Monday, 30 September 2013

Sproule in the Civil Survey 1654

Archibald Sproule in 1654

The Civil Survey took place in 1654-1656 in 27 counties in Ireland. Not all of the surveys survived, but fortunately the book for Donegal is available.

In this Archibald Sproule is recorded as a British Protestant living on Church Land in the Parish of Rapho. He had four hundred and fifty three acres in the townlands of Stranelachan and Boggach.

Entry in the Civil Survey 1665 - Irish Manuscript Commission

Robert Sproule's Purchase 1634

A Footnote to the above folio reads:
“Mr. Archibald Sproule holdeth the pmisees by purchase from his brother Mr. Robt. Sproule & Alexr. Innes, wch they held by deed of Indenture now in being from Dr. Jon. Lesly then Bp. of Rapho for ye space of sixty yeares comencing 14th July 1634 at ye yearely rent of 20li. 13s 4d.
It is bounded on the south with Burnedale, and on ye west with ye Qrs. Of Beltany & Culladerry, on the north with Machrechan, & on ye east with Agery.”

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Sproules in the Hearth Money Rolls of 1665

The Hearth Money Rolls of 1665 gives us a fairly good picture of the Sproules present in Ulster at that time. The Hearth Money Rolls was a tax raised to compensate those cavaliers who had lost their estates fighting for Charles I in the Civil War. It was levied at two shillings per year for each fireplace in the household. The names gathered on this tax gives us a fairly good record, therefore, of households in Ulster.

There were 7 or 8 original Sproule families who settled in different parts of Ulster in the early 1600s.

Sproules in the Ulster Hearth Money Rolls of 1665

Location of the Sproule Family Groups in Ulster 1665

The Hearth Roll List was compiled from:

  • Bill Macafee, Family and Local History Website
  • Donegal Genealogy Resources
  • Tyrone Genealogical Research 

Monday, 16 September 2013

Three Scottish Brothers Moving East to Tyrone

One of the challenges facing the early Sproule family historians was to explain how the Sproules could possibly have spread so quickly throughout different parishes in Tyrone.  John Inch, Jack Elder, Thomas Sproule of Altamullen and Fred Sproule had all lived in different generations, and they had all traced the family history.  For these good folk, fitting all the Sproules of the early 1700s into one single family tree was a major problem. And none of them succeeded in fitting in my line of the family, the Tullymoan Sproules, who were left out completely!

However, this conundrum is relatively easily resolved when we look at the early records. For there was not one, but three Sproule men who all arrived in Ireland together shortly after 1622. These three Sproules were  almost certainly brothers, and it is their children and their grandchildren who spread throughout County Tyrone.

James, Robert and Archibald

The first Spreull, James Spreull formerly of Cowden in Scotland, appeared in the Donegal Muster Roll of 1630. In the 1642 muster, James was joined by another Sproule,  one ‘Robert Sprule’. Robert was on the Stewart lands in this muster, the same lands where James had been in the earlier muster.1

James and Robert Sproule arrived about the same time in Donegal and both were on the lands of the Duke of Lennox.  We cannot immediately assume that they were brothers. Robert could have been a travelling companion, a distant relative or a Sproule tenant from Cowden lands. However, the evidence would suggest that they were indeed brothers, for like James, Robert Spreull was not poor, he had money in his pocket!

Raphoe Parish - the first Spreul Leases
On the 14th July 1634, Robert Sproule (this spelling was used) bought land ‘by deed of indenture’ in  the townlands of Boggach and Stranelachan in the Barony of Raphoe, about 10 miles from Tullymoan. The sale is recorded in the Civil Survey of 1654 and this document also shows that Robert did not hold the land for very long. At some stage between 1634 and 1654, Robert sold the land and the buyer was named as his brother, Archibald Sproule! 

Now we have three brothers, all with money to buy or lease land, James, Robert and Archibald Sproule.  Archibald settled there in the parish of Raphoe, extending his land holding into Listmontigley, an adjacent townland.3 James moved to Tyrone, and Robert sold up and also moved.

Is this Robert of Castlederg?

Could this Robert possibly be the Robert Spreull who is buried in Castlederg? The grave of Robert in Castlederg is quite famous in Sproule lore! He was buried in 1689 at the age of 61,  and was joined later by his wife Jean Deniston. They were thought by many to be the original Sproule settlers and the story was that they came from Renfrewshire in the 1650s.

