Not Proven on Paper – At Least Not Yet – But Proven

By Elaine McIntyre Beaudoin


When I was a teenager, I remember hearing stories from my Dad about the grand summer of 1923 when he visited his grandparents’ farm in the little townland of Lislea, County Sligo, Ireland.  He told of how he would tease the bull in the pasture and then run for the fence when it started to charge at him; of the donkey he relished riding and how he shadowed him wherever my Dad walked; and, of how annoyed his older sister, Mary, was by lack of modern conveniences and the absence of in-house running water. He thought it was all great fun as any six year old child might. Later I learned the townland of Lislea was barely more than half a square mile in size and had less than 20 families living there in the mid-1800s and early 1900s.


In 1982 I vacationed in Ireland and decided it would be interesting to see if I could find this little patch of land known to me as the “McIntyre Family Farm.” I had no interest in genealogy at the time; I just thought it would be an exciting adventure to find the land about which I had heard my Dad reminisce. Stopping at the local Irish post office, I asked the postmaster if he could direct me to the McIntyre farm. Receiving a blank stare, I searched my memory for other family names and remembered a McIntyre daughter had married a Haran. Once I offered this name, I was swiftly directed to the homestead. We were warmly welcomed by my widowed third cousin who was living in the cottage, as well as her sister who was visiting, after I worked through my relationship with them, that is. It was about 10:00 a.m. and they offered me tea and my husband “a wee glass of whiskey” – so Irish.


Fast forward more than 20 years and I have now become an avid genealogist. While researching at the Salt Lake City Family History Library in 2003 I checked my email and found a rootsweb listserv message (the social media of the early part of this century!) entitled “[Sligo] McIntyre Family of Lislea, Kilmacteigue, Sligo, Ireland.”  It listed a Patrick and Bridget (Stevens) McIntyre along with their 10 children all of whom I had never heard of but felt must somehow be related because they were from the same tiny Lislea townland and bore the same surname.


The author of the web post and I communicated on and off for several years about her Patrick McIntyres. We learned members of each of our families had been sponsors and witnesses for the other’s baptisms and weddings. I dutifully researched this other McIntyre family, learning more about them than my own. Since Patrick McIntyre and his family had come to the US in 1863, settling in San Francisco, and my grandfather had not come to the U.S. and Chicago until 1904, I had much more luck finding records and documents on Patrick and his descendants than on my own ancestors.


I dutifully recorded the information I discovered and eventually created a website including all of my genealogy work. The website contained Patrick and his family as well as all of his known descendants because I “just knew” we must be related. Then in 2012 I was contacted by a 3rd great-grandson of Patrick McIntyre, Sal Bigone. He told me he had photos of many of the individuals I had recorded on my website and informed me about many more descendants of Patrick. Together we discovered additional McIntyre offspring in Canada, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Great Britain and Germany as well as Ireland and the US. We became Internet friends and later that year, when I was in the San Francisco area for a wedding, we met and spent the day together with his Mom.


Then in late 2013 I learned one of these Patrick McIntyre “cousins” was going to be traveling between Canada and El Salvador stopping in San Francisco. One thing led to another and suddenly a first McIntyre Family reunion was being planned. With the exception of me, all the other attendees, 13 in total, descended from Patrick and I had the detailed paper trail to prove it.


By now, I was well invested in these two McIntyre families and had recently begun DNA testing. Unfortunately, among these new “cousins,” there were no males with the McIntyre surname to compare against my paternal uncle’s Y-DNA test results. Since my autosomal DNA was already tested through FamilyTreeDNA, I thought, why not ask the oldest member of this group, Sal’s Mom, to also take an autosomal test.  We guessed we were third or fourth cousins, perhaps once removed. Close enough, we felt, to find some shared chromosomes. The results from the DNA test were returned in June and, alas, our chromosomes did not show a match.  When I received the results, I was extremely disappointed. I really thought we shared the same blood, but my confidence was now waning.  However, I also knew there was about a 50% chance that even if the results didn’t show a relationship, due to the distance of our common ancestor, we still could be related. In the meantime, Sal had decided to have his Mom’s brother tested. And, in late July, the results arrived showing we shared a chromosome segment large enough to suggest our relationship as 4th or 5th cousins.  Indeed, we WERE all cousins!


Matching traditional paper research with DNA testing can be very powerful. We were able to “prove” a family relationship that we may never be skilled enough to demonstrate with documents. Also, posting ancestral information on the Internet, where others can find it, is key to making connections with unknown kinsfolk. Now I understand why they call genealogical websites “cousin bait!”


Having proof we are related will spur us on to continue the paper trail in Ireland.  Knowing the approximate timeframe of our common ancestor gives us a focus for the next steps in our research. However, for now, I am just thrilled we have proof we ARE all cousins. Since we have more work to do with Irish records, perhaps our second McIntyre Family Reunion should be held near the sliver of land in Lislea I visited 32 years ago. I will have to suggest this to MY cousins!  But, for the record, I will not propose we include bull pestering, donkey equestrian activities or staying in a facility without modern amenities.


July 26, 2014