TWO MOORHEAD FAMILIES OF FRANKLIN COUNTY, PA,
MAY HAVE IMMIGRATED FROM BALLYMENA ESTATE, CO. ANTRIM
Much research has been done to try to trace two Moorhead immigrants found in Cumberland County, then Franklin County, PA, to their ancestry in Northern Ireland and Scotland. Various sources have indicated that John Moorhead (Washington Township) and Samuel Moorhead (Hamilton Township) are brothers, who may have married the Fergus sisters. In several of these sources, researchers have theorized they were sons of a John Moorhead (Muirhead, Morehead, Moorehead), and they probably immigrated from County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Most likely in the 1630s for Samuel, and possibly as late as the early 1640s for John. Both lived somewhat near Shippensburg, PA, John northeast (just north of Newburg, PA in Hopewell Twp, PA) and Samuel southwest (actually, within the present town of Chambersburg). John then moved about 1751 to what would become Waynesboro, Washington Township, Franklin County, PA.
Further, several sources indicate that the father John III (born about 1687) is likely the third in a series of John Moorheads in Northern Ireland, with John II most likely born about 1668, and meaning John I would have been born perhaps in the 1640s.
From information made available on Gordon Crooks’ web pages on the Allison-Antrim Museum website, we find several potential clues as to the location of this family in Northern Ireland. Gordon recently pointed out that a number of Franklin County PA settlers likely came from one particular general area of Co. Antrim in Northern Ireland. He found his Crooks ancestors in the Parish of Ahoghill, County Antrim, living on the Galgorm Estate (property around the Galgorm Castle, and owned by the same landholder). Reviewing the 1660s tax lists for the Galgorm Estate, we do not find any Moorheads.
However, you can hit possible paydirt in the 1666 tax listings for Ballymena Estates, which also was located in the Parish of Ahoghill, County Antrim, and was immediately adjacent to the Galgorm Estates. There is a John Morehead (variant spelling) listed as being taxed in 1666 for a single household. No members of his family are noted. This listing by itself might not be too significant. However, reviewing the complete lists for the Ballymena Estates, there is what I feel some corroborating information in the listings of other familiar Franklin County surnames.
Ballymena and Galgorm are both presently small towns in County Antrim, about 20 to 25 miles north and a bit west of Belfast.
In reviewing the listings for the Ballymena Estate I found four additional names that particularly interested me in regard to the Moorhead family. These names are Robert Beat(t)y, James Beat(t)y, Edward Johnston, and John Johnston.
In Northern Ireland, once the Scottish families migrated across the water to Ireland, they usually remained in a single location for many, many years. Therefore, we might assume that these Moorhead, Beatty and Johnston families may have remained at the Ballymena Estate from sometime after 1626 until the period when many of the families migrated to the United States.
My particular interest in the Beat(t)y and Johnston surnames , in addition to Moorhead, is what helps me feel that this might be the correct area in Northern Ireland where the Moorhead family lived. That is, possible additional evidence.
About 100 years later, in the Franklin County areas of Antrim and Washington Townships, in the 1770s period, the Moorhead, Beatty, and Johnston families were somewhat closely connected, but in a somewhat unknown (to me) way. This area would generally be in the Shady Grove area of Antrim Twp, and the nearby Waynesboro area of Washington Twp.
When John (immigrant) Moorhead died in 1775, his will was administrated by "Good Friends" William Beatty and James Johnston. The Beatty and Johnston families lived around Shady Grove, and the Moorhead family was living some miles away near the Maryland border, immediately southwest of Waynesboro. How did they become such good friends with the Moorheads? I cannot find any intermarriages.
I had theorized that they perhaps were all members of the same church, which in the early periods would have been in Greencastle, Franklin County, which was not too close to any of their homes. However, it is certainly possible that they were actually descendents from three nearby families in the Ballymena Estate in County Antrim, and had existed in a "clan" situation through the years. That is, a "family" situation due to their origins in Northern Ireland.
If I am correct, the Samuel Moorhead and John Moorhead families, and the Beatty’s and Johnston’s, likely immigrated from Ballymena Estate in the Parish of Ahoghill, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.
Now comes the next question. Where did they come from before Ballymena? They were certainly from Scotland. If you look at a map, and look at the family that was granted the Ballymena area in 1626, you may come to some definitive conclusion.
William Adair (1565-1626), from the Kinhilt/Stranaer area of southwest Scotland, was the major factor and landowner/landlord in the Ballymena area, acquiring the Ballymena properties shortly before 1626, likely a grant from King Charles 1. He was the Adair Clan Chief, but why did he choose to relocate to the Ballymena area?
He passed away about the same time that he acquired the Ballymena Estate properties, so the property was bestowed upon Sir Robert Adair, his son, who was born in 1583. It is said that they were good landlords, principally bringing in the linen industry by 1632. As such, many local Scotsmen followed the Adairs to Ballymena.
Kinhilt was in or near the present (and ancient) town of Stranaer which is in the current governing area known as "Dumfries and Galloway". Where located, it is a principal port town for traveling to Belfast, Northern Ireland. In fact, Belfast and Stranaer are about as close to each other as any two parts of the two countries.
Ballymena (the present town) is located about 20 to 25 miles north and a bit west of Belfast. In the 1600s, of course, the Estate occupied much more land than just the present town, and in the 1660s was the location of about 200 homes
With all this in mind, it could be said there is a significant probability that the Moorhead family, and the Beatty and Johnston families, migrated from the Dumfries and Galloway area of Scotland, to Ballymena about 1630, and then to America in the 1730s to 40s. Obviously at this point there is no proof. However, there also is no proof that this theory is incorrect. We just do not know with certainty.
That said, for the moment, I am going to personally conclude that I am correct in my assumptions. The Moorheads, a lowland Scottish family from southwest Scotland and the Ballymena Estate in County Antrim, are our ancestors.
I invite other opinions from other researchers, and would be glad to discuss other theories.