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McDonald / Robinson

Hi all

I've really struggled with my Northern Irish ancestors but thanks to the feature in the latest who do you think you are magazine I have made some further progress.

I seem to have reached the point that I am stuck again, but I've been encouraged that various records do exist afterall.

I'm therefore wondering if anyone has any advice/tips or information that might help me along a bit further.

In brief I'm looking at McDonald and Robinson surnames.

The main people I'm focusing on are:
- John McDonald (born around 1858 in Co. Tyrone and died in January 1906 in Hebburn, Co. Durham, England)
- Mary Jane Robinson (born around 1864 in Cookstown, Co. Tyrone and died in December 1945 in Hebburn, Co. Durham, England)
John and Mary Jane were married on 6th September 1879 in Cookstown and had two children:
- Elizabeth McDonald (born 15th July 1880 in Cookstown, Co. Tyrone and died on 19th or 20th October 1899 in Hebburn, Co. Durham, England)
- Thomas McDonald (born 21st August 1882 in Cookstown, Co. Tyrone and died on 13th February 1934 in Hebburn, Co. Durham, England).

The family moved from Cookstown to Tyneside sometime after Thomas's birth and before 1899 when Lizzie died. They appear on the 1901 and 1911 Census records, but I cannot find a record in 1891 which suggests they moved after 1891.

The links in the wdytya magazine have helped me find John and Mary Jane's civil marriage record. This shows that John's father was Robert McDonald, a labourer. John's address is given as William Street Cookstown which may well be the family address. Mary Jane's father is given as Thomas Robinson, a Publican and her address is Coagh Street Cookstown, again I assume this is the family address.

Unfortunately I've been unable to find anything further about Robert McDonald or Thomas Robinson, and have failed to find any birth/baptism records for John McDonald or Mary Jane Robinson.

It's good to get 2 more names on the pedigree chart but I'd hoped to get a bit further.

As I say, any advice or information would be welcomed.



Well-known member
Randalstown, Co. Antrim, Ireland.
Statutory recording of births was only introduced in Ireland in 1864. It did not become mandatory till 1871. So you won’t get a birth cert for John and you may not find one for Mary Jane.

There was a Mary Jane Robison birth in 1866 in Cookstown (could be a typo) Volume 11, page 514. Have you investigated it? There are also 2 female Robinson births in Cookstown (Vol 6, page 499 and Vol 1, page 385). I’d check out both of those. Note: In the early years of birth registration if the birth was registered before a name had been decided upon, it was just registered as female/male. As I say there are 2 such female Robinson births in 1864 in Cookstown. The father’s name should hopefully tell you whether it’s the one you are looking for.

Tradition was to marry in the bride’s church, so that church (which should be on the marriage cert) would be the place to look for Mary Jane’s baptism and that of any siblings. You should get her mothers’ name if you find the baptism.

Many of the surviving church records have been copied and are held in PRONI, Belfast. Few are on-line though and if you can’t get to PRONI you may need to employ a researcher to go through them for you. (You can also try writing to the church but they are generally inundated with genealogy requests and few bother to reply these days).

I looked in the 1877 & 1880 street directory for Cookstown and I don’t see Thomas Robinson publican listed. However you had to pay to be listed so it doesn’t mean he wasn’t there. As a labourer, you wouldn’t expect to see John McDonald listed.

There’s a Thomas Robinson aged 30 listed in Coagh St in the 1901 census. Might this be a brother to Mary Jane? He was Church of Ireland. Was that Mary Jane’s denomination when she married?


This might be him in 1911:


Thomas Robinson married Jane Anna Dilworth Apr – Jun 1901 Dungannon. Volume 1, page 702. If you get that marriage cert, it should tell you his father’s name and occupation. From that you may be able to confirm if he is a brother to Mary Jane.
Hi Elwyn

Thanks for the reply!

I hadn't investigated the 1866 record - given the marriage in 1879 I thought this would be too late, but no harm in looking into it further.

I had found a potential baptism record in 1864 in Ballygawley, Co. Tyrone (about 20 miles from Cookstown) which showed a father Thomas Robinson and mother Anne Mayne. There were 5 other baptisms between 1866 and and 1875, including a Thomas (1868). I had looked up all these children in the 1901/11 Census and could only find the record for Thomas at Coagh St which you have found. I did wonder if he could be a brother, but wasn't sure how to confirm or disprove this, however your suggestion about his marriage is appreciated and I will follow that up. Mary Jane was Church of Ireland yes.

I had also looked in the Cookstown directories that I could find online without any luck. I'd have thought Thomas Robinson would be listed as a publican but it seems not.

Thanks for the advice and suggestions, given me a couple of things to check further.


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