KERR FAMILY CHRONICLES

© Christopher Earls Brennen

CHAPTER TWO

FIRST KNOWN KERR ANCESTORS


Area of County Tyrone south of Dungannon.

Some of the townlands in the parish of Clonfeacle.

  1. James Kerr was probably born about 1800. According to his son Joseph's marriage certificates, he was a labourer in the townland of Drumnastrade in the parish of Clonfeacle, County Tyrone. Drumnastrade is between Benburb and Dungannon. In the Griffith Valuation of about 1860 three men named James Kerr are listed as resident in Drumnastrade. Two, who are clearly father and son, are substantial farmers. Their families are outlined in Appendix 2A. The third is listed as James Kerr, labourer, and is most likely our ancestor. He is listed as renting from James Kerr, senior, a house worth ten shillings and a garden measuring three roods and 30 perches. The children of James Kerr:
    1. Joseph Kerr was the son of James Kerr, a labourer in Drumnastrade in the parish of Clonfeacle. Joseph was born about 1841 and became a tailor. He was married on May 26, 1863, to Ellen Davison in the Parish Church, parish of Donaghmore. On their marriage certificate, Ellen is listed as living in Auglish, the daughter of Andrew Davison, a farmer. Joseph is listed as a tailor living in Drumnastrade, the son of James Kerr, labourer. The marriage was witnessed by Robert Anderson and Thomas Davidson. One of the pieces of evidence which confirms Joseph and his father, James, as our ancestors is that Joseph's signature on his own marriage certificate is virtually identical to that on the marriage certificate of his son, William Robert Kerr. (See certificates at the end of this chapter.) Joseph became a farmer and a tailor in Dunseark which is immediately next to Drumnastrade. He was irreverently known to his descendants as ``Pope Joe'' because of an incident on the road between Dungannon and his home. Joe drank a fair bit and, on this day, lay down beside the road for a nap. A Catholic neighbour found him and picked him out of the ditch to help him home. Joe told this good samaritan to leave him back where he found him and ``to hell with the Pope''. Joseph and Ellen had several children listed immediately below. However Ellen must have died prior to 1877, because on Sept.28, 1877, Joseph Kerr, a widower and a tailor, was married for the second time to Sarah Anne Reid. Sarah was born about 1856 and was from Knocknarney, Carnteel; her father was Graham Reid, a farmer. The marriage took place in the parish church of Carnteel, County Tyrone. Knocknarney is a townland just north of Carnteel which is about 10 miles southwest of Dungannon and just outside Aughnacloy. On the marriage certificate Joseph Kerr is listed as residing in Dunseark and his father is given as James Kerr, a labourer. The marriage was witnessed by William Stinson and Elizabeth Reid whose relation to Sarah Anne is unknown. William Robert Kerr, our ancestor, was a son of this second marriage; he was born on Feb.18, 1880, in Dunseark. On his birth certificate his father Joseph is described as a tailor in Dunseark. In the 1901 Census, Joseph and Sarah A. Kerr are recorded as living in the townland of Crubinagh, parish of Clonfeacle, with their two daughters Mary and Margaret. Crubinagh is just south of Drumnastrade. In that census return their religion is given as protestant episcopalian, Joseph is listed as a 60-year-old tailor and Sarah's age is given as 44. The house they are living in is owned by James Bruce, esq. In the 1911 Census 72-year-old tailor Joseph Kerr and his 69-year-old wife Sarah are listed as living in house #8 in Crubinagh with their daughter Maggie and son David(? maybe grandson). The following is all we know of the children of Joseph Kerr by his first marriage to Ellen Davison (the children of Joseph and Sarah Kerr are listed later):
      1. James Andrew Kerr, son of Joseph and Ellen Kerr, was born on March 4, 1864, in Drumnastrade. He became a tailor and, in 1894, married a woman named Lydia, born about 1860 in County Monaghan. In the 1901 Census they are listed as living in Castlecaulfield, County Tyrone, along with their large family and James's two young brothers William and David Kerr. James and Lydia and their children all emigrated to Canada; in Londonderry they boarded the "Corsican" on Apr.23, 1909, and sailed for Quebec. At the time James was 46 and a tailor and Lydia was 47. The family settled in Toronto. Sadie Kerr recalls one of their sons, Rowland, coming back to visit his ancestral home. The children of Lydia and James:
        1. Elizabeth Florence Kerr was born about 1885 and, at the time of the 1901 Census, was listed as a ``tailor's machinist'' living with her parents in Castlecaulfield. Apparently she did not emigrate with the rest of the family.
        2. Edith Caroline Kerr was born about 1887 and was attending school in Castlecaulfield at the time of the 1901 Census. Apparently she did not emigrate with the rest of the family.
        3. Rowland Thomas Andrew Kerr was born about 1889 and was attending school in Castlecaulfield at the time of the 1901 Census. Though he did not emigrate with the rest of the family, we think he became a traveller for a confectionery company in Toronto. His children:
          1. Robert Kerr had a daughter Alix Kerr who married J.P.McConnell.
