William Gerrard of Dormstown, County Meath, Ireland
William Gerrard ( - >1789) of Dormstown, County Meath, Ireland became of interest to us when we learned that two of his daughters had married sons of Ralph Hinds (1741 -1794) of Mulhussey, County Meath. As the son of Walter Hinds (1703-1777) and the father of our "missing link" Walter Hinds (1761-1804) , Ralph features prominently in our Hinds Project which is linked below:
William Gerrard ( ->1789) married Anne Cosby in 1756 and they had five daughters. The family lived at both Tankardstown, County Meath, and Dormstown, County Meath. In 1784, William Gerrard's daughter Rebecca married John Hinds and his daughter Sarah married Matthew Hinds. As we were attempting to learn more about the girls' father and his family, we located a brief abstract of William Gerrard's 1788 will which, we thought, named all of his heirs. The abstract identified Rebecca and Sarah and three additional daughters, Elizabeth, Catherine and Anne, whom we learned married William Foster, John Small and Michael Gibney, respectively. The will abstract also named his two "natural" (illegitimate) sons, William and Thomas.
Who were William Gerrard's two "natural" sons?
A Brick Wall, to be sure! To feed our curiosity, we went first to Ireland's wonderful transcripts of memorial deeds, conveyances and wills which had proved so helpful in our research of the Hinds family. We were able to find enough information about William's two "natural" sons to feel certain that, although they were acknowledged in their father's 1788 will, they were never considered brothers, or even family or friends, by their father's five daughters. And, although that was good information to have, our primary questions about these two "natural" sons, remained unanswered.
- Who was their mother -- or mothers?
- Where did they grow up?
- Did they marry?
- Did they have children?
- Where did they live?
- When and where did they die?
What became of William Gerrard of Dormstown's two "natural" sons, William and Thomas? Not being prepared to give up, we decided to learn as much as we could about the extended Gerrard family of County Meath, and to understand the Irish world they lived in during the 17th and 18th centuries.
The Gerrards Interaction with Irish History
Oliver Cromwell's Act of Settlement in 1652 was designed to both punish those who had sided against the English during the 1641 Irish rebellion, and reward those who had fought with or financed Cromwell's armies. The Act legalized the seizure of Irish lands from primarily Catholics and redistributed them to Protestants, many of them wealthy English aristocrats and speculators. Protestants who had sided with Cromwell's forces were allowed to keep their properties if they paid fines to the Commonwealth. Because this was not an option available to Catholics, the Act almost entirely destroyed the class of land-owning Catholics, which prior to 1641 and numbered about 60% of land owners, to just 8% until the Act of Settlement of 1662 which, under the Restoration, would rise to about 20%. Of the 12,000 Cromwellians given land in Ireland, many of them returned to England and sold their new holdings to other Protestants.
Although now a land of extreme contrasts, life in Ireland in the 18th century had settled down. People like the Gerrards, and even the Hinds family to a lesser extent, were part of an elite group made up of wealthy landowners, who were mostly members of the Church of Ireland. Many were flaunting their wealth by building great houses and palaces and laying out parks and gardens. They held parties and gambled extravagantly. The peasantry, in contrast, had fallen into extreme poverty.
A report from Your Irish Culture reads: "In January 1740, nature itself seemed to turn against the people. A winter of terrible coldness fell across the country. The temperatures fell so much that the ports were blocked by ice and coal could not be brought in from Britain. The trees, the wild life, even the cattle and sheep perished; the potatoes, which were by now the mainstay of the Irish diet, were turned to mush in the ground. This coldness lasted into February and was not followed by the usual rains. By April people were beginning to fear. Whatever farm animals that survived the heavy frosts now had nothing to graze upon. The corn, which had been planted in the hope that rain would come, failed to grow in the fields. The price of corn more than doubled which led to disturbances. In Drogheda a corn ship was boarded by the mob and its load removed, in Dublin mobs attacked bakeries in the search for bread. The drought caused mill streams to dry up thus preventing corn mills from making the flour. It also caused the timbers of houses to dry out and many fires took hold in diverse towns and villages.
