When Actually Did Marcus McCausland Marry Julia Sterling? Was it in 1708, 1768 or 1788?

While the Covid-19 health crisis prevails we are continuing with more frequent updates to the Society’s Early Irish Birth, Death and Marriage Indexes. This time we are adding 1,000 more marriages. Over 200 of these are drawn from the Registry of Deeds and a further 500 are noted from the surviving index to Dublin Diocesan Marriage Licences.

Marriage Licence for Marcus McCausland & Julia Sterling, Derry Diocese.

However, one of the more intriguing references relates to an original eighteenth century marriage licence from the diocese of Derry whch was recently brought to our attention by Cllr. Aaron Callan, Limavady, Co Londonderry. Marriage licences are like gold dust given the original diocesan bonds were largely destroyed in 1922. The licence was found among papers which until quite recently had been held by Sir Richard Heygate (who lives in England) and which pertain to the Gage and Heygate families of Bellarena, Co. Londonderry.  These papers are now held by Cllr. Callan. It should have been a straightforward matter of noting the couples’ names and the date given in the licence and adding these details to the IGRS’ Early Irish Marriage Index. However, an initial problem in deciphering this information led us to discover much more about the couple.

The licence appeared to be dated January 1708, noting that a marriage was permitted between Marcus McCausland Esq and Miss Julia Sterling, both of the parish of Templemore. However, the first stumbling block was that the bishop issuing the licence was noted as Frederick, whereas records show that the then bishop, in 1708, was actually bishop Charles, whose full name was Charles Hickman. With a little more work it was soon discovered that “Frederick” referred to Frederick Hervey, bishop of Derry, 1768-1803. The writing in the licence was poor, and in light of the period bishop Frederick served, its revised date of issue appeared to be January 1768 – a full sixty years later than originally thought. But surprisingly, this had to be revised yet again when further searching found a possible notice for the marriage in Walker’s Hibernian Magazine – though not in 1768, but in 1788 – twenty years on again. However, in the notice the bride was given no first name and her surname was spelt “stirling”. Was it the same couple?

Intrigued by all of this, Roz McCutcheon, the Early Irish BMD Indexes project organiser, decided to look further and found that a pre-marriage settlement dated 4 Jan 1788 had been registered at the Registry of Deeds noting that Marcus, second son of Conolly McCausland of Fruit Hill, Co Derry, was to marry Julia Sterling, daughter of James Sterling Esq, of the business partnership of Sterling, Homer & Delap of Derry City. Clearly it was the same couple, but why was the licence found among the papers of Sir Richard Heygate?

Yet more digging found that in 1742 Conolly McCausland had married Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Gage of Magilligan, Co. Londonderry.  Elizabeth’s brother, Hodson Gage, owned Bellarena house and estate and on his death it passed to her. Elizabeth died in 1791 and left the property to her son Marcus (who three years earlier had married Julia Sterling). As the surname Gage had by then died out in the family, under the terms of his mother’s will Marcus assumed it in place of McCausland. Thus it would appear that Marcus McCausland (alias Gage) was one of Sir Richard Heygate’s ancestors.

Why not check out this resource for yourself? Access to the Early Irish Marriage Index is completely free to all: https://www.irishancestors.ie/early-irish-indexes/

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