This post is about Priscilla Kent, who was the mother of Elizabeth (Eliza) Upton and the maternal grandmother of William Smith of Blackhall. Therefore, she is my great-great-grandmother (2x great-grandmother).
I am adding this post to my blog even though Priscilla was not a Smith at any stage of her life. Looking into the Kent family tree has given me a better idea about the depth of our family’s roots in Tipperary. In doing the research I have had to locate a lot of unfamiliar townland and parish names and become aware of where the baronies of Upper and Lower Ormond are (in the north-west of the county, near Lough Derg). Relying almost entirely on sources available on the internet is not satisfactory. To search all sources will require more visits to Ireland to look at the records there – although the searches I have done so far have not been very productive.
Priscilla Kent died in 1874 so I have no direct knowledge of her life – let alone knowing anything about her personally. I have no photographs of her either. Despite that, I want to post an item about the Kent family and what I know about Priscilla’s ancestors in Ireland because they are also Eliza Upton’s ancestors – and, therefore, mine as well.
As I explained in my post about Eliza Upton, trying to sketch out the life of someone living in Ireland before the 20th century is a challenge due to the lack of genealogical information. There is no census data from the 1800s for most of County Tipperary, church records for the Tipperary parishes that are of interest are difficult to access or not available, and civil registration of births, marriages and deaths did not begin until 1864 – far too late to help with most of the people I am interested in here.
I don’t know much about the Kents. Much of what I have learned about them has come from a family tree sketched out by someone in the family – possibly by Eliza Upton, Priscilla’s daughter. Starting from that chart, I have found some more information but the picture is still very incomplete.
This chart is wonderful to have and one can hope that most of the information it contains is correct but there is probably no way to corroborate a lot of it. The chart lacks dates of any kind so there is no information on when people were born, when they married or when they died. Not having dates for key life events makes it very difficult to search for people in genealogy databases. I have been able to locate only a few dates so, by and large, I have had to guess when people were born but could be completely wrong. Dates of death are even harder to estimate.
Some of the people in the family tree chart are identified as having emigrated. The lack of any mention on the chart about where most of the people lived suggests to me that they probably stayed in Ireland.
Some of what I know about the Kents has come from a collection of data known as “Griffith’s Valuation” and later updates to the valuation records. Richard Griffith was given the responsibility of valuing all the land in Ireland so that it could be taxed equitably and he did this work county by county between 1847 and 1864. As well as mapping the land and assessing its worth as a resource, he also recorded the names of the landlords who were the owners (under the Crown) and the tenants living on the land. So these records are often used as a substitute (although not a particularly good one) for population censuses. One problem is that the name of a landlord (the “lessor”) or tenant (the “occupier”) is all that is provided for an entire household. Usually the person named was male although widows and other women living alone would be listed if they were the landlord or primary tenant. However, for most households, only one person was named. So there are no names recorded for the wife, the children or of any servants or other relatives living there as well. Also, of course, there is no information on birthdates, birthplaces, and so on that one can usually get from census data.
Some of the Griffith’s Valuation data is widely available on the internet and various websites have used the data to try to create some social context for people living in Ireland in the 19th century. Another website – about Irish surnames – that I have found useful is sponsored by The Irish Times newspaper and enables the user to find information on surnames and their distribution across Ireland at the time of Griffith’s work. Have a look at the site and search for surnames you are interested in – including the ones I am going to highlight here.
A third type of source that has been somewhat helpful is the national directory. There were two directories published in the 1800s that I have used: the 1824 Pigot’s Directory and the 1856 Slater’s Directory. Both of them include some information about Tipperary. The directories list prominent people of the time, usually focused on gentry, clergy and tradesmen in the towns but also could include landowners and farmers in the counties. Sometimes you can be lucky enough to find a reference to one of the people in your family tree. The later the date of a directory, the wider is its inclusion of people from different classes.
