Flack’s in Cavan Surname Study

In my first post, I suggested that there are three possible lines of inquiry (LOE) that might lead to the discovery of the identity of other members of William Flack’s (born 1 April 1810 at Bailieborough, Cavan, Ireland) family. This blog pursues the second line of inquiry (LOE2). What can be learned from the available records of Flack families living in and around Bailieborough, County Cavan between 1810 and 1850 that might lead to the discovery of other members of William Flack’s family?

There are six publicly available sources of information about the possible locations of Flack families in the period 1810 and 1850.

Flax Growers List 1796

A search of the Flax Growers List (1796) for the surname Flack in County Cavan, failed to find any record of Flack families engaged in the linen industry in Cavan at that time.

Second is the Flacks listed in the Tithe Applotment Books which were compiled between 1823 and 1837 in order to determine the amount which occupiers of agricultural holdings over one acre should pay in tithes to the Church of Ireland. A search of the RootsIreland database for Flacks listed in the Tithe Books for some of that period reveals the following Flacks

Flacks listed in 19 Century Tithe Books for Co. Cavan

The third potential source is the available Parish Baptisms and Marriage records that have been published in online databases such as RootsIreland and FindMyPast. A search of these databases for any Flack baptisms or marriages in County Cavan in the period 1800 to 1850 revealed the following Flack families:

Cavan Flack Baptisms 1810 to 1850

Fourth are the early official registration records for the area. The following deaths of persons named Flack and who were born in the period 1800 to 1850 were registered in Cavan

Cavan Flack Deaths born 1800 to 1850

Fifth, the Griffith’s Land Valuation which is said to be an invaluable reference for family historians with ancestors in Ireland in part because no census material from the nineteenth century has survived. In effect, because it is the only detailed guide to where in Ireland people lived in the mid-nineteenth century and what property they owned or leased, Griffith’s Valuation serves as a census substitute for the years before, during, and after the Great Famine.

A search of the RootsIreland database for Flacks listed in the Griffith’s Land Valuation which was completed in County Cavan in 1857 revealed the following:

Griffith s Valuation for Flacks in Co. Cavan

Finally, there is the 1901 Census records which provide details of the Flack families living in Cavan in 1901. A person over the age of 51 at the time of the Census may well have been living in Cavan during the relevant period. The following details have been extracted for Cavan:

Flack in Cavan from 1901 Census

What can be learned from this collection of Cavan Flack records?

Analysis by location of Flack Families

If we are to take William Flack’s Army records literally, then we must look to the Flack families that lived in and around  Bailieborough in the years 1810 (when and where his documents say he was born) and where he is recorded being from  when he enlisted on 17 February 1831. The candidates are therefore:

A. Hugh Flack recorded as a land holder in the Tithe Applotment Books at “Lurganbawn”, Bailieborough in 1825.

B. John Flack recorded as a land holder in the Tithe Applotment Books at “Lurganbawn”, Bailieborough in 1825.

C. Robert Flack recorded as a land holder in the Tithe Applotment Books at “Lurganbawn”, Bailieborough in 1825.

D. Hugh and Jane Flack of “Curlurgan”, “Enagh K Bride” Bailiborough, parents of William Flack, baptised in the Bailieborough Church of Ireland Parish on 31 Dec 1837 and of John Flack, baptised 28 February 1841 and of Mary Anne Flack, baptised in the Church of Ireland Parish of “Killencare, Kilsherdany” on 21 February 1836.

E. Thomas and Mary Flack of “Lisbal” Bailieborough, parents of Mary Anne Flack, baptised in the Bailieborough Church of Ireland Parish on 16 June 1839.

F. Jane Flack, of Lurganbane Townlands, Bailieborough, born c1835 recorded in the 1901 Census as a Church of Ireland Widow and mother

G.Samuel Flack, born 1808 of Bailieborough whose death was registered in 1891 in Bailieborough.

H. Mary Flack, born 1817 of Bailieborough whose death was registered in 1899 in Bailieborough.

I. John Flack recorded living/owning land at Lurganbane, Bailieborough

J. Robert Flack recorded living/owning land at Lurganbane, Bailieborough

It appears that there were several Church of Ireland Flack families living in and around Bailieborough who could have been William Flack’s family.There were at least two Flack families living in Lurganbane. (Further research of the Griffith Land Valuation documents reveals that John and Robert Flack were joint tenants of 3 acres of land in Lurganbane owned by Sir John Young – agent William Chambers)  It also seems possible that these families were related. Further research will be necessary to determine how these listings might be arranged into families.

