Scotch-Irish-L ArchivesArchiver > Scotch-Irish > 2001-07 > 0996108093
From: Charles Clark <>
Subject: [Scotch-Irish] Nesbitt/Nisbet
Date: Thu, 26 Jul 2001 12:41:33 +1200
Finally catching up with a bit of typing I did for someone a couple of
years ago and didn't keep a copy of. Mind you it gets easier with a
newer scanner, only half the work
Extract from Three Hundred Years in Inishowen, by Amy Young
NESBITT, OR NISBET, OF WOODHILL, GREENHILLS, ETC.
A history of the family of Nisbet, or Nesbitt, in Scotland and Ireland
was begun by Alexander Nesbitt, of the Lismore branch, but unfortunately
Mr. Nesbitt died before his work was completed. His widow, Cecilia
Nesbitt, compiled what she could from his notes, and the result was
printed privately in pamphlet form in 1898. It is obviously incomplete,
except for the account of the Lismore branch; but wills and
cross-references in other pedigrees, etc., have yielded a good deal of
information, which is given here, as it may interest some. The name of
Nesbitt is now a mere tradition in the parishes where once this family
were the principal land-owners, and there does not seem to be left a
single bearer of the name to represent them.
The Nesbitts and Nisbetts of Donegal came originally from Nesbyt (now
spelt Nisbet), near Dunse, in Berwickshire, and the three boars' heads
borne on their coat of arms are of very ancient usage, and are also
borne by the families of Swinton, Gordon, Redpath, and Dunse, all of
whom derive their names from baronies contiguous to that of Nisbet.
There is a tradition that all five families are descended from some
common ancestor, and Lord Hales, in his "Origin of Scottish Names," is
quoted to this effect. Each family bears its boars' heads in a different
colour: that of Nisbet being argent, three boars' heads, erased, sable;
of Swinton, sable and argent, with a chevron, or; of Gordon, azure and
or; of Redpath, argent and gules, with a chevron, engrailed, also gules;
and Dunse, sable and or, with a chevron, or.
The three boars' heads are found on seals of Nesbitt wills in Ireland
from 1708, though the crests differ. Mrs. Nesbitt says:
" There is a tradition that the Irish branch of the Nisbets of Nisbet,
after the battle of the Boyne in 1690, adopted the arm as a crest,
instead of a boar, which had formerly been borne by the family in
Scotland, and at the same time they changed their motto from 'I byde it'
to 'Je maintiendrai,' which last motto referred, of course, to the
upholding of the Protestant faith. In the possession of the head of the
family in Ireland there is a small silver cup, shaped like an egg-cup,
on which is engraved 'To the most glorious and immortal memory.' It is
stated that, on the anniversary of the battle of the Boyne, it was the
custom of the members of the family to drink out of this cup to the
memory of King William. The cup is stated to have been made out of the
silver gorget worn by their ancestor at the battle of the Boyne.-C. N."
Later the Nesbitts of Brenter and Kilma-creddan bore the crest of the
arm and trunch-eon, and other branches -Woodhill, Drumalee, etc.-the
open hand; both probably borne in allusion to the settle-ment of Ulster,
of which province the bloody hand is the well-known emblem.
There have been Nesbyts of Nesbyt from the days of the Conquest, when
Thor Longus, a Saxon, was granted the lands of West Nesbyt in the time
of Malcolm Can-more, King of Scotland A.D. 1056-1092.
Mr. Nesbitt's very interesting account of the earlier Nesbitts emerges
from the realm of conjecture with Philip Nisbett of Nisbet, who married
Helen Rutherford before 1505, and had at least three sons, the second of
whom, George, had in 1513 a charter of half of the barony of Dalziel,
from John Nisbet of Dalziel. In 1561 lie is described as Baron of
Dalziel, and in 1568 as Nisbet of Nisbet. His grandson George was served
heir to his father, Philip Nisbet, on the 18th Feb., 1590, and had at
least five sons: Philip, Alexander, Edward, Thomas, and William. The
first-named, Philip, was the father of Sir Alexander, who in 1660
petitioned Charles II. to make him a "Knight and Baronett, he having
lost his fortune in the King's service, and," as he states, "ever since
the late trouble forced to fly into Ireland for a livelyhood, although
he be eighty years of age."
