The Odlums of Offaly
Rev. D. L. Graham
The Odlum Name & Origins
In his Supplement to Irish Names Edward MacLysaght, late Chief Herald of Ireland, writes.
Odlum:The older form of this name, Adlum, has been recorded in comparatively recent times in Co. Offaly. This, as Adlem, later Adlam, is on record in England since the twelfth century: it is derived, according to Reany, from the old German Adelem (Noble protector).
As Odlum, it appears in Ireland in the seventeenth century: Thomas Odlum was one of twenty-nine soldiers disbanded from Ormond's own troop in 1662'. The family settled in King's County, now Co. Offaly. There are many Odlum wills listed from 1735, the testators up to 1800 being variously decried as farmer and gent and all of that county. Three Odlums are in the Earl of Charleville's King's County rental of 1763. Later they were found also in Co. Leix, but Griffith's Valuation of the 1850s and modern voters' lists confirm that they are definitely of Co. Offaly ever since they first came to Ireland. The name is very well known in the flour milling industry.
I doubt MacLysaght's derivation of the name for the following reasons.
1. Before the burning down of the Public Record office in 1922, the late T.U. Sadleir made an abstract of all Adlum and Oldum wills. Copies of those abstracts are now in The National Archives. He found 28 Odlum wills between 1707 and 1845 and only three wills, all in the 1820s, of a family called Adlum in Co. Longford. All the Odlums belong to the King's County family, and there is no connection between them and the Co. Longford Adlum family (who had a very different set of Christian names).
The Adlums seen to be a Roman Catholic family, while the Odlums were originally all Protestants, and 'strong' Protestants, as they say, at that; some of them were members of the Orange order, which had lodges in many places in the South of Ireland: a few favoured Methodism and some, by intermarriage, were Quakers.
The great majority, however, were firm members of the Church of Ireland. There are today, however, many Roman Catholic Odlums, particularly in the U.S.A and Australia. The Catholic records of Tullamore have many Odlum entries. These Catholic Odlums are due to:
Religious Conviction, of which only one certain case is known Intermarriage, and in these cases the Protestant Odlum was probably cut off by and from his family. Straightforward seduction (? or rape) of a Catholic peasant girl by a wealthy member of the Protestant Ascendancy.
3.The name Adlum and Odlum do get confused, particularly as some Oldums pronounced their name with a very open vowel sound, e.g. Ahdlum; some indeed with a very closed vowel e.g. Awdlum. In the Irish Telephone Directory there is one Adlum entry and 29 Odlum entries; of the 29, one Oldum, to the best of my knowledge, is of Adulm descent; he is Cornelius Odlum of Co. Cork. In the 1770-1772 British Army Lists a King's Co. Ensign Odlums appears as Adlam the second year but reverts to Odlum in the third year. This is probably due to Adlam being a not uncommon surname in England and Odlum an otherwise unknown one. In the general Registry Office, London, among the Births, Marriages and Deaths which are completely registered from 1837, the 400-500 Odlum entries down to 1980 are all of families originating in Ireland, and the very great majority are known of-shoots of the King's County Odlum family. Briefly, Odlum is not an English name, and Adlum is probably a corruption of the English Adlam.
For over a century, the Odlum family has believed that they originated with two or three brothers who received grants of land in the 1690s when they were disbanded from William 111's army. Deeds from the early seventeenth century show three brothers renting good farms from the Digby family, of Geashill Castle, and I suspect that these three are probably sons of the Thomas Odlum, disbanded in 1662. I assume that he got land in King's County, married and prospered; and whether or not his sons fought at the Boyne and got land as a reward, (as the family tradition is), at least they are well established tenant farmers, when we meet them in documents of eighteenth century.
The other firm family tradition is that they were originally Oldhams from Lancashire; a silver spoon, hall-marked Dublin 1750' with the Oldham crest, an owl (a pun on the Lancashire pronunciation 'Ouldham') has long been in the family possession- but that proves nothing, as it could have bought any time between 1750-and, say, and 1850. On the other hand, the confusion in the original document of Thomas's disbandment between Odlum and Oldum (A spelling of Oldham found in Lancashire Parish Records), leads me to think that Thomas Oldham/Oldhum found himself, by a slip of somebody's pen, called Odlum and that having to accept a tenancy and to live in Ireland kept the name Odlum because it was more Irish in sound than the obviously English Oldham; an Englishman working Irish land was not popular. Perhaps, too, his original grant or tenancy was made out in the name of Odlum, and it would have been risky to query the name.
