Why Research Your Family When Your Family Doesn’t Care?

I love my family, but they just couldn’t care less about genealogy. With the exception of one uncle, I am alone in my fascination about the past.

My sister, usually a “whatever” recipient of my pearls of wisdom, recently planned a trip to England and Ireland. Because I’ve been slogging away on my English roots for the past year, I had some information for her.

Carefully, not too forcefully and not getting into details, I told her that there were somethings she might like to know, things that would make her trip to a few standard London tourist sites more interesting. I laid them out logically and simply, and she said “send me an email with the details.

She thought her family would wander in and out of Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London without being touched, but here’s what I sent her:

Westminster Abbey
For histories of our ancestors buried at Westminster Abbey, go here and here.
The following ancestors are buried at Westminster Abbey:

The Tower of London
The following of our ancestors are tied to the Tower of London:

Other Places to Go
St Dunstan’s Church, London – location of the marriage of Richard Pace and Isabella Smythe on 5 Oct 1608. They were founders of and Ancient Planters at Jamestown, Virginia, and are our 11th great-grandparents.

These historically-significant leads fascinated her so that she asked for information relating to our surname family in Derry, Northern Ireland. They’ve been notoriously difficult to research, so she asked for questions that I’d like to have answered in case they did get to visit Aghanloo or go to PRONI (Public Record Office of Northern Ireland). Again, it had to be clear and simple, not assuming any knowledge on her part. Here’s what I gave her:

by Gerry McDonnell

St Aidan’s Church by Gerry McDonnell

What we know and assume
CHARLES MCLAUGHLIN (b. 1 Nov 1804) and his wife ELIZABETH MCCALL b. abt 1805) were born, baptized, confirmed, took first communion and were married in Aghanloo. St. Aidan’s is the suspected church from family lore. They had a daughter, SARAH ANNE, who was born in Aghanloo on 8 Nov 1826.

The family emigrated from Derry, Belfast or Liverpool (unclear) and arrived in Philadelphia in 1830 (according to Sarah’s census records).

What I’d like to know

  • Is there a sign of the McCALL family anywhere, in graveyards or parish records? Does PRONI have a census record of anyone who might be ELIZABETH McCALL’s father or brother?
  • Can PRONI or anyone else tell you the likely migration pattern of Catholics in 1830? Can we nail down which port they used to emigrate?

What we know and assume
CHARLES sponsored two MCLAUGHLIN men and their families over from Derry to Clarion County, PA in 1868 – MICHAEL PATRICK (b. 7 Jun 1793) and JAMES (b. abt 1820). JAMES was MICHAEL’S nephew. From this transaction Dad and I have concluded that CHARLES and MICHAEL were brothers and that JAMES was CHARLES’ nephew.

MICHAEL, in turn, sponsored over his parents, PATRICK MCLAUGHLIN (b. abt 1773) and MARY SPENCE (b. abt 1773). The emigration year is unknown. Both died in Crown, Clarion, Pennsylvania and are buried at the family’s parish church (St. Mary’s).


What I’d like to know

  • Are there any parish or census records of PATRICK MCLAUGHLIN and MARY SPENCE, and of any of their children (including our Charles)?
  • Does PRONI or St. Aidan’s have anything on them, since their births and lives in Aghanloo pre-date the destroyed parish records?
  • Is there any trace of the SPENCE family in census, parish or cemetery records?
  • If you find any SPENCE, McLAUGHLIN, OR McCALL gravestones, please note their inscriptions and take clear pictures. Also please note the proximity of graves with these names – married couples are usually buried together along with their infant children. Sometimes unmarried siblings are buried together as if they were a married couple because they live their lives together. These seemingly insignificant facts can help to establish family groups.

So, why do the work? Because someone who seems disinterested will become interested when it’s time to do a little traveling. And when that time comes, note the structure above – present your information in a clear, concise and logical fashion, with no superfluous details. You’ll get the positive, slightly amazed reaction I did. And that feels great!