From North Irish Roots, Journal of the North of Ireland Family History Society Vol. 8 No 2, 1997. Published four times yearly.

The Back of an Envelope

By J.R. Doggart, Member number B 0244

In 1951 my father, whose maternal grandmother had been a Lockhart, had a visit from a cousin from Indiana who hoped to get some information on his Lockhart ancestry. His first name was Homer, but he preferred to be known as Mike because of pride in his Irish ancestry. The visit produced none of the hoped-for results, but it did lead to a two-way correspondence across the Atlantic for two decades.

A few years ago I came across a reminder of that correspondence, an envelope with a name and an Indiana address on the back. A call to International Directory Enquiries and a second to Indiana produced a reply, but from someone who may have been hard of hearing. At any rate she couldn't make out what I said; more of that later. So I wrote to her instead and there followed letters and photocopies of obituaries, register entries and naturalisation certificates, including one of my great-great-grandfather, James Patrick Lockhart, dated 30th March 1867; he had left Co. Down a year or two earlier and died in Indiana in 1878. Another document was a descendancy chart which included the names of 53 third cousins; this was followed by a letter announcing that one of them and his wife, from Tennessee, were planning to spend a few days in Northern Ireland on their way to a holiday in Germany in July 1994.

During those few days they had a busy time, seeing something of Belfast and of Co. Antrim, including the site of the cottage home near Carrickfergus of the grandparents of Andrew Jackson of Tennessee, 17th President of the USA; the home of the parents of Chester Alan Arthur, 21st President, near Cullybackey; and the Giant's Causeway. But , more important, as well as Strangford Lough, the ferry and the Ards Peninsula, they were able to see the townlands south of Comber where forbears had lived, to see the church where one was baptised, to attend a service in the building where our great-grandmothers, Sarah and Jane Lockhart, were married to Samuel Orr and James Lavery, respectively, and to have a meal with other cousins in Newtownards.

The latest contact has been in the form of a book which arrived in December 1996. It is a beautifully bound volume of 370 pages, with the title 'Samuel and Sarah Orr 1829-1996; A Wee Bit of Ireland in America' printed in gold on the cover. It opens with information on the 1994 visit, with maps and photos, and contains biographies and autobiographies of many of those 53 third cousins and their progenitors and descendants, with many more photos. It is the outcome of a search begun in 1959.

And the lady who seemed to be unable to make out what I said? Well, there may be a connection with the fact that my father's mother and her sister, his brother and two of his sisters became completely deaf. So far I have escaped!