Small Sources 34. This is a list of 59 boys and 21 girls attending Townavilly (alias Tawnawully or Tawnawilly) tenantry school in 1st May 1849. The lists are among the papers of the Commissioners of Education in Ireland, which are in the National Library of Ireland – Ms 17,960 (3). The Commissioners were set up in 1813 to manage ‘endowed’ schools, i.e. those that were funded by means of rent from lands they owned. A small number of schools owned such estates, either as a result of charitable donations, or ancient land-grants from the crown. One such was Raphoe Royal School, originally established in Donegal town in 1618, but moved to Raphoe in the 1680s. It still exists as the Royal & Prior Comprehensive School. This blog concerns a separate ‘tenantry school’ established by the Commissioners for the children of tenants on their land. These lands were in Townavilly or Tawnawully, which is a District Electoral Division situated Northwest of Donegal Town and containing 14 townlands in the civil parish of Donegal. During the 1840s, which was the decade of the Great Famine, the relatively poor land was non-productive and little income was received from the estate. There were around 200 households on the estate at this time. The Annual Report of the Commissioners for 1848-49 notes that they had “… expended large sums in giving employment to tenantry, in squaring the farms, in building and establishing a school for them”. However, they also reported that “ …we regret to be obliged to report that the lawless spirit which so long prevailed in this mountainous district .. has again exhibited itself ….. we have determined to put at the disposal (of the agent) a sum of money by which he may assist in enabling such of the tenantry to emigrate as it is desirable to be removed from the estate”. Their 1849-50 report further states that “… we have felt ourselves coerced, by the peculiarities of the estate and the tenantry resident thereon, to … assist several families in emigrating to America…. And we have further to state that a large number of children continue to receive gratuitous instruction at a school established for us for their benefit”. Their report of 1853/4 seems to suggest that their efforts were successful as they note that the estate ‘.… long in an almost hopeless condition, appears now to hold out a prospect of improvement’. It is not clear which of the children and their families emigrated as a result of the above inducements. A search of the 1901 census found 13 men with the same names still living in the area. These are listed below with their townland of residence and their age in 1901. It is a reasonable presumption that at least the younger of these are the same people. Based on their ages in 1901, they would have been aged between 9 and 19 when attending the school in 1849.
The records of the commissioners for the estate also contain an 1812 rental, a 1798 survey, a letter (and list of tenants) of 1845, and an 1840s notebook indicating the ‘circumstances’ of each tenant in relation to supply of potatoes or other supports. Other Donegal sources in this series include records of tenants (1750-70), and labourers (1750s) on the Hart Estate in Kilderry DED. Ancestor Network will offer 1 free hour of research by a professional researcher to conduct further research on these individuals or the many others in these estate papers. Click here and quote ‘Donegal SS34’ in the subject line. Note also that we publish (in paper and e-book formats) ‘Tracing your Donegal Ancestors‘ by local historian and genealogist Helen Meehan – see cover illustration above. It is available here.
Boys Names Persons of same name found in 1901 census
Patrick Tummony Patrick Timoney 60 in Goladoo/ also 68 in Goladoo
Connel Martin aged 64 in Garvagh
Edward Shiels aged 61 in Goladoo
Daniel Gallinagh aged 68 in Goladoo
William McGinty aged 60 in Garvagh
Connel McGinty aged 71 in Tawnaghorm (possibly too old to be the same person)
Michael Breslan Mickey Breslin, aged 60 in Tawnaghalahan
Thomas Gallagher aged 65 in Ardnableask
Hugh Cassidy 63 in Tawnaghorm
Owen Carlin aged 65 in Goladoo (Carolan)
Patrick Gallinagh aged 67 in Carracramph (possibly too old to be the same person)
Michael McGinty aged 64 in Tawnaghorm
John Tumaghan aged 57 in Ardinawark
Catherine Cunaghan ?
Mary Ann Johnstone
Tracing your Donegal Ancestors, by local historian Helen Meehan is a comprehensive guide to researching ancestors in this county.
It is published by Flyleaf Press and available here.
Some of the articles in our series on Irish Family History sources:
- Petty Sessions– the records of local courts
- Catholic Church records
- Grand Jury Presentments – records of local councils on payments for public works and staff
- Rentals – management of tenants by estates and the records created
- Middle names – the use (or non-use) of second or middle names in Irish records
- How comprehensive are Irish Civil Records?
- Census returns in Gaelic or Irish language