William Henry Nason Marriage no.1
William Henry's father had married into another branch of the Nason family - doubtless related in some way but two or more centuries previously. William Henry, cemented that conjoining by marrying his cousin - the daughter of his mother's sister. And the web became even more entangled when William Henry's daughter married the son of one of his other aunts (younger sister, one of the youngest children). Indeed the whole of the landed gentry seemed to intermarry fairly frequently, so maybe some of these marriages were almost political, perhaps arranged. (The lovely daguerrotype of the young couple is not of William Henry and Catherine, but it was taken at about the time of their marriage and is probably a good representation of what they were like.)
Scissett?, Ballitore?, Ardrahan, Clontuskert and Rathcormac 1840-1858?
At the time of their marriage - May 1840 - William was still the curate of the parish church of Scissett in Yorkshire. Catherine, his wife - and cousin - (that makes your aunt, also your mother-in-law!), must have been known to him. Her family lived in a nearby village to Ballynoe - Carrigtohill and it was here that they were married by Catherine's brother Richard (who ultimately emigrated to Lismore, NSW). The church is shown above. Had William grown up with Catherine? Had he only seen her now and then? Had he grown to love her over the years? Although she was also from a well-to-do family I do not think that there would have been a major dowry and so let us assume that they had known and loved each other for many years. It would explain how he suddenly married somebody in Ireland when he had been in England for a couple of years. Maybe he missed her. He was twenty five at the time.
I then have three conflicting facts to contend with. For in 1841 he graduates from Trinity College, Dublin with a Masters degree and yet the Clergy List for 1841 has him listed as still being the Prebendary Curate of Scissett in Yorkshire. Surely one couldn't do a degree by correspondence in those days? One assumes that Catherine must have lived with him in Scissett, although there do not appear to be any Nason births there, and, moreover, they do not appear in the 1841 census - which was taken on 6th June, so maybe by June he was back in Ireland. And indeed just to confuse things still further, in June, 'the lady of the Rev William Henry Nason' is delivered of a daughter at Ballytore in County Kildare.' What were they, or she doing there? The village is shown at right and an interesting thing about the place is that it is a Quaker village, set up by the Quakers and mostly populated by Quakers. Were her family Quakers? Were they living there and she went back home to have the baby? It's all a bit confusing, because if he was the Curate in charge of the church in Scisset he could hardly have been taking off a lot of time to study or live in Ireland. I also do not know which child this is, indeed whether this child survived. It is just a newspaper announcement and no name is given. And also according to the records I have, no other child is born until 1847.
However, we do know that in 1843 he was appointed curate to the parish of Ardrahan in County Galway - back in Ireland but quite a long way from home, near the west coast. Did he go elsewhere between Scissett and Ardrahan, perhaps to Ballytore, or was he in Scissett until his new appointment? If so, why is he not in the 1841 census? The Ardrahan church - small and not terribly impressive, is shown at left. County Galway, on the west coast of Ireland, is full of wild and beautiful countryside, bogs and lakes, and is the heartland of the Irish language. I imagine it to be a poor area, and certainly the west of Ireland is the region that bore the brunt of the Irish potato famine - and William was there at the time. I did think to provide a page in my Social History section on the potato famine, but rapidly saw that there were such good sites out there, that my own feeble effort would have been redundant. Instead I have provided a link to one of the best at the foot of the page.
So a short digression on the potato famine which began in 1845 and lasted to a greater or lesser degree until 1851. In the process Ireland lost over a million people through starvation or disease - mostly typhus, and another million to emigration. It occurred to me to investigate the famine a little, because although the Nason family would not have been starving, it must have had an impact - so my first impulse was to find out about how the gentry fared. Well not very well - and indeed it seems that the family home, Newtown House was the price the family paid. According to the book Landlords and Tenants in Ireland in 1881, 'Newtown, for several generations the fee-simple property of a family of the name of Nason, after the famine of 1846, was cut up and sold, the family residence is in ruin.' The landowners may have continued to have land that bore crops for export (not for the starving Irish), but their tenants were unable to pay their rents and they would have lost the labourers who toiled on their lands. No help was forthcoming for the peasants from England - a feeble attempt to provide corn instead of potatoes, failed, as did the soup kitchens. The problem was just too overwhelming. And so many of the landowners, many of whom would have mortgages and other debts, were unable to pay back the banks. It seems that Newtown was the family sacrifice. They had other property elsewhere though and William Henry would have continued to have been paid by the church one assumes. And with the church came a house.
The History Place - Several pages which give a comprehensive, detailed and interesting account of the Irish Potato Famine.
Marriage no. 2
Catherine Elizabeth Gaggin
And this is where my story ends for now. I think I became a bit overwhelmed by the potato famine. I shall continue anon.