of Fermanagh, Ireland


Lionel Nebeker


A “townland” in Ireland is a very small subdivision of a county.  In many cases it may be as small as about 100 acres, while others may be several times that size.  Every county is divided into a collection of these small parcels so that there is no part of Ireland that is not located within some townland--indeed, some counties have well over 1000 townlands.  Many of these have no towns, or even villages, within their boarders, but may merely be a collection of a few farms.  The small townland of Knockroe, in the northern part of County Fermanagh (pronounced: fur-MAUN’-uh), is just such a place.  It is rather nondescript, other than having good soil covering some rolling hills.  Knockroe is located about two miles north of Hwy B4 as it goes between the small villages of Lack and Ederney; and it is about five miles northeast of the town of Kesh (located on Hwy A35; which, in turn, is about fifteen miles north of Enniskillen, the capital of County Fermanagh; and which town lies toward the north end of the beautiful Lough Erin lake not far from its eastern shore.)

The map above is of northern County Fermanagh

Enniskillen is underlined in brown toward the bottom of the map

Kesh is underlined in brown towards the upper left (by Lough Erne)

Omagh is underlined in brown toward the upper right of the map.

Knockroe Townland is noted with a brown “K”

Tubbrid (or Tubrid) is noted with a T.

The Tubbrid Church of Ireland (Parish of Drumkeeran) is where the brown dot is located.

The map immediately above is a close up of the first map showing the town of Kesh to the left

with Tubbrid and Knockroe Townlands underlined in brown.

It is as residents of the Townland of Knockroe where we find the first mention of our Fitzpatrick family.  The father, William Fitzpatrick and his first wife, Margaret, were farmers in this area.  Since there were a lot of other Fitzpatricks surrounding them, it seems likely that the family may have lived here for several generations previous to William’s time. 

We know relatively little about this family’s origin, but suspect that William was probably born there in about 1780.  His wife, Margaret [whose last name is unknown, but it may have been “Johnston” as that is the name they gave their first son, and giving mother’s maiden names to the oldest son was a common practice at that time] was probably born in the same vicinity about 1785.  These dates are purely estimates based upon the birth dates of their children.  There were both Johnstons and Johnsons in the general area and sometimes the names are alternated within the same families.  Even their son, “Johnston Fitzpatrick” is sometimes referred to as “Johnson Fitzpatrick”. 

About four miles to the west, in the Townland of Tubbrid (often spelled Tubrid) stands the “Tubrid Church of Ireland”. This serves the Parish of Drumkeeran, which includes the parishioners from several townlands in the area (see the map above).  The church building was built there in 1774 and would have been relatively new at the time our William was born--sadly, the local parish records do not go back that far in time but commenced with the 1802 baptisms; 1813 marriages and 1929 deaths. 

From an article on the Internet called “Tubrid Church of Ireland church Parish of Drumkeeran, Co. Fermanagh” we read the following:

“Drumkeeran Church, Turbrid, County Fermanagh was originally built in 1774 as a chapel for the Vaughan Charter School and also used as the Parish church for Drumkeeran.

“The Vaughan Charter School, Tubrid 180-1934 -- The Trustees ensured that in keeping with George Vaughan’s wishes the Vaughan Charter School was erected in 1780 in the townland of Tubrid, in the Castlehasset estate. George Vaughan had expressed in his will that the boarding school would accommodate and educate up to 300 boys and 200 girls.  However, due to depressed finances, the school was built smaller than envisaged and it never reached that target number of students.  The emphasis of education for the children was for practical and theoretical agriculture, with estate land set aside at Tubrid for the school farm. 

“Drumkeeran Parish Church at Tubrid was built to serve as a school chapel. Subsequent alterations to the Church were funded by the Vaughans in 1859 to accommodate seating of the children from the Vaughan Charter School.  In line with George Vaughan’s desire to benefit the tenants of the Fermanagh estate a number of projects were undertaken by the Trustees which went beyond the running of the Vaughan Charter School.  Various buildings in Kesh were funded by the Vaughan Charity including the erection of a police station in 1862...”

