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US visitor finds his Inishowen roots 22.09.09

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 of his
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 village home."
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 family name.
Dan McFeeley and his 12 year old daughter Rachel pictured at Malin Head during their holiday in August.
"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 as Carrowmenagh."
John A McLaughlin 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 charities.
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