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The Topleys in Ireland
The Topley Family in County Armagh, Nineteenth Century


Our Topley family came to Pennsylvania in the late 1800s. My grandfather Roy was born here, but his older brother and sister were born in northern England, as was his father Richard John. His grandfather Richard John, however, was born in Ireland in 1829 and emigrated to England before 1861. We know Richard was in England by that time because he was a witness at the marriage of his brother James to Mary Blakely. Cousins Sandy and Jean, greatgranddaughters of James and Mary, both remember hearing that James was from county Armagh in northern Ireland. Dianne Topley, who is sponsoring a Topley family reunion [link] this year, has also indicated that her Topley family is from Armagh. The county of Armagh is, therefore, our starting point in searching for Topley family records.

County Armagh

Armagh is one of the six counties that comprise the modern country of Northern Ireland. County Armagh existed long before the formation of Northern Ireland, having been created in 1584. Located south of Lough Neagh , between the counties of Derry and Tyrone, Armagh covers 261 square miles. Its population in the nineteenth century varied between [##] in 18?? And [###] in 18??. [Add a few more lines about Armagh, link to a website with more info]

Griffith's Valuation

If Irish census records were available, it would be an easy task to look for Topleys in the 1851 or 1841 census. Unfortunately, most of the census records were lost in 1922 in a fire during the struggle for independence. The 1901 and 1911 census survived, but occurred much later than we require. The closest thing to a country-wide enumeration of the population during the time period we need is Griffith's Valuation of Property. In 1842 Parliament passed the Tenement Act which required that all property in Ireland be assessed for tax purposes. [write a few more lines about Griffith's, explain what the "valued at" column meant in terms of rent, explain about property ownership in Ireland] An index of surnames for Griffith's is available on CD-ROM. [Some kind soul] searched the index for Topleys and sent me the results. Fourteen Topley heads of household were found in this country-wide index, thirteen of them in County Armagh.

The "parishes" listed in Griffith's are civil parishes, not church parishes, which were administered by the government. Townlands are the smallest administrative division in the country. There are approximately 62,000 townlands in Ireland, with anywhere from five to thirty townlands grouped together to form a civil parish.

Civil Parishes of County Armagh

1 Armagh
2 Ballymore
3 Ballymore
4 Clonfeacle
5 Creggan
6 Derrynoose
7 Drumcree
8 Eglish
9 Forkill
10 Grange
11 Jonesborough
12 Keady
13 Kilclooney
14 Kildarton
15 Killevy
16 Killyman
17 Kilmore
18 Lisnadill
19 Loughgall
20 Loughgilly
21 Magheralin
22 Montiaghs
23 Mullaghbrack
24 Newry
25 Newtownhamilton
26 Seagoe
27 Shankill
28 Tartaraghan
29 Tynan


The four parishes where we find Topleys in 1864 are Armagh, Drumcree, Kilmore and Tartaraghan, all in the northern part of the county. A search of the complete Griffith's valuation records gives further details about the Armagh Topleys.

The parish of Tartaraghan falls within the Poor Law Union of Lurgan and the Barony of O'Neilland West. [Sentence or two of explanation and some links] The Topleys listed in Tartaraghan parish are John and Richard in Cloncore townland [# of tenants and total area] and John and Richard in Derrinraw townland[# of tenants and total area].

The property in Cloncore was 2 acres of land leased by John and Richard together from Thomas C. Wakefield and valued at 10 shillings. In Derrinraw, [how far away from Cloncore?], John and Richard leased 2 houses with small gardens and valued at 5 shillings, also from Thomas C. Wakefield.

Is there a connection with our Topleys? The father of our James and Richard John was named John, according to the marriage certificates of both men. But James was living in England in 1861 at the time of his marriage and Richard witnessed the marriage. Remember that Griffith's valuation of Armagh occurred in 1864. Further research in the records of Durham, England is necessary to determine when exactly Richard moved there. He and Alice McCabe were married in Durham in 1866 [link to certificate] and lived in England at the time of the 1871 and 1881 censuses. The Richard and John Topley in Derrinraw will be the first Topleys I plan to research more thoroughly because of the similarity of the names.

