My Y-DNA and the Perry Paternal Line

My Perry Paternal Line and Their Roots in Ireland


One of the first family tree lines I tried to trace back was my father’s paternal line, the Perry’s. Thanks in part to the work of my uncle Doug Perry, I was able to compile a lot of information on that part of the family tree. Doug actually located the Perry family cemetery in South Carolina that included the headstones of Hugh Perry, Sr. (1765-1840, my 4G Grandfather), his wife Mary (1766-1834), and his son Joseph (1800-1836, my 3G Grandfather). This information helped differentiate this Hugh Perry from a different Hugh Perry that appeared in the 1790 Federal Census for Maryland who was born around 1745. Hugh Perry, Sr. also left a Will in 1840 that included more detailed information about his children and some of his grandchildren. The grandchildren mentioned were the children of his late son Joseph, who had died in 1836, and these grandchildren included my GG Grandfather, John Fletcher Perry (1828-1900).

I explored this line of the family as much as I could, including as many of Hugh Perry, Sr.’s descendants as I could document. As much as I explored, I could never find any definite information about Hugh Perry, Sr.’s parents, where he was born, or any other information that could help me document my paternal line back any further in history. I decided to do DNA testing with Family Tree DNA , one of the largest genealogical DNA testing organizations. The Y-DNA test was specifically the test that I hoped would provide clues to my paternal line since the Y chromosome is only passed directly from father to son. My Y-DNA test did, in fact, provide a strong clue.

My Y-DNA and its Link to William Hugh Perry

Family Tree DNA notified me of matches to my Y-DNA. Each mutation step away from an exact match indicates that the common ancestor for the individuals being compared are further back in time. The first few matches were 3 to 5 mutation steps away and didn’t even have the same last name. This is probably due to the fact that the common ancestor is so far back in time, they pre-date the adoption of surnames - sometime around the 11th or 12th century. One Perry did match perfectly for 25 markers, William Hugh Perry. I contacted him and found out a little about his family. Later, I found out that William Hugh Perry's Y-DNA is an even closer match, 110 out of 111 markers, which means that our common ancestor should be found within a genealogical time frame - over the last 250-300 years. It turns out that William Hugh Perry’s paternal ancestors were Scottish Presbyterians from Creggan Parish in County Armagh, Ireland (the province of Ulster ). These Scottish Presbyterians in the north of Ireland were also known as Scots-Irish or Ulster Scots . My own family tradition has it that the Perry family were also Scots-Irish from Ireland. I also learned that the names of the males in his paternal line were very much the same as the names in my paternal line including Joseph, William, James, and Hugh. Too much of a coincidence, since Scots-Irish families would name their children after close relatives and, as I found out from a genealogist in Ireland, Hugh was not a common given name in Ireland.

I did more research online into Creggan Parish and found that the Creggan History Society  publishes a journal about once every two years. One of the journals (No. 10 2001/2002) had an article about the first Presbyterians to settle in Creggan Parish so I sent off to Ireland to get a copy. The article was entitled "The Creggan Presbyterian Congregation" by Kevin McMahon and it was about the first Presbyterian congregation to settle in Creggan Parish. They constructed a meeting house in the townland of Freeduff around 1740. In October of 1743, the meeting house was burned down shortly after its construction, purportedly by a few Catholics (Papists as they were called) from the area, and statements were taken from several members of the congregation including a Joseph Peery, who was the custodian of the meeting house, and his wife Mary. The article also stated that most of the members of this first congregation had moved to Creggan from the Lecale  area in County Down . Later members of this family changed the spelling of their surname to "Perry" as there is a Hugh Perry from the 1800s buried in the Creggan Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Freeduff.

