Thursday, September 27, 2012

Aghadowey Session Book at NEHGS

Yours Truly reading and photographing the
Aghadowey Session Book at the NEHGS library in Boston

James McGregor was born about 1677 in Magilligan in the parish of Tamlaghtard in northwest County Londonderry, in Northern Ireland.  He graduated from the University of Glasgow, and was in Ulster by 1701.  It is claimed that Rev. James  McGregor was at the siege of Londonderry as a boy.  

After the siege, the Presbyterians were living in a land surrounded by Catholics, and the Crown was not protecting the rights of the Presbyterians.  Three ministers: Rev. William Boyd, Rev. James McGregor and Rev. William Cornwall decided to migrate.  In 1718 Rev. Boyd was sent to Boston to petition the Royal Governor Samuel Shute (1662 – 1742) of Massachusetts.  This document was signed by over 300 people and nine ministers.  All but 13 signed their own names.  This document is in the State House at Boston.

Rev. James McGregor replaced Rev. Thomas Boyd at Aghadowey, and was there from 1701 to 1718.   Upon deciding to migrate, he preached a farewell sermon at Coleraine  from Exodus 33: 15 “If they presence go not with me carry not up hence”and he spoke of avoiding oppression, persecution and idolatry.  Five ships left Northern Ireland in the summer of 1718.  Rev. MacGregor arrived on the brigantine “Robert” which left Glasgow for Belfast and then arrived in Boston on August 4th along with the ship “William”, which had left Coleraine in April or May.   According to the first book of town records of Londonderry, New Hampshire, they anchored “at the little wharf at the foot of State (then King) Street, Boston, New England, August 4, 1718”.  Eventually he ended up at Nutfield, New Hampshire with some of his flock the next year. 

The Aghadowey Session Book from 1702 – 1725 was transcribed in 1905 by J. W. Kernohan, the Secretary of the Presbyterian Historical Society in Belfast, Ireland.  These session records record meetings of the ministers and elders at Aghadowey.  The story of how NEHGS acquired this session book is available online at their website and also from the book Scotch Irish Pioneers in Ulster and America at

The New England Historic Genealogical Society has made a digital version of the Aghadowey Session book available on line at the link:   You must be a member to see this link.  The best way to read the book is to browse the pages, but it is also searchable for names.   The pages are very legible since J. W. Kernohan’s handwriting is very clear on the scanned images.   McGregor and many members of his flock are in these session books, which cover the time period up until he left for Boston in 1718. 
A page of the Session Book
The Aghadowey Session book online is a valuable resource for Ulster Scots research!  And what a terrific resource for Nutfield, New Hampshire history.  For other records of the parish of Aghadowey you can contact the Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland, which has on microfilm the Aghadowey Baptisms 1855-1944, Marriages 1845-1923, Committte Minutes, 1851-85, Stipend lists, 1832 – 54, and Communion Rolls, 1903-13. 

Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland
26 College Green
Northern Ireland
Tel. 028 9072 7330

An essay about the importance of the Aghadowey Session Book

  Photo courtesy of Barbara Poole


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Aghadowey Session Book at NEHGS", Nutfield Genealogy, posted September 27, 2012, ( accessed [access date]). 

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