Hemphill Ancestry Movements

Another ancestry request. Sheryl Berry wrote, “My second great grandfather, Charles Hemphill, was born in Castlederg Tyrone Northern Ireland on 4/21/1831 and was married to a Martha Hunter. Their first child was born in Blantyre in 1858. My great grandfather, George Hemphill, was also born there on 9/20/1873. I’ve been told that he came to America as a young child, returned to Blantyre and then back to America when he was about 19. Charles was still in Blantyre in 1893 but returned to Castlederg at some point where he died in 1912. But I can find nothing about the family during their time in Blantyre. I’d appreciate any information.”

I was able to reply with:

Hi Sheryl. This was a family who did a fair amount of travelling between Ireland, Scotland and America most likely seeking a better life and good employment.

Charles’ family left Ireland and sailed to America where it was there that he married Martha Hunter, an American woman. Martha was born in Kentucky in 1836 and married Charles on 8th November 1857 in Booneville, Cooper, Missouri. Right away this was an “International marriage” with immediate family on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. The pull to go back as much as they could to see families may have been very strong.

At a time with just 33 states in America, 1857 and 1858 was a powderkeg, with slavery the hot topic. The politics were divisional, the rise of confederates, and just prior to Abraham Lincoln becoming President, all the signs were there of an impending civil war. To newly weds, it may have seemed like the ideal time to go to Europe.

It’s unknown why they chose Scotland to travel to, but it is known why they chose Blantyre. This was absolutely for work. Charles and Martha settled at Blantyre Village Works, where an established, thriving cotton mill on the edge of the River Clyde in Lanarkshire needed more workers. They settled down in the workers village in ‘Middle Row’, which had good living standards by comparison to some other homes in the town. They arrived in Blantyre in the same year as famous explorer David Livingstone came back to briefly visit his home town. Charles was employed as a labourer.

Middle Row was two blocks of single storey homes and one at double storey aligned in a north south configuration, part of which formed one side a quadrangle at Blantyre Works.



Children followed, all born in Blantyre. Daughter Mary Ann in 1858, Charles Jnr in 1863, Martha in 1865, Matthew in 1869, George in 1873 (your great grandfather) and Elizabeth in 1877.  Mary Ann got a job working in the nearby mills when she was around 14 years old and was still working there in the 1880s.

The children would have been schooled in the Blantyre Works School as pictured.

1890s Blantyr works school wm

1890s Blantyre works school, door sealed

The Hemphill family is mapped out here for you.

In 1870, the Hemphill family travelled to America and is missing from the 1871 UK census. This may only have been an “Extended holiday visit” for they did come back in 1871 (after census) and with George being born in 1873, I think he missed that trip. This was after the civil war. America had become “the land of the free” and it would have been much safer than in the previous decade. The journey by ship would have been long and their mill and labourer wages would likely only have allowed a third class ticket with small, cramped cabins for several weeks.

Coal was discovered in Blantyre around this time and many immigrant workers arrived to work in the mines. he Hemphill family would have seen that growth in their town and would have been equally horrified when over 200 men and boys were killed in the Blantyre Mining Disaster in 1877.

In the 1881 census, the large Hemphill family is still noted in Blantyre and strangely with them was a 6 month old baby, Mary Findlay. No sign of the Findlay parents. However, these were difficult times for Blantyre cotton mills. The start of a decline in the industry and being made redundant would have been common for many village residents.

In 1884, some of the family travelled back to America and it looks certain that in 1891, George, aged 18 or 19 joined them. I’m not subscribed to passenger manifests, but ancestry.com paid searches would verify this.

I cannot find any record of Charles Hemphill in Scotland after 1884. However, his wife Matha died in Texas in 1904 and you’r right in saying he died full circle, back in Ireland in 1912.

There is a John and James Hemphill in the 1891 census in Blantyre but I’m unsure if they were related to this line. The Hemphill name was gone completely from Blantyre by 1895.

Screenshot 2019-08-22 at 12.28.58

Featuring Blantyre Project Social Media with permission. Strictly not for use by others on or offline, our visitors said:

Gord Fotheringham And another excellent wee story aboot blantyre folks

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