It is probable that Sir Alexander took refuge with relatives, already
living in Ireland from Plantation days, but the exact con-nection
between his family and the various branches that settled in Co. Donegal
has been lost, as is the case with most settlement families, chiefly
owing to the great carelessness over both private and public documents
which was common in Ireland at that time.
Sir Alexander had a brother Thomas, and as the family of Nesbitt of
Lismore claim their descent from a Thomas of New-battle, it seems highly
probable that these were one and the same man, whose son, Andrew Nesbitt
of Brenter, held lands at Kilma-creddan. Co. Donegal, in 1621, from John
Murray of Broughton (Earl of Annandale).
In 1659 the only persons of the name of Nesbitt mentioned as "Titulados"
(i.e., those who had a title to the land they occupied) in Donegal were
Andrew Nesbitt, James Nesbitt, and Capt. John Nesbitt of Tullydonnell.
Andrew was "titulado" of the lands of Killingroan (Kilmacreddon) in the
parish of Inver, and of Largimon in the parish of Kilcorr. James, in
conjunction with Andrew, was titulado " of Dromranny. (Census returns of
Alexander Nesbitt, second of the five sons of George Nesbitt, and uncle
to Sir Alexander, had two children, James and Elizabeth, and appears to
have died about 1613, when his brother Thomas was made guardian of the
children, who in 1634 were served heirs to their uncle, the said Thomas.
The ancestor of the Woodhill Nesbitts was an Alexander, who had a son
Of the Irish Nesbitts there are three main lines, subdivided again into
various branches, each one now extinct in the male line. The three main
lines are as follows:-
1. Nesbitt or Nisbet of Tullydonnell, from which come Nesbitt of
Derricairne, Co. Leitrim, and Nisbet of Greenhills, Co. Donegal.
2. Nesbitt of Brenter, from which come Nesbitt of Kilma-creddon, and
Nesbitt of Lismore, Co. Cavan.
3. Nesbitt of Woodhill, from which come Nesbitt of Tubber-daly, King's
Co., and Nesbitt of Drumalee.
The family of Young of Culdaff is connected with Nesbitt of Woodhill and
Nisbet of Greenhills.
The family of Nesbitt of Tullydonnell is shown on Chart E; those of
Greenhills on Chart F : Kilmacreddon and Lismore may be seen on Charts C
and D. This account will deal more speci-ally with the family of
NESBITT OF WOODHILL.
The first ancestor given by Burke of this branch is Alexander, said to
have come to Ireland from Dirleton. N.B... and married his cousin Alice,
dau. of the Rev. Alexander Conyngham (first Protestant Rector of Inver
in 1611, and Dean of Raphoe in 1630, d. 1660).
In all the family trees this Alexander is said to have had three sons:
James of Woodhill, Alexander of Kilmacreddan, and Albert, a soldier in
the regt. of his uncle, Sir Albert Conyngham, but no proofs are given to
bear out these statements. The Kilmacreddan branch has been peculiarly
difficult to trace, and the probability is that the property changed
hands several times between relatives of the same name, and did not
necessarily go from father to son in a direct line. An Andrew Nesbitt
had this land, as well as Brenter, in 1621 and 1632, from Murray of
Broughton (later Earl of Annandale). The name of the next holder is not
known, and it may quite well have been Alexander, son of Alexander
above. The only proof is in the will of an Andrew Nesbitt, dated 1704
and proved 1708, in which he states that his father, still alive, holds
part of the lands of Kilmacreddan. Andrew, the soil who held the other
part of these lands, was also "of Brenter." His wife was alive in 1704,
and he mentions his son Andrew, then "a child," and his younger
children. He also refers to the children of Capt. Andrew Nesbitt
(probably his uncle) as having a particular claim on him. This last
Capt. Andrew was probably the ancestor of the Lismore family.
