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One important source which might help Americans locate their Ulster ancestors is the Hearthmoney Rolls for the various parishes in Antrim and Derry. The HMR for the parish of Ballymoney, for instance, can be checked for names of people who are known to have left that area in 1718 or in the years immediately afterwards. To take one example from a family history New Hampshire Bells published in 2002 on a website at www.accessgenealogy.com/surnames/bell/ , the first known ancestor of the American family was Matthew Bell, who is said to have been born in Kirkconnell, Nithsdale, Dumfriesshire, Scotland. He moved to Ballymoney in co.Antrim and had two sons, Matthew and John. John was born in Ballymoney in 1678 or 1679, and emigrated to New Hampshire around 1719. There is no Matthew Bell in the 1666 Ballymoney HMR; there is, however, a John Bell, who cannot be the John born around 1678; possibly this is a man from a different family, if Matthew Bell had not yet moved from Scotland, but it could equally well be that in 1666, Matthew Bell was there as a young man or boy in the household of his father, John, and that his son John the New Hampshire emigrant was named for his paternal grandfather. If this is so, although there is maybe no way to prove it, the Bell genealogy has reached back another generation, and the length of time they spent in Ballymoney can be shown to be over fifty years, thus increasing the importance of the Ulster stopover for this family.

Open Enlarged Version John Bell the emigrant travelled back to Ballymoney after a year or so in America, to fetch his wife Elizabeth and their two daughters. Elizabeth Bell's maiden name was Todd, and her family was also from Scotland; two of her brothers were educated at the university of Edinburgh, and she herself must have received a good education. This stood her in good stead on the 1722 journey to America; the ship's captain was a drunkard, who went into delirium tremens. Elizabeth Bell was the only person on board who knew anything of navigation, so she took on that responsibility and brought them safe to Boston. She was clearly a strongminded woman; after her husband John died in 1743, Elizabeth was the matriarch of a clan, and lived until 1771, when she must have been a very old woman. Apparently three of her daughters all married Duncans; Elizabeth objected to the attentions of a fourth Duncan to her last remaining daughter. However, the young couple fled on horseback to the minister, with Elizabeth Bell in hot pursuit, but they gave her the slip by hiding behind a woodpile until she had ridden past.

 

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