Friday, 19 February 2010

Hance, an Ulster Name

The name Hance, sometimes spelled Hans, is both a forename and a surname and has origins that have almost passed out of memory. It is an excellent name, rolls off the tongue, has a soft, but masculine sound to it and is a name long used in the province of Ulster.

Some modern genealogist and family historians are at a loss when they come upon this name in records, often and humorously, assuming it is a form of the German and Dutch name Hans. While Hans is a form of John for the Dutch and Germans, this is not the origin Hance in Ulster. In Ulster, Hance is both an anglicised and pet form of the Gaelic name Aonghus. Hance reflects how this Gaelic name is pronounced in the Gaelic of the southern Hebrides and Argyll, and even the Gaelic of Ayrshire and Gallowayshire as even those parts of the Scottish Lowlands were Gaelic speaking in times past. The name Aonghus is old even by Gaelic standards of use, and comes from the pan Celtic Oino-Gustus, or 'one choice.'

Aonghus is the origin and root of several anglicised surnames, such a MacGuinness, MacInnes, Magennis, etc. In Scotland Mac Aonghus is also anglicised as Machans. The GH in Aonghus is not pronounced, so the name actually said as if it were spelled, Aon’us and from which it is pretty easy to see how ‘Hance’ developed.

The House of Hamilton was particularly fond of the name Hance. There have been many Hance Hamiltons throughout history; some notable examples are Sir Hance Hamilton of Hamiltonsbawn in Armagh, a great man of letters and law from the 1600s that could argue cases in Irish Gaelic, Lallans, and English. A relative of his was Captain Hance Hamilton who led a fleet containing 140 Ulster settlers to the Colonies in 1729, and his son, Colonel Hance Hamilton, who became a frontier legend as an Indian fighter par excellence and served as sheriff of what was then York county in the Pennsylvania Colony. His grandson was Hance Hamilton McCain, a veteran of the Revolutionary War and a frontiersman of note (he located the excellent water that would later be used by the famous Jack Daniel’s Distillery).

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Sorghum Syrup and the Scots-Irish

Sorghum Syrup has been a mainstay of Scots-Irish kitchens since the mid 1800s. The article below explores this Scots-Irish treat.

In Southern Appalachia, sweetnin' refers to sugar in its various forms, including white sugar, brown sugar, honey, and sorghum syrup. For almost a century following the introduction of sugar sorghum to the United States in 1857, sweet sorghum -- popularly known in the region as "sorghum molasses" -- was the sweetnin' of choice.

Although cane sugar and molasses were widely available in Colonial times, these were store-bought items, and relatively expensive compared to current prices. Backcountry settlers had a strong preference for making their own anything and everything, and so for decades sweetnin' meant honey, maple syrup, and maple sugar. Sugar-sorghum culture was eagerly adopted and in nearly every community there was at least one farm engaged in its production.

Racine, WV -- syrup boiler on left, cane grinder or "gin" on right. Library of Congress.

Sorghum cane was harvested in late summer or early fall. The equipment for making sorghum molasses typically consisted of a mule-powered press or "gin" for squeezing juice from the cane and a boiler for reducing the juice to a molasses-like state. As the juice was simmered to reduce moisture content, in went through a series of pans or kettles. A greenish residue developed on top of the syrup and was skimmed off. At the end of the run of pans or kettles, the syrup was poured or ladled into buckets. After it was cool, it was put into crocks or Mason jars for long-term storage.

Breathitt County, Kentucky -- home-built sorghum syrup boiler. Library of Congress.

Anderson County, Tennessee. Mule-powered cane grinding operation. National Archives.

National Sweet Sorghum Producers

Georgia: Blairsville Sorghum Festival

Kentucky: Sweet Sorghum -- The Old Fashioned Way

Tennessee: Tipton-Haynes Sorghum and Scutching Festival

Virginia: Whitetop Mountain Sorghum Molasses Festival

West Virginia: Morgan County Sorghum Festival


Appalachian Stack Cake

Shoo-Fly Pie

I am an ex-urbanite who escaped the city life and has lived for the past 28 years in a rural, mountainous area of Virginia that in colonial and early-American times was part of the "Backcountry." This is the true melting pot of the U.S.A., its culture and traditions dominated by "born fighting" Scotch-Irish immigrants and enhanced by German, Highland Scot, Dutch, Welsh, and yeoman English settlers. Having absorbed and inculcated the history, values and views of the Backcountry, I would like to share insights, information, and viewpoints from the place where America began. - - Jay Henderson

Monday, 1 February 2010

Henry Family of Draperstown, County Derry

The Henry Family DNA project is hunting for descendants of Sir Denis Stanislaus Henry to participant in their family's DNA project. All direct male descendants and all collateral male Henry descendants are asked to contact the Henry Family DNA Project.

Sir Denis Stanislaus Henry was born 7 March 1864, in Calhore, Draperstown, Co. Derry. His father James Henry was prosperous, being described at times as farmer, landlord, or businessman. James Henry's first wife was Mary McNamee and his second wife was Ellen Kelly, a daughter of Dr. Kelly from Derry who practiced in Draperstown for ten years. The marriage certificates which identify James Henry and his wives as Catholic. James had five children by his first marriage; a son, James, and four daughters. Denis Henry was one of seven children by his father's second marriage. The siblings of Sir Denis Henry were diverse in careers some went to the Church as nuns or priests with two brothers became attorneys.

Sir Denis Henry's legal career was very successful, he became a Queen's Counsel in 1896, a Bencher of the King's Inns in 1898, and ultimately Father of the Northwest Circuit.
By March 1905 he was a delegate at the inaugural meeting of the Ulster Unionist Council and the Unionist parliamentary candidate for the ultra-marginal North Tyrone seat. In 1918 he became Solicitor General for Ireland and in 1919 Attorney General for Ireland. He served as the first Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland from 1921 to 1925. In 1923 he was created a Baronet of Cahore in County Londonderry.

Sir Denis Henry's father, James, died on 22 October 1880, aged 67, and his mother, Ellen, passed away on 3 October 1908, in her eightieth year. This Henry family has many ties and relations in Draperstown and the surrounding area.

The Henry family of Sir Denis were cousins to the Henrys of Maghera, whose father Peter Henry was a famous Royal Navy Surgeon who served in the Napoleonic Wars and formed part of the medical team that was on St Helena during Napoleons stay there. Alexander Henry, son of Peter Henry, was an attorney in Maghera.

All male descendants of Sir Denis Henry of Draperstown are encouraged to contact Doris Noland Parton, the administratrix of the Henry Surname DNA Project.

Sir Denis Stanislaus Henry's remarkable career is the subject of an excellent biography available from the Ulster Historical Foundation.