Annotated extracts from O’Hart’s “Irish Pedigrees” (pub. 1892)

This page outlines the earliest generations of the Speer family, beginning with Thomas Speere of Desertoghill, county Londonderry (d.1636), as recited in O’Hart’s Irish Pedigrees (1892). The extracts are presented as block quotations from the publication, cited above, interleaved with editorial notes. Within the block quotations, [words or phrases presented within square brackets] are also editorial remarks. Numbered references, e.g., [1][2], etc., lead to source references at the bottom of this page.

Source: Simpson, William J., comp., and O’Hart, John, ed. Extracts from Irish Pedigrees: Or, The Origin and Stem of the Irish Nation. 5th ed. In Two Volumes. Vol. II. “Speer. Of Balnasaggart and Tullybryan, County Tyrone.” Dublin: James Duffy and Co., 1892.

Of Balnsaggart and Tullybryan, County Tyrone.
Compiled by William J. Simpson, Donegall Street, Belfast. [A description of the family’s arms, crest, and motto accompanied this opening segment.]

Note:—Mr Simpson developed the pedigree from its Irish origin in Desertoghill, county Derry. He then outlined the three generations succeeding Thomas Speere (d.1636) in east Tyrone, and concluded by tracing one of the family’s branches into Balnasaggart and Tullybryan in the parish of Errigal Keerogue and barony of Clogher (situated west and north of Aughnacloy).

THOMAS SPEERE, of Desertoghill, d. July, 1636; will proved at Londondonderry by ‘his loving friends,’ William Cooke, Thomas Galt, and Lawrence Speere. (See original testament in Record Office.) He left issue by his wife Jennett, beside other children:


  • The original testamentary document does not appear to have survived the burning of the Four Courts Building in 1922. However, an index of wills does survive for wills proved in the Diocese of Londonderry between 1595–1858: one of the entries cites the will of Thomas Speere of Desertoghil, proved in 1636. [1] Mr Simpson’s note, that the will resided in the Record Office (in 1892), together with his specific remarks about the date the will was proved and the names of the executors, suggests that he had studied this document.
  • Desertoghill is a parish in the barony of Coleraine and county of Derry.
  • Several family trees online cite Thomas Speer’s wife as Jennett Haliburton of Dirlelton, Berwickshire (b.1608), unfortunately, without having cited a source reference. Without a source reference,—two corroborative sources might be necessary, especially to prove the migration from Scotland to Ireland (that holy grail that eludes the vast majority of Ulster Scots researchers!)—this claim is not supportable.

[Thomas Speere's second child:]
2. John Spear, of Drumbannoway; born A.D. 1623; died 10th February, 1705, aged 82 years; buried at Ballyclog, co. of Tyrone. He left issue:


  • Drumbannoway, or Dumbanaway, is a townland in the parish of Ballyclog, in the eastern portion of county Tyrone. To see the location of Drumbanaway townland, please refer to the map, Townlands of interest to the Speer families of east Tyrone.
  • In 1666, the Hearth Money Rolls recorded the names of John Spear and Robert Spear in Curglassan townland, and John Spear in Mullaghmossagh townland, all in the parish of Ballyclog. [2]
    ☛ Presumably, one John Spear was the father (the subject of this note), and the other was his son.
    ☛ Curglassan townland lies one-half mile south of Drumbanaway.
  • The will of John Spear of Drumbanaway was proved in 1704. [3]

Robert Speer, of Stewartstown, co. Tyrone; born A.D. 1650; died April 6th, 1743, aged 93 years; buried at Ballyclog, co. Tyrone; will proved A.D. 1745, preserved in the Record Office, Dublin. His second eldest son,


  • The copy extracts of the last will and testament of Robert Speer indicate that the will was written on the 6th October 1743,[4] a full six months after the date recited for his death in the extract from OHart's Irish Pedigrees, above.
    ☛ Notwithstanding this discrepancy, throughout this family history (i.e., as published to
    Arborealis), Robert Speers date of death is shown as c.1743.
  • Several records suggest two brothers to Robert Speer (1650–c.1743), or otherwise his near relatives:
    • John Speer of Mullaghmossagh – named in the 1666 hearth money roll for the parish of Dungannon;[2] and as the tenant in common with Robert Speer, in eight townlands in the parishes of Ballyclog (Carkirr, Cratley, Drumbanaway, Leck, Mullaghmossagh) and Donaghenry (Soarn, Lislee), held from the Archbishop of Armagh by leasehold in 1706;[5] and as a prosecutor in a Bill of Exchequer, representing William Woods and George Woods of Ballygonney, county Londonderry;[6] and,
    • Alexander Speers [sic] of Drumbanaway – whose will was proved in the Diocese of Armagh in 1704. [7]

[the second eldest son of Robert Speer, above:]

4. (—) Speer, whose name was, I believe, Thomas, was father of:


  • In his will (written 6th October 1743), Robert Speer, the elder, named Thomas as one of his sons. [8]
  • No further references have been found (to date) for Thomas Speer.
  • Had the compiler (Mr Simpson) included all of the branches descending from Robert Speer (died c.1743), this is the generation at which the names and descendants of Thomas’ siblings, Solomon Speer (d.1729), Elizabeth (if she married), and Alexander (d. bef.1735), would have been inserted.