A fourth source that I have used is the list of freeholders in Tipperary in 1776. This list was required at the time to determine who could vote in elections but it can also be useful for genealogical research – up to a point. The list is good for identifying landlords, usually showing where they lived and where they owned property (often different places). But there is no listing for tenant farmers or tradesmen who did not own property.
In addition to the above sources, I have also found small bits of information in on-line genealogy databases. There is probably more information to be found that way.
Despite these difficulties of information-gathering, the summary below is what I know so far and what I am guessing about Priscilla Kent, her siblings and her paternal ancestors.
Below is a simplified version of the Kent family tree, starting from Eliza Upton at the bottom and going backwards in time to Eliza’s great-grandfather Thomas Kent of Millbrook, my 4x great-grandfather.
Priscilla Kent was the mother of Eliza Upton, the second of her four children. Her husband, William Upton, was an apothecary in Cashel who died when he was only in his mid-30s.
From civil registration records, I know that Priscilla Kent died in 1874 in Balrothery (i.e., Donabate), County Dublin at the age of 73. Therefore she was born around 1801. Priscilla was probably living with her daughter Eliza in Corballis, County Dublin, at the time of her death. She is listed on the same gravestone as that for Eliza Smith in the Donabate Anglican church graveyard.
Priscilla Kent was one of 12 or 13 children born to Randal Kent and Eliza Sharp. Priscilla was one of the younger children in the large family. I don’t have any information on where she was born or where she lived before she was married. A couple of her siblings had wonderful first names: Aquila (also written as Aquilla) and Loveday. Unusual forenames are useful to the family history researcher because the people who have them are easier to find in the archival records.
The list of children in the family is given in the chart as: Thomas, Aquila, Phoebe, Margaret, Anne, Eliza, Susan, Mary Jane (I am not sure if this is one daughter or two), Priscilla, Hannah, Loveday and Randal. They are probably listed in birth order although that cannot be confirmed. I am fairly sure at least one child – Hannah – is out of place. Based on the birth dates I could find, I think the children were born between 1783 and 1807. That is assuming no other children died young and that there were about two years between each birth – two big assumptions.
In looking at the names of the older children, I am not sure if the parents followed the traditional naming pattern. They probably named their oldest son Thomas after his paternal grandfather Thomas Kent of Millbrook. However, the second son Aquila on the chart should have been named after his maternal grandfather but I do not think that was the case. Maybe he was named for an older brother of his father’s (not on the original chart). It is possible that Aquila was the third son and the second son died as an infant.
If the Kents had followed the traditional naming pattern, then the third child Phoebe was probably named after her maternal grandmother, who is not identified on the chart at all. The fourth child, Margaret, could have been named for her paternal grandmother who is only identified on the chart as “Miss Going”. My guess is her name was Margaret Going but I have no evidence for this yet. (I will be adding a separate post about Miss Going and her family later on.)
Although I have the names of the Kent children, the family tree chart does not say anything about the four oldest. There is some information about the next four or five daughters but I could not confirm any of it. Anne Kent was one of three Kent children who emigrated to Pittsburg with their families. Anne and her husband Henry Durban had two children: Henry and Margaret. I have not found them in any U.S. Census and I don’t know when they emigrated or where exactly they settled. Pittsburg was a popular destination for Irish emigrants because of the industrial development in that area gave them plenty of economic opportunities.
The next daughter Eliza was obviously named after her mother Eliza Sharp (and I think Eliza Upton was also named after Eliza Sharp, who was her grandmother). Eliza Kent married a William Ryal (or possibly Ryall) and had two children, John and Elizabeth. I don’t know where they lived.
The fifth daughter Susan is listed as marrying a man called Hamilton and that is all we are told.
The sixth daughter may have been called Mary Jane or possibly that is two different daughters. At any rate, Mary, Jane or Mary Jane married a William Smith and had six children. The name Aquila appears again in this family. Aquila Smith emigrated to Australia. One would think that having a name like Aquila Smith would make it easy to find him but I have not been able to do so yet in the Australian records.