The next holder appears to be Alexander, whose will (dated 1739) was
proved 1755. Possibly the " child " Andrew died, and Alexander was one
of the "younger children," or he may have acquired the property in some
other way. He married Jane - whose will was dated 1762 and proved 1765.
She is buried in Enver (or Inver) churchyard. They had three sons and
three daus., the eldest of whom, Andrew, got Kilmacreddan. Dr.
MacParlan, in his Statistical Survey, 1801, refers to him in giving an
account of the decline and extinction of the whale-fishing venture, off
Co. Donegal. Andrew Nesbitt had started this in 1761, and carried it on
for some twenty-five years with. varying success, under the stimulus of
a small bonus from the Irish Parliament.
"Great numbers of whales," says MacParlan, "come on this coast. Mr.
Nisbett generally killed two, three, and sonmetimes four in one season,
about 20 years ago (1780). One of the whales, however, angry at this
invasion of their empire of the Ocean, gave Mr. Nisbett's boat a whisk
of its tail, and shattered it in pieces. Two men were lost; the activity
and good swimming of Mr. James Hamilton of Eden saved many 1ives, and
among them Mr. Nisbetts, who was the last picked out of the waves.
"This put an end to his whale-fishing. In the course of the
whale-fishing, the sun-fish, an animal from 30 to 40 feet long, are
caught in great numbers. From the liver of this creature is extracted
from one to one and a half tons of oil. The average value of the whale
is £750, and of the sun-fish £45 10s. 0d."
Though rescued from the waves in this dramatic fashion, Mr. Andrew
Nesbitt does not appear to have survived, or at least to have married
and had a son, for his younger brother Thomas, in his will (proved
1803), is described as of Kilmacreddan. Unfortunately no copy of this
will is available for inspection, and
it is uncertain if he actually owned the property. Nothing further is
known of this branch.
The branch of William Nesbitt of Drumalee is shown on Chart B, and
nothing more is known of them.
To return to the Woodhill branch, James Nesbitt, eldest son of Alexander
and his wife, Alice Conyngham, married Margery, youngest daughter of
Bishop Andrew Knox of Raphoe. This is according to the pedigree given in
Burke, but no corroboration is forthcoming. If correct, this Margery was
probably the daughter
of the bishop's third wife, Elizabeth, dau. of Sir Ralph Bingley, in
whose house the bishop was lodged pending the building of his own (see
p. 21), and the date of her marriage to James Nesbitt would be circa
There appear to have been at least five sons of this marriage, and there
is no record of any daughters. The five sons were:-
1. Rev. George Nesbitt, of whom later.
2. Richard, presumed to be the "Richard, son of James, born Co.
Donegal," who entered T.C.D. 1681,2. It is possible he was of another
3. James, of Tubberdaly. ? Prerog. will. 1767. He m. and had a son
James, of Tubberdaly (prerog. will proved 1769), who had a son Gifford,
will proved 1783, and a dau. Thomazine, ,who m. the Rev. Alex.
Clotworthy, Downing, and became ancestor of the family. of
Beaumont-Nesbitt, of Toberdaly.
4. Albert, of Tubberdaly. Trustee of the will of Andrew Nesbitt of
Brenter, 1704. May be the uncle and not the brother of this generation.
Prerog. will of a Capt. Albert Nesbitt was proved 1721. He m. and had a
son Gifford, b. in King's Co. 1703/4. Entered T.C.D. 1720/21, at the
Irish Bar in 1730; m. 1769, Sarah, dau. of Nicholas Biddulph. She d.
1774; Gifford d. 1772, s.p. ?
5. William of Drumalee, see Chart "B."
The Rev. George Nesbitt, eldest son, was Rector of Inniskeel, Co.
Donegal, from 1696-1742, and is also several times described as of
Drumalugh, Drumlugh, and Drumlogh. He married, circa 1690-1700,
Catherine (or Margaret), dau. of Alexander Conyngham, of Ballidavit.