The Search Moves to Belfast

Knowing that my Perry ancestors in this country had close genetic links to the ancestors of William Hugh Perry in County Armagh, Ireland, I tried to find the best way to research more about that family in order to find the common ancestor that linked the two families. I attended a workshop put on by the Ulster Historical Foundation in Gainesville, Georgia when they were touring the U.S. in 2012. I learned that they conducted yearly family history conferences for tracing Irish Ancestors in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The interesting part of the conference was that it provided access to the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) and assistance in using the resources there. I researched the Armagh branch of the family as much as I could online and then attended the family history conference in Belfast in September 2017. 

PRONI has a wealth of information collected from all six counties in Northern Ireland and an online catalog for searching through their holdings. The most detailed information I had on the Armagh Perry family was for Joseph Perry (Peery) who was married in the Creggan Presbyterian Church in 1845. The original registry of the Creggan Presbyterian Church has been copied to microfilm at PRONI. I spent much of my time at PRONI reading through the copy of the original church registry and it contained a lot of information from 1835 until around 1900 with some earlier information included. With the church registry and other online resources, I was able to put together a history of the Perry (Peery) family in the Creggan Presbyterian Church. The history becomes more fragmented as you go back before 1830, but many pieces of the puzzle are there and knowing that the family had been part of the congregation of this particular church since its founding around 1740 was the main key to the puzzle.

The Chronology of the Puzzle Pieces Found in Ireland

The earliest ancestor in the Armagh family about whom I was certain and had the most reliable information was Joseph Perry (Peery) (1824-1910) . Joseph was born and raised in the Creggan Parish in Armagh and was married in the Creggan Presbyterian Church in 1845 to Mary Jane Robinson. Their family immigrated to New York in 1849. My Y-DNA connection, William Hugh Perry, had made the assumption that George Perry (1802-1886) was Joseph’s father. That assumption made sense since Joseph ended up in the same town as George (Bethel, New York) and Joseph and his wife were buried in the same cemetery as George and his wife. Also, one of Jospeh’s daughters appeared to be named after George’s wife, Agnes. The only clue that connection was not right was the fact that Joseph did not immigrate to New York with George and the rest of the family around 1831. William Hugh Perry conjectured that Joseph had remained in Ireland with a relative and emigrated from Ireland later after he was married. Ireland started requiring marriage registrations in 1845 and I was able to determine from the full registration information that Joseph’s father was William Peery, a farmer from Cloghog in Creggan Parish. The registration also indicated that Joseph was a farmer from Cloghog and that Mary Jane Robinson was from Cloghog and the daughter of John Robinson, also a farmer from Cloghog. Both fathers, William Peery and John Robinson, were present at the wedding as witnesses and the ceremony was performed by T. McWilliam. The Rev. Thomas McWilliam was the minister of the Creggan Presbyterian Church around 1845. So the first big discovery was that Joseph Perry’s father was not George but William Peery. It is possible that George Perry is related to Joseph but I haven’t been able to find information about George when he was in Ireland prior to his emigration to New York around 1831.

Joseph’s father, William Peery of Cloghog, appears a number of times in the Creggan Presbyterian Church Registry. In 1833, he is listed in the Registry of United Congregations of Creggan and Newtownhamilton Presbyterian Churches. The listing indicates he lived in Cloghog with a wife and 3 children. The listing also shows other members living in Cloghog: John Robinson with a wife and 4 children; another Joseph Peery with a wife and 4 children; Robert Peery with wife Mary Johnston and 4 children; and George Buchanan with wife Margaret Peery and 4 children. In 1837, William Peery from Cloghog is appointed, along with Robert Peery and John Robinson, as elders of the church, to a committee to conduct temporal affairs for the church. The marriage of two of William Peery’s sons is listed in the church registry: on 6 Aug 1841 - Hugh Peery - father William Peery, mother Jane McCullough - married to Margaret Buchanan - father George Buchanan, mother Margaret Peery; and on  28 Feb 1844 - Robert Peery - father William Peery, mother Jane McCullough - married to Jane Sinclair - father Isaac Sinclair, mother Elizabeth Johnston - present were Joseph Peery and James Sinclair. Notice that Joseph Peery, as the brother of Robert Peery, and James Sinclair, probably the brother of Jane Sinclair, were present at the wedding. These entries would indicate that the registry census of 1833 showing William Peery with a wife and 3 children would mean that the wife was Jane McCullough and the children were Hugh, Robert, and Joseph. I guess that William Peery and his wife Jane were born about 1790 since their first son Hugh was born in 1808. Hugh Peery (Perry) is buried in the Creggan Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Freeduff, along with his wife Margaret, so the years of their birth and death are established from the information on the headstone.