5. John Speer, of Balnsaggart; born A.D. 1697; died November 12th, 1763; buried at Balnasaggart;


  • The earliest reference found (to date) for John Speer in Balnasaggart (parish of Errigal Keerogue and barony of Clogher) is Memorial no. 86-3-59000, dated 3rd May 1736, whereby John Speer of Balnasaggart purchased James Moore’s holding in Aughnacloy. [5]
  • Hereafter, Mr Simpson outlined the long lineage descending from John Speer of Balnasaggart (1697–1763). Please refer to the source reference at the top of this page for the remainder; this edition is available online at
  • A few members of this branch (descended from Thomas and/or Alexander) remained in the Barony of Dungannon, and Mr Simpson's pedigree has proven very useful in distinguishing between them and the descendants of their brother, Robert Speer, the elder (died c.1743).
  • Another pedigree—cited as having been prepared, in the main, from a pre-1800 manuscript—cites this John Speer of Balnasaggart as the son of John Speer and [—] Robertston, said John Speer the elder having come to Ireland from Scotland and who was buried in Tynan, county Armagh. [9]
  • Still yet another pedigree cites John Speer as the son of Robert Speer (1650–1754), above. [10] ☛ However, Robert Speer did not name John Speer of Belnsaggart in his last will and testament. [4]
  • A fourth family tree cites John Speer as the son of John Speer (born c.1655) of Carron Mount near Ballygawley. [11] Mount Carron in the parish of Errigal Keerogue.

     Cautionary note:—The differences in these printed pedigrees—which are almost always published without any source citations—highlight the importance of finding source references which corroborate, or not, genealogical assertions. If the source references cannot be found or do not survive, and the research question cannot be resolved, then a note to this effect must be appended to the family historian’s published work.

※   ※   ※

This page was updated 6th December 2018.


Additional sources:


The National Archives of Ireland (Dublin). Diocesan & Prerogative Wills, 1595–1858. “Class.—Testamentary. Diocese – Derry. Sub-Class.—Wills. District Registry – Londonderry. Bay 1R. Tray 99.” Extract: Speere Thomas  Desertoghil. 1636. Digital image online at (accessed by Alison Kilpatrick, 2018-10-22).


Ó Doibhlin, Diarmaid. "Hearth Money and Subsidy Rolls of the Barony of Dungannon, 1666.” Seanchas Ardmhacha: Journal of the Armagh Diocesan Historical Society. Vol. VI, No. 1 (1971), pp. 24-45.


The National Archives of Ireland (Dublin). Diocesan and Prerogative Wills, 1595–1858. “Class.—Testamentary. Diocese Armagh. Sub-Class.—Wills. District Registry Armagh. Bay 1A. Tray 70.” Extract: Speir John (copy) Drumbanaway 1704. Digital image online at (accessed by Alison Kilpatrick, 2018-10-22).


Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, Belfast. Copy extracts from the will of Robert Speer, of Stewartstown (dated 6 October 1743, proved 7 June 1745). PRONI ref. D2315/2/1. Transcribed by Alison Kilpatrick, 16 August 2015.

Ashe, Thomas. Arch Bishoprick of Armagh. An Account Stated for one Year Viz’t. From the 1st of November 1706 Exclusive To the 1st of November 1707 Inclusive. “This Account to be preserved for the Security of Tho. Ashe.” John Spier and Robert Spier, tenants by lease, in Sourne, Lislea, Leck, Crattale, Mullagh-Mossogh, CrossArdagh, Drumbanove, and Carkirr townlands, county Tyrone (1st November 1706). Held by the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (Belfast). Archival ref. PRONI DIO/4/35/3 (accessed and transcribed by Alison Kilpatrick, 2017-09-14).


Paterson, T.G.F. T.G.F. Paterson Manuscript Collection. No. 57, Vol. 4. Exchequer bill, William Woods and John Woods, sons of George Woods of Ballygonney, co. Londonderry, minors, appearing by John Speer of Ballyclog, gent. "Abstracts of Wills, Family Charts, etc.." Held at the Armagh County Museum (accessed and transcribed by Alison Kilpatrick, 2017-10-09).


Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI, Belfast). Armagh Diocesan Wills. Alexander Speers of Drumbanaway, 1704. “Name Search” database, hosted online by the PRONI online at (accessed by Alison Kilpatrick, 2018-11-02.


Registry of Deeds, Ireland (Henrietta Street, Dublin). Memorial no. 86-3-59000, Hamilton to Speer (dated 3rd May 1736, registered 13 July 1736). Microfilm copy held by the Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. Archival ref. FHL film no. 522818; digital image online at (accessed by Alison Kilpatrick, 2018-10-25).


[Author not cited.] "Pedigree of the Family of Speer or Spear of Tyrone & Fermanagh, mainly taken from a Manuscript Book written mostly before 1800 and in possession of Miss Olivia A.S. Hamilton, Rokeby Hroth[?], Co Dublin 1915." Submitted by Dan Speer to the County Tyrone Ireland Genealogy group on Facebook (2018-12-03), online at 326996944081379/, citing receipt of the pedigree chart from the Estate of Dr Alma Jane Speer, and held by MFSB of Sonoma, California.


Burke's American Families with British Ancestry. "Speer formerly of Desertoghill." Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc. (1977).


Speer, George D., Sr., compiler. Speer, Spear, Speire, Speere, Sperra, Family Genealogy of Scotland to Ulster, Ireland, to San Francisco, U.S.A. in 1883. Hosted online by RootsWeb, (accessed 2018-12-13).

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© Alison Kilpatrick, 2018. All rights reserved.
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"The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there."—Lesley Poles Hartley (1895–1972), The Go-Between (1953).

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