Sunday, 17 December 2017

From Dungiven to Vermont, Quebec, Ontario, New York, and beyond

Earlier this year, I was asked by the publishers of The Winding Roe, a community, cultural and historical magazine distributed annually in December in Dungiven and the surrounding area, if I could submit an article about my Dougherty family history search. The magazine takes its name from the River Roe. Dungiven lies in the Roe Valley, where the rivers Roe, Owenbeg and Owenreagh meet. My copy of the magazine is being mailed to me -- I haven't received it yet (it's not web-posted), but I wanted to share here what I submitted. Here it is:


I am a descendent of Dungiven.  

My third great grandparents were James Dougherty, who died before 1830, and Isabella McLaughlin, who died at Camnish in 1830. They had at least four sons (Thomas, Marcus, James and Joshua), likely more, and daughters too, I imagine.  
Oral histories passed down from one generation to the next sometimes lose facts. I grew up hearing my father’s stories of how we were from Donegal, that my great grandfather was an only child, and that if your name was spelled Dougherty, you were Catholic, but if it was Doherty, you were a Protestant. I knew my grandfather’s name, and that his father and grandfather had lived in Granby and Sherbrooke, both in Quebec’s Eastern Townships. I knew that we had a distant cousin who had become a judge in Quebec in the 1800s. But beyond that, I knew very little. 

In the 1990s, when I discovered how much genealogy research you could do on the internet, I began a voyage of discovery that continues to this day. In those days, I could hardly call myself a genealogist. I was just starting out. But I quickly experienced the kindness often extended by more seasoned genealogists to people like me, and I was off. The details my father passed down have been corrected by my own research. 

I won’t recount all my many “ah hah!” discoveries here but in summary (and this has taken years of research): while my direct ancestors originated in Inishowen, by the early 1800s if not before, they were in and around the Dungiven area, rather than an only child, my great grandfather was one of seven children, there were both nuns and priests among my Catholic Doherty and Dougherty cousins, there are many reasons for the various spellings of Dougherty within my own family, and so many other details. Many times, this information would be staring me right in the face, as it were, before I realized that it was valid and applicable. 

My second great-grandparents, Marcus Dougherty (1794-1864) and Mary Ann Diamond (1802-1842), left Dungiven probably between 1827 and 1829. I know this because their third child, James, was baptized at St Patrick’s in Dungiven on 12 November 1826. I can’t imagine anyone embarking on that kind of a transatlantic crossing in the winter in the early 19th century. I haven’t found ship manifests with their names, but by 1830 Marcus, Mary Ann and their young brood were in Vermont, for Marcus appears in that year’s census as the head of a farming household consisting of five people. You would think the number five would have given me pause, but it took over 15 years for me to connect the dots and discover my great grandfather’s siblings.  

Marcus’ brother, James (1796-1878), also migrated to Vermont, but it’s unclear when he reached Vermont: before, with, or after Marcus and Mary Ann arrived. James soon began theological studies at the University of Vermont and became a Congregationalist minister. One of the eulogies given at his well-reported on funeral described how James had already been uncomfortable with the devout Catholic faith of his parents before leaving Ireland, and it was soon after arriving in Vermont that he abandoned Catholicism. James’ obituaries report that he was born in Park, Banagher, which I see from maps isn’t far from Dungiven.

I have absolutely no information at all about Mary Ann Diamond’s family. I didn’t even know her name until I discovered a record of her 1842 burial several years ago. Unfortunately, that record only noted her husband, and didn’t mention her parents by name. As more Irish parish records are being digitized, I’m seeing more of the Diamond name in the north of Ireland.


Several nieces and nephews of Marcus and James followed them to America, but with one exception, not until the 1840s, most of them settling in a small town that is about an hour north of New York City, in Ulster County. They were all children of Marcus and James’ brother Thomas (d abt 1832) and Bridget McCloskey. The first to leave, was also a Marcus, who was sent by his mother soon after Thomas’ death when he was about 17, to his uncles Marcus and James in Vermont. Young Marcus was clearly the academic star of his large family, attending a grammar school in Dungiven, something that I learned was rare at that time for a child of a farming family. Once in Vermont, he attended the University of Vermont, then taught for a couple of years in Quebec, before completing his law degree in Vermont, and eventually being appointed a judge. One of Judge Marcus’ sons, Charles Joseph, also became a lawyer and judge, and was then a member of parliament and Canada’s Minister of Justice during the First World War. Judge Marcus had a great grandson who was a member of Canada’s Supreme Court. 

