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  • Familia1992article
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Sources for the History of Belfast in the Seventeenth and Early Eighteenth Centuries

by Familia Ulster Genealogical Review: No. 08, 1992


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by Jean Agnew

"This article is about sources for the history of Belfast and its inhabitants from the middle of the seventeenth century: how I am using them for my research into Belfast merchants and how you can use them if your ancestors came from Belfast.

Belfast in the seventeenth century was a very small place covering only a quarter of a square mile including the castle gardens. The original settlement was on a spit of land, a sandbank between the Farset and the Owynvarra, two small rivers which ran into the Lagan.

The more northerly of these two rivers, the Farset, ran open down the middle of High Street and the town dock was where it joined the Lagan.

Because Belfast was the lowest point at which the Lagan could be forded there was probably some kind of settlement here from almost pre-historic times, and the castle was originally built during the period of Anglo­ Norman occupation; nevertheless when the town was planned and laid out at the beginning of the seventeenth century, it was more or less on what we would call a 'green field site' ."