my research into my ancestors from Bushmills, County Antrim. It illustrates what is possible to derive and infer from the patchy Irish records.
Unfortunately, there appears to be no surviving record of the marriage of my great-great-grandparents Margaret Dean and Stephenson Boyd. The only evidence we have of this marriage is contained within the 1863 baptism record of Margaret and Stephenson’s daughter Christina in Cambuslang, Scotland. This records that Margaret and Stephenson were married on 21 May 1842 in Bushmills. The informant for the record was Margaret herself, so it is very likely to be accurate.
Christina Boyd’s birth registration, 1863
Based on this important clue, I have poked around in the records from time to time over several years looking for other evidence. This became somewhat easier as more records and indexes became available online, thanks in particular to Bill Macafee’s transcriptions of records for Antrim and the freely available Griffith Valuation records and maps on Ask About Ireland. The real breakthrough came, however, when I had the opportunity to visit PRONI in Belfast and Bushmills itself recently.
The Dean family of Eagry townland
Dean (often spelt Deen in the older records) was not a common name in the Bushmills area during the 19th Century, and the name is concentrated in a small area. This, together with the Presbyterian church’s practice of recording the maiden name of the mother of a baby at baptism, enables us to work out some of the relationships in the Dean line and where my great-great-grandmother Margaret Dean possibly fitted in.
The records show that a Dean family lived in the Eagry townland of Billy parish in the 18th and 19th Centuries. Eagry borders the south-eastern edge of Bushmills and is very close to the centre of the town and in fact adjoins the Old Bushmills Distillery. (See the map below.) There is a small suburb of Bushmills called Eagry Park near the area today. I have found scant evidence of Deans residing in other townlands in the vicinity. Since the population of Eagry was tiny (there were only 20 tenant families in 1859), it is reasonable to assume that all Eagry Deans are closely related.
Map of Eagry townland against a modern map
The earliest available record of a Dean family living in Billy parish occurs in the Flaxgrowers List of 1796. This list was made as part of a government initiative to encourage linen flax production. Farmers were granted up to four flax spinning wheels, depending on how much flax they sowed on their land in the spring of 1796. At this time, the spinning of flax into linen thread was largely a cottage industry, carried out by the families of flax growers and their neighbours. Two Deans, Hugh and Jane, are listed as receiving one spinning wheel each, indicating that they each sowed 1 rood (a quarter of an acre) in flax.
Hugh Dean is mentioned again in the Agricultural Census of 1803, residing at Eagry. The Agricultural Census, compiled as a defensive measure during the Napoleonic Wars, lists all farmers and their sons who were old enough to be classified as farmers.
In addition to Hugh Dean, 5 other Dean men of Eagry are listed in the 1803 Agricultural Census: Archibald, Archibald Junior, James, and two Roberts. Unfortunately, no parish records have survived before 1820, so it is difficult for us to determine the relationships between these men. Eagry is the only townland within Billy parish where the name Dean is found in 1803; furthermore there is only one occurrence of a Dean in the neighbouring Dunluce parish.
The name Archibald Dean recurs over multiple generations in Eagry – it is highly probable that each successive Archibald is the son of an older Archibald. To avoid confusion, on the following pages I have numbered each Archibald from the earliest one found.
Archibald Deen I
The earliest known Archibald (Archibald I) died in January 1822 aged 94 years – Archibald I is almost certainly the one listed above in the 1803 Agricultural Census above. His age at death indicates that Archibald I was born about 1728. His grave is marked with a large stone memorial, in the churchyard of St John the Baptist church, Dunluce parish of the protestant Church of Ireland. The church is located at the south-western edge of present-day Bushmills town, just across the Bush River from Eagry. Archibald I’s gravestone is one of the earliest that survives in the churchyard and is positioned close to the church building.
The grave of Archibald Deen I of Eagrey, 1822
Archibald Dean II
Another Archibald Dean (Archibald II) married Nancy Frizzel in about 1790. We know that Archibald II died before 1827, as it is clear that he has already died when one of his children was married in that year. The marriage records of the Bushmills Presbyterian Church show that Archibald II and Nancy had the following children:
- Archibald III, b.1808
Archibald Dean III
In 1855, another Archibald Deen (Archibald III) leased 24 acres in Eagry from the landlord, John Cuppage Anderson, at an annual rent of 25 pounds. Archibald III’s lease is dated 29th October 1855 and is “for 21 years from the date thereof and life of lessee, now aged about 47.” Therefore, Archibald III was born in about 1808 and is likely to be the grandson or great-grandson of Archibald I.
In the Griffith’s Valuation of 1859, Archibald III is listed as tenant of 24 acres of land, with a house and ‘offices’ (i.e. farm buildings).
Overlooking Eagry townland towards Bushmills in the valley (centre distance) and Portballintrae on the coast (right)
Baptism records show that Archibald III married Margaret McCurdy, although the marriage record itself does not appear to have survived. Between 1823 and 1834, four of their children were baptised in the Bushmills Presbyterian chapel, whose records commenced on 28 Nov 1820. These children are:
- Samuel b. 12 Nov 1823
- Rachel b. 7 Jan 1825
- Jane b. 10 Mar 1829
- Hugh b. 6 Feb 1834
Margaret Dean’s age given in other records indicate that she was born in about 1822-3. Although there is no daughter named Margaret in the above baptisms, it was commonplace at the time to name a child of each sex after the parents. Therefore it seems probable that my great-great-grandmother Margaret Dean was the daughter of Archibald Dean III and Margaret McCurdy.
Likewise, there is no record of the baptism of Margaret and Stephenson’s first 3 children, Isabella, William and Robert, who, according to Scottish census records, were born prior to the family’s migration to Scotland around 1848.
The 1851 Scottish census record for the Boyd family, showing that Isabella, William and Robert were born in Ireland
In summary, there were at least three Archibald Deans:
- Archibald Dean I b. about 1728, d. 1822
- Archibald Dean II b. about 1760, d. before 1827, married Nancy Frizzel
- Archibald Dean III b. about 1808, d. after 1859, married Margaret McCurdy
What can we conclude from this?
Despite the surviving direct evidence being scanty, I think that I am safe ground to claim that my great-great-grandmother Margaret Dean was the daughter of Archibald Dean III and Margaret McCurdy. Therefore Archibald Deen I, whose grave I found in the Bushmills churchyard, is my direct ancestor.
The Dean family name persists in the Bushmills area until at least the 1911 census, which lists a Samuel Dean, stonemason, and his family living in Bushmills town.
 Anderson’s estate was sold on 8th May 1862 in 11 lots, including Eagry and Magherintendry townlands – the latter townland will appear in the Boyd section of this story. Source: PRONI D2977/26/2/5 Rental and particulars of sale – John Cuppage Anderson, 1862.
 Source: PRONI MIC1P/113/1; Bushmills Presbyterian Church, Co. Antrim, baptisms and marriages.