Research Findings
from the
Belfast News-Letter

The Search for Robert Lathan in Ireland and the ship he came to America

A little background:

The Belfast News-Letter is one of the older newspapers still in print. It was first printed in 1737. During the 18th Century it was published as a four-page broadsheet three times a week. This newspaper, through its news articles and advertisements gives an interesting glimpse of everyday life in 18th Century Belfast and the surrounding area. An index of this newspaper has been developed and is available on-line at: . Finding a copy of the various citations can be difficult. There are a number of incorrect listings in various books held by local libraries that cause time wasting delays in borrowing microfilms of the originals. The microfilm I viewed was an interlibrary loan from the Boston Public Library in Boston, MA. If you care to view the microfilmed newspaper, and I would recommend doing so to any serious Ulster researcher, you should contact your local library and request an interlibrary loan. There are a great number of microfilms so you need to do a good search of the subject you want to read about and then request only those films you really need to view. Most libraries have limits on the number of items you may borrow on an interlibrary basis. My local library, Potomac Branch of the Prince William Public Library, limits such loans to five (5) items at a time. The Boston Public Library has the same rule. In my case the loan of the microfilm cost nothing.

Purpose of my research:

Although a number of sources, including Robert Lathan/Leathan’s own words in his citizenship papers, state that he, “… from Antrim, in the North of Ireland.” No official records such as, tax records, rents, births, deaths, religious records exist that can be identified as his or his parents’. A search of existing Irish Wills done thanks to a CD produced by a company calling itself Eneclann, has turned up a number of Wills that might be of interest. However, copies of these Wills cost $20 each and the ones I’ve order are at best abstracts of the originals and offer little help. Most of the originals were burnt up in the Irish Archives fire during the Irish Revolution. So, the problem is to first place Robert and his family somewhere in Ireland. Once that is solved the Wills would be the next. Lastly, would be to get a look at would be religious records from the area that Robert and company have been located. Religious records present the most difficulty because the national archives of Northern Ireland, Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, requires permission of the minister of the church who made the record before a microfilm may be exported. Since the records were produced two hundred years ago and a number of the churches have closed this makes for a rather sticky problem. My feeling is that once a location is found and confirmed as “very likely our man” someone will need to go to Ulster and view the existing records in person. To make this even more complicated, the Lathans were not in the religious mainstream of any of the churches that were major players at that time. They were most likely Covenanters. Although they had come out of the Presbyterian Church, Presbyterians, Catholics and the Church of Ireland did not look upon them as anyone other than troublemakers. It is my impression from what I’ve learned so far that what records may still exist will be sketchy at best because the Covenanters were probably not anxious to create a large paper trail at a time they were being watched by and set upon by their neighbors.

How I did my search:

I did the search for these articles on the website: .

I quickly realized that there were so many variations of the spelling of the name that I would need to do what is called a “wild card” search. This is done by entering the first few characters of the search word such as, LATH, with the * added. This would look like, LATH*, and would pick up all citations with LATH and ANYTHING and EVERYTHING that might be used to finish out the spelling of the word. I then did the same search will, LETH, LEATH, LOTH, LUTH. I then went through each set of returns and used my previous family history knowledge and common sense to choose those names that would be most interesting. I found a number of citations with the first names, Robert, James and David. They are listed below.

Citations were on a number of subjects including, legal matters, sales of products and service, general commerce and awards for outstanding farm production. While reading these citations I noticed a number of advertisements for ships. These, combined with Robert's statements on his citizenship papers led me to think I might get a lead on what ship he may have taken to South Carolina. Several ships made regular trips to S.C. from the north of Ireland. But, only a couple made the trip during a time that made sense to have had Robert as a passenger. No manifests for these ship appear to exist so one has to do a little detective work and find a way to ellimenate those trips and ships that don't fit the time Robert said he arrived. That led me to look for a smilar newspaper in Charleston. That newspaper turned out to be the Charleston City Gazette. It listed ships arriving and departing. Please see my page on this newspaper and the ship Irish Volunteer.


The citations I viewed in the Belfast News-Letter:

Tuesday, July 10, 1750

Town Hall of Belfast, July 3, 1750
The Directors of the Belfast Society Adjudged and paid the following Premiums, viz.

To W. Wilson at Hilhall for selling in the Linen Hall this day the best Piece of Linen Cloth from a 19 to a 21 hundred (prize?) 16# 4 s

<SNIP of long list of names>
Jas. Leathum at Ballylanaghan for best 15 (prize?) 8# 1s 2p

Signed by Order of Charles Hamilton, Secr.

