According to family tradition, Thomas Torrens was a Swedish officer who had served in the Army of William III. After resigning his commission, he settled, about 1690, in Dungiven, a small town in Londonderry, about fourteen miles from Aghadowey.
The earliest mention of a name similar to Thomas Torrens, in the town of Dungiven, in Londonderry County, is that of Thomas Terrence, in an Exchequer Bill dated 20 July, 1717. In it, William Faith is the plaintiff, and the defendants are Edward Carry, Thomas McCastian, Jeffrey Fanning, Thomas Terrence, William Keever, et al.
Plaintiff-Wm. Faith, of Dungiven Co., Londonderry, admor of the goods of his father, Thomas Faith, deceased, sheweth:
The matter concerned leases of land in Dungiven. Thomas Terrence was in possession of certain papers, held by him, in trust, for the plaintiff. No answer.
It appears that the spelling of the name as Terrence, in this section, at about this time, was quite common, as will be noted in the following Bills:
"Exchequer Bill-16 December, 1725, Elinor Terrence, widow of William Terrence, late of Connor, who died 1709, vs. John Boyde."
"Exchequer Bill-26 October, 1725, Alexander Terrence, Plt. vs. Thomas Holland & John Forrest, Dfts."
"Exchequer Bill-Derry Co., in Vol. L. 1704-1706, page 101-
Wm. Taggert vs. Hugh Terence and others, concerning collecting arrearages of pay, due the defendants for services in the army."
"Exchequer Bill-12 November, 1719, Archibald and John Terence."
"Diocese of Derry, Wills-Alexander Terrence, Carnroe 1717."
The change of the spelling of the name to Torrens was clearly due to a branch of the family whose members, through rising to positions of influence in the Church, which was at that time supported by the State, acted in an official capacity in the administration of the law. The arms 170 of the family, a martlet between two laurel branches, indicate a different descent.
It probably depends upon tradition." Note 170-1
Since both branches of the family have the same "two laurel branches", in their arms, it is more than probable that they had the same origin; that is, Scotland. Notwithstanding this, Thomas may have gone to Sweden, and returned later to Ireland, as claimed.
Because of this probable common ancestry, it seems appropriate to include an outline of the descendants of this Dungiven line, with the history of the other Torrence-Torrance-Torrens families.
The main facts in the following account were prepared in London, and closely follow an independent account prepared in Ireland. To these two accounts have been added wills, court documents, and dates of marriages, found in Ireland by Mr. J. W. Kernohan.
v. (Daughter) Torrens2 married Samuel Boyle, of Drumcovett, or Drumcummitt, County Londonderry.
An interesting reference in this connection is the following:
Registry of Deeds 186-561-126697-
Registered 17 December, 1757, by John Torrens.
Memorial of Assignment, dated 28 October, 1757, whereby Henry McFarland, of parish of Banagher, County Londonderry, for consons (sic) mentioned, assigned his title to the lands of Laughtilube (held by lease under the late Henry Cary, Esq., of Dungiven), to the Reverend Mr. John Torrens of the City of L 'Derry, said lands situate in Co. L 'Derry. 171
Witness: David Ross, of City of Londonderry, Merchant, George Ash of Ashbrooks, in liberties of city of Derry, Esq., and Thomas Boyle of Drumcummit, Co. L 'Derry, gent.
Memorial witnessed by David Ross, and One as Murrey of city of Derry, gent.
David Ross swears as to witnessing, in city of L'Derry, on 1 November, 1757, before Henry Darcus, Master Extraordinary in presence of Alexander Knox, & M. Gamble, J.P.'s.
396-403-261868 Registered by Henry Boyle on 12 April, 1788.
Release dated 16 November, 1786, between Richard Hunter of the city of Derry, Esq., of the 1st part: Nathaniel Hunter of sd City, Esq., son of sd R. Hunter of the 2nd part; Henry Boyle of Drumrevit, Co. Derry, Esq. and Jane Boyle, his wife, of the third part; Margaret Boyle, spinster, only daughter of sd Henry and Jane Boyle of the 4th part; and Rt. Rev. Thomas Torrens of Ballynascreen, Co. Derry, D.D., and Nathaniel Alexander, of Boomhall, Co. Derry, Clke., of the 5th part:
Concerning a marriage between Nathaniel Hunter & Margaret Boyle: Richard Hunter, in order to provide for his son and sd Margaret Boyle & their issue, did vest in the hands of Thomas Torrens and Nathaniel Alexander the sum of £1500. And Henry Boyle, as a marriage portion with his daughter, conveyed to Thomas Torrens & N. Alexander, the lands of Derry Lane, Barony Keenaught, Co. Derry, in order to raise thereout the sum of #163;1000, to hold upon trusts therein mentioned.
