Family Stories

Who do you think you are? Family history is different for everyone, and it’s something all generations can get involved in. Researching family history and family stories can uncover many untold stories, unknown connections and forgotten experiences.


The best place to start is always by asking your living relatives and during lockdown completing this task helped families have plenty to talk about and reminisce. You can find out much of the basics of your family tree online from home and our participants were able to find out and share lots with us.

Discovering a Court Case

Linda Ming


Family history is fascinating. I found a court case in a newspaper about my Great grandfather Hugh being stabbed in the head with a pair of scissors by a tramp who had come into their yard. Matilda was bringing the cows up through the yard and the tramp had spotted an old boot and wanted the pair of it. He shouted abuse at my great grandmother, and Hugh hearing the commotion came and asked the tramp to leave. When Hugh went close to him he took the scissors out of his pocket and stabbed Hugh. He then ran off and the police fund him in a townland a few miles away. Hugh was taken to hospital and recovered fine.


It's fascinating looking through the Valuation revision books on PRONI.  I could see my great grandmother Mary Neely buying more land over a period of years. My Dad's family are from England and he had researched back to the 1650's in the days before useful family history sites appeared on the Internet.

5. Linda - family history.JPG
Conflicting Surnames

Anne Murray


Family tree can go back much further as been at this for some time. The surnames in my family have so many possible variables eg. Leach/ Leitch/ Leech and Drain/ Drayne/ Drane etc. I’ve just recorded people by the spelling on their earliest record. When researching my tree, I also had an added complication/interest as my family come from both sides of the divide.


My father Brian (RC Ardglass) and mother Sue (Protestant, Dungannon) met during WWII when they were both working in Gloucester, England at a munitions factory. They married there at an RC church after mum signed the document agreeing to bring the children up as Catholic. However, between them, they agreed in secret that any boys would be Catholic and the girls, Protestant. This might have worked ok if they hadn’t decided to return to Ireland in 1947.


There were shenanigans, as can be imagined, and the young couple did not have it easy, from either side. It’s a long story and was an uneasy path for them, but they did have 3 boys and 1 girl - me - we went to different churches and schools throughout our childhoods.

4. Anne - Family Tree.jpg
Mum's Favourite Phrases

Colette Marquess


My sisters and I have been recalling on WhatsApp many of the colourful phrases Mum used to use, that we now find ourselves saying. Mum died last year at the age of 86. She was from Finnis, Dromara, Co Down. I thought it would be really sad adding her date of death to the family tree, but actually it was strangely consoling. Here are some of her choice phrases:

  • There’s “great drying“ on a windy day

  • “Don’t just stand there with your two arms the one length”. Usually followed by ”Ye donkey ye!”

  • “Not one iota“, as in not one drop/piece of something (This is actually Biblical, Matthew 5:18)

  • “What’s that child doing?” (the child in question being forty)

  • “That wee child needs a hat on“ (when it’s remotely sunny)

  • I went “one errand“ to do something, as in single-minded pursuit of something

This is the Marquess family tree. The name is Huguenot in origin. A branch of the family settled in Collon, Co Louth and then moved to Antrim. There are only 6 or 7 Marquesses in the NI telephone directory with this spelling, and they are all related to my husband Paul!

This is a photo of my dad (the cheeky little chap on the far left ) and his family. Dad was born in 1930 and died in 2007. His elder sister, Winnie, the one gazing away from the camera in the back row, was 100 this year. This photo means a lot to me as I have been researching my family history.

Colette's Family Tree
Colette's Family
Far Away So Close

Betty Armstrong


Here is my family tree - originating with my maiden name Moorhead and going back through both families. I have already done extensive work on this and can go back to great-great-grandfathers on both sides. My family is pure Co Down but some emigrated to America. One of my Granny's sisters went to work one day and didn't come back - ever! We cannot find her at all - sometimes you just come up against a brick wall.


