John Diffley1

M, b. circa 1785, d. 16 October 1854
ChartsDescendants of John Diffley (Compact)
Descendants of John Diffley (Box style)
     The Tithe Applotment Book for Mohill Parish shows just two Diffley holdings in Clooncarne townland; they were held by John Diffley and John Diffley junior. Senior held 6 Acres, 3 Roods and 29 Perches; Junior held 11 Acres, 2 Roods and 6 Perches. Both are in Irish Measures.
From the designations given to the two names it is tempting to assume these are father and son. And some support for this conjecture can be found from the Valuation Office map of around 1870 which shows that the majority of the Diffley holdings are clustered in what is known as the Gurteen part of Clooncarne. Certainly it is tempting to suggest that John Senior from the Tithe Applotment record was the original Diffley, and that all of the later Diffleys found in Clooncarne are his descendants. But the evidence is strong that this is not the case.
Starting from personal knowledge, supplemented by research among church and civil records, we know that the author's grandmother Mary Diffley was the daughter of James Diffley. We know that James was the son of Peter Diffley. Family 'knowledge' has it that the Reynolds of Drumhirk are related to this line of the Diffley family. In 1839 a Mary Diffley married Reynolds of Drumhirk in Bornacoola Church. This Mary would have been a contemporary of Peter. If the supposed relationship between these families is true, Mary and Peter must be siblings. When Peter Diffley died in 1884, the informant of his death was his nephew William. Fortunately, there were few William Diffleys around, and the only one that matches appears to be the son of Thomas Diffley.
A headstone inscription in Cloonmorris Cemetery names John Diffley, who died in 1854, as the father of Thomas Diffley. If Thomas Diffley was the brother of Peter and Mary, then it follows that their father was named John.
We know too that Peter was born around 1818, Thomas around 1829 and Mary around 1832. It follows therefore that their father John must have been born before 1800. As such, and assuming of course that he did occupy land in Clooncarne around 1833 when the Tithe Applotment Book was compiled, then it seems as if he must be one of the two Johns listed.
Unfortunately, while the lands of Clooncarne were owned by Lord Leitrim, they were rented by him to Pierce Simpson and sublet by Simpson. No rental or other records from Simpson's period as 'landlord' of the townland appear to exist. Lord Leitrim's estate records show only Simpson as the tenant of the townland throughout the years up to 1853, when direct management of the townland was assumed by Leitrim's estate.
In 1853, the estate records show that there were four Diffley holdings in the townland. These were in the names of John Diffley Junior, Pat Diffley, John Diffley Senior and Peter Diffley. Unfortunately no measurements are given (MS3803).
This is rectified in the next set of records, dating from 1854 (MS3803) which gives the sizes of all of these holdings in Irish Measurements. But John Junior's holding, of 12 Acres, 2 Roods and 25 Perches is shown as in the name of Reps of John Diffley Junior. Patrick Diffley is shown as holding 4 Acres 2 Roods and 19 Perches. The representatives of John Diffley Senior hold 8 Acres, 3 Roods and 11 Perches. Peter Diffley holds 10 Acres 2 and 2 Roods. Two more names appear in this year: Thomas Diffley with 6 Acres and 14 Perches and Michael Diffley with 9 Acres and 32 Perches.
In 1855 the picture becomes clearer through the records noted in MS5794. Here we see that the holding of John Diffley Junior, though still in his name, is occupied by his son Thomas. And the holding of John Diffley Senior is occupied by his son John. We have already shown that Thomas and Peter Diffley were brothers. Peter, the older of the two, had married Mary Murray sometime in the 1840s; Thomas married Mary McGarry in 1857. It makes sense that Peter, well married by 1853, would occupy his own farm, and that Thomas, as the younger brother remaining at home, would take over his father's holding. Their father, John, has already been shown as having died in 1854.

The other John had also died by this year, and his holding had gone to his son, also John. Here is where the next records throw matters into confusion.

