New Zealander strikes gold on family search

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A New Zealander has struck gold on a trip to Lurgan to trace his ancestors.

On Friday Andy Jarden made an emotional discovery in the cemetery at High Street Presbyterian Church and he was back at the church on Sunday where he had another chance encounter.

Andy Jarden at the grave of what is very likely to be one of his ancestors.

Andy Jarden at the grave of what is very likely to be one of his ancestors.

He explained to the ‘MAIL’ what brought him to Lurgan, and in particular, the Presbyterian church in High Street.

Andy said: “An uncle of mine came here five years ago and wrote a book about our family’s history.

“He found that Jarden may have come from Jordean or Jardine and the difference in spelling may have been down to high illiteracy rates in County Armagh in the 1800s.

“The reason I’m here at High Street Presbyterian Church is because five generations ago my great, great grandfather Alexander Jardine and my great, great grandmother Catherine Matthews got married here on November 19, 1858.”

With ‘MAIL’ reporter Graeme Cousins in tow Andy entered the cemetery at the back of High Street Presbyterian Church in the hope of finding the final resting place of some of his forebearers.

He didn’t hold out much hope having drawn a blank in several other cemeteries.

Having found two graves for members of the Matthews family which he believed could have been from his great, great, grandmother’s side of the family, Andy was taken further aback when he discovered a gravestone bearing the names Samuel Jarden and Ann Jane Jarden.

“It’s very emotional standing here,” he said. “I didn’t expect to see my surname on a gravestone.”

Check out the Lurgan Mail website for a video feature on Andy’s visit including the moment Andy discovered the family plot.

The New Zealander, who is the regional manager of six newspapers in the Wanganui region, returned to the same church on Sunday for the morning service.

He said: “I was made to feel very welcome by Rev Henry and the parishioners. Church historians dug through their records for me and established that as well as Samuel Jarden, several of my other ancestors lie buried in the old cemetery behind the church

“The Jarden family plot measures some 20 feet by eight feet. Other ancestors that could be established include Ann Jane Jarden, Samuel Jarden, Alexander Jarden/Jordean, Ann Hall died, James Livingston Jarden, James Levingston/Livingston and Elizabeth Levingston/Livingston.

“Another family plot for the Matthews family also contained several of my ancestors William Matthews, George Matthews, Ellenore Morrow. Most of these ancestors lived in and around Lurgan, Taghnevan and Tullygally during the 1800s.”

Another local link to New Zealand is Ballance House in Glenavy where New Zealand’s first Liberal prime minister John Ballance grew up.

Andy, who has three daughters living in the UK, Australia and Canada, said: “A remarkable coincidence was meeting Rebecca Spence at the church service - her grandmother was a Ballance and her great grandfather and John Ballance were brothers, both born in what is now known as Ballance House In Glenavy.

“I had just visited Ballance House the day before to pay my respects to a remarkable man who emigrated to my current home town of Wanganui and went on to become one of the most accomplished premiers in New Zealand’s history.”

Although Andy has returned to New Zealand he would love to continue his research with the help of ‘MAIL’ readers.

He can be contacted by email on or by phone on +64 21 463623.