Regular readers of this site may remember that my mother’s maiden name is Coyle. She didn’t change her name when she married my father. Back in Ireland the two families live only a few miles away from each other, and thinking they must be related a few generations in the past, I set out to assemble my family tree in the early 1990s.
Everyone knows their grandparents even if they died long before you were born, but if you want detailed stories and information about older generations it becomes surprisingly difficult. In the early nineties on a trip to Ireland, I visited my father’s brother, Michael and my Grandmother, Mary McCormick . She was in her 90s and unfortunately her memories were gone.
When I told my uncle about my project to trace the family trees, he reached over and grabbed a large folded sheet of yellowed paper off the mantle of the turf fireplace. It was his daughter’s family tree project from grade school decades before! It contained, in the neat printing of a little girl, a grid containing detailed information on the Coyle and McCormick families of Aghaglasheen going back to the late 1700s. It was a great find!
The next day at my mother’s childhood home in the town of Gladree , I asked my Grandfather Willie about his side of the family. Like everyone else he was able to recall back his grandparents and his recollections brought my mother’s branch of the family tree back to the very early 1800s. As I jotted down the information, one name stood out: my great-great-grandmother, Dolly Loftus . In a family of Michaels, Martins, Marys and Annies, a name like Dolly is one you remember!
I had assembled more information than I had hoped, but instead of linking the two branches of my Coyle Family, they grew more distant. My father’s family weathered the potato famine (probably due to the fact they were fishermen) while the Coyle’s in my mother’s family probably relocated to the area after the mass migration of the early 1800s.
Half a world away in Australia, Anne Hilton did a Google search for her great-great-grandmother, Dolly Lofus, the first result was the Coyle Family web site. Her email to me mentioned several of her relations named Gaughan from the same area as my Mother and she wondered if we were distantly related.
When I called my Mother to ask if she knew of the family, she got very excited. Ann Hilton’s father, Anthony , is my mother’s Godfather. They haven’t seen each other in over 50 years! At 87 years old, Anthony is alive and well in New Zealand and was kind enough to call my mother and they exchanged old memories for almost two hours.
Over the past several months, I have received emails from Kilkers, Boardmans, Currys and even a Siciliano who has relatives named Coyle! Most of these people are not relations, but they all have some connection to a small town on the very edge of Ireland named Belmullet . In the mid-eighteen hundreds when Richard Gaughan, Dolly Loftus, John Carrick, and Anthony Coyle were scratching potatoes from Irish soil, the last thing they would have imagined was that two centuries later their decedents would be spread across the globe and reconnecting via the internet.
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