Griffith's Valuation shows a John Diffley as holder of over 30 Statute Acres. When the first Revision Book of the Valuation Office was compiled in 1860, this had been corrected to show a holding of just over 21 acres, and, more importantly, all in the possession of Thomas Diffley.
Griffith's names the other John Diffley holder in Cloooncarne as John Diffley junior, and shows his holding as over 14 Acres. When we trace this holding on the Valuation Office records, we can see that it remained in the name of John Diffley junior until 1906, when it passed to his widow, Margaret (née Mitchell). John died in 1903 at a stated age of 83, implying a birth year of about 1820.
The evidence of the estate records is that he took over his father, John Senior's plot, around 1855 and it is he who appears on Griffith as John Diffley junior.
Thus the John Diffley shown on Griffith can be stated to be the father of Thomas, Peter and Mary, and to have been born before 1800. The John Junior on Griffith was born around 1820. From the estate records we know that his father was also named John and by inference can state he too was born sometime before 1800.
But the Tithe records have shown us Johns senior and junior, and so too have the earliest land records. It seems the distinction must have been made on the basis of their ages, and does not imply a relationship between them - it would have been more correct to designate them as John the elder and John the younger.
Comparison of the land sizes on the Tithe records and those shown on the earliest estate record with land sizes indicates that John Junior (on the Tithe book) held the larger plot, and this is consistent with the comparative sizes of the two John Diffley holdings on the earliest estate record.
Therefore we conclude that there were two distinct Diffley lines in Clooncarne by the year 1831.
The first was that of John Diffley, designated on the Tithe Applotment Book and in Estate Records, as John Diffley Junior, then later on Griffith's Valuation as John Diffley. His lands passed onto his son Thomas.
The second was that of John Diffley, designated on the Tithe Applotment Book on in Estate Records as John Diffley Senior. By the time of Griffith's Valuation, he had died and his lands were noted on the Valuation as held by his son, John Diffley, designed as John Diffley junior.
If we go back to the notion of putting different designations on them, then John Diffley Senior on the Tithe was the older of the two. As no age is stated on the burial record of John Diffley Junior in 1854, we can only guess at when either man was born. John Junior fathered a daughter in 1832, so let's assume he was in or around 50 at the time and give a year of 1785 for his birth. So if John Senior was older, let us assign 1780 to him.
It is not known if both men were born in Clooncarne or simply moved into the townland before 1833. It seems likely they were related in some way, but to what extent we will probably never know.

Finally, we must deal with two other Diffleys: Patrick and Michael, who first appear on the estate records in 1854. Michael married Charlotte Anne Nutley in 1852 and, according to the estate records, migrated to the U.S.A. in 1859, and was followed by his wife and children. We have no indication of what relationship, if any, there existed between him and the other Diffleys. While we have found records of his family in Rhode Island, he appears to have died relatively young. We can guess he was born in the 1820s or early 1830s. It is tempting to say that this suggests he was a son of John the younger but there is simply no proof.

Patrick died in 1882 at a stated age of 82. If this is roughly correct, then he almost certainly was not a son of either John. He could have been a brother of one of them, but again there is no evidence to indicate which one.2
John Diffley was born circa 1785 at Co Leitrim, Ireland.2,3

John Diffley married Mary unknown before 1818? At Co Leitrim, Ireland.3 John Diffley was listed as a Freeholder in Clooncarreen in Co Leitrim in 1820. The person in question is named as John Diffley Junior, but it is believed that it refers to this John - partly for reasons outlined in our case for this man being the origin of the main Diffley line of interest to this research and partly because elsewhere we have evidence of him entering a long lease for his land.4 He appeared on the Tithe Applotment Books in 1833 at Clooncarreen, Mohill, Co Leitrim, Ireland. His holding consisted of 11 Acres, 2 Roods and 6 Perches (Irish Measure.)5 As of 1833, John Diffley was also known as John Diffly Junior This designation was given him on the Tithe Applotment Book entry for Clooncarne.5
John Diffley was replaced as the Land Holder from 1853 to 1855 at Clooncarreen, Mohill, Co Leitrim, Ireland, by Thomas Diffley. While we can say that John died in 1854, he remained listed as the holder of his plot in Clooncarreen until 1868, as far as the records of Lord Leitrim were concerned. However the estate records did note that John was deceased by 1854 and that by 1855 he had been replaced as occupier by his son Thomas.6
John Diffley died on 16 October 1854 at Clooncarreen, Mohill, Co Leitrim, Ireland. He was survived by his widow Mary unknown.7,3 John Diffley was buried after 16 October 1854 at Cloonmorris, Mohill, Co Leitrim, Ireland. The Inscription reads: O Lord have mercy on the soul of John Diffly of Clooncarn Who died on the 16th of October 1854 Aged 69 years
Also his wife Mary Who died on the 20th of December 1858? Aged 57 (?) years Requiescat etc
This is erected by their beloved son Thomas Diffly of Clooncarn.3
John Diffley was listed as a Land Holder on Griffith's Valuation in 1857 at Clooncarreen, Mohill, Co Leitrim, Ireland. John held three plots: 59 with a house, 60 and 61. Their sizes were 30-2-5, 3-0-25 and 1-2-13 (all in Acres, Roods and Perches, Irish measure) respectively.1
John Diffley was replaced as the Land Holder in 1860 at Clooncarreen, Mohill, Co Leitrim, Ireland, by Thomas Diffley. Plots 59 to 61 were redesignated as 14A, 14B and 14C respectively. Note that the change on the Valuation Office records was made later than it was on the estate records.8


Mary unknown b. b 1797, d. 20 Dec 1858


  1. [S10] Griffith's Primary Valuation of Ireland Townland of Clooncarreen, Co Leitrim.
  2. [S127] Estimation of Date.
  3. [S43] Tombstone Inscription Cloonmorris Cemetery,.
  4. [S477] Freeholders/Voters of Co Leitrim, Listing, 1820 National Library of Ireland.
  5. [S20] Tithe Applotment Books Townland of Clooncarn, Parish of Mohill, Co Leitrim.
  6. [S422] Lord Leitrim Estate Records, , MSS 3803, 3804, 5794.
  7. [S5] Tom Coughlan, various sources.
  8. [S21] Valuation Office Land Books Townland of Clooncarreen, Parish of Mohill.