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January 14, 2009

Carnival of Irish Heritage: My Key to Ireland

For over 25 years I have searched for information on where our McGinnis family originated in Ireland.

Family lore spoke of Belfast as their origin. Two branches of the family shared the same memory - that someone in the distant past had come to Canada from Belfast. But no proof of this could be found.

The McGinnis family was a large one - 7 sons and 2 daughters found so far, plus their father, came to Ontario Canada circa 1834. I have spent years hunting down every son and daughter, their spouses, their children and their grandchildren. I have searched for gravestones in hopes of finding an inscription with a town or even county of origin. I have searched for obituaries. I have searched for burial and church records. Nothing in the 4 generational search I've conducted has given me one iota of a clue except for "Northern Ireland" as a place of origin.

I had my brother scrape his cheeks for a Y DNA test - and found that we connected with McGinnis families in Castlewellan, Co. Down Ireland. Castlewellan is not far from Belfast so the family lore was looking good, but I wanted more. I wanted an exact location and I wanted proof!

This year, another McGinnis descendant, Annie Tobin, sent me copies of several early family photographs that her aunt had recently left her. One was of Sarah Tobin nee McGinnis. Sarah was the sister of my 2nd great grandfather Joseph McGinnis. On the back in period handwriting was written the town where Sarah was born - Katesbridge in County Down Ireland. I cannot tell you how excited I was to finally learn where my Irish roots began.

I learned that Katesbridge is a hop, skip and jump to Castlewellan. So far I've not found any existing church records but I'm planning a trip to Ireland in the spring and will visit the village where my McGinnis ancestors lived.


Lisa / Smallest Leaf said...

Wonderful news! It is good to hear of your success after searching for so long. How interesting that it came from the back of a photo.

Please keep us posted on your trip to Ireland.


Charley "Apple" Grabowski said...

This proves that you never know where that key piece of information might come from! I hope it leads you to much more information.

Mary said...

I will be following with interest, too, since my roots are also "somewhere in northern Ireland". Good luck!

Tex said...

Those kinds of finds are all the more precious for having searched so long. ....and on the back of a picture--what a find! I loved Ireland and I want an Irish line!!

Kelli said...

I have corresponded with you before re McGinnis and Tobin. I was in Katesbridge this past summer with American friends on a timetable so I was unable to do research. I did find from the locals that the Catholic church attended by Katesbridge residents was in Annaclone. There is a church there with a graveyard with several graves for "Magennis'" a couple of Constantines and a couple of Johns for sure. The library in Banbridge is the library to do research in for the area. I plan on spending time there in 2010. I was excited when Annie Tobin informed me of the McGinnis home town. Enjoy your trip home.

Kelli Barrett

Olive Tree Genealogy said...

Hi Kelli,

I remember talking to you about our McGinnis connection.

Thank you for letting me know about the church and the library for records. I thought the Library in Belfast was the place to go so I'd have perhaps wasted my time!

I may not get to Ireland this Spring but I hope to by at least next Spring. If you have any travel tips, please feel free to share them with me! (replace AT with @)


Unknown said...

I have been searching McGinnis along with serveral familky members. We have not been able to get past John McGinnis and Margeret Sullivan. I have had no luck on the Ireland side.

Anonymous said...

Im from Katesbridge, in Co. Down. And I must point out to the blogger that Katesbridge is not in "ireland" it is in Northern Ireland. There is a difference. But regardless, im glad you are on your path to find your ancestoral roots.

Anonymous said...


I too am from Katesbridge in Ireland and have connections with Maginnis Family from Annaclone, also in Ireland. There is a John, James, Murtagh and Patrick Maginnis in my line. Please feel free to email me with any queries

Unknown said...

Just wanted to point you to the web page of Annaclone History and the FB page of Annaclonehistoricalsociety.
There is an index of church records on the web page for some intial research