The release & memorial witnessed by Wm. Stevenson of Knockane & Michael Ross, of Beaufort, both in Co. Derry.
M. Ross swears as to the witnessing at Derry, 23 January, 1788, before Peter McDonagh in presence of Thomas Bond & Thomas Fanning, J.P.'s.
As late as 17 July, 1800, these families appear to be living in the same places, and their names associated in recorded deeds.
"Lease & release: Paul Torrens of Ballynascreen, Co. Derry, leased to Wm. Hunter et al., land in aforesaid county. Witnessed by Samuel Martin, of Culmore, attorney-at-law, & John Martin, of Carrymuddle, Co. Derry." S. Martin witnessed at Dublin, 17 July, 1800." Samuel Martin was a son of Judge Martin, Baron of Exchequer. 172
i. The Reverend Dr. Thomas Torrens3 born 1738; died 24 March, 1797, was rector of Ballynascreen and Bragerfelt. His wife was Anne Torrens daughter of the Reverend John Torrens and the widow of Andrew Blackball. An extract from his will, taken from Derry Will Book, 1796-99: "To my wife Anne Torrens all my property real & personal whatsoever for her sole use. Appt. my sd. wife Anne, her nephew John Torrens, & the Reverend Averall Daniell, exors
In witness whereof, 24 September, 1794.
Witnesses: Alexr. Miller. Thos. Torrens. Margt. Forlis.
John Mallin. (Probate not in Will Book)."
1. Anne Torrens4 born in 1788; died 31 May, 1832; married her cousin Robert Torrens, Judge of the Court of Common Pleas.
ii. William Torrens3 married Constantine Rush, 1753.
(Thomas1), born 14 May, 1708; became head-master of Derry Diocesan School in 1734-1735; Prebendary of Derry in 1747; Rector of Ballynascreen in 1722; Vicar-General of the Diocese; married twice. He married, first, in July, 1733, Anne, a daughter of the Reverend Roger Blackhall, headmaster of Derry Diocesan School, 1702-1734, by whom he had issue, order of birth uncertain. He married, second, Elizabeth Fisher, on July 21, 1752. No issue.
(Thomas1), of Hervey Hill, Londonderry, was Usher of Derry Diocesan School in 1746. His will was dated 1790.
Reverend John Torrens, clerk, appointed schoolmaster of Diocesan School of Derry, vacant by the resignation of Roger Blackhall, clerk, the disposal thereof being vested in the Crown pursuant to a Statute 120- bliz: Dated Dublin Castle, 9 August, 1734. Note 174-1
Inventory of the goods of the Reverend Dr. Torrens, deceased, as came to the knowledge of Reverend John Torrens, his admor:
Lease under Corporation of Derry, £1600.
Lease under Sir William Rowley, Bart., £500.
Arrears of his living, £1000.
Stock and effects sold by auction, £433.
Ditto retained by Mrs. Torrens, £50.
Cash in bank £700.
Policy payable in October, 1797, £1000.
Certificate on Ballynascreen Glebe house, £1620.
Bonds and mortgages £2000.
Fixtures in Ballyrascreen house, £50.
Certificates on Marafelt Glebe, house, £392.
Crop on farm, £150.
Lease under Dean Blocker, £60.
Crop, ditto, £40.
Hay £30. Debts due him, £50.
Remaining stock, £30.
Signed, John Torrens, Exor, 1 July, 1797.
The Reverend Robert Torrens married twice. He married first, Margaret Knox, on 4 November, 1749. He married, second, Sarah, surname unknown. The names of his children by his second marriage, are mentioned in the will of the Reverend Thomas Torrens, his son by his first marriage, and serve to explain the relationships of his half brothers.
