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Robert Graham - County Derry

Hi Everyone,

I am currently researching my family history and have come to a bit of a roadblock for one branch. I believe that my Great Great Grandfather's name was Robert Graham and he had three sons, Thomas Graham (1840), Samuel Marks Graham (1846) and James Barclay Graham (1855). The three sons all moved to Australia sometime around the 1870-1880's. While I have been able to find out quite a lot about the sons, I have not been able to find out anything about their father or mother. One of the sons named his house in Australia "Movenis", which I have been able to find out was a small village near Garvagh in Londonderry. I am guessing that this may be the area they came from.

If anyone is able to shed some light on whether any information is available on Robert Graham and his wife it would be a great help for my research.

Barry Green
Perth, Western Australia
Hello Barry and welcome to the Forum.

Finding records in Ireland before about 1864 is very hit and miss depending on the denomination and the parish. Not all records after the start of civil registration are on-line yet. Also, not all events would have been registered.

The members here will try to help you.

Thanks very much Dave.

I have tried many different methods to try to find details, none of which have been very successful. Newspaper archives in Australia have helped me a lot with the sons who came out to Australia, however anything that I currently have on Robert Graham is guesswork on my part. If no one is able to find any information, then I am no worse off than I am now. Any help that the forum members may be able to provide can only be a positive for me.

Thanks very much for any help that may come.

CofI or RC or Presbyterian?

I was out of luck with my Hamilton family in Co Down because they were Presbyterian and no baptism records survive for the years in question.

If you have any other queries then post them to the appropriate board.

Last Name GRAHAM
Application Number KB00011356
Karrakatta Burial
Aged (Years) 55 Date of Death 11/11/1911
Area or Denomination
Grant Number K0005758 Grantee
Grant Status EXPIRED
At today's date
Expiry 28/07/1976
Regarding your thinking on the house name. I have an Adamson born 1879 London, Father born Sheffield to William Adamson born SELBY. Mary married a William Henry Allen and in 1911 stayed at 83 Grange Road, St James St. I went looking for her house, and the glass door had a lovely engraving on it with the name SELBY. Never thought of downloading it and now the door is changed. Also have Joseph Thomas from Sheffield father the same William Adamson, emigrated to Victoria and called a daughter Ruby SELBY Adamson. As has been stated it's very hard to find early Irish records.

Movenis isn’t a small village. It’s a townland comprising 375 acres of agricultural land. A townland is a uniquely Irish land unit. In the 1831 census of Co. Derry there were 43 households in Movenis but none had the surname Graham.


Likewise in Griffiths Valuation in 1859, there are no Graham households listed there either.

In 1901 there were 18 houses in Movenis, with a combined population of 69. Nearly all were engaged in farming. There were 2 Grahams, both were servants and both were Presbyterian. One was born in Co Derry and the other in Co Antrim.



The nli site quoted earlier by gortonboy only has RC baptisms and marriages. If your family were of another denomination the records may not be on-line. Looking at the 1901 census for the county, there were 364 people named Graham. 200 were Presbyterian, the others a mix of Church of Ireland and RC.

I note that your ancestors had surnames as middle names. (You often find that was a mother’s maiden name, or the surname of a respected family friend). That’s a typically Presbyterian trait, so I’d guess that’s the most likely denomination. So they are probably of Scottish descent (as is half the population of Co. Derry).

I see that James Barclay Graham was buried as a Methodist. There aren’t many Methodists in the Movenis area and no Methodist Meeting House nearby. I’d doubt he was baptised into that denomination.

Desertoghil early Church of Ireland records were destroyed in the 1922 fire in Dublin and they now have no records prior to 1873. Moneydig Presbyterian is nearby but has no records earlier than 1857. Garvagh 1st Presbyterian, again nearby, has baptisms 1795-1816, 1822 – 49 and 1859 onwards. Marriages 1795 – 1802, 1807 – 14 & 1822 onwards.

Garvagh 2nd has baptisms & marriages from 1830 onwards. Garvagh 3rd only has records from 1864 but I suspect that is when it opened.