Three Topleys lived in the next parish to the east, Drumcree. William Topley leased a house and garden in Annagh townland from Mary Totten for £1 10s. Mary leased several acres from the Duke of Manchester then subdivided and sublet the property. [# of tenants and total area] In nearby Ballyworkan townland, Anne and Margaret Topley leased neighboring houses from John Black who lived and had an office next door. He leased 11+ acres from Alexander Kelly who was the lessor for quite a few properties in the area. [# of tenants and total area]

Kilmore parish was the home of five Topleys. Five miles east of the city of Armagh, Kilmore parish was 7.5 miles by 5 miles and contained about 17,000 acres. Jane Topley lived in Bottlehill townland, a community of 40 houses. She leased the four acres surrounding her house from the Reverend James Jones for £4 10s per year. Reverend Jones lived in another nearby townland, Kilmore, near Erasmus Smith's Male and Female Schoolhouse. Another Richard Topley lived in the next townland, Cavan, with its 19 houses. He leased a house and 5+ acres of land from the Reverend Hans Atkinson for £ [?] 10s per year. In Clonroot, the next townland (67 houses), David Topley leased a house from Richard Hewitt for 15 shillings. Mr. Hewitt was the lessor for quite a bit of property and leased his own house, office and land from Lord A. E. Hill Trevor. John Topley also lived in Clonroot, leasing a house and 1 acre of land from Jonathan Hewitt, Sr. Most of the property in the townland lists a member of the Hewitt family as the lessor. Drumnahunshin townland, a community of 45 houses, was the home of Samuel Topley. Samuel rented a house and garden from James Best for 25 shillings. Mr. Best lived next door and leased his own office and other properties from Sir Arthur C. Magenis.

The final Griffith's listing for a Topley is James Topley, who lived in the parish of Armagh in the city of Armagh. James lived on Jenny's Row, off Upper English street. He rented a house and yard from William Gillis for £410s.

Having established that there were quite a few Topleys in county Armagh in the nineteenth century, where else can we look for records? Here are some of the other references I have found to Topleys:

Return of the Registered Freeholders

(film #1279324)

A freeholder held his property either in fee, which means outright ownership, or by a lease for a life or lives (such as the term of his life or the term of three lives named in the lease). Forty-shilling freeholders had the vote in Ireland until 1829, including Roman Catholics beginning in 1793.

In the list of registered freeholders for the Barony of O'Neiland West for the year 1827, we find Edward Topley listed as a forty-shilling freeholder in the townland of Drumard Others living with him were James and Samuel Topley and Prudence Bradshaw. . His landlords were the Misses Richardson. Edward registerd at Richhill on 11 April 1827. (The Richardsons owned Rich Hill townland.) The film shows registries for 1813 through 1828 for O'Neiland West; 1827 is the only year the Topleys were registered.

Parish Tithe Books, Kilmore Parish, 1831-37

(footnote: film #1279324)

According to the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI):

"Tithe was a tax on all agricultural land excepting only church lands and glebes and urban areas. It required occupiers, of all religious denominations, to pay one tenth the produce of the land to the clergy of the Established Church of Ireland. Initially, this tax had maintained the church and its incumbent but, following the dissolution of the monasteries, tithes devolved to the Crown. The Crown, in turn, either sold or granted the rights to laymen ('impropriators') or to bishops. Lord Bangor, for example, enjoyed the tithes of Bangor parish, while those for Comber were the property of Lord Donegall. Tithes became identified with property rights and with the political ideology of the ruling classes.… Between 1823 and 1838, a series of Tithe Composition Acts 1823-38 replaced payment in kind by payment in cash. Despite conciliatory concessions from Parliament, the tithes remained unpopular, and practically uncollectable. Eventually the government gave way to popular pressure and introduced the Tithe Rent Charge Act in 1838 which effectively absorbed tithe payments into the ordinary rents payable to landlords." (

Kilmore parish, [link to a page from the Ordance memoirs] where we found the majority of Topleys in 1864 in Griffith's valuation, is also the home of a number of Topleys in the 1830s. The records for the townland of Drumard Jones show that Edward Topley, Sr., owed tithes in the amount of 1s 6p and 1s 8p for the years 1832 and 1833. Edward Topley owed nothing for 1832 and 2s 6 _ p for 1833. In 1836 Edward Topley and John Topley are listed as being in arrears for the sum of 11s 3 _ p. Topleys are listed separately in 1837: Edward for 2s 5p, John for 2s 5p and Pru for 2s 6p. Additionally, there is a Thomas Bradshaw listed in Drumard Primate at 3s 6p; Pru's maiden name was Bradshaw (see Freeholders Registry above.) Although records are available for 1824 and 1825, no Topleys are listed.

Ireland Index of Marriages (1860-1865)

(film #0101248, 0101249)

This film happened to be at the Family History Center while I was there, so I checked for Topleys and found the following:

1861 Topley, William Armagh

1862 Topley, Elisabeth Lurgan

1863 Topley, William Lurgan

1865 Topley, Susanna Lurgan

A birth index also at the center shows a Thomas Topley born in Lurgan in 1868.

