Friday, 25 October 2013

The Big Breakthrough on the Sproule Family Tree

19th November 1805. This is the date that gave me the biggest breakthrough in my genealogical research so far. This date appeared on two different documents. One ‘19th November 1805’ was on a deed that concerned the family of Thomas Sproule of Golan, who died in 1761. The other appeared on the will of Robert Sproule known as ‘The Nabob’ who died in 1807. Two documents, one date -  and a family tree completed! Oh, how I wish I could tell Jack Elder the great news!

Thomas Sproule of Golan

Thomas Sproule of Golan appears on a lease in 1733 where he acquires half of the townland of Altamullan in Termnamongan, County Tyrone. Thomas already owns land in Golan, just south east of Castlederg, and now he bought 507 acres in Altamullen. This 1733 lease is important for the family history as the land was passed from one person to another down through the generations, giving us names and dates at each stage.

When this deed was registered in 1733, it was stated that Thomas of Golan was son of Samuel Sproule of Golan. Thomas also names two sons, Robert and James. His son Robert died just a year later, in 1734, according to a will in the name of Robert of Drumnabeigh (Just next to Golan).  In 1761 Thomas of Golan dies and he leaves his freehold lands to his three sons James, Samuel and John –‘share and share alike’.2 

The Three Sons of Thomas of Golan

In 1763, the three sons register an agreement where they divide up the lands left to them by Thomas of Golan. James, now called James of Newton Stewart, agrees to take the north part of the freehold land in Altamullen. Samuel, now called Samuel of Coolnacrunaght, gets the southside of Altamullan. A different piece of land in Meenacheeran and Pollygerrybane goes to the third son, who is named as John Sproule the Apocethary of Strabane.

Now we focus on the son Samuel. The lease tells us that in a will dated 4th June 1779, Samuel dies and leaves his quarter of Altamullan to his son Robert.4 The next event on this lease is dated 19th November 1805 where son Robert dies and leaves his freehold farm in the townland of Altamullan to his nephew, Robert Sproule of Bridgehill.

Hold that thought!

Robert Sproule the Nabob

Jack Elder produced a family tree of ‘The Nabob Sproules’. The central figure was Robert Sproule, known as 'The Nabob', and I am descended from his sister, Martha.  We know a lot about Robert the Nabob - I will be talking about him a great deal in later posts. What Elder didn’t know was that Robert the Nabob’s uncle was John Sproule the Apocethary of Strabane (1713-1787) son of Thomas of Golan. We know this from the Abercorn Papers, where there are references to John the Apocethary and his nephew Robert in India – Robert's India adventures won him the nickname of ‘The Nabob’.

Who Were the Parents?

John the Apocethary was Robert the Nabob’s uncle, which means that Thomas of Golan was his Grandfather. But who were the parents of the Nabob? Elder thought that the father of the Nabob was Thomas, or possibly Robert, but he was never sure. If we look again at the leases of Thomas of Golan, and there are several of them, he never mentions a son Thomas and there was no son Thomas named in his will. His son Robert died in 1734, and left only one son, Oliver. So the Nabob’s father was not a Robert or a Thomas, son of Thomas of Golan.

It looked to me at this point as if the line came down through the mother of the Nabob. That is, Robert the Nabob’s mother was the daughter of Thomas of Golan, and she had married another Sproule – very common in those days!

The Will of Robert the Nabob

In the last few weeks, I got hold of the will of Robert the Nabob, thanks to a fellow researcher – very exciting! It turns out that there were eight children in this family, so a lot of people out there are trying to find out who were the parents of Robert the Nabob!

Robert the Nabob names his older, and only, brother as Thomas Sproule. The Nabob leaves money in his will to the eldest son of brother Thomas, Samuel of Bridgehill, and to Samuel’s son, Robert of Bridgehill. Robert the Nabob also states that he leaves ‘my freehold farm in Altamullan’ to his nephew, Robert of Bridgehill.

Bridgehill is not an area, it is a house with a large farm south east of Castlederg, County Tyrone. It is likely, therefore, that there could only be one Robert of Bridgehill.

Two Uncle Roberts

Now we have Robert of Bridgehill receiving two ‘freehold farms’ in Altamullan from two uncles, both named Robert Sproule. One Uncle Robert died in 1805, and he is the son of Samuel who is son of Thomas of Golan. The other uncle is Robert the Nabob, who died in 1807, and who is definitely grandson of Thomas of Golan.

