Labourers in Muff, Co. Donegal in 1758 & 1759.

Small Sources 28:  This little list of 14 labourers working on the farm of the Hart family of Kilderry House, near Muff, Co. Donegal in 1758 and 1759 is in the National Library of Ireland  Ms. 7885. It is interesting for several reasons, not least being that Donegal records are rare, particularly for the 18th century, and lists of labourers are even rarer.     In the book ‘The Hart family of Donegal’ by Henry Travers Hart,  the author notes that in this period  “the whole of the fields were rigidly cultivated by a staff of labourers … and by this means Kilderry House was rendered more tenantable on account of the better drainage of the soil..”.   It also notes that there were large numbers of labourers employed, so why these 14 are specifically cited in the records is not clear. It may be that they were only occasional workers.  The records show that they were paid for around 60 days within a 6-month period.

The list  is notable secondly for the occurrence of some interesting names. The forename Tadgh (pronounced teig; or hear its pronunciation here)  is not uncommon in Ireland.  Tadhg Furlong and Tadgh Beirne are two of the current heroes of the Irish Rugby team, for instance.   However, it is usually converted to Timothy in older records. Its popularity in some parts of Northern Ireland led to the name (rendered as Taig) being used as a pejorative term for Catholics.

The other unusual name is Nahor or Naher (spelt Knogher in this record). A Knogher Dogherty is also listed among the tenants of the estate. We have published the list of  tenants of the estate in 1750 in another blog, available here.     The name Naher name is very specific to Donegal.  For instance, in the 1901 census there are only 14 persons of this name recorded, all of them in the Northern counties and 11 in Donegal.  An identical name, of Biblical origin is sometimes found in non-Irish records, but is not related.   Many of the names are common in Donegal including Doherty, Coyle  and Doogan.

Other surnames listed which are almost exclusively found in Donegal are:

  • McKeeney: this is almost only found (using this spelling) in Donegal although the spelling McKeany is found in Fermanagh.
  • Crampshy or Cramshy (usually now spelt Crampsie or Crampsy) is found only in the Northwestern counties and mainly in Donegal.
  • Loag (now usually Logue) which is also almost exclusively found in the Northwestern counties, particularly Donegal.


Further information on some of these families may be available through our e-book title ‘Sources for Irish Family History 2021’.  The sources listed include books,  journal articles and some other records written about specific Irish families.  It provides access to  a wealth of published  information on about 2,500  Irish families.

Flyleaf Press,  the publishing arm of  Ancestor Network, also publish  an e-book ‘A Guide to Tracing your Donegal Ancestors‘ by local historian Helen Meehan (see cover illustration above).  Ancestor Network will offer 1 free hour of research by a professional researcher to conduct further research on these individuals, or on other Donegal estate records.  We can also obtain images of the original documents.

The image above is part of the painting ‘Harvesters’ by Charles Lamb.

The images of the document above and below were created by Ancestor Network in the National Library of Ireland and are reproduced here through their courtesy. The image  above also included part of the painting ‘Harvesters’ by Charles Lamb. If you need help in following up on anything related to this source, or any other Irish research, please contact us and we will advise (free)  as to what we might be able to do for you. Ancestor Network will offer 1 free hour of research by a professional researcher to conduct further research on these individuals, or on other tenants of this estate. We can also obtain images of the original documents. Click here and quote ‘SS28’ in the subject line.

The list of labourers is below and is headed:  Labourers May 22nd 1759 till November 1st 1759.  There are similar lists (with the same individuals) in 1758.

Teague Cramshy    (Crampshy in one list)
Neal Loag
Patrick Dowey
Patrick Cain              (usually spelt Kane)
Cornel. Dogherty     (Cornelius;  surname is usually spelt Doherty)
Wm Coyle
John Harley
James Feeny
John Murray
James Doogan
Knogher McKeeny
Wm. McKeeny
Donald Dogherty
Charles McKeeny

Fig 1. Extract from the list of workers on the estate.


Further Donegal and General articles in our series on Irish Family History sources include:

General Articles