"In September 1741, the bad weather returned in the form of violent gales which were followed by heavy blizzards in October. In November two terrible storms hit the country and these brought snow and frost. On the 9th December there was severe flooding throughout the country and the very next day the frost returned."
Famine was the result, and schemes were set up to feed the poor. With the hunger came disease. Smallpox, dysentery and typhus were prevalent and also took the lives of many of the wealthy. Out of an Irish population of approximately 2,500,000, it was estimated there were up to 450,000 deaths.
During our research, we found Your Irish Culture to offer a helpful introduction to the historical customs and culture of Ireland, as well as a review of Irish History. For more specific information about the Gerrards, themselves, we once again turned to Ireland's transcripts of memorial deeds, conveyances and wills. We learned that the Gerrards were an aristocratic, influential and wealthy family with large holdings in County Meath and beyond. Through several generations, sons succeeded to ancestral lands and acquired more. They married well and had children who are included in this project.
The Gerrards of Gibbstown
Most of the Gerrards in this project, including William Gerrard ( ->1789) of Dormstown, descend from Thomas Gerrard (1643-1719) of Gibbstown, County Meath, and his wife Elizabeth. When Thomas Gerrard died in 1719, he was succeeded at Gibbstown by his eldest son, John, who had married Margaret Flood in 1709. Their eldest son, another Thomas who, at the age of 56 had married Elinor Carroll, succeeded his father at Gibbstown which, in 1780, was described as being one of the most considerable farms in Ireland. When that Thomas died in 1784, he was succeeded at Gibbstown by his eldest son John Gerrard. This John Gerrard married Marcella Netterville, a very wealthy and landed heiress. Together, they became infamous as they built a huge land empire in the counties of Meath and Galway. Gibbstown, in 1837, was described as a gentleman's seat situated in a well-planted demesne of about 1,270 statute acres. John and Marcella had no children and at John's death in 1858, his nephew, Thomas Gerrard, eldest son of his younger brother Thomas and his wife Letitia Garnett, succeeded him at Gibbstown. This next Thomas died unmarried and without issue in 1913 and was succeeded at Gibbstown by Thomas Gerrard Collins, the eldest son of his eldest sister, Eleanor. By Royal License in 1913, Collins, whose wife was Bertha Madeline Frances Lambart, changed his name to Thomas Gerrard Collins Gerrard, and in 1920 his racehorse "Troytown" won the Grand National.
The Gerrards of Liscartan
Our first known Gerrard of Liscartan, County Meath, was Thomas Gerrard ( -1763) , the second son of Thomas Gerrard (1643-1719) of Gibbstown. Thomas Gerrard ( -1763) of Liscartan had married Catherine Cooper in 1713, and in February of 1729 purchased, by lease and deed, the castle, land and farm of Liscartan, in all, 430 acres. Thomas and Catherine had eight children, four sons and four daughters. (William Gerrard ( ->1789) of Dormstown, the primary subject of our Gerrard Project, was Thomas and Catherine's fifth child and third son.) When Thomas Gerrard ( -1763) of Liscartan died in 1763, he was succeeded at Liscartan by his eldest son, Samuel Gerrard, who had married Mary Rochfort in 1746. They had three sons and two daughters. According to the rules of male primogeniture customary at the time, Samuel's eldest son, John Gerrard ( -1780), should have succeeded to Liscartan at his father's death -- but he didn't! In 1773 Samuel Gerrard, bypassed his eldest son, who had only daughters, and transferred all of Liscartan to his younger brother Thomas Gerrard ( -1785) of Martry, County Meath. This Thomas Gerrard married Sophie and had only one child, a son William Gerrard ( -1792), who succeeded his father at Liscartan in 1785. William married Jane Vipont in 1779 and had six children, three sons and three daughters. When William died before 1792, Liscartan succeeded to his eldest son, Thomas Gerrard (1782-1868), who was still a minor. Thomas's mother, Jane (Vipont) Gerrard and her second husband, John Smith, managed the Liscartan estate until young Thomas came of age. Thomas married Mary Anne Rotherham and in 1806, Thomas was appointed legal guardian of his five siblings and assumed legal possession of Liscartan. In 1855, Thomas Gerrard (1782-1868) and his eldest son, William Gerrard (1807- ), put Liscartan on the market for sale under the Encumbered Estates Act of 1848.