Friday, October 5, 1750

Town Hall of Belfast, October 2, 1750

<NOTE: This is another listing of premiums paid to Linen manufactures with almost the exact text as the previous except different names of those who received the premiums. >

James Leathum at Ballylanaghan for 3rd (premium) 4# 4s _ (illegible)

Wm. Leathum at Castlereagh for 5th (premium) 2# 8s 2p


Friday, November 9, 1750

Town Hall of Belfast, November 6, 1750

<NOTE: This is another listing of premiums paid to Linen manufactures with almost the exact text as the previous except different names of those who received the premiums. >

Wm. Leathum at Castlereagh for best 15. (Premium) 8# 1s 2p

Friday, December 7, 1750

Town Hall of Belfast, November 6, 1750

<NOTE: This is another listing of premiums paid to Linen manufactures with almost the exact text as the previous except different names of those who received the premiums. >

James Leathum at Ballylanaghan for 5th (Premium) 2# 8s 2p

Wm. Leathum at Castlereagh for 5th (Premium) 2# 8s 2p


Two men with similar, soundex equivalent names to Lathan, were players in the Linen market and must have been fairly good at what they were doing. It also lists two localities that might be of use for further search. Castlereagh has other documents related to it that might be of interest. A search of where Ballylanaghan on various map resources didn’t turn up a location for the town. However, an email to Dictionary of Irish Biography netted the following response:

“Good morning Bill, I looked up the townlands index; it is most likely
Ballylenaghan, in the barony of Castlereagh Upper, par. Knockbreda, co.
Hope this helps

As stated above, a number of official records with variants of the Lathan name exist for Castlereagh and Knockbreda in Co. Down. Previous research has shown that County Down had equally active Seceeder and Covenanter members present.

More Belfast News – Letter Citations



November 26, 1771 (Date of publication)

<NOTE: This article was a letter (advertising really) from a number of passengers who traveled from Belfast to Philadelphia. Interestingly, the name of the ship was left out of their letter. But the date and presents of the name: DAVID LEATHIN may indicate the arrival place of the David Leathan that is supposed to be Robert Leathan’s brother who went to the Genesee in NY. If this is the same man then he left Ireland 17 years before Robert Leathan.>

Delaware Bay, July 4th, 1771 (Date letter was written)

Messeurs Henry and Robert Joy (publishers of the Belfast News – Letter)

You will confer a singular Obligation on those of your Countrymen that went as Passenger to Philadelphia in America, from Belfast, last May, by giving the following a Place in your useful Paper.

We think that we would deservedly incur the Censure of the Judicious and Impartial, should we omit then publikly mentioning, the Conduct of our Captain, Mr. James Malcom, whose every action was calculated for the Advantage, Convenience and Pleasure of his Passengers. With a Liberality not generally practiced he distributed a greater Variety of Provisions than was promised; which, whith his humane Usage, helped much to the rendering the Voyage unhurtful and agreeable.

<SNIP Three more paragraphs of similar syrup deleted>
<NOTE: 46 names were listed at the bottom of the letter>

Among the names listed that this researcher has seen in various American records, mostly in S.C., were:
Young, McCauley, Meek, Patterson and Clark
Two-thirds down the second column of names was:
David Leathin


May 29, 1779

Linen and Cotton Printing.

Nicholas Grimshaw having completed his new Pattern-Books, they who live at a Distance and have Cloth to print, may by writing to him, or Mr. William Beggs, next Door to the Old Sugar House, Belfast, be accommodated with a Book of said Patterns, returning it after having made their Choice.

His Patterns may likewise be seen at Mr. Leatham’s, Hillsborough; <SNIP more locations and ordering information>

Greencastle, near Belfast, 26th May, 1779


September 10, 1779

To be let and entered upon immediately, or the first of November next, a dommodious House, with Stabling for 12 Horses, and a Garden adjoining, in the Village of Crumlin. Said House is two Stories high, newly built and lofted, with several large Rooms above Stairs, a Parlour floored and Cellar made. As said Villiage a great thoroughfare, the House would answer public Business extremely well; what Lasnd is needful for said House may be had convenient. For further Particular apply to Robert Leathem, near Crumlin, who will make the Terms known.
September 8, 1779


Friday, March 7, 1783

To the Linen-Drapers of the North of Ireland

<NOTE: This is a lengthy article with a list of those who agree with the writer’s view. It was about new and completing linen markets in Ireland. The writer was in favor of limiting these “new markets” and supporting the already established market in Dublin in “preference to all others.” The interest of the signatures is that a Will with one of the same names appears in records in Ulster. However, this “signature” has London as the location. >

Boss. Leatham, London

<NOTE: A Will for a Bossell/Fafsall/Raysall, Roysall (always illegible) Leatham is listed on the Eneclann CD of Irish Wills as well as in Sir Betham’s prerogative Will Abstracts. In Betham the location is listed as Manor Watterhouse, Co. Fermanagh. Researchers should be aware that I am NOT sure this is the same man. The quality of the handwriting and ink are such that the Betham sketches are barely readable. It is highly likely that this citation and this man have NOTHING to do with Robert Lathan.>


July 22 – 25, 1783

At a numerous Meeting of the Freeholders of the Parish of Killead, convened by public notice, at the Dissenting Meeting-house of said Parish, the 22nd day of July, 1783

ROGER MOORE, Esq; in the Chair.

