When Jim and I were planning our trip in September of 2013, including the cruise around the British Isles, we carefully selected our side trips to correspond with anything genealogical I could find in that region. Given my colonial Virginia and Appalachian heritage, I have lots of family history in the British Isles, so I felt connected just about everyplace.
One of the stops I was most excited about was the port of Belfast in Northern Ireland. Jim and I planned to visit the Giants Causeway on the far northern shore, but on the way is what I really wanted to see – Kingsmoss Road in Newtownabbey. On the map below, B is Kingsmoss Road located between Belfast (A) and the Giant’s Causeway (C).
Why was I so anxious to see King’s Moss Road? Well, that’s the story of what genetic genealogy can do for you, even in a less than optimal set of circumstances.
Let’s back up several years.
The McDowell project is one of those that doesn’t have a project website at Family Tree DNA, nor a public website of any kind. I’d love to provide a link here, but I can’t. My cousin tested some years back and the project administrator provided me with a spreadsheet showing results and his matches.
The project situation is certainly less than optimal – but still – what I needed was that “one good match” and I indeed, did receive that.
Mary McDowell was born about 1785 and she married William Harrell in 1809 in Wilkes County, NC.
Mary’s father was Michael McDowell, a Revolutionary War veteran, born about 1747. He served from Bedford County, VA and after the war, settled in Wilkes County, NC with his wife, Isabel, last name unknown. Around 1810, Michael, along with a number of other families who were intermarried and lived adjacent moved to what was then Claiborne County, Tennessee, on the border with Lee County, Virginia, in what would in the 1840s would become Hancock County, Tennessee. Mary McDowell and William Harrell were among this group.
Michael’s father is believed to also be Michael McDowell found on a 1755 Bedford County tax list. In 1752, Michael was in Halifax County, Virginia and he was selling his father’s land, in Baltimore, Maryland.
His father’s name was Murto or Murdo McDowell, probably actually Murtough McDowell. We know nothing about him except that he was dead in 1752. Much research remains to be done on this line.
However, DNA testing has allowed us to jump the pond, without knowing who Murtough’s ancestors were or where they were from.
The descendant of Michael McDowell whose test I paid for had three matches, according to the administrator. She sent me a paragraph or so provided by those three matches. One match is from another son of Michael McDowell, one is from Pennsylvania and the common ancestor with that individual is likely overseas in the old country, but the third match was the gold mine.
This gentleman’s father was born in Ireland, outside of Belfast, and he knows exactly where.
“There is a Kings Moss Road and I have been on it. There is also a place called Kings Moss. I have relatives there and my father was born there. It shows Kings Moss on his birth cert.”
This extremely valuable piece of information tells me several things. First, it tells me that this is likely where Murtough was from as well. During this time, the Scotch-Irish were immigrating in record numbers, and while McDowell is originally a Scottish name, it is found in the area of Ireland, now Northern Ireland, where the Scotch-Irish were forced to live – the Ulster Plantations. And, the McDowells are Protestant, very important in Ireland, according to the McDowell match, suggesting strongly that they indeed were not Irish, who are staunchly Catholic. They were strongly Protestant in Wilkes County too, the denomination typically known as Primitive or Hard-shell Baptists.
Kings Moss Road is a very rural area. It’s not a large city, not a “go to” type of location, even though it’s only 15 miles or so out of Belfast.
So I was incredibly excited that I was going to be riding within sneezing distance from where the McDowell family lived, driving on the same roads that my ancestor probably walked on, maybe driving livestock, maybe tending fields or searching for food. You can see, below, it’s just a little divit, a dog-leg, off the main Mossley road, maybe half a mile long, in total. Kingmoss road actually ends at the intersection of B56 and Springwell road. The B balloon is about half way on Kingmoss road. I would be able to see it! I could take a picture or maybe even a movie.
In this satellite view, I can see the fields and farms and the McDowell family surely farmed one of them.
But, unfortunately, Lady Luck was not with me and Lady Fate took over instead. The British Isles was experiencing severe storms including 25-30 foot seas. The port of Belfast was closed, and we could not put into that port. Sometimes they change itineraries, reversing ports, but on this trip, Belfast was cancelled entirely. I was crushed. We had come so far to be turned back. But there was nothing to be done.
So, I did what any technologist would do, I checked to see if this area of Northern Ireland had street views in Google Earth. I was amazed to discover that it did. So I took a virtual, turn by turn, tour. Come along!
It certainly wasn’t quite the same as being there, but it’s decidedly better than nothing at all. I wonder what other places might be available to visit virtually that I had never considered previously.
And of course, being a genealogist, I’m now wondering where the closest church is to this location, and if the records still exist for that church. Murtough was likely born sometime around 1700, if not earlier. Could I possibly be that lucky???? Is Lady Luck with me? Has she returned?
Occasionally, synchronicity steps in. Do you ever look for a sign? Something hopeful….maybe from the ancestors themselves??? Like my friend who was hunting for her ancestor’s gravestone, with absolutely no luck. Not watching where she was walking, she stepped into a hole and turned her ankle, causing her to fall. As she lay there on the ground taking stock of the situation, she realized that to get up, she was going to have to roll sideways until she could reach a stone to help her stand up. She looked at the stone directly beside her and it was indeed, her ancestor that tripped her up.
Sometimes, you just notice something incredible. Now I know there is probably, most probably, no correlation or relation at all. But still, I want to share with you something I discovered.
I’m going to zoom in on the upper left hand corner of this satellite view of Kingsmoss Road.
And zoom again. Note the field with the spiral.
Below is an aerial view of my property.
To give you an idea of perspective, that’s my daughter and I standing by the labyrinth. It’s just over 90 feet across.
Is there a gene for this???