Two ‘freehold farms’ in Altamullan, this had to be rare in those days. This week, I decided to go to the Registry of Deeds and see if I could get more information on the deeds of Altamullan. I also wanted to check out Bridgehill, to see if there were deeds from there. You have to have the right townland to find a deed and I wasn’t sure about Bridgehill – it might be in Drumgallen. I contacted my favourite group in the Tyrone area, the Castlederg Family History Society, and asked the question – which townland is Bridgehill in? Some agreed Drumgallen.

And then a knowledgeable lady said “From my findings it could be that Bridgehill is in Coolnacrunaght”.

Joining the Dots

Coolnacrunaght. In the 1663 Altamullan deed, Samuel, son of Thomas of Golan, had been called Samuel of Coolnacrunaght. This means that his son, one of the Uncle Roberts, had to have come from Coolnacrunaght. With the other Uncle Robert, his older brother lived in Bridgehill, which is in, or near, Coolnacrunaght. They had to be the same person. Robert the Nabob had to be Robert son of Samuel, son of Thomas of Golan!

Now the fact that one had died in 1805 and one in 1807 was a slight hiccup! I checked the dates. I knew for certain that Robert the Nabob had died in 1807, so there had to be something fishy regarding the other Robert’s death in the records of the deeds. The PRONI records were the same as the Registry of Deeds,  and there was no mistake:

"Will, 4 June 1779, Samuel, deceased, to son Robert. Southside will, 19 November 1805, Robert, deceased, to nephew Robert Sproule, Bridgehill, Co. Tyrone"

On 19th November 1805 Robert Sproule, son of Samuel, is deceased. Or is it possible that he is not deceased – that this is the date that…

And there it was, the same date!  19th November 1805 - the date that Robert Sproule the Nabob had written his will! Robert Sproule son of Samuel son of Thomas of Golan was not deceased. He was in fact Robert Sproule the Nabob. They had used the date that he had signed his will as the date of death on the Altamullan deed! They were definitely the same person.

The Family History Robert Sproule The Nabob

This proves for the first time the parentage of the Nabob, and puts a missing link for many Sproule family historians! Robert Sproule the Nabob (1746 -1807) was son of Samuel of Coolnacrught, who was son of Thomas Sproule of Golan (c. 1685 -1761) who was son of Samuel Spreull of Golan!

It also allows me to proudly give MY family tree:

My Family Tree
  • Kate Tammemagi daughter of Robert Sproule of Derry
  • Who was son of Robert Sproule
  • Who was son of James Sproule of Tullymoan, County Tyrone
  • Who was son of Andrew Sproule of Tullymoan
  • Who was son of Andrew Sproule of Tullymoan who married Martha Sproule
  • Martha was daughter of Samuel Sproule of Coolnacrught
  • Who was son of Thomas Sproule of Golan
  • Who was son of Samuel Spreull of Golan


1 Deed Registered 5 November 1733, Registry of Deeds Dublin, 44 484 52279
2 Will of Thomas Sproule of Golan 14th April 1761, Registry of Deeds Dublin abstracts of wills vol. ii 1746–1785, (3 vols 1954–84)
3 Sproule to Sproule Agreement 28th Oct 1763  Registry of Deeds Dublin 223 566 149281
4 Fee Farm Grant by Sir Robert Alexander Ferguson PRONI Ref: D847/5/21
5 Will of Robert Sproule of Saint Leonard , Devon; UK National Archives Ref: PROB 11/1456/235

For Jack Elder's tree 'The Nabob Sproules' see -Elder's Tree of the Family of 'The Nabob'

Elder's Tree of the Family of 'The Nabob'

This is Jack Elder's tree of the family of  Robert Sproule, known as 'The Nabob'. I am descended from a sister of the Nabob, who Elder calls Matilda. In fact, her name was Martha Sproule, and she married Andrew Sproule of Tullymoan, who was son of William Sproule of Tullymoan.

The 'James' who is brother of the Nabob, was in fact Thomas Sproule who was father of Samuel Sproule of Bridgehill. See later posts for more details on this family.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Elder's Tree of Sproules of Grennan, Broomfield and Spamount

Another Page from Jack Elder showing more Sproules of Grennan, Broomfield and Spamount in County Tyrone. Please bear in mind that Jack Elder was working on word of mouth and further research is needed!

For more information see:

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Elder's Tree showing Sproules of Upper Grennan and the Caldwell Family

This is another of the family trees produced by Jack Elder in 1890. This tree overlaps with the Caldwell trees - Elder was also a Caldwell.

