Wilkinson Family of Dungannon, County Tyrone, Ireland


From near Dungannon, County Tyrone, in the 19th C, the Wilkinson family moved to Belfast. After WW2 a branch migrated to Australia and have now spread themselves across 5 states of the Commonwealth.


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The Wilkinsons in Ireland.

Family legend has it that the Wilkinsons arrived in Dungannon from the north-east of England, around York, possibly during the plantation in the 1700's. But I have yet to find documentary evidence for this. The surname is, however, common in Tyrone. It is conjectured that the early records may have been lost in the Four Courts fire of 1922 in Dublin.

Map showing the main phases in the Plantation of Ireland.

Our story begins sometime later with John Wilkinson (1802?-1878) of Dungannon, Tyrone, NI. A detailed descendants register of him is on file and his great-great-grandson Gordon Wilkinson is seeking information on John's antecedents, siblings (if any), spouse's family and emmigration from England to Ireland. If anyone can assist he would be appreciative. John's son Thomas (1853-1926) married into the O'Hara family and information on that lineage is also appreciated.

In Ireland, the family established first in Dungannon, then nearby Coolkill, Benburb, County Tyrone before moving to Belfast, Co. Down. The Griffiths Valuation (1848-1864) lists a John Wilkinson living in Coolkill Townland, Clonfeacle Parish. The map (right) shows Dungannon, Moygashel and Benburb, famous textile towns of the time, in Blackwater country.

John died in Dungannon where his son Thomas was born. Thomas married in Dungannon but by 1876 had moved to nearby Coolkill where his first son was born. (Coolkill is not to be confused with Coolhill now a suburb of Dungannon)

Coolkill Townland {Coolkill or Coolhill means "Wood at the Back"} is near the present village of Benburb adjacent to the Blackwater river. The Blackwater River, so-called because of it's tea colour, drains the swampy areas of western Armagh and southern Tyrone counties. The area is famous for its high quality Irish linen where the high humidity from the marshes is ideal for weaving linen and other textiles. The famous textured Moygashel fabric originated there in the town of the same name.

Historical Name Form

Coolkill: County - Tyrone. Barony - Dungannon Middle, Parish - Clonfeacle, Townland - Coolkill.

Old Form
Reference Date
Colchill 1609
Colchill 1610
Coolekill al Coolechill


Coolekill al Coolechill 1650
Kollkill 1655
Colchill 1661
Collkill 1661
Cullal 1666
Coolkill 1771
Cul-Choill "Back Wood" 1936
Cul Coille "Back of the Wood" 1987

Thomas and his family then moved to Belfast sometime after the birth of son James (1888-1890) and death of son Thomas (2) (1884-1900) and probably soon after James' passing in 1890.

Thomas' only surviving son, John (1879-1952), remained in and around Belfast. Some descendants of John's family still live in Belfast whilst his daughter and youngest son emmigrated to Australia after WW2.

From Ireland to Australia

Thomas (Tom, 1914-1990) & Sarah (Millie, 1913-1997) Wilkinson, with their young family - Gordon and Rosemary - arrived in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, from Belfast, Northern Ireland, on 28 November, 1948. They settled first in Geelong then in late 1950 moved to Melbourne where they lived for many years, with several addresses in the south-eastern suburbs. In 1978 they moved to Adelaide, South Australia.

Download (or email for) a free copy of Outward Bound - the illustrated diary of the 4-week voyage (see map at left) to Australia, October-November 1948. Written by Thomas Wilkinson (4.9 Mb pdf)

On leaving home, Gordon moved to Sydney, married Nereda Milne and shortly after moved to Tasmania. In late 1969 (with son Andrew) Nereda and Gordon arrived in Adelaide where they now reside.

Rosemary moved to Sydney, where she now resides, and married Harvey Michael.

The other line of the family to emmigrate to Australia, John (Jack, 1910-1982) and Anna (Maisie, 1910-1991) Kyle (Tom's sister), and their children, Ronald and Priscilla, arrived there in April 1950 and lived in Geelong, Victoria, where some of the family still reside.

Details of the family are given in the relevant pages.

Narrative Pages

Descendants of John & Sarah Wilkinson

  1. John Wilkinson (1802? - 1878)
  2. Thomas Wilkinson (1855 - 1926)
  3. John Wilkinson (1879 - 1952)
  4. Thomas Wilkinson (1914 - 1990) 4a. John Abernethy Wilkinson (1908-1992). 4b. Anna (Maisie) Mary Wilkinson (1910-1991)
  5. Gordon Thomas Wilkinson (living) 5a. Rosemary Anna Wilkinson (living)
  6. Andrew Thomas Wilkinson (living) 6a. Ian David Wilkinson (living)
  7. Sara Ellen & Hailey Marie Wilkinson (living) 7a. Shayden Kurt Wilkinson (living)

The Family Name

Apparently the surname is Norman in origin, dating from 11th century, but there are several versions. Read a discussion here.

Coat of Arms

Anyone who researches heraldry will often unearth several Coats of Arms or Crests for a given family name. This is because different branches of the family could be granted their own to distinguish them in battle, or to reflect their country of origin.

Lacking better information, the Crest used here is selected somewhat arbitrarly from those found so far:


  1. Fridge magnet.
  2. Eddie Geoghegan: <www.heraldry.ws>
  3. Montville, Australia
  4. Burke's General Armoury. Description is as follows: GU. A fess wavy between three Unicorn's heads couped AR. Colours are: Red, a silver wavy horizontal band between three silver Unicorns' heads, severed. Above the shield and helmet is the crest which is described as: Out of a red mural crown, a silver Unicorn's head, severed.

Who Were the Black Irish?

The Wilkinsons generally have had dark hair and brown eyes - my sister being an exception. This has led to some speculaton on our origin. Were they Black Irish?

The term 'Black Irish' has commonly been in circulation among Irish emigrants and their descendants for centuries. As a subject of historical discussion the subject is almost never referred to in Ireland. There are a number of different claims as to the origin of the term, none of which are possible to prove or disprove. 'Black Irish' is often a description of people of Irish origin who had dark features, black hair, dark complexion and eyes. ...... More.

The Four Courts Fire

In the early part of the 20th century, the west wing of the Dublin Four Courts (Chancery, King's Bench, Exchequer and Common Pleas) housed the Irish Public Records Office. Many of documents held there were lost during the Irish Civil War on 30 June, 1922 when the building was extensively damaged by fire.

Apart from a few fragments, the Irish Censuses of 1821, 1831, 1841, and 1851 were burned in the Public Records Office. So, too, were just over half of all the Anglican Church of Ireland registers deposited there following the dis-establishment of the state church in 1869. In addition, the majority of wills and testamentary records that had been proved in Ireland were reduced to ashes. All pre-1900 documents from the legal courts were lost, as were local government records for the same period. Nearly all export and trade records from the 18th to early 20th century also perished, as did Wills (although transcripts of many testamentary records survive)

However, some records survived the fire or were nowhere near the flames. What survived included: The 1901 and 1911 Irish census returns, all civil registration records, nearly half of all Church of Ireland parish registers (many clergymen had simply not sent their registers to Dublin although most from Ulster had). Baptism, marriage and burial records for Roman Catholics, Presbyterians and Methodists were not housed at the Public Records Office. The Griffiths Valuation for the middle of the 19th century is intact. Indexes to wills and probate bonds survive. So do a good number of local muster rolls, poll tax lists and other records dating back to the very early 1600s.


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Updated: 31 May, 2017