GAWN
FAMILY
HISTORY

 Descendants of Andrew Gawn, Halftown, Co. Antrim:
Born 1777

 

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Sources of information

In most peopleís lives a time comes when they develop an interest in their roots. Quite often their knowledge ends with their immediate family circle extending back to their grandparents, and sideways to their first cousins. A few years ago my interest was further stimulated, and since then I have collected many pages of information about Gawns who lived in times past and their descendants. I now want to put that into some kind of order so that others may have access to it, now and in years to come. 

The trigger that started me off on a very interesting journey into the past, and led me to many countries and caused me to get to know many nice people, was an enquiry that came from Linda Graham of Northcote, Auckland, New Zealand to my mother regarding her Great-grandmother Mary Graham, nee Gawn, of Dunsilly near Antrim town. She was interested in finding information about the ancestry of Mary. My mother had been a source of information about the Gawns most of her life. She obtained most of it first hand from my fatherís aunt Sarah Mary Gawn, b 1858, known as Sadie, who lived to the ripe old age of 95.

In late 1970 my nephew, Jim Gawn, was attending university in Lancaster, England. He had taken up reading The Guardian newspaper and on one occasion was prompted to write a letter to the editor, which was published. Peter C. Gawn, who lives in Canada, but was born in England, read this letter written by Jim. Peter was at that time commencing a study of his branch of the Gawn family history. He subsequently wrote to Jim to get his family background. Jim knew little of this so he referred Peter to his grandmother, my mother. From this much correspondence took place and new information was gathered, but no direct link between his and our lineage was established.  Peterís roots are in England.

Perhaps the most significant thing to come out of this was what Peter passed on about Gawns in New Zealand. This opened up many years of correspondence between my mother and Nancy Gawn, later Scott, of Balcultha, New Zealand. Unfortunately Nancy has now passed on. Nancy was the granddaughter of Robert Gawn who had emigrated in 1856, at the age of twenty years, from the very farm in Halftown, Co Antrim where I have lived all my life. Robert was a second cousin to Sarah Mary Gawn. He was also the grandson of Robert, a younger brother of Andrew, my great-great-grandfather. Nancy compiled a list of all the descendants of her grandfather, Robert, in the early nineteen-eighties. This was invaluable information and the result of much work on her part. It was through this source that Linda Graham heard of my mother and contacted her. My mother, felt that she was too old to commence such a search so it was handed over to me, and it was then that I got the family history bug.

Another important source of information came from this connection. Robert Gawn, when he emigrated, first went to Australia. His second cousin Martha Ann McConnell, daughter of Nancy Gawn and granddaughter of Andrew, went out on Robertís invitation and they got married in Melbourne. Later they moved on to Dunedin, New Zealand. Two sisters and a brother of Martha Annís went to New Zealand to join her and make their life there. The brotherís name was William McConnell and his grandson Robert McConnell, now a retired schoolmaster and local historian, who lives in East Cape, North Island, has corresponded with me for many years. I include many extracts from this correspondence.

Thomas G. Bell of Bangor gave me information about the Bells of Tardree, Co Antrim. His grandmother was Elizabeth Gawn, daughter of Andrew of Halftown, my great-great-grandfather. I am indebted to Norma McCurdy of Australia for details and photographs about the Ramsey family, many of whom now live in Canada. The eldest granddaughter of Andrew Gawn married James Ramsey of Ballyclaverty.

I am equally indebted to Angus Gawn of Alloway, Scotland for information on the descendants of Thomas Gawn who went from Co. Antrim to Scotland in 1900. Thomas was a great-grandson of Robert Gawn, brother of Andrew.

Much information has come from searching local church records, namely those of First and Second Donegore Presbyterian Churches and Mill Street, now known as First Antrim Presbyterian Church. The Public Record Office in Belfast has been a useful source, and much time was spent there. Some information regarding the existence of individuals and families world-wide bearing the name of Gawn is available in The Burkeís Peerage Book of Gawns. However, in this there is some duplication and omission, but it does give an indication of the scarcity of the name world-wide. Only six countries are listed with a total of 186 households and 626 individuals.

Recently some information on lost and hitherto unknown Gawns has come from the Internet. In fact this has given me the earliest date that the name, as it is presently spelt, is known. It records a John Gawn of Hastings, Sussex, England born in 1540, died 1592. What I would take as being his father is also recorded but in this case the name is spelt Gawen. It is Jeffery Gawen, born 1500, See (Ahnentafel Chart, Gemmell & Walker Ancestors 15th generation) died 1558, also of Hastings. Some 'missing' descendants have been given to me by Julie Batting who is also a descendant of Andrew, my great-great-grandfather. I am indebted to Genes Reunited for providing this contact.

I would like to acknowledge information contained in the the website, PAPERS PAST, which is provided by the National Library of New Zealand. This has enabled me to find interesting information about early family members in New Zealand.

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