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Searching for Thompsons | Print |  E-mail

This is a fascintating story of a family from the mid 1800's who left for New Zealand. If anyone can add to this story, the Cahill and Barber family would be very, very grateful

In August 2012, we received this e-mail from New Zealand.

Dear Catherine

I am coming to Gilford from 1-4 October from New zealand and hope to find the graves of my fathers ancestors who I believe are buried in the Tullylish graveyard. Who should I contact when I get there? Their names were James Thompson who died 28.5.1853 and who married Sarah Thompson maiden name not known
and their children all of whom seem to have died quite young. Samuel Ernest Thompson their son, died 24.2.1870 aged 29 and his widow, Mary nee Hawthorne emigrated to New Zealand with her two remaining sons one of whom was my grandfather. I have a heap of information about their life in Gilford and am hoping to photograph their gravestones if possible. Would appreciate any help you can give me to  make my visit fruitful. I am leaving for UK on 31st August.

Yours sincerely

Cynthia Cahill (nee Thompson)  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Following on from this, Cynthia forwarded the details of the grave inscription, written down by a visitor to the grave in the 1970's. The grave was located in the Church of Ireland cemetery in Tullylish.




Thompson inscription Large Web viewDear Catherine

I understand the Thompson family were Church of Ireland and think they may be buried in old Tullylish graveyard. Since I wrote to you I have received some documents from a member of our family that I didn’t know about and they include wills, deeds of property owned by them, marriage certificates and letters.  James and Sarah Thompson had about 9 or 10 children most of whom were daughters and died quite young. I have a hand written copy of a gravestone inscription which was copied by a family member who went there in 1980. They were apparently in the process of lifting all the gravestones at the time but when relatives from NZ arrived that particular stone remained where it had been – somewhere near the old remaining tower of the original church.  They also owned 12 houses in the main street of Gilford but these were sold after the widow of Samuel Thompson left for NZ. The circumstances of the sale are a bit unusual. Samuel Thompson was described as being a spirit merchant and saddler.

Hope this gives you something to go on. We are looking forward very much to our trip to Ireland.

So, after several trips around the cemetery, with the help of Muriel McCracken and George Wilson, no grave was found! Cynthia arrived from New Zealand with her daughter-in-law and, once again, we scoured the cemetery - in the rain. Lo and behold, while standing looking at the tower, Cynthia looked down at the ground, pulled some grass off the stone (lying flat) and there was the stone. The name Pauline was very clear to see.





IMG 0057 Large Web view

Cynthia Cahill from New Zealand and her daughter-in-law visited the parish office to look up some old records. Thomas Thompson was married to Brigid McConnell and three of their children were baptised Catholic. Brigid is buried in Laurencetown Cemetery.



 In August 2013, Cynthia's niece Margaret Barber and her family came to walk on the land of their ancestor's birth.




Margaret Barber with her husband Roger and two sons Dougie and James


We think the houses owned by the Thompsons in the 1800's were known as 'Thompson's Row' - now in the vicinity of Castle Hill, Gilford.


We are fairly certain this shop was owned by James Thompson.






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