For readers who live in the USA today, where free education is the right of every child, it is strange for us to imagine that education in Ireland back in those days was only made possible by the generous endowment of this good man.  We do not know if any of our Fitzpatrick relatives took advantage of this school, but they did travel about four miles (as the crow flies) from their home in Knockroe to attend church in Tubrid and to have their children baptized there.  From the few surviving parish records we find the following entries for our family.  We will “assume” (since we have found no record of their marriage) that William and Margaret Fitzpatrick were married somewhere in County Fermanagh (probably in Turbrid Church) about 1804.  Again, remember that the marriage records for this parish did not begin until 1813.  But, from the Drumkeeran Parish (located in Turbrid Townland) baptismal records (beginning in 1802) we find the following children listed for this couple, where the names of the parents are clearly given as William and Margaret Fitzpatrick:

        Name                                     Baptismal date         Townland of Residence

Jane Fitzpatrick                              10 Aug 1806                       Knockroe

Mary Anne Fitzpatrick                      3 July 1808                       Knockroe

Johnston Fitzpatrick                        9 Sept 1810                       Knockroe

Isabella Fitzpatrick                          25 Oct  1812                      Knockroe

George Fitzpatrick                         2 April 1815                       Knockroe

There are no more listings of anyone in this family following the 1815 baptism of our George (with one possible exception that will be discussed below).  It could be that our Fitzpatrick family may have moved to a more distant townland and belonged to some other parish.  If so, then we may yet have the possibility of finding records for them in some other location.  Or, they may not have had any more family to be baptized in this local for a while, or they may have started attending a closer parish.  Sometime around this time, another Church of Ireland church building was built right at Knockroe.  While we don’t have access to any of their parish records, it seems very likely that our family may have begun attending there and that would account for the absolute drop of any further mention of them in the Tubrid parish church. 

Some time around, or before 1825 (before George’s tenth birthday) his mother, Margaret passed away.  It is possible that the family was still attending the church in Tubrid at this time as the burial records did not begin until 1829.  But, William then married a second wife in about 1828.  No record of this wedding can be found and the Tubrid church was recording marriages by this date, so it seems likely that they were indeed attending in some other parish.  William’s second wife was Anne Morrison (or perhaps just Morris).  There were other Morrisons in the area and that was likely her last name--but in the Canadian records we have found her maiden name spelled both ways.

Together with this second wife--Anne, William had at least six more children that we know of.  Records found in Ontario, Canada seem to indicate that all of these children were born in Ireland.  No specific birth or baptismal records have been found for any of these children in Ireland, so all of this has been recreated from Canadian records.  We will estimate most of their births from what we know:

             Name                                Birth                     Place

Margaret Fitzpatrick                   abt 1828                 Ireland

William Fitzpatrick                   2 Apr 1829                Ireland

Ann Fitzpatrick                           abt 1832                 Ireland

Edward Fitzpatrick                     abt 1832                 Ireland

Thomas Fitzpatrick                         1835                   Ireland

Belle Fitzpatrick                              1837                   Ireland

The George Fitzpatrick, the youngest known child of William’s first family, listed above is definitely our direct ancestor and the immigrant to Canada.  There is no more mention of our Fitzpatrick family in the Tubrid parish that we can find... other than, there is one interesting entry in the marriage records of this same parish.  On 24 Nov. 1832 a “Johnston Fitzpatrick” who was then living in Magheraculmoney was married in Tubrid Church to Christian Armstrong, who at that time resided in Drumkeeran.  We can’t say for sure that this was the same Johnston Fitzpatrick, who was a brother of our George, but then, we do not know of any other man by that name.  If it was the same man, then he would have been 22 years old and that was certainly old enough to be married.  If this was the same Johnston Fitzpatrick, as the brother of our George, then it would seem that this first wife may have died very young, probably within the first year of their marriage.

It was at about this same time (about 1833) that Johnston Fitzpatrick, along with several other people from this same area, all took ship and sailed to Canada.  They went up the St. Lawrence River, past Montreal, and then took the Ottawa fork in the river until they came to the Township of West Hawkesbury.  Here the emigrants disembarked and began claiming farms near the small village of Vankleek Hill in Eastern Ontario. 

