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Sunday, March 13, 2016

Happy St. Patrick’s Day: Are we Irish???

Isn’t everyone?

On St. Patrick’s Day it would seem so.tu (3)

  • There are more Irish-Americans than there are Irish in Ireland.
  • About 33.3 million Americans—10.5% of the total population1— claimed Irish ancestry2 in the 2013, that’s 5 times the number of the Irish population in Ireland.
  • Another three million people are separately identified as Scotch-Irish3.

A good portion of Irish-Americans are claiming Irish ancestry on the basis of:

  • sustained family traditions and stories or even decent from a recent ancestor. These can be considered valid claims to Irish ancestry.
  • vague or circumstantial evidence such as the origins (or perceived origins) of their last names, or family rumors of an Irish ancestry. These claims might seem a little vague to consider valid, but:

When you consider about 250,000 Irish immigrated to Colonial America in the 16th and 17th century, before the later Irish Potato famine migration, it would be a save conclusion that Irish ancestry can be probably be found in at least one branch of any family that traces its arrival in America to the pre-Independence period.

Would our claim be valid?

For those of us that descend from other than Timmons Literal this essay will only address your Littrell/Luttrell line of ancestry.
For those of us who descend from Timmons and Mary Catherine (Urban) Literal the Luttrell/Littrel, Landtroop, and Urban information is also your information.
For those who descend from John Daniel and Kizzie (Comer) all the information is your information.

Let’s consider several possibilities for making a valid claim to Irish Ancestry:

    1. Known decent from a recent ancestor
    2. Family connections
    3. Possible ‘ Irishness’ of our family names
    4. Known direct ancestor who immigrated from Ireland to America

Known decent from a recent ancestor

    • Urban: We have only one ancestor that is known to have immigrated to America after the Revolutionary War; Cassander(Cassandra) Urban migrated to America before 1830. We don’t know when, but we know he was born in Prussia (Germany) and arrived in America before his marriage to Catherine Wise in 1830.
      Our remaining family lines; Littrell, Comer, Belew, Ezell, and Landtroop are far too ancient to have birthplaces noted in public records.

Family connections

    • Littrell/Luttrell: A common assumption about the origins of our Littrell/Luttrell family line has been that our ancestors were Irish, considering that our ancestors migration pattern has been consistent with those of the Irish immigrants of Colonial America this would seem to be a valid assumption. Adding fuel to this argument is the existence of the town of "Luttrellstown, Ireland" and the prominence of the Luttrell name in Irish History. However, the name Luttrell is also very prominent and long standing in English history.
      The earliest observations of a possible connection to the Irish Luttrells can be traced back to Laura Luttrell and Elston Luttrell ( circa 1890), two early Luttrell family researchers. Since their work, many have referenced them or apparently followed their lead and concentrated on the Irish line to the point of totally excluding the English possibility. Elston does refer to family history that indicates who might be the original immigrant heads of his branch of the American Luttrells, but his reference does not include any mention of his source. Most other speculation seems to center on the possibility that a known member of the colonial family may have had a connection to the Irish family through Anne Luttrell. This connection seems to have been inferred based on the rise of Colonel John Luttrell to prominence as a partner in the Transylvania Company. 130 The problem with any connection between Anna and Col. John is that his ancestors migrated over a hundred years before the Colonel’s time. Additionally Colonel John’s rise in stature was not linked to any advantages of birth… he was a self-made man.
      The conclusion that our Littrell/Luttrell colonial ancestors were Irish immigrants based on these assumptions is not an ironclad conclusion though. We should not overlook the possibility that these connections are a result of “wishful” research. Elston and Laura may have had information and facts that they did not put forth or that did not survive, and it is just as possible that they had limited information that narrowed their focus on the Irish branch of the family.
      In regard to the connection to the Luttrellstown Family it is important to note that in only three cases (below) has a direct connection between an American ancestor and an Irish parent or point of departure been identified. In those cases there is no proof put forth to support the identification, nor is there any explanation of what the connection might be based on. Most of the evidence connecting us to the Luttrellstown Family is circumstantial such as the prominence of certain given names and surnames.
      Mr. William Q. Hill believed James Lotterell of Northumberland County, Virginia to be the same James Luttrell of Tankardstown, Meath County, Ireland. Mr. Hill seems to have based this connection on circumstantial evidence. Having had the privilege of reviewing Mr. Hill’s notes the strength of the evidence is adequate, but I must point out that in two attempts at gaining confirmation from Irish sources, (an Irish genealogist and the Gilbert Library, Dublin Ireland) the responses he received were not conclusive. I do not dispute his conclusions, as they appear to be very possible, and I agree with him that the assistance he received from the Irish was not exhaustive, but the connection to the Irish James Luttrell of Meath County should not be viewed as conclusive.
      Our Comer, Belew, Ezell, and Landtroop families have no identified or suspected connections to similarly named ancestors in Ireland.

Possible ‘ Irishness’ of our family names

Only the Littrell/Luttrell name is prominent in Ireland, but it is not a typical ‘Irish’ name. It comes to Ireland from the English family in the 1300s, but its prominence and character remains firmly English until later wars and conflicts with the English. The name itself comes to England from the Norman-French invasion of England in 1066.

Known direct ancestor who immigrated from Ireland to America

Identifying immigrants from Europe to the Americas is accomplished by finding a departure from Europe and an arrival in the Americas. Unfortunately in the case of all our ancestors (regardless of surname) we do not find anyone with a departure and arrival… only one or the other. This makes establishing a firm transatlantic connection unlikely through this method alone.

 
  • Littrell/Luttrell: Of the known emigrant from Europe none of their departures are from Ireland. Two arrivals match-up to the name of our immigrant ancestor James Lotterell, unfortunately their is no evidence of where they came from. We know the name of their ships and Captains but not of their departure from Europe. Our conclusions about which of these James is our James itself is to inconclusive to proceed to identifying their place of origin. Their ships could have easily departed from English or Irish ports… or both.
 
  • Landtroop: We have a similar problem with our Landtroop ancestor; we’ve identified the Captain, his ship, and his port of arrival, but no more. There is no doubt that our Landtroop ancestors come from England or Ireland but no certainty which. Like easier researchers of the Littrell family some Landtroop researchers have employed researchers in England, but not Ireland, and like the Littrell inquiries no conclusive European ancestors have been identified.
 
  • Comer, Belew and Ezell: The Belew and Ezell families arrived in America at a very early date. In the case of the Ezell and Comer families we have not identified a point of arrival for any ancestor. Many suggest that Ezell may be French and the Comer name may be German.
    The Belew family has been heavily researched and most arrival information suggest that they arrived in America from France (the name and varied spellings are very French). Some research suggest that they were Huguenots and/or might have been religious refugees from England.
 
Conclusion:
As it stands now it appears that the most reliable possibility for an Irish connection would be our Littrell and Landtroop ancestors, with a small chance of the Comer and Ezell line being a possibility. So until some concentrated research into the immigration from Europe to America results in knew resources and discoveries we would probably have a 50/50 chance of being correct in identifying ourselves as Irish American.

1 American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau.
2 an ethnic group comprising Americans who have full or partial ancestry from Ireland,
3 whose ancestors were Ulster Scots who emigrated from Ireland to the United States.

Littrell Family Journals: Volume I, Our European Ancestral Namesakes

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