Child of the Reverend Robert and Margaret (Knox) Torrens:
i. The Reverend Thomas Torrens3 of Rowleybrook and Palebrook, married, in 1782, Jane Maxwell daughter of Robert Maxwell, and left a will dated 1 March, 1786. Issue, one:
1. Margaret Torrens4 who was under age when her father died.
His will: "My house & farm, of Rowleybrook & all my stock, crop, and household furniture to be sold to pay my debts & surplus (if any) equally divided between my brothers, George, John, Andrew & Robert, & my sister Martha. Whereas my daughter Margaret is entitled to £1200, part of the fortune of my late wife, which is at present secured on the lands of John, George, Robert & Arthur Maxwell, deceased, I desire, in case Sd John, George, Robert, & Arthur shall insist to have 174 sd £1200 called in & paid to the trustee of my Margaret & paid to her when she be 20 or married, & shd she die, then, same as follows: £600 equally betw. the children of my sister-in-law, Letitia Torrens, alias Maxwell. (Armagh Marriage Licenses show Andrew Torrens married Letitia Maxwell) L200 to Ann Maxwell, dau. of my brother-in-law John Maxwell. Failing her, to sd John Maxwell's son Robert, and the remaining £400 equally between my brothers George, John Robert & my sister Martha. My gun, which I got from Mr. Whaley, to my brother John Torrens. My watch to my brother Andrew Torrens. Appoint my brothers John & Andrew Torrens exors. & guardians to my daughter Margaret. In witness whereof 1 March, 1786,
Children of the Reverend Robert and Sarah Torrens, five:
(John2 Thomas1), of Londonderry, born or baptized August 1, 1741; will dated 1780; married, 12 February, 1765, Elizabeth, daughter of Samuel Curry and his wife Rhoda Harvey, who died in 1749, a daughter of John Harvey, of Malin Hall.
(Robert3 Henry2 Thomas1), born 1780; died in 1839; served in the Queen's Foot, in 1831; was Adjutant-General in the East Indies; Quartermaster-General at Madras; and fought at Waterloo; married in 1823, Marie Marley, daughter of William Marley.
(Thomas3 John2 Thomas1), born 1776; died 1856; was 2nd Justice of H. M. Court of Common Pleas; 176 married Anne, daughter of the Reverend Thomas Torrens, D.D., who died at Derryroid, Londonderry, in June, 1832. Note 177-1
(Thomas3 John2 Thomas1), Major-General; Adjutant-General of the Forces; Colonel of the 3rd Foot Guards; Military Secretary to the Duke of York; was born in 1779, at Derry, and brought up by the Reverend Dr. Thomas Torrens, husband of his father's sister. He commanded the Surrey Rangers in Nova Scotia for a year; served in India in 1802; was taken ill at Bombay and stopped off at St. Helena, where, in 1803, he met and married Sara Patton, daughter of Colonel Robert Patton, Governor General, born 1781; died 1863.
ii. Sir Arthur Wellsley Torrens5 1809-1855; became a Brigadier-General; died of wounds at Inkerman. A monument is erected to the memory of Sir Arthur Wellsley Torrens, at St. Paul's Cathedral. He married Maria Jane Murray, daughter of General John Murray.
iii. Mary Jane Torrens5 born 1811; died 1886; married in 1831, Sir Ralph A. Anstruther, of Balcaskie, 4th Bart.
iv. Anna Torrens5 married J. Somerville, Captain Scots' Greys.
(Robert3 Robert2 Thomas1), the Political Economist; served in the army; became Colonel in 1837; went to South Australia, where Lake Torrens and Torrens River are named in his honor. Adelaide is situated on its banks. He was a writer, editor, and economist. He married, but the name of his wife is not known to the compiler. l77
i. Sir Robert Richard Torrens5 born at Cork, in 1814, and died August 31, 1884; was the first Premier of South Australia; the author of "The Torrens Act", which became a law in South Australia, and is used in many cities today. He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin; became Colonial Treasurer; Register General; member of Parliament; and resided in Hannaford, Asbburton, Devonshire. He married Barbara Park, daughter of Alexander Park, of Selkirk, writer to the signet. She was the widow of George Ansor, and a niece of Mungo Park, the explorer.
(Henry4 Thomas3 John2 Thomas1), was born in 1806, and died in 1853. He married twice. His first wife was Elizabeth Roberts, third daughter of Walter Roberts, Bart., County Cork, Ireland. Her death occurred in 1834 or 1835. He married, second, Louisa Law, fourth daughter of Mathew Law.