My husband was looking for his grandfather's burial place and we couldn't find it. And one day I was looking for someone else in the Burial Records in PRONI and came across his grave! Just down the road in Donaghadee Parish Graveyard.

2. Betty - Family Tree.jpg
Australian Connections

Ann McGeown


I have found a new love for genealogy, I actually find it addictive. I dread to think what it was like for my relatives during these hard times. I remember my Father explaining to me about rations but never really took much interest back then.

My Dads side is pretty straightforward, originated from Portadown where many connections still remain today. My Mums side is a bit of a mixture, her Mum from Strabane but with huge connections to Derry & Donegal & her Fathers side is Australian. I’ve managed to trace some Australian relatives through Ancestry DNA testing recently.

3. Ann - Family Tree copy.jpg
Names Flowing Through Generations

Kathy Jamison

I have been researching my paternal family tree. Something that I was able to share with my Dad who sadly passed away in March. I have gotten as far back as his great-grandmother. My dad's grandparents had 12 children, only 6 of whom made it to adulthood. Interesting to see how names flow through family members. The eldest son in my Dad's family always had William in their name. I'm now working on my maternal side which is helping to keep my mum focused in her grief. I'm also working on collecting the information I have on Dad's side into a booklet.

Kathy's Family tree
The Three Bells

Pauline Lyttle

My Father came from Drumadonald and moved to Ballyroney. We travelled via Dromara over Finnis Hill on route to my aunt's house in Ballyroney. A beautiful part of the country.


My mother talked about going to the school in Millisle with her 3 cousins who were evacuated with her. Their surname was Bell. Fondly known as the 3 bells. My great grandmother rented a cottage near the windmill in Millisle and was paid an amount from the government to take the children as evacuees.


Mummy died last year and I love to share things she said. One of mummy’s favourites, if anyone upset us was, “don’t let it annoy you, let them run on there” and she always asked us every day “anything strange”. I treasure her memories and love to include her in my conversations.

Pauline's Family Tree
Family Discoveries

Brendan McConville


This is my family tree. I discovered that my maternal grandmother Annie Kavanagh had been a primary school teacher who had to give up her job when she got married in 1907. Sadly she died of the Spanish Flu in 1918, aged just 33. Also, my paternal grandfather, Thomas McConville was in the Army in the First World War but as he was too old at 45 to fight he served in the Engineering Corps in France digging trenches etc.

6. Brendan - Family Tree.jpg
Opening New Doors

Joan Hughes

This is my family tree, it's been a passion of mine for years, and there's a lot of work involved. My great-great-grandmother on my mother's side was widowed whilst pregnant with her 4th child. She came back to Ireland, gave birth, then went to America with her eldest son, leaving her 3 youngest in Ireland with various relatives. She was much maligned for this, mostly by my great grandmother. I found them on the census in St Helen's and realised the 1st name of the eldest was different from what my mother believed. This opened a whole new door and I found her in New York, remarried with 2 more children. 


I also got her husband's death certificate and he had died in the most horrific industrial accident: he fell into a vat of boiling Epsom salts and died 2 weeks later. I managed to get a copy of the coroner's report from the paper. My great-great-grandmother lost one son in WWI, and her eldest disappeared between 2 census but his children were living with my great great grandmother, so much sadness. (…)

Joan's Family Tree
Joan's Family tree 2
Why we didn’t know any of this before?

Nicola Simpson

Have been totally absorbed in this today and have so much paper to recycle after scribbling through numerous archives. The earliest record I am (almost) sure of is a birth in1883. 


Sadly finding lots of records of deaths of babies and little ones in just one family. The one that really got to me was a baby, named Margaret, born in 1905 who was listed as Maggie on the death record 2 years later. In going from Margaret to Maggie she became more of a wee character to me. The same family lost several babies just days, weeks and months old. You have to wonder how people got through it all. 