The records for Garvagh 1st & 2nd Presbyterian churches have been copied and are in PRONI (the public record office) in Belfast. A personal visit is required to search them. I don’t think the records are on-line anywhere but you could try the rootsireland site (subscription). They might have them. Otherwise you need a researcher to go to PRONI.
Thank you all for your great responses to my query. I had a feeling that this was going to be a difficult query as I had been unable to find much in the way of clues myself. However the number of links and suggestions posted so far has been great and has given me a lot of information.

My only information, prior to seeking help here, has come from a couple of old newspaper articles from Victoria, Australia.

The first, from October 1880, was about the marriage of "Samuel Marks Graham, of Dollin, second son of Robert Graham, Moveins, county Londonderry, Ireland." The "Moveins" is exactly as it was spelled in the article and, hopefully understandably, I wasn't able to find any reference to Moveins anywhere in County Londonderry.

The second article I found was from July 1897, which began "A quiet, but pretty wedding took place yesterday afternoon at "Movenis", the residence of the bride's parents." This was about the wedding of Eva Graham, who was Thomas Graham's daughter. When searching with the new spelling of Movenis I was finally able to find something.

However, going from Elwyns excellent response, in 1831 and 1859 there were no Graham's living in Movenis! With the 3 sons being born in 1840, 1846 & 1855 I would have expected that there would have been a family home somewhere within that time, so I might have to start looking elsewhere for any clues.

Why don't we start asking these questions when we are much younger when someone that might remember something is still alive!:confused:

Thank you to everyone once again and I will continue to trawl through some of the links you have given to see if I can find any clues at all. Perhaps the note from Elwyn about the sons having Surnames as Middle names might be a clue I can follow up on.


Your information about Movenis seems pretty clear and so I did a bit more digging.

It has been standard practice to use your townland as your address in Ireland for at least a thousand years. (They were in use in Norman times). There were no street names and house numbers. The townland alone was enough to identify you and for the postman to deliver a letter. In rural areas street names and house numbers started to creep in around the 1950s but until then you just used the townland. Most emigrants gave their townland as their address on passenger lists etc. And many named their homes after their townland. So I feel you are on the right track here.

You can see all the townlands in Co. Derry on this site:


You’ll see that Movenis is quite distinctive. Sometimes you get the townland name used several times in the same county. But there’s only 1 Movenis and no other townland spelled anything like it.

I looked at the tithe applotment records. (Compiled for tax purposes. You had to have land to be in the tithes, so again it’s not a complete census). There was a Samuel Graham farming in Movenis in 1822. A family name obviously.


So where has that farmer gone in the 1831 census? I searched adjacent townlands and found a Samuel in Caulhame, which borders Movenis. He was a Presbyterian and there were 3 males and 5 females in the household. Checking that same townland in Griffiths, in 1859, I find that the farm is now occupied by a Robert Graham. Robert Graham remains the tenant in the land records right up to the 1900s. However I think it went from father to son, and both were named Robert. So no change required. Here’s the family in 1901:


Same family in 1911:


Generally farmers don’t subdivide their farms in Ireland. They usually leave the farm to one son, often the eldest, and the other sons have to make their way in the world. What was your Robert Graham’s occupation, do you know, from his childrens marriage or death certificates? Was he a farmer?

I had a look at some probate files. I found this:

The Will of Robert Graham late of Movenis County Londonderry Farmer who died 23 August 1887 at same place was proved at Londonderry by Robert Gardiner Graham of Movenis (Garvagh) Farmer the sole Executor.

The will itself is on-line on the PRONI wills site. The farm is left to Robert. There’s no mention of a wife so she probably pre-deceased her husband. Two daughters are mentioned Fanny Jane McGowan and Elizabeth Anne Moore.

Robert Graham was 76 when he died in 1887, so born c 1811. So he could easily be the father of children born 1840-1855. You can view the original death certificate on-line on the GRONI website, using the “search registrations” option:


You will need to open an account and buy some credits. It costs £2.50 (sterling) to a view a certificate.

It won’t escape you that Robert Gardiner Graham is the farmer in Caulhame in 1901. So it looks as though the family had land in 2 townlands, Movenis and Caulhame. I checked PRONI land records for Movenis for the years 1860 – 1888 but there’s no sign of any Graham farm there. Just the one in Caulhame. I looked to see if there was a Movenis farm that had been sublet but no. So can’t explain that.