Thomas Dougherty and Bridget McCloskey had at least 13 children. Nine of these migrated to Canada and America. Only one of those returned to Dungiven. Except for Judge Marcus, his siblings and their spouses were tradespeople, farmers, or eventually merchants. Their brother Paul Doherty (1826-1914) stayed in Dungiven, living at Camnish, marrying and having his own large family. 

The existence of the brothers and sisters of my great grandfather still astound me. I discovered three of them in the 1861 Canada census, but then lost them, only to find them thanks to a clue in a probate document filed by Judge Marcus Doherty relating to the estates of his spinster cousins, daughters of his uncle, Rev James Dougherty, the Congregationalist minister. Judge Marcus noted that two of those were living in Cincinnati. Eventually, I discovered five of my great-grandfather’s siblings, all in Cincinnati, starting with the two eldest sons, in the mid 1840s. What took them from Granby (about an hour out of Montreal today) to Ohio at that time? Their brothers and sisters joined them in the 1860s from Granby. I’ve found mention in Cincinnati city directories of the sixth sibling, also a Marcus, and am still tracing his whereabouts. Except for two of the Cincinnati Doughertys, none married, and only one had children. 

Mysteries remain to be solved. I continue to look for Mary Ann Diamond’s own parents and family and the birthplaces and parentage of my third great grandparents, James Dougherty and Isabella McLaughlin. I hope that if I can find this information, it will unlock even more doors in my family history research.  

Dungiven-area families intermarried with Dohertys/Doughertys include Brolly, McLaughlin, McCloskey and McFeely.  

Just in May, I had a tremendous breakthrough, again, thanks to DNA, which led to the discovery of three previously unknown children of Thomas Doherty and Bridget McCloskey, who had settled in Canada: John Doherty (abt 1807-1872), Sarah Doherty (abt 1826-1861) and Elleanor Doherty. To my great delight, John worked and lived in the same neighbourhood of Toronto where I live. The Irish had a strong presence in Toronto in the 19th century. John was married and had his 12 children baptized at a church that is a 15-minute walk from me. The sponsors of some of those baptisms had the name McCloskey. John’s eldest daughter, Mary Sarah, married the son of a Dungiven couple: Edward McFeely and Susanna McCloskey, who were married at St Patrick’s in Dungiven in 1826, just days before my great-great uncle James’ baptism. When I saw the St Patrick’s parish register showing their names just a few lines above the baptism, I chuckled.  

Sarah Doherty arrived in Saint John with her husband, Patrick Joseph McCorkell in about 1848, making their way to Toronto about two years later, joining her brother, John. By 1860, the McCorkells were living about what is a 90-minute drive north of Toronto today, where they farmed. I haven’t found McCorkells in Dungiven records, so far, but it seems to me that this must also be an area family going back generations. 

Sarah and John have many descendants scattered across North America today. I am still researching these new lines. The eldest of their children, Augustine McCorkell (abt 1845-1898) settled in Cincinnati from about 1865. He and his Dougherty cousins must have known each other.  

Did Sarah and John stay in touch with their uncles Marcus and James? Did they stay in touch with their siblings in Quebec and New York? Did they know their cousins in Quebec, New York, Vermont, Ohio and beyond?  

Family history research has led to making friends with several people I call my DNA cousins. The first was a Belfast-born woman now living in England who contacted me when she saw my tree on Ancestry, and provided me so many details to flesh out my until then rather sparse Dougherty family tree. Our genetic relationship was confirmed through DNA. I also have a DNA cousin who lives in Ballymoney. Other Dougherty DNA cousins with whom I’m regularly in touch are in Canada and in America. 

Here’s my ask of anyone reading this article. Can you help me push my research back further? Do you know anything about the Diamond family who probably lived in the Dungiven area from the late 1700s onwards? Do you know anything about James Dougherty and Isabella McLaughlin and their parents? Please contact me. 

In 2016, I began a family history blog that details much more of my genealogy discoveries. You can read my blog I end each new blog post with the words “the never ending story continues….” Because it really does – my research continues. I doubt that it will ever end.  

P.S. In October, I discovered that the daughter of one of my Ulster, New York ancestor cousins, married a man named Diamond. It seems there were a couple of Diamond families in Ulster, New York, starting the 1820s when a James Diamond (born abt 1784 in Londonderry, according to records, settled there. Is he related to my second great grandmother, Mary Ann Diamond? I wonder.
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© Margaret Dougherty 2016-2017 All rights reserved

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