Analysis by Religious Affiliations

Although there are no references to William Flack’s religious affiliations in his military records, we do know that he agreed to christen is son. William Henry Douglas Flack, born 26 January 1852 Limerick, in the Presbyterian Church of Limerick. It seems reasonable to assume that this may have been his family’s religious affiliation. An examination of what is known of the religious affiliations of the Flack families living in or near Bailieborough reveals the following that may assist in identifying potential candidates for the family of William Flack:

WHDF Baptism Cert (1)

Using the 1901 Census, the following map shows the distribution (some 90 years after William Flack’s birth) of those with the surname Flack by religious affiliations:

Incidence by religious affiliation of Flacks

First Presbyterian Church, Bailieborough (also known as Corglass Church) is three miles from Bailieborough. The Church was established in 1714 and the present building dates from 1795. The following Church records are available: Baptisms 1861 – 1983; Marriages 1845 – 1955; Burials none listed [PRONI MIC/1P/145].

Second Presbyterian Church, Bailieborough (and Trinity) was built in 1770 at Urcher, one mile outside Bailieborough. Only its graveyard now remains. The church was demolished when the new Trinity Church was built in 1887 on the Virginia Road in Bailieborough. The following Church records are available: Baptisms 1863 – 1983; Marriages 1845 – 1952; No burials [PRONI MIC/1P/143]

One further piece of evidence may also assist.  Listed in the “Inhabitants of Bailieborough 1805/1830”  from Hall, T., History of Presbyterianism in East Cavan, 1912. Typescript manuscript held by the County Cavan library is the following listing that throws a different light on the Flacks of Lurganbane:

“Tenants of the Manor of Bailieborough in 1805
A few of these are also dwellers in the town:

• Lurganbane: Samuel Flack”

This record suggest that there was at least one Presbyterian family living in Lurganbane in the vicinity of Bailieborough at the time of William Flack’s birth.


There is no clear indication from these records as to which, if any, of these Flack families were the family of William Flack.

There are three other pieces of evidence that might suggest where he lived. First, it will be noted that William Flack’s enlistment papers state that he was a “labourer”. This term had a different meaning in the 1830s as it does today. The term “labourer” is likely to have meant “unskilled”, as opposed to “mechanic”, “farmer”, or “gentleman” and is more likely to have been applied to townsmen than to men from the rural areas (Nelson, I.F. The Irish Militia 1793-1810. Ireland’s Forgotten Army. Four Courts Press, Dublin, 2007.)

Second, William Flack’s enlistment papers indicate that his enlistment medical examination was signed by Surgeon Thomas Horan at Cootehill on 18th February 1831, the day after his enlistment.

Third, Lewis’ Topographical Dictionary (1837) includes a reference to the 17th February being a “Fair Day” in Bailieborough, the largest market town in the County at that time, suggesting that farmers,  traders and customers could have travelled some distances to be in the Bailieborough on that day. It would also explain why Private Philip McKiernan of the 63rd Regiment was in Bailieborough recruiting on that day.

Neither of the Bailieborough Presbyterian Church records provide records that directly assist in the search for the baptism of William Flack nor his marriage (we know he was married in Bellary India in 1844), however they may contain records of related Flack families living in the area.

One finding from the records searched so far is that the Presbyterian communities living close to Bailieborough do not appear to include many Flack families. The analysis of the occurrence of the surname Flack in Cavan, Monaghan and Armagh points to concentrations of Flack families in the western parts of Cavan, closer to the borders with Monaghan and Armagh and many more Flack families in those two counties.

The Flack family that appears from the analysis of the incidence of families with Flack surname and with Presbyterian religious affiliations to be the best candidate for William Flack’s family is the family of Samuel Flack, Presbyterian resident of Lurganbane, near Bailieborough, but no clear connection can be found.

It is quite possible that upon enlistment, the details of where William Flack was born and where he was from, were filled in by the Recruiting Sergeant and simply reflected where the recruitment took place.


1 thought on “Episode 3. In search of William Flack’s family

  1. Pingback: The Family History of our Flack, Cockshutt, Hayward and Chambers Families. | Where do you think you come from?

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