        4. John Joseph Kerr was born about 1890 and was attending school in Castlecaulfield at the time of the 1901 Census. Known as Jack, he emigrated to Toronto with his parents and is listed as a 19-year-old tailor.
        5. Robert Kerr was born about 1892 and was attending school in Castlecaulfield at the time of the 1901 Census. He emigrated to Toronto with his parents and is listed as a 16-year-old schoolboy.
        6. Thomasine Kathleen Kerr was born about 1895 and was attending school in Castlecaulfield at the time of the 1901 Census. Known as Teenie, she emigrated to Toronto with her parents and is listed as a 13-year-old schoolgirl.
        7. Charles Kerr was born about 1897 and was attending school in Castlecaulfield at the time of the 1901 Census. He emigrated to Toronto with his parents and is listed as a 11-year-old.
        8. Edward Kerr was born about 1902 and emigrated to Toronto with his parents; in the manifest he listed as a 7-year-old.
      2. Thomas John Kerr, son of Joseph and Ellen Kerr, was born on Aug.21, 1867, in ``Dunsirk'', parish of Clonfeacle. He went to live in Lurgan where he set up a tailoring business. Our ancestor William Robert Kerr, Thomas's much younger brother, lived, at least briefly, with Thomas and gave his address at the time of his marriage as 164 Union Street, Lurgan. Thomas's business thrived and, in 1960, was located at 10 Market Street, the main road through Lurgan. He was very active in the affairs of the town and was a Methodist lay preacher. Thomas married twice. His first wife whose name we do not know gave birth to a number of children though we do not know all of them. His second wife was Evelyn Margaret Black from Sandholes near Cookstown, County Tyrone. Two sons were born of this second marriage.
        1. ? Kerr, the eldest son of Thomas's first marriage, became a solicitor (lawyer) and died in Dublin in the 1980s.
        2. Renee Kerr was the only daughter of Thomas's first marriage.
        3. John Kerr was the youngest son of Thomas's first marriage. Red-haired, he started out working as an apprentice to a chemist in Moygashel near Dungannon. The apprenticeship was long and not well paid; John became frustrated and with only 1 year of the apprenticeship left to finish, he took a position at Moygashel Textile, working in the quality department. He had a very keen eye for color. John married Maud Gilmore and they had three children. Maud died at a young age and John died of a heart attack about 1982.
          1. Valerie Kerr married Trevor Uncles from Coalisland near Dungannon. They had twin boys in 1974 and in 1976 moved to a small town called Uppingham near Leicester in England. Valerie taught in primary school in Uppingham for some years and then began teaching in Corby, Northamptonshire, where she teaches today (2002). She and Trevor separated in 1990 and later divorced. Valerie married again to Andrew Nicholson a business consultant from Scunthorpe; they live in Uppingham. Trevor is a consultant engineer who works in Birmingham and lives in Uppingham with his partner Elva Philpott. Valerie and Trevor's children:
            1. Darryl Uncles, the elder of the twins by 4 minutes, lives in Nottingham and works for his brother's wife's father's packaging company.
            2. Gareth Uncles, the younger twin, is a sales engineer for an optical manufacturing company, Coherent Optics Europe Ltd (part of Coherent Inc. manufacturer of lasers). In Jun. 2002, he married Lisa White of Leicester and they live in a small village just outside Leicester. Lisa is an office manager for her father's packaging company. They have a son, Adam Uncles born in 2001.
          2. Gillian Kerr became a teacher. She first taught in Dungannon Intermediate School before moving to England to live briefly with her neice Valerie and earn an MBA. Then she moved to Sleaford in Lincolnshire where she teaches in a secondary school. She is unmarried (2002).
          3. Gordon Kerr emigrated to Boston where he works for Raytheon. He married Sue Horowitz from Boston and they live just outside that city. They have two sons, John and Peter Kerr.
        4. Robert Kerr, known as ``Bo'', was the first son of Thomas's second marriage. He became a doctor and lived in Belfast.
        5. Holman Gordon Stanley Kerr, known as Gordon, was born on Jan.8, 1922, and was a pupil at Lurgan College from Sep.3, 1934, until Jul.31, 1940. He probably joined the R.A.F. immediately after school. By 1945 he was a Flying Officer in the 514 Squadron of the Royal Air Force. This squadron was inlvolved in air support for the advancing allied armies during the last months of World War II. He was killed on Mar.5, 1945, when the Lancaster bomber NN775 in which he was the pilot was shot down and crashed in Bunsbeek, Belgium. Only three bodies of the seven crew members were recovered and Holman was not one of those. The three were buried in Heverlee War Cemetery. A memorial ceremony was held at the site on Remembrance Day, Nov.11, 2015, with officials of Germany, UK, Australia and the Belgian Air Force. In 2016, the site of the plane crash was further excavated and Holman's remains were recovered from the cockpit. His remains were buried with honors at the Heverlee War Cemetery.
        6. Cyril Davison Kerr, known as ``Be'', was born about 1920. His children:
          1. Ian D. Kerr has a son Ryan Kerr.
        7. Raymond Kerr

