Freshford, Co. Kilkenny, Ireland is the address on the letters sent to Aunt Bess from Canada. Where is it and who was the family who followed their young men to a new life in an unknown land?
In order to find out, I spent the past two months operating like one of the sleuths I so admire. Searching for clues in the letters, old records and articles on the internet. A true armchair detective. Experiencing the thrill of finding a small scrap of information that led me down a multitude of paths of historical data only to have my hopes dashed. For instance, like the day I discovered most records of births, marriages etc in Ireland were destroyed in a fire in 1922. Back to the drawing board, or should I say Google! I will need to contact St. Lachtains Church in Freshford directly to see if they have any more information on the Kaine or Keane or Cain or Kane family. Spelling of last names was somewhat fluid back in the day!
Freshford, Crannagh, County Kilkenny is a small town in South East Ireland about 128 kilometers southwest of Dublin with a current population of about 670 inhabitants. I had the good fortune to visit Freshford in 2010 but alas spent only an hour there as I had yet to embark on this family history project, and other places on the road trip of Ireland beckoned.
On that fresh May afternoon, I felt that the quiet village with a central green had not changed much since my family lived there in the early 1800’s and before. I visited St. Lachtains, the church that Aunt Bess was associated with and briefly chatted with some people in the church hall who were just closing up the bazaar they had held that day. I showed one of the woman the Kaine family letter that I had in my pocket. I had followed an irresistible urge to take it back to the place where Aunt Bess had received and read it more than a century and a half before. It was a precious moment full of significance for me. A tangible object from the past arriving in the present.
I then took a wander through the church yard where I marvelled at the ancient family gravestone that my brother had found a few years earlier.
The following words were written on the gravestone in the church yard. Fortunately a local historical society had deciphered and recorded the words on the stone which are of course almost illegible after almost 200 years.
It is heartening that my two ancestors were so long lived! Maybe that bodes well for me. Freeholders of the County and Freemen of the City of Kilkenny, must be important to be on a gravestone. I will need to do more research to find out what that means.
LYE THE BODY OF MR JAMES
A MR JOHN KAINE BOTH OF
FRESHFORD WHO WERE UPWARD
OF 45 YEARS RESPECTABLE
FREEHOLDERS OF THE COUNTY
FREEMEN OF THE CITY OF KILKENNY
JAMES DIED ON THE 17TH FEBRY
1787 AGED 87 YEARS & JOHN DEPD ON
THE 6 OF APRL 1799 AGED 100 YEARS
ERECTED TO THEIR MEMORY BY
CHRISTOPHER KAINE SON OF THE
ABOVE NAMED JAMES AND NEPHEW TO JOHN
Link to historic graves project: https://historicgraves.com/graveyard/st-lachtain-s/kk-stlt
Link to PDF of graves project report: https://www.kilkennycoco.ie/eng/Services/Heritage/Graveyard.pdf
In my search, I discovered information about Freshford that had been written in 1837 in a Topgraphical Dictionary of Ireland by Samuel Lewis. It was of interest to me that the population at the time was 2,277 people compared to under 700 people today. It must have been a bustling place with schools and a hospital. St. Lachtains Church is a historically significant site and is a parish church of the Church of Ireland. This means that my relatives were of the Protestant faith. Aunt Bess worked as a housekeeper for Reverend Mease, the vicar at St. Lachtains, and you will see in the letters that I will be posting later that the family felt very close to him. In the interests of keeping my posts short enough to be enjoyable, I will continue the story of Freshford and the Kaine family in my next installment in a couple of weeks!
From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland (1837)
“Freshford”, or Aghoura, a post-town and parish, in the barony of Cranagh, county of Kilkenny, and province of Leinster, 6 1/2 miles (W. N. W.) from Kilkenny, and 63 (S.W.) from Dublin, on the road from Kilkenny to Johnstown; containing 2277 inhabitants. This place, anciently called Aghoure or Achadhur, signifying the “green ford,” was the site of an abbey founded about the commencement of the 7th century, by St. Lactan, who was its first abbot. The parish comprises 2108 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act: there is no bog or wasteland. The principal seats are Upperwood, Balleen Castle, Kilrush. The town, which comprises 374 houses, is neat and well-built, and is part of the estate of William De Montmorency, Esq. It is a station of the revenue and of the constbulary police. Here is a dispensary, a fever hospital, and a society for relieving the bedridden poor. The living is a rectory and vicarage, in the diocese of Ossory, episcopally united bto the parishes of Clomanto, Kilrush, Clashacrow, Rathbeagh, Tubridbritain, Sheefin, Clontubrid, and Coolcashin, which together form the union of Freshford and the corps of the prebend of Aghoure (anciently called the Golden Prebend”) in the cathedral of Kilkenny. The first six aprishes are in the patronage of the Bishop, and the remaining three in that of the Dean and Chapter. The glebe-house is in Clashacrow. The church was built in 1730, and has a fine Norman porch with the date 1133. In the R. C. divisions the parish is the head of a union or district, comprising Freshford, Tullaroan, Ballynamara, Clashacrow, Ballylarkin, and parts of Odogh, Burnchurch and Clomanto, in which district is a chapel at Freshford, one at Odogh, and one at Tullaroan. There is a parochial school, and there is a national school adjoining the R. C. chapel. About 300 children are educated in these schools, and about 60 in two private schools, exclusive of those taught in a Sunday school. Near Kilrush are the ruins of Ballylarkin castle, once the seat of the Shortall family.”
More information on Freshford: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freshford,_County_Kilkenny