This mar-riage, and that of his grandfather to Alice Conyngham, has not
been proved, but there is a certain amount of circum-stantial evidence
to sup-port the assertion. Burke gives them both in his pedigrees of
Nesbitt of Woodhill, 1851 and earlier. The appearance of the name Albert
in the Nesbitt family would point to a relationship with Sir Albert
Conyngham (an-cestor of the Marquis of Conyngham), presumed to be
brother of Alice. A William Conyngham of Ballidavit, whose will (proved
1700) is found in App. 66, mentions his niece Margaret Nesbitt of
Kilmacreddan. He also mentions his nephew, Alexander Conyngham, of
Aighan, who was his residuary legatee. The land of Aighan (or Eighan, or
Achan) was in the possession of the Nesbitts of Woodhill until 1847. One
of the sons of George Nesbitt and Catherine (or Margaret) Conyngham was
born at Mount Charles, Co. Donegal, which, though now the property of
the Hamiltons, was originally the home of Dean Conyngham, of Raphoe,
grandfather of Catherine (or Margaret), and great-grand-father of the
Rev. George Nesbitt.
The Rev. George and his wife had at least four sons and one daughter:-
1. James of Woodhill, of whom later.
2. Rev. Andrew, b. at Drumlugh, 1701/2. Ent. T.C.D. 1716/17; B.A. 1721;
M.A. 1724. Rector of Killybegs 1739-69. Probably the "Rev. Mr.
AndrewNesbitt" whose will is dated 1768, in which he leaves all to his
only dau. Anne. His executors are Gifford Nesbitt of Dublin, John
Tredennick of Camlin, and the Rev. James Montgomery of Cloverhill.
3. Richard, m. Hester, dau. of John Hamilton, of Brown Hall, Co.
Donegal. She was b. 1701. Richard and Hester Nesbitt are mentioned in
the "Memoirs of Cardinal Retz," 1723.
4. Ezekiel, b. at mount Charles 1711/12. Entered T.C.D. 1727/8. Became a
medical man, and d. in Bath City, where his prerog. will was proved
1798. He m. Martha, dau. of - Damer and widow of Sir Edward Crofton, by
whom he had a son John, and a dau. Mary Catherine, who d. 1761.
5. Jane, m. Cornet Archibald Hamilton, of Ballyfatton, whose prerog.
will was proved 1758. He m. secondly, Letitia Fairlie. By his first
wife, Jane Nesbitt, he had issue: William, George, Catherine, and Sarah
(who m., as his second wife, John Tredennick of Camlin, and had issue,
among others, Galbraith, who m. Anne Nesbitt, and whose son eventually
became owner of the Woodhill estate). By his second marriage Archibald
had issue: Richard, James, Galbraith, Sampson, and Margery.
James Nesbitt of Woodhill, eldest son of the Rev. George, was b. circa
1700, and probably d. before 1768. He m. 1724, Elizabeth, dau. of Col.
John Hamilton, of Brown Hall, Co. Donegal. Her mother was Jane, dau. of
Col. Abraham Creighton, ancestor of the present Earl of Erne. Col. John
Hamilton lived first at Murvagh, and removed from there to Brown Hall in
1697. His prerog. will, dated 1706 (see App. 63), proves the Creighton
descent. Of the marriage of James and Elizabeth Hamilton there were
apparently two sons and four daughters:-
1. George, of Woodhill, of whom later.
2. A son, who m. and had a dau.-" My niece Mary Nesbitt, of Longhill,"
mentioned in the will of George Nesbitt of Wood-hill, 1819.
4. Catherine, m. circa 1750, the Rev. George Knox, D.D., who was Curate
at Culdaff in 1751. For her descendants see p. 214. Her three daus.-Mary
Ann and Angel Knox, and Catherine Lawrence -are mentioned in her brother
George's will, 1819.
6. Mary. ? m. Conyngham, and had a dau., "Mary Conyngham, alias Ramsay,"
also mentioned in her uncle's will, 1819:
George Nesbitt, the eldest son, was b. 1732, High Sheriff for Co.
