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This is a work in progress - I post it in the hopes of learning more.
Sharon Oddie Brown. October 26, 2009

Oliver Family Crest


The search for the family crest of the OLIVERs of Ulster is still proving elusive, though thanks to some recent photos from the cathedral at Trim, we may be getting closer. First, let me review what started me looking for this crest. According to Amy Oliver JACKSON (1874-1962), the OLIVERs were of French Protestant origin, who took refuge in the Netherlands and came to Ireland with William of Orange's Army. And they had a crest which included three fish. That is still about as much as we definitively know. This means that we still need to keep a sharp eye out for OLIVER Huguenots and fish. Prefereably together.


The possible OLIVER-Ireland-Huguenot connection gains some credence thanks to an article on Benjamin PEMBERTON whose 2nd wife was a Rachel OLIVER of St. Michan’s Parish, Dublin.


According to tradition among her descendants in the 19th century she  was of Huguenot extraction and owned a French Bible: her parentage has not been discovered although the will of her eldest son Benjamin[1]in 1795 refers to his "grandfather  Oliver." A Francois Olivier, cabinet-maker, and his wife Marie had children bapt. at the  French Church, Peter St. and Lucy Lane, Dublin 1719-22; a Jean Olivier, stocking-maker,  m. Madeleine Bani in the French Church of St Patrick, Dublin, 1699; the will of a John  Oliver of Dublin, wigmaker, was proved 1732 (Prerog.), and the will of a Susanna Oliver  of Dublin, widow, was proved 17S8 (Prerog.).[2]


When Amy mentioned the family crest of three fish, she also added a bit that still confounds me:


Oliver crest was three fishes one below the other. Lady Lifford was a cousin to Elizabeth Oliver. Elizabeth Oliver had one sister, Maria who married Vincent (sic "Viscount") Lifford*[3], Dean of Armagh, and two brothers. Benjamin lived at Ballanahode, Rookford, and William. [4]

I would assume that Amy’s reference is to the Limerick OLIVERs. There is an OLIVER family crest in the Armagh Cathedral but it only has one fish and the crest is that of the family of Canon Silver OLIVER (1788-1844), the rector of Loughgall. He was descended from the OLIVERs of Limerick (if it warrants, I will assemble and post a tree on that line later). I am including pictures of this crest as part of perhaps closing in on any links between the Ulster OLIVERs and the Limerick OLIVERS  (doubtful – but since there was a long association with Armagh, I want to keep an open mind).


Oliver in Armagh cathedral Oliver in Armagh Cathedral
All these crests represented people who had donated money for the 1834 restoration of the Cathedral: Archbishop Lord John G. BERESFORD; The Very Rev. J.E. JACKSON; The Ven. E. STOPFORD; Johannes YOUNG; Precentor Richard ALLOT; William MAULEVERER; Edmund BACON; Francis GERVAIS; Francis JOHNSTON; Leonard DOBBIN; Canon Silverus OLIVER; James CAMPBELL; Edward CHICHESTER; Richard OLPHERTS and Isabella RICHARDSON.
A close-up of the OLIVER crest.
The Limerick OLIVER crest.



Now we come to the Trim Cathedral fish. In 2003, when I was visiting Thomas JACKSON (1930-2007) of Bangor, he told me that when he attended the funeral of his grandmother Emily JACKSON née GILMORE (1846-1938) at the cathedral in Trim, he noticed two “well heeled ladies dressed in black”. One of the ladies turned to the other, pointed to a stone just inside the church and said: “Our people have been here before”. He noticed that the stone bore a carving of three fish. Now, although the current church isn’t terribly old and was only built some time in the mid-1800s (I have not been able to find a date), there was a church on this site for centuries (1499 is one date I have seen),. The three fish marker that was installed in the current church was one of the ancient tombstones found by Dean Butler around Trim and installed in the porch of the church. At the time of Emily’s funeral, the church was used as a parish church, not a cathedral. Although Bishops had been “enthroned” here since 1536 (and Jonathon Swift visited in 1716), it only became a cathedral in 1955. Thankfully, two cousins, Susan MOORHEAD and Fran KINDER visited there recently and returned with these photos:


Trim Cathedral
Trim Cathedraldrawing
Trim Cathedral



Interestingly, there are three fish as described by family elders in old documents which appear in a KANE family crest. There are also some mid-1700 deeds that connect the KANE and OLIVER families. I suspect that these two families may have intermarried and that the OLIVERs may have then simply appropriated the crest (it seems to happen from time to time). There were no lack of fish in Irish lakes and rivers, so using them in a family crest would not be surprising. The O’NEIL family crest sports a fish as does the town seal of Coleraine.


Kan Family Crest



There are also recollections in early 1900s letters of a more “well heeled branch of the family” who resided in Dublin and whose OLIVER crest included a symbol of a Cathedral. Again, more mysteries.


A final note. Although I have read Heraldry of Fish: Notices of the Principal Families Bearing Fish in Their Arms by Thomas Moule, I am none the wiser.

[1] NOTE: “Benjamin” is a name that pops up with some frequency in our family tree.

[2] Irish Ancestor: 1979, Vol 1, p 15 : BENJAMIN PEMBERTON, bricklayer and mason, was of St Andrew's parish, Dublin,  in 1731 and of Carter's Alley, parish of St Mark's, Dublin, in the 1740s. He m. lastly  (Prerog. MLB 16 Aug. 1731, which calls him a "cementer") Deborah, dau. of William  Turner of Dublin, mason (Inventory Dublin Diocese 1741) by his wife Deborah (will  proved Dublin 1742). On 27 Sept. 1731, apparently as a post-nuptial settlement, William  Turner assigned a house in Carter's Alley, near Lazyhill, to his "son" Benjamin Pemberton. Deborah Pemberton was bur. at St Mark's 25 Feb. 1738, and Benjamin m. 2ndly  (Prerog. MLB 31 Jan. 1740-1).

[3] *NOTE: This part of Amy Lloyd's notes confuses me. The 2nd Viscount Lifford was actually named James Hewitt (1751-1830) and it is he who was the Dean of Armagh. His father, also James Hewitt (1709-1789) was the Lord Chancellor of Ireland. Of him, I have so far learned a little. On a page on Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin: http://www.chapters.eiretek.org/books/Wright/wright9.htm there is the following description: Lord Lifford's Monument. - Lord Lifford, High Chancellor of Ireland, expired in the month of April, 1789, at the age of 73, shortly after the violent debate in the Lords upon the regency question. Previously to his promotion to the Great Seal of Ireland, he had been one of the judges of the King's Bench in England, and was indebted to his sincerely attached friend, Lord Camden, for his promotion. He was generally considered an excellent lawyer, and an impartial judge, and his patience and good temper on the bench were exemplary. A plain marble tablet is laid on a slab of variegated marble, of pyramidal shape, on the summit of which are placed the arms of the family, with this suitable motto, "Be just, and fear not."



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