Finding Siblings

I had been on the trail for several years, looking for the siblings of John Adams of Chequer Hall, County Antrim, Ireland. The only sibling I knew about was a brother named James, who received £50 in John’s will. Family stories say that John and James were business partners.

But without known parents and thin records due to time and place, the path ahead wasn’t clear. Through a series of happy circumstances, I found that the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) had a small collection of John Adams’ papers as well as a few other documents for Adamses in the same area. Some of the documents were transcribed online, but many more were not.

One of the transcribed letters was from a William Adams of Randalstown, County Antrim, Ireland, to Jane Staveley at Chequer Hall, John’s daughter. William signs the letter, “your ever affectionate uncle.” Aha, a brother!

Another entry that caught my eye was a will for a Thomas Adams, also of Randalstown, County Antrim. I had nothing to go on but the name and place, but I hoped it would be useful. Through a Facebook group, I found someone in Northern Ireland willing to copy and send me the will. The will establishes John and William to be his brothers: “I do hereby appoint my brother John Adams of Chequer Hall and my brother William Adams of Randalstown to be my executors.” Another brother!

Last year, my husband and I made it to PRONI. What an amazing experience handling my ancestor’s 200+ year old documents. It took us the entire day to photograph everything in the collection.

One of the documents I photographed was an account book John kept, mostly during the 1790s. The book was indexed by its keeper and many of the entries were quite detailed. I was especially interested in the accounts between John and his brothers, William, James, and Thomas.

As I studied the pages, I came across several entries in the accounts with William for “sister Mary” and “sister Isabel.” The index lists a Mary Adams and an Isabel Adams. These spinster sisters were receiving a small annual sum from their brothers. Mary’s payments stop around 1793, perhaps indicating that she had died around that time.

Separate entries in the accounts for William, list “br. Matthew” and “brother M.” John’s will does mention a Matthew Adams of Ballyboyland, but I’m unsure if these are the same individuals.

On the account with Thomas, John indicated debits for “sister Martha.” This is the only entry for her.

These four possible siblings were nearly forgotten. Luckily, John’s account book has survived through the generations to lead me to them.

This post is part of my Ireland Genealogy Trip series.

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