A Toppin Family Story

Toppin is one of my family lines in Ireland. My Toppin family was located in Buffanagh (Buffana) Fethard Tipperary. They have been a bit of an anomaly for me. Not much information had been found on the family and most of what I had was family stories and information.

Aunt Girlie, aka Sarah Agnew Toppin, gathered a bit of information about the family. Her father left Buffanagh at the age of majority. He married in Kilkeel County Down and raised his family in Limerick. Aunt Girlie thought her Grandfather’s name might have been Mathew.

The Governor did not speak much about his family. The Governor was the family name for Sarah’s father Philip Rawlins Toppin. The fact that he did not speak about his family caused a bit of a red flag for me. Had something happened that Philip did not want to be reminded of his early life?

In preparation for a trip to Dublin in 2003 I was gathering up all the information already known about the family and started a cluster research project for my Toppin family. The first step was to gather all the birth, marriage and death records for the name Toppin, Tappen, Toppen, Topham, Topping and Tapping in the area surrounding the family home of Buffanagh.

I was ordering a lot of certificates from Ireland and this was getting expensive. To ease the expense I began ordering photocopies of the registrations from the Mormon Family History Centre in Salt Lake City. Only the earlier years of registration are available but any little bit helped.

One of the copies of the death registrations came back with three entries on one page. Mathew Toppin, William Toppin and Richard Toppin all died within a couple of weeks of each other in 1869. This was around the time that The Governor left Buffanagh. Could this have been the reason?

A closer look at the causes of death provided an even more incredible story. Mathew had died of respiratory problems and he was well on in years. William was but 20 and died of Tuberculosis. Richard was middle age and had been murdered. Yes, murdered!

Thankfully this information was found before leaving for Ireland so I was able to concentrate on finding out more about the murder while in Dublin. This was something that would have been extremely difficult to do from Canada. I also remembered that a long time ago on a mailing list someone had mentioned a murder and the Toppin family but no one knew any details.

My first stop was the National Archives of Ireland. When I first approached the Archivist about finding information he said the murder must have been about land. He said that most murders in Ireland had to do with land during that time period. There were no coroner’s records so the only other recourse was newspapers.

I had a date of death so that helped narrow down the search. The Irish Times and Cork Examiner were the two big papers for the area in that time period so the search began.

The National Library of Ireland has a great resource online called Newsplan. You can search for available newspapers by title, town or county. You can even include titles from the Newsplan project that are not held by the National Library of Ireland.

The search provided lists of publication dates and what was available on microfilm and hard copy. It also provided the different incarnations that the newspaper had during its publication.

So into the dark microfilm reading room at the National Library of Ireland I went. Several entries of the inquest were found. The description of the body was so detailed I could not read it all. It looked like the murder was a result of land. Three Fitzgerald cousins of the wife of Richard Toppin were arrested for the murder with the reason being a disagreement over a piece of land they felt should have gone to them.

New family information was also gleaned from these reports. The reports provided the names of his wife and children as well as the fact that his wife and children practiced the Catholic faith and Richard was Protestant. Information on other family and neighbours was also provided in the newspaper accounts. These accounts were published about a week or so after the murder.

In the end the three men arrested were not charged because there was not enough evidence to convict them. By the sounds of it the murder was never solved.

While searching for the coroners records at the National Archives of Ireland the Archivist mentioned another resource that really helped me with my Toppin research. It turns out they had copies on microfilm of the parish registers of the local Church of Ireland in Fethard. By searching these I was able to develop family groups and go back three more generations. The Governor’s father was John Philip Toppin. Mathew Toppin, who died at the same time as Richard, was his uncle. Richard Toppin and William Toppin were his cousins.

No one will ever know for sure but all these things happening at once as well as the possibility that The Governor did not want to be a farmer could have resulted in him leaving Fethard and not wanting to talk about his family.

©2010 – Blair Archival Research

21 thoughts on “A Toppin Family Story”

  1. Doreen Preston

    What a fascinating story-made even more so, as my great, great grandmother was Mary Fitzgerald from Buffana who married Thomas Mahony, also from Buffana in the 1830s. I presume that she was related to the Fitzgerald brothers in question! I am about to visit Killenaule in the near future so will see if I can find anything more on this.

  2. my grandmother was Mary Ellen Millett, who was born in Buffanagh, Co. Tipperary in 1885. her father was Matthew Richard Millett and his wife was Rebecca Toppin, (all Roman Catholic, including his mother-in-law Mary Toppin). i am wondering if Mary was the Fitzgerald wife of Richard Toppin, who may have been my great-grandmother’s father! at the time of the 1901 cenus, (which is online), Mary Toppin was 70. Could we, by chance, be related?