I also spotted this:

Letters of Administration of the personal estate of William John Graham late of Maghera County Londonderry Grocer deceased who died 27 March 1877 at same place were granted at Londonderry to Robert Graham of Movenis in said County Farmer the Father of said deceased.

The above William John died intestate so there’s no will and the abstract is all that survives. He was 23 when he died, so born c 1854.

So I think we have found your family. You’ll notice some of the names you are familiar with like Samuel and Robert repeated in subsequent generations. That was the Scottish and Irish naming pattern.

The picture that is emerging for me is that Robert Graham (1811 – 1887) had at least 5 sons and 2 daughters. 3 sons presumably went to Oz and other children remained in Ireland. Robert Graham’s father was probably Samuel and died between 1831 and 1859.

Looking at the land records for Caulhame, there’s still a Robert Graham farming there in 1929 which is when the Valuation Revision records stop.

I found a marriage for Elizabeth Graham to Joseph Moore on 27.3.1877. Registered in Coleraine. It was tradition to marry in the bride’s church, so it’d be worth looking at that marriage cert to see which church it was.

Here’s Joseph and Elizabeth Ann in 1901. Clearly Joseph married the girl next door.


Fanny Graham married John Governor on 29.11.1881. Both were from Movenis, so again marrying the girl next door. They married at Garvagh 2nd. Since she’s Fanny McGowan by 1887, presumably John died and she remarried, but you’d need to check that out,

At this stage, I’d be inclined to get someone to look at the Garvagh 2nd Presbyterian baptism records for your Thomas, Samuel, & James. Worth searching the graveyards too, I suspect. Farmers usually had gravestones. (I can do that research for you. If so send me a pm).


Elwyn, that is fantastic work. Thank you so much for the time and energy that you have put in to look outside the given information to find an answer!

Please give me time to process everything that you have given me before I get back to you.

I am in awe! :eek::eek::eek:

Okay, I have done a little more digging around in Australian records, and I believe I have discovered that the mother of Samuel Marks Graham was named "Fanny Jane Marks". This is from the Australian Death Index for James in 1895. It would probably follow that if the Mothers name was Fanny, then one of her daughters would also be named Fanny, as Elwyn has found. So that looks like it verifies Elwyn's findings quite nicely.

Another question that has been puzzling our family for many years, is that nearly every child of James Barclay Graham was given a middle name of "D'Erinlea". For example, a son was named Robert William D'Erinlea Graham, and a daughter Ivyetta D'Erinlea Graham (my Grandmother). There are 7 children in all with this as a middle name. Is there any significance in the name D'Erinlea?

Using a bit of poetic licence I have guessed this to mean "Of Irish Fields", with "Erin" a poetic name for Ireland and "lea" being a poetic name for a field. Would this be close, or is there some other meaning relating to anything in the County Londonderry area?

D’Erinlea doesn’t mean anything to me, and I live fairly close to the Garvagh area. Your analysis of what it might mean seems sound. Erin’s an old fashioned word now. You wouldn’t hear it used today except in the odd old ballad. Lea is a fairly common word found in many townland names. But I’d say D’Erinlea is invented. Sounds like someone was homesick, or wanted to keep the link to Ireland alive in the family names.

The Lea-rig was often a discreet end of a field where young people used to go, to get better acquainted. Robert Burns mentions it a lot in his songs and poetry. He fathered about 6 illegitimate children, so presumably was a regular visitor to the lea-rig.
D’Erinlea doesn’t mean anything to me, and I live fairly close to the Garvagh area. Your analysis of what it might mean seems sound. Erin’s an old fashioned word now. You wouldn’t hear it used today except in the odd old ballad. Lea is a fairly common word found in many townland names. But I’d say D’Erinlea is invented. Sounds like someone was homesick, or wanted to keep the link to Ireland alive in the family names.

Thanks. That was my thinking as well. Stuck in farming land in Australia, far from the lush green fields of his homeland. The name doesn't appear in either Thomas' or Samuel's children's names, so it looked like it was just something that James came up with to remind all his children where their roots were.

Thanks for the help, once again!


I mentioned your interest in the Graham family to a friend who lives in Garvagh. He recalls 2 unmarried Graham brothers who lived in Caulhame some years back. Both are dead now. There may be some married female members of the family about but that would require a bit of digging.