A Toppin Family Story

Toppin is one of my family lines in Ireland. My Toppin family was located in Buffanagh (Buffana) Fethard Tipperary. They have been a bit of an anomaly for me. Not much information had been found on the family and most of what I had was family stories and information.

Aunt Girlie, aka Sarah Agnew Toppin, gathered a bit of information about the family. Her father left Buffanagh at the age of majority. He married in Kilkeel County Down and raised his family in Limerick. Aunt Girlie thought her Grandfather’s name might have been Mathew.

The Governor did not speak much about his family. The Governor was the family name for Sarah’s father Philip Rawlins Toppin. The fact that he did not speak about his family caused a bit of a red flag for me. Had something happened that Philip did not want to be reminded of his early life?

In preparation for a trip to Dublin in 2003 I was gathering up all the information already known about the family and started a cluster research project for my Toppin family. The first step was to gather all the birth, marriage and death records for the name Toppin, Tappen, Toppen, Topham, Topping and Tapping in the area surrounding the family home of Buffanagh.

I was ordering a lot of certificates from Ireland and this was getting expensive. To ease the expense I began ordering photocopies of the registrations from the Mormon Family History Centre in Salt Lake City. Only the earlier years of registration are available but any little bit helped.

One of the copies of the death registrations came back with three entries on one page. Mathew Toppin, William Toppin and Richard Toppin all died within a couple of weeks of each other in 1869. This was around the time that The Governor left Buffanagh. Could this have been the reason?

A closer look at the causes of death provided an even more incredible story. Mathew had died of respiratory problems and he was well on in years. William was but 20 and died of Tuberculosis. Richard was middle age and had been murdered. Yes, murdered!

Thankfully this information was found before leaving for Ireland so I was able to concentrate on finding out more about the murder while in Dublin. This was something that would have been extremely difficult to do from Canada. I also remembered that a long time ago on a mailing list someone had mentioned a murder and the Toppin family but no one knew any details.

My first stop was the National Archives of Ireland. When I first approached the Archivist about finding information he said the murder must have been about land. He said that most murders in Ireland had to do with land during that time period. There were no coroner’s records so the only other recourse was newspapers.

I had a date of death so that helped narrow down the search. The Irish Times and Cork Examiner were the two big papers for the area in that time period so the search began.

The National Library of Ireland has a great resource online called Newsplan. You can search for available newspapers by title, town or county. You can even include titles from the Newsplan project that are not held by the National Library of Ireland.

The search provided lists of publication dates and what was available on microfilm and hard copy. It also provided the different incarnations that the newspaper had during its publication.

So into the dark microfilm reading room at the National Library of Ireland I went. Several entries of the inquest were found. The description of the body was so detailed I could not read it all. It looked like the murder was a result of land. Three Fitzgerald cousins of the wife of Richard Toppin were arrested for the murder with the reason being a disagreement over a piece of land they felt should have gone to them.

New family information was also gleaned from these reports. The reports provided the names of his wife and children as well as the fact that his wife and children practiced the Catholic faith and Richard was Protestant. Information on other family and neighbours was also provided in the newspaper accounts. These accounts were published about a week or so after the murder.

In the end the three men arrested were not charged because there was not enough evidence to convict them. By the sounds of it the murder was never solved.

While searching for the coroners records at the National Archives of Ireland the Archivist mentioned another resource that really helped me with my Toppin research. It turns out they had copies on microfilm of the parish registers of the local Church of Ireland in Fethard. By searching these I was able to develop family groups and go back three more generations. The Governor’s father was John Philip Toppin. Mathew Toppin, who died at the same time as Richard, was his uncle. Richard Toppin and William Toppin were his cousins.

No one will ever know for sure but all these things happening at once as well as the possibility that The Governor did not want to be a farmer could have resulted in him leaving Fethard and not wanting to talk about his family.

©2010 – Blair Archival Research

  1. Doreen Preston’s avatar

    What a fascinating story-made even more so, as my great, great grandmother was Mary Fitzgerald from Buffana who married Thomas Mahony, also from Buffana in the 1830s. I presume that she was related to the Fitzgerald brothers in question! I am about to visit Killenaule in the near future so will see if I can find anything more on this.

  2. mary scally’s avatar

    my grandmother was Mary Ellen Millett, who was born in Buffanagh, Co. Tipperary in 1885. her father was Matthew Richard Millett and his wife was Rebecca Toppin, (all Roman Catholic, including his mother-in-law Mary Toppin). i am wondering if Mary was the Fitzgerald wife of Richard Toppin, who may have been my great-grandmother’s father! at the time of the 1901 cenus, (which is online), Mary Toppin was 70. Could we, by chance, be related?

  3. Victoria Toppin’s avatar

    Really interesting reading as I am struggling to find any Toppin relatives which were based in Kilrush. My husbands grandfather was called Thomas Toppin and his father was Nicholas Toppin. Nicholas was a Butcher and that is all I know. I’d really appreciate any information you ahve regarding this line of the Toppin Tree. Who knows we may even be related somehow?! Look forward to hearing from you. Thank you :)

  4. Carmel A. Millett’s avatar

    Mary Scally – Have you seen Frank Millett’s web site? Mary Ellen Millett and Rebecca Toppin are both there, part of our family tree. (Mary Ellen is not the only one of that name in our family.) You may find it interesting.

  5. Ruth Blair’s avatar

    Thanks for the tip Carmel. You did not provide a web address for Frank’s site.

    I think I have found it here http://guitarman.tribalpages.com/

    Mary you may need to contact Frank to get access to the Toppin information.

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