  3. Victoria Toppin

    Really interesting reading as I am struggling to find any Toppin relatives which were based in Kilrush. My husbands grandfather was called Thomas Toppin and his father was Nicholas Toppin. Nicholas was a Butcher and that is all I know. I’d really appreciate any information you ahve regarding this line of the Toppin Tree. Who knows we may even be related somehow?! Look forward to hearing from you. Thank you 🙂

    1. Hi,I’m not sure you’ll receive this Victoria,but we are Toppins from Melbourne, Australia. We have researched back to find we come from Samuel Toppin around 1823. I believe he was from County Antrim. I just found this by chance. Hope you reply cheers Glenn Toppin 18 Tulip St Violet Town Victoria 3669

  4. Carmel A. Millett

    Mary Scally – Have you seen Frank Millett’s web site? Mary Ellen Millett and Rebecca Toppin are both there, part of our family tree. (Mary Ellen is not the only one of that name in our family.) You may find it interesting.

  5. Pingback: · Ruth’s Recommendations



    1. Yes he was my Great Uncle and they also owned a laundry.The family home was called Wilmount. I didn’t know they had named an airfield after him thank you for that information.

    1. I think it is Alphie. I may have gotten the air field mixed up with the land where Wilmount used to stand. The field there may be called Toppin’s field.

  7. Our Great (x3) Grandfather – Samuel Toppin lived in County Down, Ireland in 1850. He emigrated to Australia, from Scotland with a new wife (Mary Hough Toppin) in 1856. There are a shed load of us in Australia…

    1. Dear Shane, Thank you for your comment on my Toppin Family Story blog post. I have found Toppin is most common in Tipperary and in the North. Co. Down and Antrim mostly. I think they may have been connected at one time but haven’t been able to make the connection yet. Good luck with your Toppin research.

    2. Hi Shane

      Do you know if Rev Canon Richard Toppin was related to your Charles Toppin?

      I am also in Oz. and have now the DNA proof of the connect, Like to hear if your Toppins and the above Toppins are related.

      Jan McGILL
      Jan McGill

  8. Just discovered this site

    Have you or any of the Toppin family had DNA tests done?

    I have to be honest and say that I believe that my Grandfather late 1800’s
    was born without a Father on his birth certificate was the child Richard and Elizabeth Toppin’s (nee Tandy) son, – in Waterford, Ireland.

    Jan McGill

  9. yvonne o callaghan stephen

    Tk u sooo much. I’ve written my childhood story 4 my kids + mentioned Mrs Toppins + her maid gtg off bus in Rathbane + I helped them wt their bags… beautiful lady. Look at Limerick History Gazette + Limerick City Citizens, Anthony Heaney + Padraig Mac Ambros on fb, they mention ur family, it’s how I got ur info above. God bls all. Rzthbane was a beautiful place in 1960’s…. ???

    1. What a lovely gift you have written for your family.

      Thank you for your interest in my Toppin family. It was wonderful hearing all the stories from everyone who knew them on the Limerick History Gazette on Facebook. They provided a picture of a family I didn’t know very well except through some family stories.

      I wrote a blog post about learning more about my Toppin family on Facebook.


      Ruth Blair

  10. Regarding the Toppin Family. I lived very close to Wilmont from 1941 to 1963. I knew the 4 members of the family, Arthur,Ernest, Girlie and Edith. They were Quakers [Society of Friends] and they passed my house every Sunday en route to the Meeting House.I was in the house[Wilmont] on one occasion. It came about because of my late father’s passion for gardening. Ernest was a keen gardener and as he cycled past our house he often stopped to speak with my father and admired his flowers. On one occasion he invited my father to send me to Wilmont on the following afternoon and he would give me plants which my father could sow in our garden.I wrote a short story about that visit and it was published a few years ago in an Irish Weekly Magazine called ‘Ireland’s Own’. It is too long to print here but if you supply an email address I will send it to you. My interest in the Toppin Family arose yesterday when I attended a talk on the upcoming centenary on October 9th next when the sinking of the Passenger Ferry just a few miles out of the port of Dun Laoghaire near Dublin City. The Ferry was struck by 3 German Torpedoes from a German U boat [Submarine]. There were over 500 souls lost and just over 200 saved. What really made me sit up was when the speaker listed a few of the survivors among them 2 persons a mother and daughter named Toppin.I wondered if they were related to the Toppin Family which I knew in Limerick all those years ago. The survivors were named as Mrs Louisa Toppin and her daughter Dorothy who later on marriage became Mrs Ward. There was no mention of Mr. Toppin.

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