Skipping over Priscilla, we come to Hannah Kent, who married Pilkington Commins of King’s County (now Offaly). Hannah was born around 1807 and her husband around 1808. I think Hannah was actually the youngest in her family. Hannah and Pilkington had at least 5 children: Eliza, Pilkington, Henry, Daniel and Rebecca. Hannah and Pilkington were probably married in the late 1830s; their children’s birth years – when known – are from the 1840s. In the 1854 Griffith’s Valuation records for King’s County, there is a Pilkington Commins who was renting about 80 acres from the Earl of Digby in the Parish of Gleashill, Cappancur townland. There were other Commins in the area as well. Cappancur is near Tullamore, in which town Pilkington was also renting and owning property on Charles Street. One daughter, Elizabeth Pilkington Commins, emigrated to the State of Victoria, Australia, where she was married in 1864 to Thomas George Odlum. Interestingly, there were Odlums in Cappancur in 1854 so one could assume this Odlum or his family was known to the Commins family.
According to the chart, three of the Priscilla’s siblings emigrated to Pittsburg with their families – Anne, Loveday and Randal. I have already mentioned Anne so here is what I know about the other two emigrants.
Loveday Kent and her husband John Petty had 12 children, according to the family tree chart. Loveday was born around 1803 in Ireland; John Petty was born around 1809, also in Ireland. They were married in Ireland in 1830 and had two children there: Margaret and Thomas. John Petty travelled by ship to New York in 1836; his wife and children must have come soon afterwards. The family was living in Hartford, Connecticut in the 1840 U.S. census, which also showed there were three more children born there: Mary, George and Loveday. The family then moved to Pittsburgh where they had three more children before 1850: Robert, John and Emma. In the U.S. Census of 1850, John Petty, his wife Loveday and 8 children were living in Alleghany County, Pennsylvania, where he was employed as a rope-maker. In 1860, the family was still living in Allegheny County, PA, now with two additional children (giving a total of 10). By this time, father John Petty was recorded as being employed as a clerk. Although the Kent family tree shows that the Pettys had 12 children altogether, possibly two of them died young so they did not appear in the U.S. censuses. I did not find the Petty family in the 1870 U.S. Census.
The third member of the Kent family that emigrated to Pittsburgh was Randal Kent who was born around 1805 in Ireland. He was the youngest son in the family and was presumably named after his father. His wife Elizabeth (surname unknown) was also born in Ireland around 1815. Their eldest child Anna Kent was born around 1834 so I assume her parents were married in 1833 or earlier. There were five children born in Ireland and then two more children born in Pittsburgh after 1845. One could assume this family emigrated at the start of the Great Famine years. In 1850, Randal Kent and his family were recorded in the U.S. Census as living in Alleghany County, Pennsylvania, where Randal was a clerk. Several other families in the same street were also from Ireland. By 1860, the family was still in Alleghany County and Randal was then employed as a bookkeeper. The family tree chart states that Randal and his wife had 12 children. I don’t know that from the U.S. Census data; they certainly had seven children.
It is clear from these descriptions that the Kents who emigrated were not well-off or highly educated although they did manage to get non-manual jobs over time.
Going back another generation to Priscilla’s parents, I don’t know when Randal Kent was born although I am guessing it was around 1760. I also don’t know where he lived or how he earned his living. The only on-line records that might have helped are from 1776 (the freeholders list), 1824 (Pigot’s Directory) and the early 1850s (Griffith). Randal Kent does not appear in the 1776 list (he would have been too young). I did not find his name in the 1824 Pigot’s Directory for Tipperary although he could have been living in a neighbouring county. And he does not appear in Griffith’s Valuation; if I have his birth year roughly right, he would be unlikely to be still alive at that time. Church records may be the only hope and, even then, I would need to know the parish where his parents were living when he was born and where he was living when he was married.
