Gregg family from Donegal to Pennsylvania

I wrote earlier of James McKnight and Ellen Gregg who arrived in New York from Londonderry on board the Hannah Thornton in 1849.  Since then I have James’ will which names as his executor his nephew Joseph B Gregg.  This led me to find Joseph’s father, Nesbitt and then his brothers, a sister and parents.  It seems most if not all of the Gregg family migrated to America in the 1840s and that James McKnight, his wife Ellen Gregg, their children and his sister Jane McKnight, followed them.  As usual if anybody knows anymore about any of these families or has photographs, documents etc please get in touch.  I know the Gregg families had large families in Pennsylvania and New York.  William and Ellen Gregg were Ellen’s parents.  The family appear to have been famine migrants from Donegal, Ireland to Wayne county, Pennsylvania, America in the 1840s, although as Thomas arrived in 1842 perhaps the family chose to migrate.  I believe William and Ellen arrived in New York in 1848 on board the Fanny.  They traveled with two of their children, Esther and William.  William senior was about 68 and his wife 70, although they said they were 53.  Their son William was said to be 25 and their daughter Esther 30.

American naturalization was a two step process from 1790 when congress passed the first law regulating it.  Generally after living in America for two years the emigrant could file a ‘declaration of intent’, often called first papers.  After another three years they could ‘petition for naturalization’.  The ‘declaration of intent’ generally holds more information such as year of arrival, however in the case of the Gregg’s their ‘petition for naturalization’ holds this information.  Women and children were automatically naturalized when their husband/father was and unfortunately they were not listed on the applications.

Sons of William and Ellen, Thomas, Nesbitt and Robert were all naturalized.  Thomas filed his ‘declaration of intent’ on May 14, 1846, Nesbitt and Robert filed theirs on October 5, 1847, all in the Superior Court, New York City.  Nesbitt arrived in New York on board the Oxford on May 23, 1844.  Robert arrived (probably) in New York on board either the Stephen Whitney or Great Britain which arrived a week apart in August 1845.  There is a Robert Gregg of the same age and occupation listed on both ship’s lists from Ireland.  He could be either.  Their ‘petitions for naturalization’ were filed in the Court of Pleas, Wayne county, Pennsylvania.  Thomas said he arrived in 1842 and was born in 1821 in county Donegal, Ireland.  Nesbitt said he was born in 1823 in county Donegal and arrived in 1844 and Robert said he arrived in 1845 and was born in 1825 in county Donegal.  The brothers all witnessed each others declarations.  I haven’t (yet) found those for their father William, sister Esther or brother William.  Technically Esther should have completed her own as she was over the age of 21 when she arrived.  Only children under the age of 21 were covered by their father’s naturalization papers.  Further information can be found on the National Archives site.  I was able to obtain copies via the Wayne County Historical Society.

Part of the 'petition for naturalization' for Nesbitt Gregg
Part of the ‘petition for naturalization’ for Nesbitt Gregg

It seems Thomas bought land for the family which he than passed on to his two brothers, Nesbitt and Robert, in October 1850.  His wife Rebecca had to agree to the sale of the land.  Thomas signed and Rebecca made her mark.  Their land was situated all together in Manchester township, Wayne county, Pennsylvania.  Their parents William and Ellen were living near Damascus next to their daughter Ellen and her husband James McKnight.  The land purchases are very descriptive of the actual land and mention all the surrounding neighbours.

The census records over the decades of the 19th century show the three brothers farming next door to each other.  When some of their sons married they also farmed on the properties.  According to the History of Wayne, Pike and Monroe counties by Alfred Matthews the brothers settled in the forest in the far south of the township of Manchester.  The books says 1840 but it was a few years later.  Thomas Gregg married Rebecca McIntyre, Nesbitt married Eliza Boyd, Robert married Catherine Hutchinson and Esther Gregg married ‘someone’ Tate/Tait.

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