           
        Sarah Anne Kerr. James Andrew Kerr with his grandchildren in Toronto.

        Certificate of marriage for Joseph Kerr and Ellen Davison in 1863.
        Certificate of marriage for Joseph Kerr and Sarah Anne Reid in 1877.

      3. Joseph Kerr, son of Joseph and Sarah Anne Kerr, was born in Dunseark on Sep.15, 1878, with Samuel Fergus present. He moved to Drogheda, Ireland, where he came to own a tailoring business. He married a Englishwoman from Salisbury named Emma. They had a large family and Doreen recalls that they lived in a lovely big house in Trinity Street, Drogheda, a house which smelt of cooking and pipe tobacco. She also remembers evenings singing and tea parties at which she had to behave! In the house there were many bedrooms for the unmarried sons one of whom had sleep-walking episodes. Joseph and Emma's children:
        1. Evelyn Kerr married John O'Neill, a Catholic who was the manager of the Drogheda gasworks. They lived in the Gasworks House, The Marsh, Drogheda. Their children:
          1. Florence O'Neill, known as ``Florie'', married Gabriel McAvinue, the nephew of a Roman Catholic bishop and professor at University College, Galway. Doreen remembers Florie as a very attractive person and she and Gabriel as a very loving couple. They had no natural children but adopted a son, Niall, born about 1970.
          2. Muriel O'Neill married a man called John. They live in England and have children.
          3. Elsie O'Neill lives in the Marsh, Drogheda, is married and has children.
        2. Barbara Kerr, known as ``Babe'', married John Collins, a Catholic and a poultry exporter; they lived in Trinity Gardens, Drogheda.
          1. Joseph Collins.
          2. William Collins.
          3. Kenneth Collins.
          4. Emma Collins.
        3. Elsie Kerr married Ben Ford, a Protestant from Bath, England, who was a manager in a shoe factory in Drogheda. They lived in a small house in Georges Street, Drogheda, where Doreen spent a very nice summer vacation. There was much social activity. Elsie and Ben had no children.
        4. Harford Kerr worked in the cement works in Drogheda. He was unmarried and lived with his parents. After retirement he and his brother Norman started a small confectionery shop.
        5. William Kerr worked in a shoe factory in Drogheda. He was married with a family.
        6. Norman Kerr was a bachelor who lived with his parents and worked in a shoe factory in Drogheda. After retirement he and his brother Harford started a small confectionery shop.
        7. Edith Kerr, the youngest child, married Pat O'Brien a building contractor. They had three or four children and lived in Drogheda.

           
        Left: William Robert Kerr and Mary Matilda (Brown) with their sons George, Herbert, Cecil
        and Joseph about 1910. Right: William and Mary at their golden wedding anniversary.

