US visitor finds his Inishowen
Carrowmenagh author helps
solve American puzzle
by Linda McGrory
AN American tourist has described the thrill of finding
the roots of his family tree in Inishowen thanks to a
book by local Carrowmenagh historian John A McLaughlin.
Dan McFeeley from Illinois, started researching his
Irish roots nearly three years ago but only knew that
his paternal great grandfather, Michael McFeeley, hailed
from Co Donegal.
He teamed up with his cousin Bernadette McCann Stone who
had lovingly preserved the family anecdotes she had
heard about Michael and his siblings over the years.
"We only had a few
anecdotes to work with. Michael was from Donegal - half
family came over but half stayed behind. He had a
brother and sister who were fraternal twins,
Hannah and Patrick McFeeley and, according to family
lore, they were born on successive days. That was all we
knew. There were no records giving further information,"
said 54-year old Dan.
"I made a guess that for such a large number of McFeeley
family members to come over to the
US, a calamity of some kind must have happened to their
Dan began a search on the internet for any disaster that
may have befallen a Donegal village in the 1800s. He was
stunned when he came across an extract from the book 'Carrowmenagh:
History of a Donegal Village and Townland', penned by
John A, on the MovilleInishowen website. The extract
told of the evictions of 1881 and mentioned the McFeeley
"Scrolling down the page I
saw at the top of the list, two of the evictee families,
Charles McFeeley and John McFeeley, and realised that
this was likely the village where great grandfather
Michael came from," added Dan.
"Just eight months after I started the search with
cousin Bernadette, I was able to obtain a copy of the
original handwritten record of the the twins' births.
Just as they were remembered in family lore, they had
been born on two successive days, February 4 and
February 5, 1869, and the place of residence was given
The chance discovery led to
a visit to the peninsula last month by Dan and his
12-year old daughter Rachel and a meeting with the
author who helped solved their genealogical puzzle.
Another well known local historian Sean Beattie and
local artist John Quigley of the Ard Rua gallery in
Carrowmenagh also helped the visitor with some detective
work on the McFeeley family of old.
"We had a wonderful visit to Carrowmenagh from August 11
through August 21, met with John, met other McFeeley
relatives living in the village and elsewhere in
Donegal, learned more about our family history, and saw
some of the sights in Inishowen.
"It was a unique experience, and all the more because of
the uniqueness of Carrowmenagh. Everyone there was kind
and welcoming - the whole area is stunningly beautiful.
"If it wasn't for John's book on Carrowmenagh, and
coming across the extract describing the evictions there
in 1881, I think we would have been looking around for a
few years, if not more. It was his book that allowed us
to target Carrowmenagh as the probable location where
great grandfather Michael McFeeley was born," he said.
Meanwhile, the author said
he was delighted his book had helped Dan trace his
family's Carrowmenagh lineage. "Dan was a gentleman and
I was delighted to be able to show him and his daughter
around Carrowmenagh and help him trace his local roots,"
he said. First published in 2001, 'Carrowmenagh: History
of a Donegal Village and Townland' is now in its third
print with 3,000 copies sold and €8,000 raised for local