Tuesday, May 29, 2018

A Story of Wills

A last will can sometimes be the only available source telling a researcher what life was really like in a family at a certain time and place. The wills associated with the Hamilton and Pollock families are excellent examples of such revelation.

Hamilton Bonanza


Location of Robert Hamilton 45 Foyle St merchant house in Londonderry
Robert Hamilton was 76 years old when he passed away in 1893. His wife Margaret Graham Hamilton, two daughters and a son survived him. The Irish records estimated the value of the estate as £18,700. Taking into account changing values over time, this is the equivalent to £2.25 million in pounds today or $2.47 million in dollars. However it is measured, Robert Hamilton built up quite an estate over his lifetime.

The estate bequeathed to his wife and children included the house and business located at 45 Foyle Street in Londonderry plus a home and farm called Castle Farm in County Donegal.

A December 1901 For Sale notice stated the farm contained 140 acres of land "in the highest state of cultivation" about six miles east by road from Londonderry and a five minute walk from the railroad station in Newtowncunningham. According to the 1901 Census the house contained brick or stone walls, 15 windows in the front, and 19 rooms. 

"The Castle" in NewtownCunningham
No present day record or photo could be found for a Castle Farm. However, Wikipedia does mention for Newtown Cunningham: "The village's architecture includes stately Anglo-Irish "big houses", now known as the Manse and the Castle, which reflect the village's colonial and Presbyterian history." Until someone provides a better alternative, I am assuming this dilapidated building is "The Castle"  of the Castle Farm mentioned in Robert's will.

According to a 1910 town directory, 45 Foyle Street was then the location of P. Sweeney's restaurant. Today the location, thanks to urban renewal, has been swept of historic structures and is the site of a tourist center. The old Derry map above shows the former location of the Hamilton merchant house and business near the Derry Bridge and between the old city wall and the River Foyle.

Winding up the estate
Robert Hamilton's five page will is a blatant example of micromanaging from beyond the grave. Given all the asides and process directives included to assure his wishes were implemented into the future, it is a difficult document to understand.

My simplified take on the will is that the estate was bequeathed to his family as follows:
  • Castle Farm to Robert Jr. subject to his continuing payments on the mortgage.
  • Trust under the direction of Robert Jr and two non-family businessmen established to own and manage the Foyle Street business for the benefit of Robert Jr and to assure sufficient funds for the other bequests.
  • £500, first choice on home furniture and a £100 annual income to his wife Margaret for the rest of her life.
  • £2000 (equivalent to £252,000 today) each to daughters Margaret Gordon and Elizabeth Donnell.
After July 1897 the assets of Robert Hamilton Sr were distributed according to the terms of the will. His wife Margaret had died in April of that year. Robert Jr announced in May 1897 that he was no longer interested in running his father's business and would wind up its business and affairs. 
Castle Farm Sale
He and his wife Maggie McCandless Hamilton moved to the Castle Farm in Donegal.  In 1901 he sold the farm, he and his wife then disappearing from the record until 1918 when he died as a widower in Memphis, Tennessee. 

The lives of Robert Jr's sisters and their families turned out differently. Their stories begin in the next post.


Pollock Wills

Sarah Jane Graham, born in 1840, was the youngest of the Graham sisters. Sarah's oldest sister Ellen was born in 1806 when her father, James Graham, was 16. Assuming the mother, Elizabeth Henderson, was not younger than the father, this would put her birth date as 1790, indicating that Sarah Jane was born when her mother was 50 years old. 

Sarah married Andrew Pollock in 1858, when she was 18 years old. They had four children, 3 sons and a daughter. Their names and birth dates were as follows: William (1859), James Graham (1860), Andrew John (1868) and Bessie (1870).

Sarah died in Londonderry, Ireland on Novermber 17, 1894 when she was 54 years old. She wrote her will in February of that same year, and had it witnessed by Margaret and Robert Hamilton her sister and brother-in-law. The will left all her meager assets (£20) to her daughter Bessie who was 24 years old at the time of her mother's death.
Will of Sarah Graham Pollock
Sarah's husband Andrew Pollock died at age 67 on July 4, 1898 in Castlederg near the farm he worked in Ballyfolliard Townland. Probably this is the Graham's Town location mentioned in Ellen's will. In his will he left to his three surviving children (William had died in 1882) the following: James Graham (one shilling [a shilling was worth 1/20th of a pound]), Andrew John (one shilling), Bessie (one hundred pounds sterling, his watch and gold chain, and all his furniture, household goods and effects). The remainder of his estate, including the proceeds from sale of the farm, he left to his brother John James Pollock. His brother and another man were appointed to sell the farm, its implements and machinery with son Andrew John given first chance of buying "same at such valuation as may."

Will of Andrew Pollock
Both James Graham Pollock and Bessie Pollock lived in Londonderry for the rest of their short lives, dying respectively at age 42 in 1902 and age 31 in 1901.  Both appeared to have died childless.

Location of Castlederg and the former Graham's Town
What happened to Andrew John Pollock is less certain. An Andrew John Pollock, born in 1868,  is found in the 1901 and 1911 Irish Censuses to be living in the Artigarvan Townland in Leckpatrick Parish. Leckpatrick Parish adjoins Ardstraw Parish where the Ballyfolliard Townland, Graham's Town and the former family farm were located. Artigarvan is about 14 miles from Castlederg where Andrew John Pollock was born and his father died. The former location of Graham's Town is between the two places, about 3 miles from Castlederg. Given the same name, year of birth and location of residence it is probable and practically definite that this man is our Andrew John Pollock.

Robert Pollock - 1918
At this point, the longevity of the Pollock family did not appear promising. The two surviving sons of Sarah Pollock were essentially written out of their parents' wills. Bessie, the one favored child, has died single and childless at age 31. The family future lies with any possible children of Andrew John Pollock whose death was not found in the public record.

Children of Andrew John Pollock

The 1901 and 1911 Irish Censuses indicate that Andrew John was married to Minnie Barnhill. They were parents of 11 children born between 1896 and 1910.  After the 1911 Census, no record or other evidence can be found regarding any of member of the family, with one exception. That exception is the oldest child Robert, born in 1896. He died in French Flanders from the effect of wounds suffered in battle during World War 1.

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