It shows the Sproules of Upper Grennan in County Tyrone; Ramelton in County Donegal; Kesh in County Fermanagh.

*** Note: Regarding the Robert Sproule who married Rebecca Sproule at the top left of this tree - this Rebecca Sproule is, in fact, the sister of the Nabob, Robert Sproule of Termnamongan. There will be more on this family in later posts.

For more information:

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Elder's Tree of the Holm Sproules and Loves of County Tyrone

This family tree is another of Jack Elders, first produced in 1890.

For more information:

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Elder's Tree - Sproules of Magheracriggan and Carrickamulkin

Jack Elder's first page of the County Tyrone Sproule family tree produced in 1890 contains Sproules from Carrickamulkin, Clover Hill, Crillen, Burrelsfolly, Magheracriggan, Aughee, Dromore and Castlederg.

Part 1 of this Page
Part 2 of this page - appears to the right of the one above

Caution for researchers:

Jack Elder collected a lot of information, however he was not always accurate. For example, Jack Elder had the original settler as Robert Spreul of Castlederg. We now know that Robert was not the original settler. See:Three Scottish Brothers Moving East

For more information:

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Elder's Tree of the Sproule Buchanan Line

This is one page of the Sproule Family History recorded by Jack Elder and produced in 1890. This branch is the Sproule / Buchanan branch of Grennan, County Tyrone, Ireland.

For more information:

Saturday, 5 October 2013

John Inch and Jack Elder - Early Sproule Family Historians

Jack Elder worked on the history of the Sproule Family in County Tyrone  and he recorded a series of notes and family trees. Between 1880 and 1930, Jack Elder investigated the family himself, and he also gathered a great deal of information from earlier researchers. Elder also had the help of 40 pages of information left by John Inch, who had died in 1877.

John Inch was born on June 29th 1795, the son of Leonard Inch and Ann Sproule.1 Leonard and Ann Inch had lived first in Strabane but soon after their marriage they moved to a place that Inch called “Corough-a-Mulkin” in the parish of Lower Langfield in County Tyrone. Their son, John Inch, emigrated to New Brunswick in Canada in 1820, taking with him his Sproule stories and family histories. 

Jack Elder also lived in New Brunswick, he went there in 1886. A few years later he heard of John Inch and his notes on the Sproule Family of Tyrone. He contacted the nephew of John Inch, and managed to acquire a copy of the 40 precious hand written pages. Elder used the notes to help compile a series of Sproule family trees which were produced in 1890. I will include these in the next few posts.

Unfortunately, I have been unable to establish if John Inch’s original notes still exist. However, in one of his letters dated 1928, Elder gives us a flavour of the John Inch Sproule Family History: 

In his history he ‘nothing extenuates’.   The
Sproules were not all saints: there was occasionally no
marriage tie when there should have been, etc. 

He tells of the number of acres of land that various Sproules owned,
the number of milch cows they had etc.  Of his granduncle
Joseph Sproule of Alta-moo-land (as he spells it), brother
of Martha (who married James Mathewson) he says:

“This man had a son, if not other children, whom he disinherited for
marrying the servant girl, and in his old age sold his farm
at £1,350.” Of his Uncle Joseph Sproule of Clover Hill,
he says:

“This man married Rebecca Porter of Castletown,
near Strabane, and with her received £500 fortune” (This
Rebecca was a first cousin of Jane Porter, novelist). 

He gives even the nicknames of our ancestors.  Andy Sproule
of Grennan was nicknamed ‘Andy Bacach’ (-bacach being Irish
for ‘a lame person’), "and the whole family was designated
sometimes by those few who had an outfall with any of them
‘The Bacach Sproules.’ 

Andy's son Joseph, of Carrickamulkin, “was nicknamed ‘Joseph
Nablugh,’  an Irish word for 'sour milk.'  This arose, it
was said, from his sending milk, at the request of a number
of poor families, into the village of Dromore for sale;
therefore, the whole family was called, when spoken of in
derision by some, and by others in sport, the ‘Buttermilk
Sproules’  But I have said enough about the Sproules for
the present.

Jack Elder calls my line of the Sproule family ‘The Nabob Sproules’ and later posts will explain why!


1 The Inch Family of Ulster and New Brunswick Canada by Inch, James Robert, b. 1835
Extract of Letter from Jack Elder, Ont., Canada to J.F. Caldwell, Belfast.; PRONI T1264/3; CMSIED 9804826 
Sunday, April 1, 1928