I have discovered my dad shares his first name with his grandad and I don’t think he knows that and also that one of my best friends surnames is there in my history too. Might happen to everyone I suppose in a small place like Ireland but it makes you wonder who you could be related to and don't know about it.


Also made an odd discovery that 2 of my relatives (a father and son) died on the same date as each other almost 40 years apart. Lots more work to do on it but it was bedtime hours ago.


Oh yes and meant to add, in one family the parents aged way too much between the 1901 and 1911 census presumably so they could get the new pension sooner and the children didn't age enough - maybe because they said they were older than they were in 1901 so they could get out to work?


Have discovered this morning that my great grandfather went to France in 1916 and died in 1918.  He enlisted while in Glasgow but was assigned to the Inniskilling Fusiliers. The records are very difficult to make out, but they also included info that he was a widow and his 2 children were in the care of a woman I believe to be his wife’s mother. A bit of digging and I discovered his wife died in 1914. 2 babies died that same year.


It makes me wonder why we didn’t know any of this before. Perhaps my grandfather (who died before I was born) was too young to remember his dad well, perhaps he had mixed feelings about his dad going to France. I suppose we will never know.

Help from the young ‘Internet Archeologist'

Lisa​ Rea Currie

I've been working on my family tree for a while. I wrote a blog about some of the resources I used to find where one of my ancestors lived (Thank you PRONI!).

I tried to chase up my husband's family for this project as I hadn't looked at it before. I got the 9-year-old to help and we phoned the grandparents. He liked questioning his grandparents and was quite keen for the first 20-30 minutes. He said he felt like an 'internet archaeologist.' Not bad for the first attempt.


I have the same problems that many people have who search for working-class ancestors; because they are illiterate their names are recorded according to how they sound. I have found one woman who is recorded as being Carr, McCarr, Kerr and McCarroll. I'm pretty sure it's the same woman, as the kids' names, dates and husband's name and job match with the census etc. But it sure does make it more challenging!

The Only McLeer’s Ever

Paddy Rodgers

This is my family tree unfinished as you can see! Interestingly, my great grandfather was McAleer someone took the A out. We are the only McLeer's ever in the days when we had a paper phone book. I guess I know why but I never asked my father.


I have been trying to finish my family tree template and have been experiencing difficulty finding female maiden names. The 2 census available record wives and daughters in the household and I have several birth and death certificates for my family as far as my grandparents but the female great grandmothers on my father’s mothers side and my mother’s side are difficult to find. This is just one thread…

My father was one of 11 children. Firstborn was Ina who died age 5. Second was William who was killed on the 1st July at the Somme. My sons and I have visited the memorials there… Very moving experience. Men came from all parts of the world to fight that senseless war. I asked my father was his mother not devastated when she heard? He just said there were other women in the village with the same news. Women comforted each other.


My father’s mother took appendicitis, then peritonitis and died in 1925. The youngest child was only 5. She was taken in by her oldest brother who was married. 2 sisters married 2 brothers and immigrated to America. Another brother also immigrated to America. A further 2 sisters married 2 brothers and stayed in Fermanagh. 3 brothers stayed in NI - my father included.

I attach a photo of my father’s parents... I find the pose interesting! The head of the house is seated and his wife is standing with her hand on his shoulder. Would that be the pose today??

Paddy's family tree
1918 Spanish Flu

Alexandra Barr


My family tree - can’t pretend just did this for Project as have been doing family history for years. My grandfather died in the 1918 flu epidemic. When he died, my mother was only 2 weeks old so she never knew him except in the memory of other people. Unfortunately some children today will have the same experience of lost parents.

2. Alex - Family Tree.jpg
The Missing Link

Alison Duddy


I already had a lot of my tree done with the exception of some great grandparents who I am trying to track down with DNA so that's why we have a few gaps with red info. I end up going down so many rabbit holes when I'm searching for people and it can take me weeks to get back on track, but it is so satisfying when you uncover that missing link to another part of the family. That is such a learning curve. 

3. Ali - Family Tree.jpg