Armagh Diocesan Marriage Index (1727-1845)

(film #0100860)

The following Topleys appeared in this index:

1827 John married Isabella Neill orse McCully
1834 Sarah married William Hobson
1839 Elizabeth married John McQuade
1841 Richard married Jane Hanna
1843 Mary married John Jackson

Index of Deaths, 1911-1913, Ireland

(footnote: film #0101605)

I got the opportunity to see this index when another researcher was using it at the Family History Center. The index is for records which are kept by the Public Records Office. I quickly checked the index for Topleys, figuring that any Topleys left in Ireland are probably connected to ours in some way. With such a small timeframe, I didn't expect to find anything. To my surprise there were three Topleys listed.

In the first quarter of 1912, Rosella Topley, age 4, died in Dublin.

James Topley, age 64, died in Armagh in the 4th quarter of 1913. If he was born in Ireland, it would have been in 1849.

Richard Topley, age 74, died in Banbridge [find location] in the 3rd quarter of 1913. He was born in 1839.

Miscellaneous other sources

Dianne Topley has told me that her Canadian Topleys were from Armagh. Abraham Topley was born in Armagh in about 1799. He married Alice Clay before 1827, when their son Samuel was born. Abraham and Samuel both emigrated to Ontario. I have found a reference in PRONI's records to some "Topley Documents" which turn out to be two letters, one written in 1850 by Isaac Topley in Port Hope, Montreal, Canada to his father Abraham in Markethill, Armagh. The second letter was written by Abraham Topley in Port Hope, Montreal to his brother-in-law James Boardman in Tandragee, Armagh.

Oddly enough, I discovered some Topleys in a stray record in the middle of a film with miscellaneous items from the Armagh county museum (film #1279327). The record consisted of three pages, no title, no dates. A "registration unit" is identified, the list is numbered and an address is given for the people on the list. I found four Topleys!

Registration Unit: Portadown Borough (No. 13)

Tandragee Road

#8857 Topley, James Annagh Cottage
#8858 Topley, Margaret do.

Woodside Hill

#10721 Topley, Harold 20 (maybe a house # on Woodside Hill?)
#10722 Topley, Lavinia 20



 Links: for explanation of Irish records Irish Origins, The Global Gazette


[Chronological list of Armagh Topleys &endash; see spreadsheet]






[separate page]

Kilmore Parish


Ordnance Survey Memoirs of Ireland, Vol 1: Parishes of County Armagh 1835-8, ed. Angelique Day and Patrick McWilliams, The Institute of Irish Studies, The Queen's University of Belfast, Belfast, in association with The Royal Irish Academy, Dublin, 1990.


In 1824, the first Ordnance Survey of Ireland was taken, a survey of townlands to enable a uniform valuation for local taxation. In addition to the engineers and surveyors commissioned to create the maps, civil assistants were recruited in the 1830s to create the memoirs, written descriptions and sketches which accompanied the maps and contained information which could not fit on a map. The memoirs were discontinued before the entire country was surveyed, seen as an unnecessary additional expense. Fortunately, County Armagh was among the counties surveyed, although the memoirs for Armagh are not as complete as originally planned.


Thomas McIlroy reported in 1837 that


"The parish of Kilmore is situated 5 miles north east of the city of Armagh, in the county of Armagh, in the baronies of Oneilland West and Lower Orior. It is bounded on the north by a part of the parish of [sic] Newry and the parish of Drumcree, on the east by the county Down and parish of Mullaghbrack, on the west by the parish of Loughgall and on the south by the parisheds of Mullaghbrack and Ballymore. Its extreme length is 7 and a half miles and extreme breadth 5 miles. Its content is 17,274 acres 2 roods 3 perches, including 13 acres 1 rood 32 perches of water, and it is valued at [blank] to the county cess." (page 57)


He further notes that the parish church is located in the townland of Kilmore, the rector at that time was the Rev. Edward Chichester. A Presbyterian church was located in the townland of Ballintaggart, general attendance around 100 even though there was no resident preacher at the time. A Roman Catholic chapel was built in 1771 in the townland of Drumnahunshin.


More details were recorded by J. Heming Tait in 1838. He lets us know that the major town of the parish, Rich Hill, contains the following:

"167 houses….. a chapel of ease, an Independent meeting house (or Congregationalist), a Quakers' meeting house, a Presbyterian meeting house, a Methodist meeting house, a pound, a small market house and 2 schools, and also a police office. The number of trades in the town are as follows: publicans 5, doctors 3, tanner's men 6, shoemakers 7, grocers 9, gauger or excise man 1, carpenters 5, baker 1."

A dispensary that served the parish was located in the townland of Mullaghvilly.


Updated on Saturday, 01-Jul-2000 18:10:52 MDT