In Search of Mrs. McCleery

I first met Mrs. McLeery in the diary of James Black, proprietor of the Randalstown cotton mills in County Antrim, Ireland, and a merchant of Charleston, South Carolina. Mr. Black was tangentially connected to my ancestors in Augusta, Georgia. The following entry from 31 August 1841 caught my attention because of Mrs. McCleery’s nephew:

Attended the funeral of Mrs. Jas McCleery this day [in] Randalstown. She died on 27th inst in the 62nd year of her life; she and I were born in Randalstown and nearly the same age. I was a year sooner in the world; our families were intimate and I may say I was in daily intercourse for 30 years and always intimate. She had no family but brought up her nephew J[ohn] S[trong] Adams as her own child.

Digging into other resources, I discovered that the John Strong Adams (JSA) mentioned in the diary is the nephew of John Strong Adams who married Sarah Eve, a daughter of my ancestor. JSA was born in 1812, the same year his uncle John died. Both of JSA’s parents died the following year indicating that Mrs. McCleery adopted JSA very early in his life. JSA predeceased her in 1834.

Randalstown in 2019

The father of Mrs. McCleery and the older John Strong Adams was Thomas Adams, brother of another ancestor of mine. Thomas’ 1793 will mentions several children, including John and two sisters, Martha and Anne Eliza. In John Strong Adams’ will, dated 1809, he leaves his property in Randalstown to his mother Anne and his sister Anne Eliza.

Her name is also mentioned in the diary of Sarah (Eve) Adams at least once (I’ve only skimmed a few pages). Sarah, in the fall of 1813, records that she intends to write a letter to her “sister, Mrs. McCleery.”

In a collection of family letters, Mrs. McCleery makes two more appearances along with a few other McCleerys.

Mrs. McCleery sent a package to her sister-in-law, Sarah (Eve) Adams, via Mary Ann Cathcart, who immigrated to South Carolina about 1818. Mary Ann writes to a relative in Ireland to report that she had delivered the package to James and Mary (Adams) Bones, a cousin of Mrs. McCleery, and that they would give it to their son John, Sarah’s brother-in-law, to deliver. And in 1829, Mrs. McCleery has her cousins’ daughters, Jane Brown and Mary Staveley, stay with her for several weeks.

While I haven’t definitively identified which sister is Mrs. McCleery, she sounds like a generous lady, kind, and well liked. I’ve enjoyed getting to know her through research and hope to learn more about her and her family.

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