The church records have very little detail before 1833 but they do include vital clues to the beginning of the Peery family in the Creggan Presbyterian Church. As mentioned earlier, the original Creggan Presbyterian Meeting House was burned down in October 1743 “shortly after its construction” and Joseph Peery, along with his wife Mary, made depositions as witnesses who lived near the meeting house. It seems Joseph Peery and his family were among the first of this congregation to move to this area and may have helped build the first meeting house. Joseph helped care for the meeting house and was given the responsibility of keeping the keys to the meeting house. An entry in the church registry from 1765 lists the original seat holders of the Creggan Presbyterian Church, including James Peery and William Peery who held seats for their family in Pew 17. My guess is that William and James were the sons of Joseph Peery who was a founding member of the congregation. Since Joseph Peery was a young farmer with a family in 1743, I guess he was born about 1720 and, since most of the first members of the congregation came from the Lecale area of County Down, I assume Joseph came from there as well. Joseph’s sons, William and James were probably young heads of households when they were listed as seat holders in 1765 so I estimate they were born about 1740 and were young children when the first meeting house was destroyed in 1743. Joseph Peery of Freeduff is also listed in the Irish Religious Census of 1766 as a Protestant head of household.

There is a single generation gap in the information I was able to piece together from the church records. More online searching produced a William Peery listed in Creggan Parish on the 1796 Flax Growers List in Ireland. As an established head of household and a flax farmer, this William Peery was likely born around 1760. I am guessing he was the grandson of Joseph Peery and probably the son of William Peery, the seat holder. The leap I am making is that the next generation of Peery’s born around 1790 were likely the children of this William Peery. The reason why I don’t think it’s such a big leap is that these people were all members of the same church with many of them being elders of the church. This provides me with at least a strong tentative link between Joseph Peery (1824-1910) and his likely GG Grandfather, Joseph Peery (b. about 1720), who help found the Creggan Presbyterian Church in Freeduff.

The Link to Hugh Perry, Sr. (1765-1840) in South Carolina

Within my family tree, Hugh Perry, Sr. (1765-1840), who lived in South Carolina, belonged to that generation gap in Armagh of Perry’s born around 1760. If Hugh Perry, Sr. is a member of this family, as indicated by my Y-DNA test, the question then is where does he belong in the Armagh family tree. To answer that question, I needed to find clues about where Hugh Perry, Sr. was born and who his father might be.

There is one tantalizing clue that Hugh Perry, Sr. was born and raised in Ireland and that clue is related his first child, Margaret. The Will of Hugh Perry, Sr., written in 1840 before his death, left most of his estate to his unmarried daughter, Lettice Eleanor, but also included the following provision for his daughter Margaret, who was apparently single and disabled:

“The above bequests of real and personal Estate to my said daughter Lettice Ellenor are made on this following condition viz If she at any time after my death should marry, then and in that case my Will is, that one hundred Acres of the above bequeathed real Estate be Sold off that part of my Tract which is situate on the Est side of Chapman’s Creek to the highest bidder and one third of the proceeds of the Sale thereof be applyed to the use benefit and support of my daughter Margaret. The remaining two thirds to be equally divided among my said four children above. I further will and direct that during the continuance of my daughter Lettice Ellenor in an unmarried state a provision for the comfortable maintenance and support of my daughter Margaret Perry, must be taken from the property herein willed to my said daughter Lettice Ellenor, And I hereby appoint my Executors hereinafter to be named the guardians of my said daughter Margaret and I earnestly request them to condescend to act for her as such, and to secure to her the full benefit of the above provisions that she may not suffer any want as to the necessary comforts of life.”