Resolved unanimously, That we will, by every legal effort in our power, support the independent interest of the county of Antrim, at the next general Election.

Resolved unanimously That from his fortune, connections, character, and public Declarations, the Hon. Colonel Rowley appears to us pery proper and fit to support that interest.

Resolved unanimously, That we will, with our votes and most strenuous exertions, support Colonell Rowley.\

Resolved unanimously, That a committee be appointed, consisting of the following persons: Messr. Thomas Brown, Jamer Barber, James Cunningham, Edward Agnew, ROBERT LEATHEM (emphasis added by transcriber), John Campbell, William Morehead, and David Drennan, Who are to correspond with committees of the neighbouring Parishes, and with them consider of such modes of proceeding as may appear best adapted to promote and support the common interest.


The thanks of the meeting was unanimously returned to Mr. Moore, for his obliging and spirited behaviour on this occasion.

<NOTE: This article might be the singularly most important of what I found. It lists the name Robert Leathem which is very close to what Robert is said to have stated was the Irish spelling. Also, this meeting takes place in Killead which was from what I can tell from my reading a hotbed of Dissenting Presbyterians. There is/was a Presbyterian Meeting House, which has records dating back to the early 1700’s: (search with the “Find on this page” for the word “Killead” and it will take you to some records of this church.)


Friday – Tuesday, September 5 – 9, 1783

A Reward of 57 Guineas.

Wereas, some time in the night of Monday the 16th of ausust inst. There was two cows houghed in the lands of Ballythromery, parish of Glenavy, and county of Antrim, formerly in possession of Richard and Francis Dixon of Crumlin.

<SNIP this an offer of a reward for the culprit/s that ruined the animals>

…, 25th Aug. 1783

<SNIP NOTE: there were 17 other names listed>

Robt. Leathem (his contribution to the reward) 2# 5s 6d

<NOTE: Houghed = a painful and debilitation form of vandalism where the tendons on the cow’s hamstring are cut making the cow unable to walk>


September 10, 1784

To the Freeholders of the County of Antrim.


The High Sheriff of the county having refused to call you together, notwithstanding he was requested so to do by a Requisition signed by near two hundred Freeholders, and afterwards by a Body of the Same in Person at the summer Assizes 1784.

NOW WE whose Names are under-written, DO hereby request a full Meeting of the Freeholder of the County of Antrim, at the Sessions-House in Antrim, on Monday the twentieth Day of September inst. to take under Consideration the most effectual MOD of procuring a Parliamentary Reform.

[ The number of Freeholders signatures contained in our last was FIVE HUNDRED AND FORTY; since which the following were received, making the general number SEVEN HUNDRED and FIFTY-ONE] <brackets were in the original>

<SNIP long list of names>
Robert Leathem

Robert and James Lathan listed together

April 1, 1785

We the undersigned Linen Drapers, and Buyers of brown Linen, do hereby return our sincere thanks to William Boyd, one of the Inspectors of the County of Down, for his particular care, attention, and very proper conduct in the line of his duty; whereby the Linen Trade in the district of his attendance, has received essential benefit.

Downpatrick, 31, March, 1785

<SNIP long list of names>

James Leathim
Robert Leathim

Robert and James Lathan listed together

February 8, 1788

Comber Market

A MARKET will be held in the Town of Comber, on the second Tursday of every Month, for the sale of Brown Linens, Linen Yarn, Horses, black Cattle, & c. The first Market will be on the 14th of this inst. February. In order to encourage this revival of the Old Market of Comber, no Custom will be required. Arespectable number of linen merchants, farmers, yarn buyer, manufacturers and others, have engaged to attend. The sale of Linen Yarn to begin at Eight, and the Brown Linen Market precisely at eleven in the Morning.
Comber, Feb 4th, 1788
We the undersigned Linen Merchants do hereby engage to attend the Monthly Marker of Comber; and from a full conviction that the situation of the said Town is well adapted to the promotion of the Linen Trade, we promise to give every encouragement in our power to the Manuafacturers.

<SNIP other names>
Robt. Leathem
James Leathem

Robert Leatham of Crumlin - Crumlin is about equadistant of Killead, Ballymena and Belfast

May 6, 1788

The Grey Colt Young Major.

Got by the noted Arabian Horse Major with a fine hunting Mare. He is three years old, full fifteen and half hands high, strong made, and will stand this season at Robert Leatham’s, near Crumlin and cover Mares at half a Guinea, and half a Crown to the Groom, leaps and trials.

