The Weekes Family Pre-History

Aside from the facts of births and emigration, we don't know very much about our Weekes and Fullerton families in Ireland before the existence of Joseph Weekes (c.1777-1854) and Jane Fullerton (c.1787-c.1863). We can make some educated guesses about these two families based on the history of Northern Ireland (Ulster), and the history of the lowland Scots.

The Fullertons

The lowland Scots were made up of several distinct genetic groups. (The Gaelic highland Scots were primarily Celts.) While the lowland Scots had become somewhat homogeneous by the 1600s, they descended from stone-age aborigines of the region, the Gaels and the Britons. They were later "enriched" by the Romans, the Teutonic Angles, the Saxons, the Scots, the Norse, Normans, Flemish, and eventually the English.

The name Fullerton appears in many variations, including: Fullarton, Foulerton. Fowlerton, Foulertoune, and many others. Some sources suggest that all of these names, including Fulton come from a member of the king's household, who in 1205 was granted a royal charter by King John to supply the royal table with game. The name may actually be derived from the word "fowl" in relation to this appointment. The Fullerton roots are in the Barony of Fullerton in Dundonald parish, Ayrshire. The death of Alanus de Fowlertoun was recorded in 1280 (born about 1215), and for centuries after, there are historic records of events in the lives of his descendants, and of other branches of the family under various versions of the name. Few families can claim so ancient and unbroken a line of ancestry as the Fullartons of Ayrshire. Their pedigree is authentically traced through six centuries and during the whole of that period no link is broken in the chain of descent.

The Weekes Family

The name Weekes is generally English, derived from Wick, a home or hamlet, and is a name most often associated with the Devon area in England.

Sir Arthur Chichester, Lord Deputy of Ireland, was granted large tracts of land in county Antrim near Belfast in 1603. He brought farmers from his home county of Devon in England to "plant" these lands. He was so successful in this that much of southern Antrim became English in character. It is possible, but speculation, that the Devon Weekes family could have been among these English farmers.

There was also a wave of English Dissenters from between London and Wales who came to Ireland between 1660 and 1700. By the time the Scotch-Irish began emigration to America in 1717, these English were well assimilated, and joined the Scotch-Irish in their emigration. Again, the Weekes family may have been among these English Dissenters. The English Puritans in Ireland would have found the Presbyterians to have more in common than the Anglicans, so many joined the Presbyterian Church, allowing integration of these communities and eventually marriage and homogenization.

The Weekes family was prolific, and there are records of emigration to America from very early in the 1700s from both Ireland and England, and many of those families have recorded detailed genealogies, some of which could potentially intersect with our own. There is even today a large population of Weekes families in Belfast and surrounding County Antrim.

The Ulster Plantation

The Ulster Plantation was a systematic scheme to populate Ireland with Protestant Scots and English who would prove more loyal to Britain than the native Irish Catholics, who had a nasty habit of rebelling against their English masters. The Plantation scheme applied to the old Province of Ulster (Northern Ireland), and the counties of Antrim (from which Joseph and Jane emigrated to Canada), Down, Armagh, Tyrone, Donegal, Cavan, Fermanagh and Derry (excluding County Monaghan). Between 1605 and 1697, as many as 200,000 Scots were transplanted to Ulster.

The first stage of the Plantation was limited to Counties Antrim and Down. The second stage was organized and run by the British government, and was much broader in scope. The settlers were primarily lowland Scots and English, with the Scots outnumbering the English by a 20 to 1 ratio. Scotland was glad to be rid of many of these people, especially the impoverished lowland Scots who were becoming increasingly predisposed to crime to survive. In the early years of the Plantation, lowland Scots formed the majority of settlers. For the lowland Scots, this was a chance to get way from the poverty and poor farming conditions of Scotland

By 1630 there were 800 Scottish males living on MacDonald estates in Antrim (thus a total Scottish population of approximately 3,000). In the 1630s many of the original immigrants returned to Scotland, and in 1641 an Irish rebellion led to the slaughter of many of the remaining immigrants. In 1642, 10,000 Scottish soldiers (from all parts of Scotland) arrived to defeat the rebellion. Thousands stayed in Ireland, more than making up for the numbers who had returned to Scotland in the 1630s.The immigrant adult males were expected to be available as a form of militia in case there was rebellion. The names of the men were recorded in the "Munster Roles and Estate Maps". By 1630 the name Fullerton was found on the roll for Counties Antrim and Donegal. The name Weekes and its variants did not.

Weekes and Fullerton in Ulster

By 1707, when England and Scotland became the United Kingdom, the main wave of immigration to Ulster was over. It is likely (though not certain) that the Weekes and Fullerton families had come to Ulster before 1707. If this is true, then these families would have been in Ulster for at least three or four generations by the time Joseph and Jane were born, making it likely that aside from their Presbyterian faith, they would have assimilated Irish culture and identity, perhaps even losing their family memory of their Scottish and English roots.

We have searched the indexes of the Ulster Historical Foundation for the surname Fullerton in Co. Antrim from various records. The surname Fullerton was found in that county in the 1660s, 1740 and the 1770s. We have no means of establishing whether any of these individuals are related to our particular ancestor. As yet we have only found one record of baptism of a Jane Fullerton. An infant of this name was baptized in St. Anne's Episcopalian Church of Ireland parish Belfast on 27 February 1763. She was the daughter of William Fullerton. The clergyman who ministered the baptism recorded the observation "poor" and did likewise when recording the death of a William Fullerton on 7 April 1773 in the same church and parish. We don't know if Jane's ancestors were among the first immigrants recorded on the Munster Roles, or if they were part of a later wave of Scottish Immigrants.

The Ulster Historical Foundation has rough surname indexes for all parishes in Ireland based on the tithe survey listing farmers c.1830 and valuation of all properties c.1860. They have checked these for all parishes in Co. Antrim and find that in the valuation of all properties in that county c.1861-2 there were no entries for the surname Weekes but there were 36 Fullerton properties. The largest concentration was in the parish of Connor in mid-Antrim.

There is also something of a concentration of the surname Fullerton in parishes in the northern part of Co. Antrim, in parishes such as Ballintoy and Ramoan where there were two Fullerton properties each in the valuation of 1861, 2 in the small Grange of Drumtullagh and single Fullerton properties in the parishes of Billy and Culfeightrin.

Civil registration of births, marriages and deaths only became obligatory in Ireland in 1864 (Protestant marriages 1845-). Before these dates one is dependent for information on church registers and these registers are imperfectly kept and almost invariably unindexed.

One interesting characteristic of the Scot and English in Ireland is that, while they (as Protestants) sometimes inter-married, inter-marriage with the native Catholic Irish was relatively unknown, creating the reality that the Protestant Irish and Catholic Irish who emigrated to the Americas truly were two unique groups, even though they shared the label "Irish".

Emigration from Ireland

The first great wave of Irish emigration started around 1717 and continued though until the end of the 1700s. These emigrants were almost entirely Protestant, and most went to the future United States rather than Canada. Ireland was becoming increasing crowded, and the Americas offered very good prospects for prosperity. Many of this first wave to the States were middle class, and could afford to pay their own passage to America. Many of the Weekes families in the Carolinas, Barbados, New York and Vermont were part of this wave of Irish immigrants.

After the American Revolution, the British were anxious to populate Canada and land was opened to both Loyalists from the Sates, and to targeted groups from Scotland and Ireland. Joseph and Jane Weekes and their family were among those who immigrate to Canada in the late 1830s.

The third major wave of Irish immigration, beginning in the 1840s, was dominated by the poor Catholic Irish, escaping from famine and poverty.