What is certain is that 1662 is the date of the first occurrence of the name Odlum. The name, either for a place or for a family, has not been found in any other European country; search has been made in Holland and the Scandinavian countries.
1: In one place the name is spelt Oldum, presumably a mistranscription.
2: Records in the Friends Library in Eustace St., Dublin; of Burials in Friends cemeteries at Tinneal, Rosenallis and at Ballymurray, Roscommon. See also the first page of chapter 8 of Never No More by Maura Laverty; London, 1942.
3: I suspect that, in the Penal Days and later, (18th and early 19th century) there was a considerable amount of this. Compare, with due allowances for different circumstances, the relation in the Southern States of America between owners of plantations and their slaves. (b) & (C) above mainly account for a very large number of the Irish Catholic families with obviously un-Irish names.
Date of Arrival in Offaly of the Odlums
The N. Ireland P.R.O. holds an Exchequer Bill of 1735, which concerns a dispute over a lease taken by a Digby Odlum, a son of Richard Ballyduff, in 1708 of the farm of Pallas and Lahardan, some 200 acres, near Marybrough, Queen's County (Laois). This Digby died intestate, 16th August 1719, leaving six children, all minors. The youngest was still a minor in 1735, although the three girls were all married. In order to take out the lease, he must have been at least 21 in 1708 (Probably setting up on his own on order to be married).
Thomas Odlum, 1662
We assume, without any proof, that Thomas Odlum of 1662 is father of the three brothers. As a trooper under Ormonde, the Lord Lieutenant, Thomas is likely to have been an Englishman and one of twenty-nine soldiers disbanded from Ormond's own troop. The fact that he chose to stay in Ireland leads us to think that he had married an Irish wife. The only information I can find, is a copy of a letter written to Mrs. W.H. Odlum of Ardmore, from Ambala, India by Lt. Col. W.H. Odlum, I.M.S. (1871-1920), dated 31 August 1913.
John Odlum of Ballyduff (1871-1954) told me that the Odlums all hailed from Kildare and I believe that there was originally only one family. This man, my father told me, came over with Cromwell and married an Irish girl named Waller .. The Odlums, I am sorry to say, were a very clever family, but as a rule got to fond of the bottle and lost all energy and ambition.
Comment: The Ballyduff branch was indeed the nearest to Co. Kildare and the original Richard did marry, as her second husband and his second wife, a Mrs. Sale of Coolcor, Co. Kildare, but we just do not know where Thomas Odlum settled after 1662; he seems to have been an ordinary trooper, not an officer, and is unlikely to have married into aristocratic Waller family who did indeed come to Ireland in the early 17th century. Came over with Cromwell man, if he was in Ormonde's Troop. Doughtless some Odlums tippled freely, but most did not, and as I survey the Odlums of the last three centuries, I see a good genetic heritage of intellect. Very clever is a fair description.
His three sons are first as tenants of Lord Digby at Geashill, King's County, where they rented considerable farms from 1690 onwards.
The eldest of these brothers probably was Richard of Ballyduff because, as his son Thomas was born in 1674 (T.G.), he himself, therefore, would be born circa 1653; his will is dated and proved 1707.
Henry was born in 1661 (T.G) this tombstone was not visible in 1978 but had been recorded in Irish Memorials for the Dead (vol.12, p.265).
Edward dated his will 3rd November 1733 and it was proved 5th June 1735. I have dated his death as 1734. He left a young family, his eldest son and heir being only 11, so that I consider him to be the youngest of the three.
As well as the evidence in the wills, various deeds of 1772, 1727, 1728 and 1765 show the existence of the three sons. In these documents, the Odlums are already in possession of farms leased from the Digby family, and are renewing leases. In a letter within two years of his death, from Richard Odlum, the son who succeeded Henry above as tenant of Ballymooney, Lord Digby in London is told.
I have settled my eldest son in Ballaghmooney, where my father and I have lived ever since ye wars of Ireland.
In addition to these brothers born in the 1650s and 1660s, there is an entry in the Parish Register of Geashall, (PR,G) of the burial on 8th July 1713 of "Alice Goodwin alias Odlum" (i.e. nee Odlum). This Alice I assume to be a sister to the three, but she could well be a daughter of any of them.
The Three Odlum Brothers of Geashall
Richard of Ballyduff, (circa1650-1707)
Ard: now the only Odlum house still inhabited by a descendant Ballyteague; site of Odlum's Bridge over the Grand Canal
Richard's descendants founded families in:
I: Richard (circa 1650-1707), Ballyduff, Geashill had a son:
II: Digby (1675-1719). Pallas, Maryborough had a son:
III: John (circa 1705-1766), Derrinturn, Co. Kildare, married twice.
