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

Edward Sleavin
John McAnulty
Hugh Tummoney
Francis Tummony
Patrick Tummony              Patrick Timoney 60 in Goladoo/ also 68 in Goladoo
Edward Tummony
John Martin
Bryan McLaughlin
Owen McLaughlin
John Gallagher
Charles Martin
Connel Martin                   aged 64 in Garvagh
Patrick Martin
Charles Tummoney
Connel Sleavin
Dennis McMullin
Charles Martin
George Johnstone
Edward Shiels                    aged 61 in Goladoo
Daniel Gallinagh               aged 68 in Goladoo
Patrick McGinty
Michael Martin
William McGinty               aged 60 in Garvagh
Neil Martin
Patrick Martin
Francis Cassidy

Charles Shiels
Connel McGinty                aged 71 in Tawnaghorm (possibly too old to be the same person)
William Martin
Michael Martin
Michael Breslan                Mickey Breslin,  aged 60 in Tawnaghalahan
Matthew Callaghan
Thomas Gallagher             aged 65 in Ardnableask
Peter McGinty
William McCallion
John Morrow
Alexander Morrow
Dennis Boyle
Hugh Cassidy                    63 in Tawnaghorm
Charles Martin
Bryan Flood
John Johnstone
Patrick Sheils
Owen Carlin                      aged 65 in Goladoo (Carolan)
Patrick Gallinagh             aged  67 in Carracramph  (possibly too old to be the same person)
Neil McGinty
Charles Callaghan
Patrick Tummoney
Jeremiah Sheils
William Flood
Robert Johnstone
Alex Johnstone
William Johnstone
Robt. McCallion
Con Breslan
Michael McGinty               aged 64 in Tawnaghorm
Charles Sleavin
John Tumaghan                 aged 57 in Ardinawark
Patrick Martin
Papers of Commissioners of Education in Irl re Raphoe Royal School and estate at Townavilly, Co. Donegal; Boys and girls at Tawnavilly School 1849 NLI Ms 17960 (2)

Some of the 59 Boys at Tawnavilly School in May 1849

Girls on the Townavilly School books 1st May 1849.
Mary Callaghan
Margaret Martin
Susan McMullin
Ellen McGinty
Catherine Cunaghan ?
Bridget McGinty
Bridget Carlin
Ellen Tummoney
Catherine McGinty
Catherine Gallinagh
Ellen Martin
Mary McGinty
Sarah McCallion
Ann Martin
Mary Ann Johnstone
Catherine Martin
Ann Gallagher
Ann Martin
Ann Callaghan
Elisabeth Perry
Catherine McGinty




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:





Written by Jim Ryan
Dr Jim Ryan is a writer and publisher who has been active in Irish genealogy for the past 35 years. His books include: Irish Records- sources of family and local history; Tracing your Dublin Ancestors (Flyleaf Press 2009); Irish Church Records (Flyleaf 2001); Sources for Irish Family History (Flyleaf 2001), and Tracing your Sligo Ancestors (Flyleaf 2012). He writes blogs and articles for Ancestor Network and Irish Roots, and previously for In-Depth Genealogist, and Irish America. He has lectured extensively to genealogy conference and societies.