THE BARR FAMILY OF DONEGAL, IRELAND
While Donegal, Ireland was unquestionably beautiful in the early 1800's, for the ancestors of Thomas, William, and Mary Barr, life there was equally difficult. Crop failure, potatoe famine, and starvation was claiming lives in the millions throughout the 1830's-1850's. Hundreds of thousands more were moving away. Deprived of their staple diet, poorer classes could not afford supplies, and were forced to emigrate, mostly to Britain or America, and sometimes Australia. And as young adults, siblings Thomas, William, and Mary Barr were ready to move on to the United States to pursue a better life in America, and would land at various times and meet up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the 1840's and 1850's. All three would start their own families alongside their own new start in the US.
Thomas J. Barr was born in April, 1824 and reared on a farm in Donegal, Ireland. He immigrated to the United States in the mid-1800's, landing in Pennsylvania. He then ran a "dray" (a cart designed to carry heavy loads) for awhile, before engaging in mining and farming while starting his family.
Thomas had joined his brother William Barr, who had preceded him here. Our research has located a William Barr from Ireland, born 1827, who had also immigrated to Pennsylvania. He must be Thomas J. Barr's brother, for he was also a drayman, and he was the only William Barr from Ireland that was present on Philadelphia's 1860, 1870, and 1880 Census. We know that William had at least one child, a daughter.
In May, 2011, we got an email from the great great granddaughter of Mary Barr-McCall, (Molly Madigan). She says "Mary was born in Co Donegal, Ireland in Jan 1830. She immigrated to Philadelphia sometime in the 1840's or early 1850's. She married Michael McCall. The two would have six children and twenty one grandchildren. My grandfather, John Michael McCall was their grandson, my mother is John’s McCall’s daughter. I have a copy of Mary Barr McCall’s 1904 obituary. She died November 1904 in Freemansburg PA and was buried in St Michael’s Cemetery in Bethlehem PA. The obituary states that she is survived by two brothers, Thomas Barr of Shackelford MO, and William Barr of Philadephia.
This news was quite a landmark! For many generations, we Thomas J. Barr descendents never knew before now that Thomas and William even had a sister. This would necessarily mean that there were actually (at least) three Barr siblings that emigrated from Donegal, Ireland, at various times. Yet still we know nothing about their lives in Donegal before arriving in Philadelphia, including their parents' names.
Mary and William remained in Pennsylvania, while Thomas would raise his family of ten farming in Iowa and Missouri. Thomas would die in 1910 Shackelford, Missouri.
The Barr Surname has been found in Ireland, Scotland, Britain, France, and England. The Barr name is listed in Lewes Chartulary, Clerkenwell Cartulary, the Pipe Rolls of several shires, Danelaw Charters The Domesday Book, and Surnames of Scotland. The name may mean a barrier or a gateway or then it may be a means of measure.
Interpretation of the coat of arms: Originally, the arms had no crest or motto. The lack of these points to the fact that it is very ancient. Azure, and eagle displayed argent, surrounded by a fease. The fease is the military girder of honor, and was granted as symbol of leadership and faithfulness in military affairs.
The eagle is the king of birds. It is the emblem of a man in action, evermore occupied in high and weighty matters. He is one of lofty spirits, engenious, speedy in action, judicious. When displayed it stands for protection, and represents freedom.
Colors were granted to the original bearer of the arms to represent personal characteristics. Azure is for loyalty, truth, purity, and eloquence. Argent is for peace, sincerity, innocence, purity, and honor. Versions of the arms are recorded in Burke General Armory and Spofford Armorial Families of America.
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