The earliest reference to Mathias Meredith is in 1691, in the Wicklow Monthly Meeting Record Book of the Quakers. This records a Mathias Meredith and a Rice Meredith as witnesses to the Quaker marriage of John Manifold of Ballymony and Dorothy Hall on 26 Jun 1691.
The Rice Meredith who is mentioned could be either the Rice mentioned in the Arklow Hearth Money Rolls of 1669 and a father of Mathias, or he could be the Rice Meredith (c1660-1732) who is the earliest Rearymore ancestor. The latter possibility would fit with the reference in the will of Thomas, the son of Rice of Rearymore, having a cousin John; the son of Mathias was called John.
After 1691, there are the following references to Mathias and Rice Meredith in the records:
- 1696 Rice Meredith of Templerainey leased land at Ballymoney from Ralph Howard of Dublin
- 1697 Thomas Meredith of Garr sold a lease of lands that included Rearymore to Mathias Meredith
- 1713 Rice Meredith of Rearymore (and many others) were named in a deed of surrender to Charles Earl of Mountrath
- 1724 Thomas Meredith of Garr confirmed to Rice Meredith of Rearymore that he had relinquished all rights to Rearymore (acknowledged “out of brotherly love”)
- 1729 The will of Mathias Meredith of Templeraney was proved in the Consistory Court of Dublin
- 1732 Rice Meredith was buried in St. Brigid’s churchyard, Rosenallis
The interlinking of Mathias and Rice with land in Rearymore (Queen’s Co.) and Templerainey (Co. Wicklow) suggests that they were brothers. This is supported by the reference in the will of Rice’s son Thomas to a cousin John, most likely the John of Templerainey the son of Mathias. The Thomas Meredith of Garr might also have been a brother (although the mention of “brotherly love” in the 1724 Deed Poll may have been an expression of Quaker faith).
Some care is needed in interpreting the transactions noted in the above deeds, as the legal terms in 18th Century deeds had special meanings. For example the word “surrender” in the 1713 deed did not necessarily mean giving up the rights to a lease. The book by Brian Nugent has a good summary of the legal terms.
Further references to Mathias Meredith can be found in manuscripts of the Genealogical Office of Ireland. William Betham, the Ulster King of Arms, made genealogical notes from many of the prerogative and consistory wills of Ireland from 1536–1800, with sketches of pedigrees of the family relationships mentioned in them. This provides an invaluable resource, as most of the prerogative wills of Ireland were later destroyed in the fire at the Public Records Office in 1922.
One of the Betham sketches from ca. 1840 shows Mathias Meredith, whose will was proved in 1729, with wife Ruth and three sons: John with a wife Martha Jones, Edward who died without issue, and Matthias who died likewise without issue. A later sketch, shows Mathias Meredith with five daughters in addition to these three sons.
A pedigree has been in circulation from the mid-1850s asserting that Mathias was descended from John Meredith the brother of Richard Meredith, Bishop of Leighlin, and therefore had royal descent from the early kings of Wales. This claim found its way into several editions of Burke’s “General and Heraldic Dictionary of the Peerage and Baronetage of the British Empire”, and copies of the pedigree circulate privately to this day. The erroneous pedigree can be found in a manuscript of the Genealogical Office, and it errs further in mixing up the Rearymore and Sligo Meredith families.
This manuscript appears to have its origins in a letter that William Rice Meredith wrote to Sir William Betham, with the title “Instructions on behalf of the Descendants of the late Ralph Meredith for making out the pedigree of this family”. In the letter he states that it is the family tradition that they are descended from the Bishop’s line, but admits that “from the time of Mathias down to the present, the pedigree is sufficiently known, but antecedent to Mathias, it is involved in complete obscurity.” He conjectures that the descent is from John the brother of Bishop Richard, and appends a sketch showing the suggested lineage.
It appears that Betham then produced a pedigree to reflect the family tradition, showing a descent from John through his son John to an Edward Meredith of Bow Lane and thence to Mathias. However, none of the pedigree sketches that Betham had made directly from the wills of John the brother of the Bishop or other relations of the Bishop show any connection to Mathias. A manuscript from the Genealogical Office dating from the early 1900s concludes that “It is evident from the rough draft of the Pedigree in the Office that there is no proof whatsoever that John Meredith the executor of his father’s will in 1596 was even married or left issue …… The Pedigree appears to be correct from Mathias Meredith of Templeraney down, but there is no evidence that Mathias was the son of Edward Meredith of Bow Lane ”.2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11