We know Johnston Fitzpatrick was in this area by 21 Oct. 1834, as he was married on that date to Elizabeth Sproule.  There were a lot of Spoules in County Fermanagh, back in Ireland who were in the same Tubrid Church with our Fitzpatricks.  No doubt many of these families sailed together and then settled together maintaining old friendships.  This Johnston is clearly the brother of our George, so if he had the earlier marriage in Ireland, then that first wife did not survive very long.

It seems apparent that Johnston, as the oldest son, came across the ocean ahead of the rest of the family to help establish a new home and then to write back for the others to come soon thereafter.  We believe that the rest of the family left Ireland in about 1837-38.  First of all, William and Anne’s youngest daughter was born in Ireland, and we think that she was born there in 1837--about three years after Johnston Fitzpatrick’s Canadian wedding.  From a distant cousin, Emily Fitzpatrick Williamson (first cousin of our Pearl Fitzpatrick McDonald) and great-grand-daughter of our George Fitzpatrick, we received a letter in 1992 in which she gave it as her understanding that the family came in 1836.  The two years are pretty close, but since the youngest daughter was born in Ireland in 1837, and the next younger sibling was born there in 1835, then it is not easy to shift the date of their departure back any earlier than about 1837-38. 

Further, family tradition states that William Fitzpatrick died on board the ship while crossing the Atlantic Ocean and was buried at sea, leaving his second wife, Anne Morrison Fitzpatrick to bring the rest of his two families with her to this new land.  Her step-son, George, would have been the oldest boy traveling with her and he would have assumed many of the duties of his father.  George would have been about 22-23 years old at the time of his father’s passing and of their arrival in Canada. 

In a letter from Emily Fitzpatrick Williamson, dated May 1992, she stated, “I believe the Fitzpatricks came from Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Ireland.”  With Enniskillen being the only real city with which to identify themselves in the new world, this is not surprising, but neither is it quite accurate.  The family lived about fifteen miles northeast of this city. 

In another letter from Emily, dated 6-16-1992, she stated, “It seems that William Fitzpatrick, Father of George & Johnson (sic) Fitzpatrick, came from Enniskillen, Ireland... after William’s first wife died & married 2nd wife, who was widowed at sea.”  This statement matches our research that William’s first wife, Margaret, died, and that he then married a second time in Ireland, before he passed away on the ship while migrating to Canada.  Emily does not give the name of either wife, but from other records we have been able to obtain at least parts of their names. 

We don’t know the names of the husbands of any of George’s full-sisters.  So, we do not know if any of them also came to Canada with the family, or if they remained back in Ireland.  All of the known children of William, by his second wife, Anne Morrison, did live in Vankleek Hill, Hawkesbury, Prescott Co., Ontario.

Our George Fitzpatrick purchased a farm about a mile NNE of Vankleek Hill, called the Happy Hollow Farm, where he brought his wife, Elizabeth Kenny, whom he married in 1845 in St. Phillippe-D’Argentueill, Quebec.  This couple had at least 16 children, with 15 of them living to adulthood.

More will be given on this family in Canada in a separate section.

Tubrid Church of Ireland

about two miles northeast of Kesh, Fermanagh, Northern Ireland

This is the building in which the William Fitzpatrick family attended church

photo taken 1 Nov. 2011

Baptismal font in the Tubrid Church.

It is very likely that George Fitzpatrick was baptized at this font as a baby on 2 April 1815.

Bette & Marcole Nebeker -- 1 Nov. 2011

Direct descendants of George Fitzpatrick, at the Turbrid Church of Ireland’s baptismal font.

Pulpit at the Tubrid Church

Tubrid Church of Ireland

Stain-glass window behind pulpit

Bette Nebeker standing behind a Fitzpatrick tombstone in the Drumkeeran Parish cemetery

at Tubrid, Fermanagh, Northern Ireland.

This cemetery is across the road, just east of the Church.

Drumkeeran Parish Church (in Tubrid) in the background--tower is visible above the tree line.

Vaughan Charter School in the center of the photo.

Turbrid Church cemetery in the foreground