Crofs (or Cross)-Hill, 5th May, 1788

in the
Belfast News Letter
for ships in the
Passenger Trade
South Carolina

November 11, 1788

For Charlestown, in South-Carolina, (Now lying at Warrenpoint)

The fine new Ship UNITY, George Dougall, Commander, burthen 350 tons, will be clear for sea by 16th instant. For freight or passage apply to William and Samuel Hanna, or the Captain on board.

Newry, 6th November, 1788
<NOTE: This is unlikely to have been the ship Robert took. These ships seldom left on time and sometimes laid at anchor waiting for passengers, supplies and crew for several months. Passage was normally 8 weeks or more. Robert said he arrived on Dec. 5, 1788 so that would make this and unlikely choice.>

Most Likely Ship

July of 1788 (I lost the full date)

For Charlestown, in South-Carolina, and Wilmington.

THE SHIP IRISH VOLUNTEER, Burthen 350 Tons, John Johnson, Master, will be clear to sail the 20th June. ---- Those who chose to take their passage on board of this Ship, are requested to apply to Mr. William Burgess, in Belfast; Mr. Andrew Newton, in Coag; Mr. Robert Montgomery, Ballymena; the Revd. Peter McMullan, in Ahoghill; or the Owners, John Montgomery & Co. wo will agree with them on reasonable terms.
Larne, 16th April, 1788

<A note with a cute “finger” similar to the “Return to Sender” finger used by the U.S. Postal Service today>

The Passengers who have agreed to go on board the above Vessel, are desired to be in Larne on Tuesday the Second of September, at which time they will be taken on board.
Larne, 16th August, 1788

<NOTE: From the dates listed here one can see that the time in port could be extended far in excess of what is common in the 21st Century. This ship seems to be a possible for Robert’s travel to America. >

This ship arrived in Charleston long after Dec. 5th, 1788 mentioned by Robert Lathan in his citizenship papers.

July of 1788 (Again I lost the full date)

For Charlestown, South-Carolina.

THE BRIG ANN, Burthen 250 tons, William Glasgow, Master, will be clear to sail by the first of September next. ------ Those who chuse (sp in paper) to take their passage on board of this Vessel, where they may rest assured of meeting the best of treatment, and abundance of good provision, are requested to apply to Mr. Narcillus Batt, Belfast; Mr. Alexander Mitchell, Ballymena; Mr. Thomas Davison, Knockboy; or Anthony Sinclaire, Larne, who will agree with them on reasonable Terms.
Larne, 30 July, 1788

The ship Irish Volunteer arrival in Charleston, S.C. (as written about in the Belfast News Letter)

March 6 - 10, 1789 (printing date of edition)

A notation in this edition of the Belfast News-Letter states that the ship Irish Volunteer arrived safely at Charleston, SC on December 1, 1788. To see this small article click here: Upper Left of 3-6-1789 edition. This paper was in very bad condition and the microfilm was such that only a large image would be readable, so I've been forced to cut the page in four sections. The other sections may be downloaded by clicking this, March 6, 1789 edition of BNL. Then down load each image.

Most likely ship - to see more about this ship's arrival in Charleston see my Charleston City Gazette page

6 -10 March 1789 (As written about in the Belfast News Letter for printing date of this edition)

The ship, Irish Volunteer, John Johnston, master from Larne with passengers, arrived at Charlestown the 1st December, after a pleasant passage of seven weeks and five days.

<NOTE: This was of particular interest due to the date of arrival. Robert Lathan stated in his citizenship papers that he "landed" on 5 December 1788. This letter, really and advertisement, which was printed almost four months after the event refers to an arrival in 1788. Based on various advertisements regarding this ship and another, Brig Ann, who where the only two ships advertising for passengers to South Carolina it appears that the round trip took most of a year. The ships would spend two to four months in port at Larne taking on provisions, making repairs and seeking passengers. This trip was fast but the more normal length of the trip was 8 to 12 weeks. Based on the adds in this newspaper is appears that most of the time one of these ships was in America while the other was in Ireland. Since these ships seemed to normally only make one trip a year this advertisement would add more weight to this being the ship Robert Lathan rode to America. The difference in the dates might be explained by knowing if there is a difference between the, "arrived", used in the advertisement and the "landed" used by Robert in his citizenship hearing.
A historical note along this line: Charleston/Charlestown, S.C. was, during the American Revolution, twice attacked by the British. During the first of these attacks the British ships tried to sail into the harbor and ran aground. The became target practice for the guns of Fort Moultrie. It might be that this same problem continued to present itself to ships approaching Charlestown, S.C. a few years latter... I'm working on this question.

Now visit my Charleston City Gazette page for more information on the ship Irish Volunteer which I believe Robert Lathan took from Northern Ireland to Chaleston, S.C.
Please feel free to send questions or comments concerning these findings.
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Robert Lathan's ship from Ireland?