• Clan Joyce of Ulster

Introduction to the Joyces of Ballynahinch, County Down

Updated: Jul 20

Since the original registration of Clan Joyce of Ulster (CJU) with the Clans of Ireland, much progress has been made researching the various Ulster-Scot Joyce branches. Hailing from their heartland in County Armagh and County Down, the descendants of these septs now live over the world. From Canada, Northern Ireland, United States, and New Zealand, they all consider Ireland their ancestral homeland. For the Joyces of Ballynahinch, County Down, like the other septs within CJU have ancient origins to the Joass (Joss, Joise) family of Aberdeenshire, Scotland. But what are the origins of the Joyces of Ballynahinch? And how is this history tied to the history of the Plantation of Ulster?

For Thomas Joass (b 1683) of Banff, Scotland, the founder of the Joyces of Ballynahinch, County Down, he immigrated to Ireland during a time of hardship. When he married Mary Blaikley on 27 May, 1702 in Ireland, he had recently left behind an economically weakened and famine-stricken Scotland. With the country almost brought into bankruptcy after the failed scheme to colonize the Isthmus of Panama, they were little prospects left for Thomas. This was worsened by the severe and commonplace famines that occurred during the “Seven Ill Years.” Not even the wealth acquired by his father, Laird William Joass, could convince him to stay.

Ballynahinch, County Down

Market Sqaure

The site where the family of Thomas Joass (b. 1683) attended Market

Through his marriage to Mary Blaikley he helped raise a total of seven children, including Elizbeth Joyce Calliham (1721-1800), George Joyce (b. 1721), Alexander Joyce (1720-1778), and Thomas Joyce (1722-1780). All of which have surviving descendants around the world. However, despite a new start in Ballynahinch, Thomas Joass eventually became subject to religious and political restrictions. As a Presbyterian he was considered a religious dissenter by the Established Church of England, and seen by the government in a less-than-complementary light. And around the year 1741 when the “year of the slaughter “brought Ulster into a series of consequential famines, his children were forced to emigrate. While Elizabeth Joyce, Alexander Joyce, and Thomas Joyce departed for colonial Virginia, George Joyce stayed beyond in Ulster. Outlasting the crippling hungry, dropping temperatures, and raising unemployment, his son Samuel Joyce (b. 1750) settled in Ballydugan, County Armagh.

To this end, the migrations of the children of Thomas Joass was only the beginning. Emigrating to Canterbury, New Zealand during the mid-to-late nineteenth century, the descendants of George Joyce (b. 1721) helped establish this young Island nation. Meanwhile in the United States, there are hundreds of Joyces who claim descent from Alexander Joyce (1720-1778), Elizabeth Joyce Calliham (1721-1800), and Thomas Joyce (1722-1780). Without their involvement there would be no “Joyce Country” in Rockingham and Stokes Counties, North Carolina. One could even say if not for the courage of these Joyce ancestors to emigrate to a strange, new world the future of this sept would have turned out completely different.

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