Genealogy Textile Arts

Spinner and Weaver of Ballyknock, County Mayo

IMAG0137If you’re a descendant of the Lavelles/Lavells, of Ballyknock, County Mayo, do get in touch. I have something of your’s!

Occasionally, at the local car boot sale, I find some lost genealogical treasure and often think it would be cool to re-unite it with its rightful owners.

My parents’ generation threw away old certificates “because they look tatty”.  At a local archive, I was told there are no original inquest records for the whole of the York area, as they were thrown in a skip in the 1960s or 70s.  Fascinating, irreplaceable mill records used by Misses Hartley & Ingilby when researching ‘The Old Hand-Knitters of the Dales’ in the late 1940s, have now vanished without trace…

At the car boot sale, I found a lovely Victorian wooden box. Which I couldn’t afford. But inside it was this 1841 Census Return from the Public Record Office of Ireland and I had to have it, as the Lavelle (or ‘Lavell’ – it was spelled both ways on the form)  family, Michael and Mary, were a weaver and a spinner.  We got it, sans box, for a quid.  If this is your ancestor, it is your’s for the asking.


The Irish 1841 Census is a far more sophisticated and comprehensive thing than the British, that’s for sure.  The document is damaged so not all legible. It is about the size of 4 A4 sheets so hard for me to photo the entire thing.  Whereas the 1841 British Census just has a “Yes” or “No” tickbox for where born – whether in county or not –  the Irish census has the county (like subsequent British ones did) but better still, records the person’s Educational level (Mary and Mary were down as “cannot read” – which would be true of most weavers here, too, at this date) and what is interesting to us is that this is a concrete record of weaving and spinning as a true cottage industry, as late as 1841 – which it would remain in the remoter parts of the UK, as well. The average Yorkshire spinner would have been in a manufactory for two generations or so, by 1841.

I wonder why this lone record ended up carefully preserved in a little wooden box?  Did someone need it as proof of ID to emigrate, or work elsewhere?  Proof of age for a pension?  And how did it end up in York?  York had a sizeable Irish population down in the Bedern – near the Minster – by the 1840s.  I found out a little about this when I was researching the ill-fated Nine Days Wonder of Kelfield.  But this box may have been traded at an antiques fair/car boot anywhere, and we’ll never know how this one spinner and weaver’s family record ended up in a box one rainy morning at the Livestock Centre.   It would be cool to see it reunited with the family.  Hopefully, little Mary had descendants or a sibling who did…

Michael Lavelle was 55 in 1841; Mary 34 and they had a daughter Mary, aged just one.



I have no knowledge of Irish genealogy but have gathered that census returns survive only erratically. So this may be a lucky find for someone.

If you’re a genealogist with these names in your tree, do get in touch.

And apologies for the truly awful photos.  Unfamiliar camera, bad light, etc.




One reply on “Spinner and Weaver of Ballyknock, County Mayo”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.