Thursday, 13 June 2013

The Hunt for the Next Level Up - the First Surprise!

The history of my Sproule family had so far centred on the Tullymoan farm, in Urney, County Tyrone. I was now looking at the generation who were born at the end of the 1700s, and it was here that the surprises began!

I had gathered quite a bit of information on my great grandfather James Sproule and his family.  But who were the parents of James Sproule? I knew that James was born in 1816, but I had no hint as to James’ parents or his peers. Now began the serious searching.

First Steps in Family History Research

The wonderful County Tyrone Genealogy website was my tutor.1  It not only provided me with valuable pieces of information, but it taught me how to find more. It was on this site that I learnt about  the 1857 Griffiths Valuation, a type of census which listed households, tenants  and land owners. I located James Sproule and he had 187 acres of leased land in Tullymoan at that time.

I found out about the earlier tax, the Tithe Applotment tax,  in roughly 1825. James Sproule was only a child at that time, so it was unlikely that he would appear on this list. Sure enough, there was a different Sproule in Tullymoan in 1825, an Andrew Sproule. Surely, this must be the father of James?

Indeed, it proved to be so. I had found for the first time, Andrew Sproule of Tullymoan, my great, great grandfather.

Births, Marriages and Deaths

There were a lot of names and dates on the County Tyrone Genealogy website coming from two local Newspapers  of the eighteen hundreds, The Londonderry Sentinel, and The Strabane Morning Post. The births, marriages and deaths sections of these Newspapers were available for sale, so I purchased a copy of each.  

There were lots of Andrew Sproules in these lists! The Sproules in Tyrone all used the same first names, and they repeat them in every generation to this day. I have lists full of Roberts, Andrews, Samuels and Williams - very confusing!  I narrowed the search, looking for  both ‘Sproule’ and ‘Tullymoan’.

I found no Sproules from Tullymoan in the birth sections, nor in the lists of marriages. I found just four entries in the deaths sections:

DIED Sproule,  January 15, 1833
On Friday, the 4th inst. Miss Sproule of Tullymoan, aged 30.
The Strabane Morning Post 1812 – 1837

DIED Miss Sproul, February 28th 1835
On the morning of the 19th inst., Miss Sproul, daughter of Mr. Andrew Sproul, of Tullymoan, near Strabane.
The Londonderry Sentinel 1829 – 1869

DIED Matilda Sproule, May  5th 1838
At the residence of her father, on the morning of Sunday, the 29th ult., Matilda, youngest daughter of Mr. Andrew Sproule, of Tullymoan, near Strabane.
The Londonderry Sentinel 1829 – 1869

Three daughters of Andrew Sproule, three sisters of James Sproule,  all died within 5 years. They were adults, not children. What happened? Another mystery for another day.

I had found no record of Andrew Sproule himself, not his birth, marriage nor death. Many months on now, I have files and files of information on the Tullymoan Sproules and their connections,  but  I still don’t have this basic data on my great, great grandfather. 

The Wife of Andrew Sproule of Tullymoan

For a long time,  I could also find no record of Andrew’s wife. But then I had the idea to go back to the list that I had compiled of the Sproules from  the newspapers of that time. I didn’t do a search on this occasion. I worked meticulously through every Sproule entry, line by line. I am not sure what I was looking for,  I was just fishing.

And then I found it! Hello, great, great grandmother!

DIED Rebecca Sproule, February 5th 1858
At Tullymean, in the neighbourhood of Strabane, on Monday, the 1st inst., Rebecca, relict of the late Mr. Andrew Sproule, aged 84 years. 3

This was my first meeting with Rebecca, wife of Andrew Sproule. Since then I have learnt that she was Rebecca Mackey, born in 1774 in Lismontigley, Raphoe, County Donegal. I now had the next layer up in the Sproules of Tullymoan, Rebecca and Andrew.

The Door that Flew Open - The Fourth Entry

On that very first foray into family history research, there was one other entry that jumped out and bit me! There amidst the lists of farmer Sproules, doctor Sproules and tradesmen Sproules of Tyrone was a very strange Sproule indeed.  It was as if the door of County Tyrone had just flown open and the farming Sproules of Tullymoan had started walking out!

This was the  fourth entry that I had found in the death sections of the newspapers:

DIED, Samuel Sproule,  June 16, 1829
On the 30th of May, at Cheltenham, Samuel Sproule, Esq. recently First Member of the Medical Board at Bombay, and formerly of Tullymoan, Parish of Urney.
The Strabane Morning Post 1812 – 1837

2 The Strabane Morning Post 1812 – 1837
The Londonderry Sentinel 1829 – 1869

Ploughing with Two Horses by J. Michael Benington; National Museums Northern Ireland


  1. Kate,

    I want to let you know that your blog is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

    Have a great weekend!

  2. Hi Jana, Thank you so much, I really appreciate it. That is an amazing blog you have there! I hope to catch up some day - if you go really slowly, of course!