Tuesday 17 October 2017

Signature of Ronald Reagan’s great-great grandfather discovered in pre-Famine 'census'

Ronald Reagan speaking at Ballyporeen, Co Tipperary, in 1984
Ronald Reagan speaking at Ballyporeen, Co Tipperary, in 1984
Nicola Anderson

By Nicola Anderson

THE signature of Ronald Reagan’s great-great grandfather from Ballyporeen, Co Tipperary has been discovered on a priceless old document which is the only ‘census’ from pre-Famine times.

Genealogists have also uncovered the signature of the grandfather of movie director, John Ford of The Quiet Man as well as other links to well-known figures from the world of politics, business and the arts.

Their names have been found on the 1841 Morpeth Roll - a fascinating testimonial containing around 160,000 signatures on 652 individual sheets of paper, joined together into a continuous scroll over three times the length of Croke Park.

It was received as a gift by Lord Morpeth from Ireland after he on stepping down as Chief Secretary. It was a project devised by Daniel O’Connell, the Duke of Leinster amongst others.

The document remained hidden for many years in a basement in Castle Howard, Yorkshire.

Well-known figures who signed the Roll include Thomas Reagan of Ballyporeen; Patrick Feeny, grandfather of John Ford - whose real name was also Feeny. It also contains the names of representatives of three leading brewery families: Arthur Guinness - the second Arthur who ran the brewery and the Bank of Ireland in the 1820s and ‘30s; Francis Beamish of Cork and three Smithwick brothers from Kilkenny.

The Roll has been returned to NUI Maynooth after a nationwide tour. It will travel to Queens University Belfast in December and on to Dublin Castle in the New Year.

A new book launched today details new research into the document, edited by Professor Christopher Ridgway, Curator at Castle Howard. Speaking at the launch, Dr Terence Dooley of the Department of History said the Morpeth Roll is one of Ireland’s most significant historical and political documents.

Professor Philip Nolan, President of NUI Maynooth said the university was developing into Ireland’s most influential centre for 19th century genealogical and social research.

“Our researchers are leading the charge in terms of insight into Ireland’s social fabric during this period, overcoming the chalenges thrown down by the lack of census data and using sources such as the Morpeth Roll to develop tangible links between our ancestors and parishes across Ireland,” he said.

The Morpeth Roll is a joint project between NUI Maynooth, Castle Howard and Ancestry.com.

The document has been digitised and available to view online at www.ancestry.com.

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