Donegal 1771, and d. in Dec., 1826. He m. 20th Sept., 1762, Catherine,
dau. of John Irwin of Drumsilla, Co. Leitrim, whose will was dated 1773
and proved 1778, he having died at Woodhill.
John Irwin, father of Catherine (who m. George Nesbitt), was perhaps a
brother of Thomas Irwin, of Belturbet, whose son George bought Derrygore
in 1747, and is buried at Monea. This George Irwin had five sons and two
daus.: Thomas, William, James (Head-master of Drogheda School, and from
1798 of Raphoe School), Alexander, and Acheson; Jane and Mary. From the
similarity of names the two families were probably closely related. A
descendant of George Irwin was Arthur Samuels, who m. Dorothy Young in
1913. Besides this possible brother, John Irwin had a sister Jane, who
m. 1702, William Armstrong, of Carrigallea. John Irwin, whose will is
dated 1773 and was proved 1778 (see App. 64), m. before 1717, Mary -.
She was alive in 1739, and died before 1773. Their chi1dren were:-
1. Acheson, of Drumsillagh, High Sheriff, 1758; d. intestate, admon. 6th
June, 1791. He m. before 1718 -, and had:-1.Richard, of Drumsillagh,
High Sheriff, 1804; m. Aug., 1780, - Bolton, sister of Cornelius Bolton,
of Faithlegg, Co. Waterford. George Young visited him in 1828, and found
him "a pleasant gay old man."
2. Thomas, who got a rent charge out of the lands of Moylagh by his
father's will in 1773.
3. William, also got a rent charge out of the lands of Moylagh. He was
bound as an apprentice to John Hamilton, Dublin Goldsmiths' Company,
4. James, got a rent charge out of the lands of Moylagh.
5. Catherine, m. 1762, George Nesbitt, of Woodhill.
6. Dau., m. ---- Gell, or Gill, and had a son, John, alive in 1773.
7. Anne, m. 27th June, 1734, Martin Armstrong, of Garradice; she d.
George Nesbitt's will, 1819 (see App. 65), was witnessed by a Francis
Hamilton Nesbitt, who cannot be placed in the pedigree, though obviously
connected. His will was proved in Derry in 1846, and shows that he had
two daus., Susan and Allen, and two sons, James and John, but throws no
further light on his family.
George Nesbitt and Catherine Irwin had four sons and four daughters:-
1. James-Ezekiel, b. 1768; d. 1844, unm.
2. George, Capt. 2nd Regt. (Queen's); d. unm. in West Indies.
3. Alexander-Gifford, Capt. 9th Regt. of Foot; d. unm. in West Indies.
4. Richard-Williams, m. Wilhelmina, dau. of William O'Brien; d.s.p.
1848. Lived at Bruckless until his brother's death.
5. Mary-Frances, d. 1849, at Cartilage, CuIdaff ; m. the Rev. James
Knox, Head-master of Foyle College for 40 years, and had, with several
daus., a son, the Rev. George Nesbitt Knox, m. Henrietta ffolliott
(sister of Maryanne ffolliott, who m. Geo. Young), and d.s.p. 1851,
having been for a time the owner of the Woodhill property. See p. 214.
6. Anne, m. Galbraith Tredennick of Camlin, and had issue. The Woodhill
estate eventually passed to her son, George Nesbitt Tredennick, and is
still in the possession of the Tredennick family.
7. Marcia, m. 1791, Robert Young of Culdaff.
8. Isabella, m. Capt. John Evans, RN, and had issue. She lived at
Culdaff House for some years, and d. there in 1855 and is buried in the
With this generation the family of Nesbitt of Woodhill passed away, and
the place thereof knew it no more.
Woodhill House itself, near Ardara, Co. Donegal, was built, as its name
implies, on a hill surrounded by woods. The original house was pulled
down by Gen. James Richard Knox Tredennick, who built a new house to
suit himself. This Gen. Tredennick later sold the Woodhill estate to the
Congested District Board. The Bruckless property was left by Richard
Williams Nesbitt to his nephew George Nesbitt Tredennick.