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'


  1. Kudos to you, Kate for solving the mystery that has stumped generations of researchers! One aspect that is fascinating to me as part of the American branch is how the same names: Thomas, Robert, Samuel and James, have continued to be used in the US branches to this day despite a lack of knowledge of how "our" Robert Sproule, formerly of Bridgehill, tied into the family back in Ireland.

  2. Hi Beth, Thanks for that! Yes, it is amazing the American descendants kept the same names. Maybe they just wanted to make life difficult for us! I went crazy for a while sorting out all the Roberts! I'll be putting up the tree with your Robert in it shortly.