IV: (1) A: John of Harristown and Grange, Queen's County, married in 1756 Elizabeth (died 1807) of Ballycoolad, Queen County. B: Frances Ann, married in 1758 Joshua Goodboby (died 1762), Summer Grove (2)married Elizabeth........2 sons and 5 daughters
The younger son of John and Elizabeth, Humphery (1768-1830) of Kilcock House, Rathdowney, farmed 156 acres and owned a malting business and is described in the 1821 Census as "Gentleman Farmer" with his wife, 8 children and 5 servants, In 1815 came a disaster to farming when prices collapsed after the war with Napoleon, ended at Waterloo. Humphrey's family disintegrated after his death.
Three of the children went to Lancashire (England) where one was a policeman, one a painter and one a cotton worker. Families of Odlums descended from these still exist in Liverpool, Warrington and Preston.
The children of another son emigrated to the U.S.A. where there was of a family of their descendents in 1930 in San Francisco. A fifth son became a shopkeeper / farmer in Mountmellick, County Laois, and the grand-daughter of the last of the three Odlums' died three or four years ago in Dublin.
V: Samuel (1756- .) of Grange, married Lettitia (1761-1828) and had seven children: Arthur (1793-1793), John (died 1803), Elizabeth (born 1801), Thomas (born 1803-circa 1805), John (born 1804) and Thomas (born 1806).
Samuel was a prosperous farmer as were the generations before him. His youngest son, Thomas, was 17 when he joined the 31st Foot on 10th December 1824. In 1846 after 21 years of service he was discharged from the army for medical reasons. In1846-47, during the first Maori war in New Zealand the Governor, Sir George Grey, enrolled the Royal New Zealand Fencibles (or Pensioners) in Great Britain from British soldiers and sailors chosen on the basis of good conduct and physical fitness. They were settled around Auckland. The first Detachment of New Zealand Enrolled Pensioners in the ship Ramillies under Captain Keey, Staff Officer, embarked on 14th April 1847 and landed on 5th August. No. 40 was Thomas Odlum, late of 31st Foot @ 1/= per diem, no family. six and a half weeks later Thomas married Elizabeth Grace Piper at the Wesleyan Native Institute on 20th Setpember 1847.
A listing in Freeholders of New Zealand, 1882 showed some of the descendants of Thomas Odlum and Elizabeth Grace Piper:
John Jesse, settler in Auckland, acreage worth £2000
Margaret, Waitemata, 40 acres £20.
By 1854 Thomas was a gardener & freeholder in Ponsonby and later Auckland (1862).
In 1859 when drunk he burned down his own house and was jailed for one-year arson. He died in Colonial Hospital, Auckland, of liver failure on January 26 1863 aged 56, and was buried in Symonds St. Cemetry on 26th January 1863.
Henry of Ballymooney (1661-1728)
Henry's descendants had Odlum families in:
Edward of Cappincur, ( ..-1733)
His descendants lived in:
Edward's descendants founded families in:
The Odlums prospered and had large families; in fact, the recent rector of Geashall, Canon D.R.C. Hillard, said in mid 1970s it used to be said that one couldn't spit in the Geashall parish without hitting an Odlum, and now there is only one Odlum left. He too has gone since then.
There was a certain amount of intermarriage between cousins, (second, third or fourth) and the Odlums on the whole were fairly clannish.
1. The will of Humphrey Odlum of Kilcock House is in the Public Record Office.
2. From a publication of the Armorial and Genealogical Institue of New Zealand.
3. In 1929 Mr. William Odlum of Ardmore, Bray, Co. Wicklow got in touch with Mr. Arthur Allen Odlum of 40 Gripps St. Balmain, N.S.W. Austraila and received a letter in December that year which states:
How Denmark came into it is inexplicable Arthur Allen Odlum then gave the above family tree of the descendants of Thomas Odlum and Elizabeth Grace Piper.
The Odlum Arms
Mr. W. H. Odlum (1862-1934), of Ardmore, Bray, Co. Wicklow, Ireland, in 1913 wanted to ratify the Arms and Crest which had been used by Irish Odlums since the mid-eighteenth century.
In 1929 he received a grant of Arms from Sir Neville Wilkinson, K.C.V.O., the Ulster Kings of Arms and Principal Herald of all Ireland, for his descendants to bear and also for the descendants to bear and also for the descendants of his grandfather, William Odlum of Cloneygowen, in the King's County, Esquire.
The description of the Arms is:
The owl is familiar to many in the advertisements for the products of Odlum Mills Ltd.
Source Irish Family History Vol.5, 1989
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