Could Robert of Castlederg be one of the three brothers? Actually no, for he is of a later generation than our three original settlers. Robert of Castlederg was born about 1628, and that year the three Sproule brothers who had come from Cowden would have been in their 30s. Robert could, therefore, be a son!

Robert, Born in Ireland

Let us assume for the moment that Robert of Castlederg was actually born in Ireland and is indeed a son of one of our three brothers - which one, of course, we don’t know. We would then need to find a family of Denistons somewhere in the Raphoe area for young Robert Spreull to have married!

In the 1630 Muster Roll, we find that there must have been a mass migration, for there is a superfluity of Denistons on the Lennox lands in Raphoe!4 In the same muster as James Spreul we find:
John Deneston                          
James Denniston elder          
Robert Deneston                      
William Deneston     
Walter Deneston
Robert Denyston                                      
James Deneston

These Denistons are all neighbours of our three brothers. Robert who is buried in the grave in Castlederg is almost certainly a son of one of the original three brothers. He married Jean Deniston of Raphoe, and moved to Lisleen near Castlederg in the 1650s.

The Spread of the Tyrone Sproules

The arrival of the three sons of James Spreull of Cowden in the early 1620s easily explains the spread of the Tyrone Sproules in the following centuary. Archibald had his family in Listmontigley and his children could have moved both east to Tyrone and west further into Donegal.  Both Robert and James moved  to Tyrone. James, the eldest brother, settled in Tullymoan. There are several different options as to where Robert settled, but Golan is the most likely. 

Their descendants spread from Tyrone to the far corners of the world - to India, Jamaica, Canada, the US, Australia and beyond. The evidence indicates that all Tyrone Sproules are related! We are descendants of one man, James Spreull of Cowden.


1 Ulster Ancestry, Muster Rolls of Donegal
2 Ulster Ancestry, Civil List 1654
3 Hearth Money Rolls, Donegal, Bill Macafee's Family & Local History Website

Friday, 6 September 2013

James of Cowden - and Tullymoan?

Was James, Laird of Cowden, the father of all Tyrone Sproules? The more I investigated, the more convinced I became that this was true. The early Sproules believed that James Spreull had sold his estates in Renfrewshire in 1622, came to Ireland and settled in Tullymoan, County Tyrone. The records in Scotland definitely supported this story. The evidence is clear, James Spreull of Cowden had sold all of his estates in 1622 and his son, James the Younger, had left Cowden with money in his pocket.

James Spreull in Ireland

I didn’t have far to look to track down James Spreull in Ireland. The very first record of a Sproule is in the Muster Roll of 1631, and there he is, James Spreull in the Barony of Raphoe, County Donegal - only a few miles from the townland of Tullymoan in County Tyrone.1  He is on the land of Ludovick, Lord Duke of Lennox, the same Duke of Lennox who was overlord of the Cowden lands in Scotland. There were 59 overlords in Ulster, or undertakers as they were known here. Lennox was one of the minor undertakers with only a couple of thousand acres. It is more than co-incidental that the first Sproule arrives on his patch of land! The clues are lining up in the right direction.

The next muster roll of 1642 is even more interesting. James Spreull is mentioned again. This muster was also held in Raphoe, but this fact doesn’t tell us a lot since all of the regiments in the North West were mustered in Raphoe at the time. However, if we look at the regiment to which James Spreull is attached, we can get another glimmer of light on the story. James is now in the regiment of Captain James Hamilton, whose lands were not in Donegal. Hamilton lands were in County Tyrone.1

On to Tyrone

This would indicate that at some time between 1631 and 1642, James Spreull moved east from Donegal to County Tyrone. Was he in Tullymoan? I have no definite evidence as yet, and the hunt continues. However, everything that I have found so far points to the veracity of the original story. I have found no reason to doubt it.

But was this James, James the Younger, the father of all Tyrone Sproules?  I think not. I am sticking with the version believed by the first Sproules, it was his father James of Cowden who was the ancestor of all Tyrone Sproules.  James Spreull the Younger was not alone when he came to Ireland. He had at least two, possibly three, travel companions!  


1 Ulster Ancestry, Money Rolls of Donegal 

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