The Griffith’s Valuation records were not a complete loss for the Kents, however. Also, there are Poor Relief records for 1842 that are useful. In the 1842 Poor Relief records, I found a Thomas Kent, owner and occupier of land at Carrownaglogh, which is near Terryglass in Lower Ormond. In the 1852 Griffith’s Valuation records, I found Thomas Kent, tenant farmer, in Lower Ormond in the townlands of Carrownaglogh and Ballyhaugh, both in Lower Ormond. Could this have been Priscilla’s oldest brother? Or was this the son of Priscilla’s uncle Thomas? It is impossible to tell without church records to help to establish who were his parents. My guess is that Priscilla’s brother Thomas was born in 1783 so he could still have been farming in 1852.
Whoever Thomas Kent the farmer was, I believe it was some of his descendants who were still living in Carrownaglogh near Terryglass in 1901 and 1911, according to those censuses. In the census years, the farmer was George F. Kent.
The family tree chart says that Randal Kent had an older brother called Thomas. He may have had other brothers (and sisters) but we are not told about them. As I mentioned earlier, I think Randal may have had an older brother called Aquila. There is no indication of where the forename of Randal came from. (It was carried on in later generations; my grandfather’s youngest brother was named Joseph Randal Smith.)
I don’t have any information on Randal Kent’s wife Eliza Sharp. I don’t know where she was born or who her parents were. We are told that the surname was most common in County Cavan in the mid-19th century. The name was more common in Ulster counties than in the rest of the country.
The family tree chart tells us that Randal Kent’s parents were Thomas Kent of Millbrook and a Miss Going of Monaquill. Having the place names is extremely useful. Both these places are townlands about 6 miles (10 km) south east of Nenagh, County Tipperary. In fact, the townlands are very close together – about 1.5 miles (2.5 km) apart – in the Parish of Kilnaneave, Upper Ormond.
Estimating that Randal Kent was born around 1760 as the second or third son, I am guessing that his father Thomas Kent was married to Miss Going a few years before that, possibly 1755. On the basis of that latter date, I have estimated that Thomas Kent senior was born around 1733 and Miss Going around 1734. I don’t know where this Thomas Kent was born. Nor do I know how he earned his living. He is not listed in the 1776 freeholders list so I am guessing he was a tenant farmer. Again, only church records could help to identify who he was and, possibly, where his parents were from – if I knew which parish to search in and if the parish records are accessible.
There were two Kents listed in the 1776 freeholders list for Tipperary so some Kents were identifiable as landowners at that time. The Kent freeholders were:
- Aquila Kent, living at Killaloe with property in Inchigrina West (possibly Ballylina West?); and
- William Kent, living at Lisduff with property in Ballyhough (Ballyhaugh).
Here is the name Aquila Kent again. It is such an unusual name that I feel he must be connected to the Kents in our family tree who were also given that forename. But I don’t know what the connection is. The location of his property is a little difficult to determine since I could not find any townland called Inchigrina West. If the right name is Ballylina West, that is a townland a few miles east of Borrisokane in the Parish of Uskane. William Kent had his property at Ballyhaugh, in the Parish of Aglishclohane, about 4 km (less than 3 miles) north of Aquila Kent’s property. Were these two men related? Both properties are in Lower Ormond. That is the area where Thomas Kent could be found as a farmer in the 1840s and 1850s and is also the area where George Kent was living as a land-owner and tenant farmer in the early 1900s. I think all these Kents are connected. It would be nice to be able to prove that.
However, none of the information above helps to explain what Thomas Kent senior was doing in the 1750s when he lived at Millbrook townland. That is in the Parish of Kilnaneave in Upper Ormond.
There are still a lot of questions around Thomas Kent of Millbrook and his son Randal Kent and about how they earned their living. I don’t think they were landowners and they don’t seem to have been townspeople either. They were probably tenant farmers.
Kents were numerous in Ireland in the 19th century, particularly in the counties of Wexford, Tipperary and Cork. The name can be traced back to the 13th century in County Meath.
The Kents in our family tree were in Tipperary from at least the middle of the 18th century, probably earlier.
So, on the basis of rather limited information so far, we can say that some of Priscilla Kent’s ancestors were living in Tipperary in the 1750s. This was about 100 years before our Smith ancestors arrived in Ireland.