      4. William Robert Kerr (1880-1967), son of Joseph and Sarah Anne Kerr and Doreen's grandfather, was born on Feb.18, 1880, in Dunseark which is just north of Drumnastrade. He trained to be a tailor and was living with his elder half-brother, James Andrew Kerr, in Castlecaulfield at the time of the 1901 Census. Shortly thereafter he must have gone to live with another brother, Thomas John Kerr, for at the time of his marriage in 1902 he was living in Lurgan at 164 Union Street. Both brothers (and, previously perhaps, his father) had tailoring businesses and it was with them that William Robert served his apprenticeship. On April 1, 1902, he married Mary Matilda Brown in the Castlecaulfield Church of Ireland, parish of Donaghmore. Presumably he had met Mary Matilda while living in Castlecaulfield with James Andrew Kerr. On the marriage certificate Mary Matilda's father is given as William George Brown, a farmer, and her place of residence is listed as Lisnamonaghan, which is immediately adjacent to Castlecaulfield. His father is given as Joseph Kerr, tailor. Both William Robert and Mary Matilda signed their marriage certificate. The marriage was witnessed by David Kerr and by Anne Jane Brown. William Robert and Mary Matilda must have lived for a while in Lurgan for their eldest son, Cecil, was born there. Later William Robert started a tailoring business in George's Street, Dungannon, County Tyrone. In the 1911 Census, 30-year-old merchant tailor William Robert Kerr and his 30-year-old wife Mary Matilda are listed as living in House#5, Georges Street, Dungannon, with their four children, Cecil, William George, Herbert Victor and Joseph (the family belong to the Church of Ireland). For many years, the tailoring business in George's Street, Dungannon, thrived. William Robert and Mary Matilda had at least nine children (see Chapter 4). They lived first above the shop in George's Street. Here William Robert and Mary Matilda presided over a rapidly expanding family of Kerrs most of whom were involved in the tailoring business. In the early part of the century this proved a profitable venture. Later they moved for a brief time to a late Georgian house on Castle Hill (just above Market Square) next to the Orange Hall. The house is set back a little compared with the row of houses further down Castle Street and their youngest child, Mary, was born in ``Castle Hill House''. However they moved back to the premises above the shop on George's Street when the walk up the hill became too much for William Robert. After the second World War, the advent of ready-made suits caused all tailoring businesses to decline and by the 1950s and 60s William Robert's business became a struggling operation. At one point he may have been near or in bankruptcy. However the business survived until the deaths of his two youngest sons in the 1980s. Nevertheless in the 1960s I recall a grand old man and a grand old lady to whom an obligatory visit had to be made when I proposed to his granddaughter. When I told William Robert Kerr that Doreen and I were to be married, he surprised me by recalling ``the Frenchman from Donaghmore'', my great-grandfather Bernard Brennen. Mary Matilda Kerr died in South Tyrone Hospital, Dungannon, on June 11, 1965; William Robert Kerr followed her on Sep.14, 1968. Both are buried in Coolhill Cemetary, Dungannon.

        Birth certificate for William Robert Kerr in 1880.
        Birth certificate for Mary Matilda Brown.
        Marriage certificate of William Robert Kerr and Mary Matilda Brown in 1902.

      5. David Kerr, son of Joseph and Sarah Anne Kerr, was born about 1884 and, at the time of the 1901 Census, was living in Castlecaulfield with his eldest half-brother, James Andrew Kerr. In that Census return David is listed as a 17-year-old tailor. Shortly thereafter he witnessed the marriage of his brother, William Robert, on April 1, 1902. David married a woman from Downpatrick, County Down, and went to live there after their marriage. At this point he severed all relations with his family. His reasons are unknown. One day late in life, William Robert Kerr asked to be driven to Downpatrick to see his younger brother. Nothing came of this attempt at reconciliation.

      6. Margaret Kerr, daughter of Joseph and Sarah Anne Kerr, was born about 1892 and was living with her parents in the townland of Crubinagh at the time of the 1901 Census. In the 1911 Census 20-year-old Maggie is listed as living with her parents in Crubinagh. She married a man named Reid and lived in Dungannon. On Nov.15, 1918, Joseph Reid was married to Margaret Elizabeth Kerr in the Derrygortreavy Church of Ireland, parish of Clonfeacle, civil district of Dungannon, County Tyrone. The daughter of Joseph and Margaret Kerr:
        1. Sarah Reid married James McCammon and had children. They live near Eglish south of Dungannon.

      7. Mary Ellen Kerr, daughter of Joseph and Sarah Anne Kerr, was born about 1888 and was living with her parents in the townland of Crubinagh at the time of the 1901 Census. We think she married a man named Patterson. On Sep.21, 1921, George Patterson was married to Mary Ellen Kerr in the Dungannon Church of Ireland, parish of Drumglass, Dungannon, County Tyrone.

    Last updated 7/30/99.


    Christopher E. Brennen