Take a look at the Navan Historical Society's information, past and present, regarding Liscartan, spelled "Liscarton". Not only is it thorough, the pictures are wonderful!
As we researched, Two Amazing Things Happened...
First… a researcher, who lives in Ireland and is descended from one of the five Dormstown Gerrard sisters, discovered our website. She sent us additional information she had accumulated through her own research, and gave us permission to include it with ours. She also had puzzled over William Gerrard ( ->1789) of Dormstown's two “natural” sons, William and Thomas, had not been able to learn much about them, and also considered them a serious Brick Wall. How wonderful it was to have someone to talk with about the Gerrards of County Meath!
Then… another Gerrard researcher found our website hoping to find information about the Gerrards of Ardbraccan, County Meath. Even though our site was not helpful to her, she shocked and thrilled us with an email on which she attached a more complete copy of William Gerrard ( ->1789) of Dormstown's 1788 will which she had obtained from the National Library of Ireland, Genealogical Office in Dublin, several years ago, and also a copy of the 1763 will of Thomas Gerrard ( -1763) of Liscartan, County Meath, William’s father. Both of these wills have now been transcribed and are included on our site.
What an unexpected and very welcome gift! In William’s 1788 will we learned where his two “natural” sons were born, and additionally, the existence of his three “natural” daughters. The will even named the mother of his these five illegitimate children! We're not finished, though. We still don't know if William and Thomas married, or if they had children, or when and where they died.
The Gerrards of Ardbraccan, County Meath
Our fellow Gerrard researcher and benefactor who sent us the wills is researching the families of three William Gerrards, all of Ardbraccan, County Meath: William Gerrard (1848- ), son of Samuel Gerrard (1823- ), William Gerrard (1794- ), Samuel's father, and William Gerrard (1761- ), William (1794- )'s father. Her family’s oral history states that William (1848- ) was a “cousin” to the descendants of William (1761- ), and that her Gerrards of Ardbraccan were related in some way to the Gerrards of Gibbstown in County Meath. If that’s the case, her Ardbraccan Gerrards connect somewhere to our Gerrards of Gibbstown, Liscartan, Tankardstown, and Dormstown, and we all want to find that connection. She has given us permission to include what she knows about her Ardbraccan Gerrards on our site, and we would love to hear from other researchers who may have additional information about her Gerrards and how they connect to ours. Please let us hear from you.
Some Links to the Individual Gerrards of County Meath, Ireland
The first link below will take you to a list of our known descendants, extended family and associates of the Gerrard family of County Meath, Ireland. A blue icon before a name identifies a descendant of our earliest known Gerrard ancestor, Thomas Gerrard (1643-1719) of Gibbstown, County Meath and his two newly (2018) discovered brothers, Edward Gerrard, and another brother whose name we don't know. The second link will take you to a shorter list of the Gerrards of Ardbraccan, County Meath and their extended family as we know it. We think they connect in some way to our other Gerrards, and want to know where. We've identified the Gerrards of Ardbraccan with a red icon to indicate we need help! The third link connects to a list of County Meath Gerrards we can't connect yet to either the Gerrards of Gibbstown and Liscartan or to the Gerrards of Ardbraccan. If you know anything that may help us learn more about these people and their lives, please contact us! Corrections of all kinds are also welcome.