Back to Family History

I’m back on the family history thread here, for those of you who are interested.

Like I said in a previous post, the family history research I’ve been doing had a leg-up from the beginning. The Barton side of my family kept great records going back to the 1680’s, when my grandfather Isaac was born in Killaloe, Ireland.

The only thing we know about Grandfather Isaac and his wife, Sarah, was that they were Quakers, they married in 1705, and they left Ireland for Pennsylvania in 1714.  We have some records of Isaac’s father’s name, but no information on whether or not the family is native Irish or English.   I’ve always known that the Quakers in Ireland had to have been outsiders, to say the very least. To be native Irish and convert to Quakerism, which some certainly did, would mean a willingness to live completely outside the norms of society at the time. By and large, the native Irish were catholic. The protestant English had sent a good many folks into Ireland at various times to set up settlements, and some Quakers moved from England to Ireland, trying to escape religious persecution at the hand of various other protestant groups.  In general, though, being native Irish meant that you were not likely to convert to Quakerism on a whim.  Besides that, there were very few Irish converts in the first place. It was much more likely our line had some connection to England.

I assumed, then, that the Bartons must be related to the Lancashire Bartons.  There were dozens of men and women who share a surname with us who were jailed for Quaker activities in the Lancashire area during this time period.  The problem was, there was nothing in the family record about Isaac’s parents.  Since Isaac was born in the mid 1680’s, I assumed that his parents must have been early Quaker converts.

I pursued my research under that assumption for a long time until I contacted the main records repository for the Irish Quakers.   The records of Isaac’s parents are not just missing from our family history, they simply don’t exist.

This was curious.  For one thing, the Quakers seem to keep very complete records.  It doesn’t make sense that there would be no information on his parents if they were part of the same Friends’ “meeting.”  I wasn’t sure why Isaac’s meeting would keep such clear records, seamless records in fact (for they are duly documented on two continents), of his comings and goings and offer no mention of his parents’ names.   I know there are probably circumstances I couldn’t imagine that would account for the lack of such records.

However, I realized that there could be other explanations for the Barton family origin.  While we are definitely “Anglo-Saxon” via Y-DNA (or the DNA that is used to track male generations).  Also according to DNA, we definitely could be related to some Bartons in the Lancashire area.  However, the latest ancestor for our best match is listed at least 100 years after Isaac left Ireland.  How do these bits of information match up exactly?

I realized that there were a lot of reasons why a boy born in mostly Catholic Killaloe might become a Quaker, the least of which was a rebellious personality that rejected not only the religious hegemony of the Catholic church, but the hegemony of religious authority altogether (since the Quakers do not believe in having “ministers” or “leaders” in their worship).  Could be that Isaac married, and converted, for love?  They moved to Tipperary after their marriage, which was a hotbed of Irish Quaker life.  Although his birthplace wasn’t far from the city, it was solidly in areas that, at the time, were reserved for the native Irish and not yet taken over by the invading protestant Brits.

I don’ t have the answers to any of these questions, really.  All I can do is ponder.  I tend toward the romantic, so I want grandfather Isaac to have converted for love, or even for the sheer rebelliousness of his conscience.  I suspect the answer is much more mundane.


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