The executors of the Will were appointed “my trusty friends Wm. Holmes and Dan’l B. Kirkland”. Daniel B. Kirkland’s first wife, Mary Calhoun,  died in February 1845 and Lettice Eleanor would marry him in July 1845. This marriage would have invoked the sale of the property as mentioned in the will and two of the people who had been given responsibility for the care of Margaret Perry would be living in the same household. That household is recorded in the 1850 U.S. Federal Census for Fairfield, South Carolina. In that listing is the head of household, Daniel B. Kirkland and his wife, L. E. Kirkland (Lettice Eleanor Perry). Also listed are sons and daughters of Daniel B. Kirkland and a number of boarders. Also included is a listing for Margaret Perry aged 76 from Ireland and an entry under occupation which appears to be faded or erased which looks like “Care by Mother”. Although I believe the age to be incorrect, which they often are in censuses, I believe that this is the Margaret Perry mentioned in Hugh Perry's Will - Lettice Eleanor’s older sister. Although the age is probably off by a decade or more, based on Hugh Perry, Sr.’s birth year, I think her “Place of Birth” listed as “Ireland” is probably correct since Lettice Eleanor would have known, having been told by her father and mother, that her sister had been born in Ireland. Adjusting Margaret’s age to something more reasonable, relative to her father’s age, she would be around 65 which means she would have been born around 1785 in Ireland. Hugh Perry, Sr. and his wife Mary probably emigrated from Ireland to America shortly after the birth of Margaret. Their second child, Hugh Perry, Jr. was born around 1794 in South Carolina. All these facts combine to form compelling evidence that Hugh Perry, Sr., his wife Mary, and their young daughter Margaret immigrated to the United States from Ireland around 1785-1790 and settled shortly after that in South Carolina.

So, if Hugh Perry, Sr., was born and raised in Ireland, and is closely related to the Peery (Perry) family in the Creggan Presbyterian Church at that time, who might his father be? Hugh would belong to the generation that came after the original seat holders (William and James Peery) listed in the church registry in 1765 - the year in which Hugh Perry, Sr. was born. The most likely connection is that Hugh Perry, Sr. was the son of James Peery listed as one of the original seat holders. I think this is most likely based on the names of the sons of Hugh Perry, Sr.: his first son was Hugh Perry, Jr., named after himself; his second son was Joseph, named after his grandfather; his third son was William, possibly after his uncle; and his third son was James, possibly after his father.


So, although absolute documentary evidence does not exist to prove the family link with 100% assurance, there is a substantial amount of evidence, including Y-DNA, church records, and censuses, to support at least a probable link between the two Perry families in South Carolina and Creggan Parish, County Armagh, Ireland. Although this conclusion is tentative and could change if more information is found, I think it is very likely that Hugh Perry., Sr. (1765-1840) from South Carolina was born, raised, married, and had his first child in Creggan Parish, Armagh, Ireland and subsequently emigrated to the United States with his young family around 1785-1790 and settled soon after in the Fairfield District of South Carolina where he did very well as a planter. I also think it is likely the Hugh Perry, Sr.’s father was James Peery (born about 1740) who was one of the original seat holders of the Creggan Presbyterian Church. James Peery’s father was Joseph Peery (born about 1720) who was a founding member of the Creggan Presbyterian Congregation, farmer, caretaker of the meeting house, and a witness to the meeting house fire in 1743. It is this Joseph Peery that I believe to be the linking common ancestor between the two Perry families in Armagh and South Carolina.

Mike Perry

October 15, 2017

Copyright ©  Mike Perry, 2011