Archive – Chalfant – Irish Adventurers

This week I’ve picked out a query that arrived before I went on maternity leave in 2011.  It’s a real curiosity, concerning a much earlier time than is usual for most family history enthusiasts – most of us can’t get back this far.

Betty Jane Chalfant wrote to ask about tracing her ancestors who by the 1630s were British colonial settlers in America.  Although Betty was quite sure that her family were of English origin, her starting information was very limited, comprising mainly unsubstantiated records online.     She wrote:

“Lawrence Brindley, brother of Thomas Brindley left money in his will for the “Irish Adventurers”.  …What I need is family lineage, descendancy, I think.

Lawrence Brindley and 2nd wife Mary Minifie are found in the Albemarle Sound area of America between Virginia and North Carolina.  There have been Brindleys there as early at 1630s – Michael Brindley and then later Captain Robert Brindley.

Would you have Immigration Records for …a complete little family …. I guess I think they went into Ireland or emigrated to the USA through Ireland.  …  Maybe they stayed only a short while until they found transport to America?

SO MANY records on the Internet say that [the Brindleys] WERE BORN IN IRELAND, and there is no PROOF. I AM SO CLOSE!  ALAS! I MUST ONLY LACK TWO AT MOST THREE GENERATIONS!!!”

We get almost daily queries about whether we can trace historic emigration records for people leaving Ireland.  Unfortunately, no government ever kept records of people leaving the country.  Similarly, although individual ship’s captains and/or shipping companies would have maintained manifests for the duration of an ocean voyage, there was no reason to keep these records once the voyage was complete.  Basically, we weren’t going to be able to trace the Brindleys through emigration records.

Although Betty’s information was disappointingly vague, she included a critical piece of information which convinced me that we could probably trace her ancestors.  One phrase in particular leapt out at me from the page – in his will Lawrence Brindley had left a bequest for the ‘Irish Adventurers.’

The term ‘Irish Adventurers’ is a very precise term used in the 1640s and 50s.  To explain more fully: in 1641 a rebellion broke out in Ireland, which spilt over into war in Scotland and ultimately the English civil war (nowadays referred to by most historians as the War of Three Kingdoms).  The English Parliament wanted to raise an army against the Irish rebels, but they had no money to do so.  To raise funds, the English Parliament passed an Act in 1642 confiscating 2 ½ million acres of Irish land.  This land was to be used as collateral.  The ‘Irish Adventurers’ paid subscriptions to raise an army, and in return the confiscated land was divided amongst them.  The ‘Irish Adventurers’ were drawn mainly from an artisanal and/or gentry background in England.

Lawrence Brindley’s bequest thus provided a direct link between British colonial America and Ireland in the 1640s/50s.

Nowadays I usually start research by examining whatever digital records are available, before I go into the archives.  However, most of the records that have been digitised are of much later date and so would not have been relevant to this search.  I did know of one digital source that included records of the Irish Adventurers and Cromwellian soldiers in Ireland – The Irish and Anglo-Irish Landed Gentry: When Cromwell came to Ireland.  This source focuses on a particular social class, and it isn’t exhaustive, but luck was on our side.  We found a reference to a pedigree for Brindley in the Manuscripts Department of Trinity College Dublin (II. Vol. f. 4.18).

The other main source, available digitally, are the Calendar of State Papers Ireland: Records of the Irish Adventurers 1642-60.  I searched for any land grants recorded to any Brindley (with special interest in any Thomas or Lawrence Brindley).  Once again, this source produced a positive result, and for the first time gave us a county, and in the case of Thomas, a barony.

Searching all variant spellings of the name Brindley, in 1653 we found land grants to Nicholas, Thomas and Laurence Brinley.  (The ‘d’ was not recorded by the clerk who  made the record, but phonetically this is the same name).

–         Nicholas Brinley lands in East Meath, September 1653

–         Laurence Brinley lands in Westmeath, September 1653

–         Thomas Brinley lands in the Barony of Connello in Limerick, province of Munster, October 1653.

Given that the grants of land to the Brinleys were made in September and October 1653, there’s clearly no point in searching the published Civil Survey.  Even though these books ostensibly have a date of 1654-56, the information they record relates to landholding in Ireland, before the 1641 rebellion.

However, it would be worth looking for the descendants of Laurence, Thomas and Nicholas Brindley in the Books of Survey and Distribution which date from the early 1700s – two generations later.

Finally, as even this brief survey proved that the Brindley family had land in Ireland, a search of Irish wills and other testamentary records would probably pay dividends.

In the 1600s Ireland was England’s first colony, and was a land of opportunity for young men seeking their fortune.  Ambitious young men of Irish and English origin, often the younger sons of gentlemen or the disinherited Irish, sought patronage, promotion, land and office.  The ‘Irish Adventurers’ were a specific subgroup active between 1642 and1660.

Many subsequently assembled their first fortune in Ireland, and then moved on to the Americas, where there were even greater prospects.  These families are highly visible in the surviving Irish records.

The Irish and Anglo-Irish Landed Gentry: When Cromwell came to Ireland.  Archive CD Books, available through Eneclann Ref: IE0015