Chance encounter in graveyard helps family trace local ancestors

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A chance encounter in a local church graveyard proved to be the key to helping a family in England trace ancestors in the area.

Londoner Mike Foy and his cousins, who have been trying to trace the County Antrim branch of their family, unearthed information about Edward Hood that spurred them to bring the search to Lisburn.

“Some seven years ago,” said Mike, “my cousins and I, living in England and Dublin, started what was to become a highly challenging and totally absorbing search for the origins of an Antrim family, our Hood Antrim family.

“Our start point was the finding on a Royal Artillery muster that our great-great-great-grandfather, Edward Hood, was born in Ballinderry Parish in 1789.

“After enlisting in the Royal Artillery as a driver of horses in 1807 at Lisburn, we traced his initial term of service history through Ireland, Spain, Portugal and France.

“Fighting in Wellington’s army on the Peninsula, he was badly wounded at Salamanca, before being discharged in 1814. He again enlisted in 1815 when Napoleon had fled from Elba and British forces were fully mobilised for the final conflict with the ‘little corporal’ at Waterloo.

“Edward Hood remained in the Royal Artillery as a gunner until he was discharged again in 1832.

“Ironically, in his last years of army service, he was batman to Colonel Hamelin Trelawney, who, in 1842, was to become Governor of St Helena, where Napoleon had been exiled and died.

“After living in Dublin upon his 1832 discharge, Edward Hood eventually worked as a horse carriage stable man in Woolwich, England, where he died in 1844.”

Having discovered a family connection in Lisburn, Mike decided to travel over to Northern Ireland to see if he could find out more about the Hood family.

He said:“I visited the churchyard and Rectory of Holy Trinity in Aghalee – one of many churches in the area whose records we have searched.

“The churchyard contained no Hoods and the rectory only held records from 1832, with no Hoods to be found at all.

“A wasted journey from London, you might think, but emphatically no.

“As I left the churchyard, I met a local farmer and we chatted about my purpose, the idyllic beef-rearing farmland and his home in a former army garrison in Soldierstown.

“Before I said my goodbye, I asked this gentleman whether he had any knowledge of Hood families living in the area; a chance remark, met by the reply that there was one Hood farming family at Maze, a place that had never been on our radar.

“ We have now uncovered what looks to be a sprawling single Hood family whose origins and petering-out may reflect the very social history of Antrim itself.

“We may have even found a link between Ballinderry/Magharamesk Hoods and those from Maze.”

Mike is keen to hear from anyone who may be able to help him with his family tree.

“We would like to uncover relatives of the many Hoods we have now found living in Blaris, Derriaghy, Maze, Stoneyford and surrounds up to the early 1900s,” he said. “We have recurring Christian names that have spilled down the generations, such as Edward, Robert, John, James, William, Agnes and Margaret. We feel there must be other people with Hood ancestry who may be able to add to the family connections we are trying to unravel.”

If you have any information that could help Mike in his search, email julieann.spence@ulsterstar.co.uk.