Sandra Hamlett (nee Potter) 1946 – 2019

On Monday, 4 November 2019, my third cousin Sandra died after a short illness. Born in Liverpool, she was the eldest child of Wilfred and Joan Potter. In 1963 at the age of 17 she and her parents emigrated to Australia, where she settled, married and raised her family.

Sandra and I were kindred spirits and genealogy enthusiasts. We researched family stories and brought together distant members of our extended family from across the world. The most significant story related to the separation of her Great Grandfather from his brother when they were orphaned.   See

I never met Sandra but we corresponded regularly and I felt we knew each other. I loved her food posts on Facebook. We had planned to meet in Australia’s Gold Coast next year. I and many others will miss her.

My thoughts go out to her partner Rod, her brother Barry and her family. Her family history research leaves a significant legacy.  

Robert Burns

Rabbie Burns (1759 – 1796)

Lang may yer lum reek

In other words: May you never be without fuel for your fire!



25 January is Burns Night

Rabbie Burns, the Bard of Ayrshire and a romantic, was a Scottish poet and lyricist. He was born on 25 January 1759 in Alloway, near Dalrymple in South West Scotland. My Grandmother, Kate Paysden, was born in Stranraer also in South West Scotland and my Great, Great, Great, Great Grandfather, Peter Kelly, came from Dalrymple.

On Burns Night I will prepare a feast of Haggis, Neeps and Tatties, a Scottish classic, traditionally eaten on Burns Night.

For the uninitiated Haggis is a savoury pudding containing sheep’s pluck minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices and mixed with stock, traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach. Neeps are mashed Turnips or Suedes while Tatties are mashed Spuds (potatoes).

Two wee songs

Shenna Wellington sings “A Mans a Man for all That” at the opening of the Devolved Scottish Parliament in 1999. It’s a very moving rendition.

In final verse, Burns imagines a future world in which all people will live as brothers, in mutual trust and respect. Perhaps Northern Ireland politicians, especially those claiming Ulster Scots heritage, should reflect and show some humility and respect.

And one for the ladies. Eddi Reader sings “My Love is Like a Red Red Rose”. Rabbie, like all us guys with South West Scottish ancestry, was a real romantic.

For a look at the life and legend of Scotland’s most celebrated son, Rabbie Burns go to




Love Lost

A WW1 story of romance, tragedy, family secrets, discovery and commemoration

george-paysden-suitbGeorge William Paysden (1895 – 1916)

11 October 2016, marked the 100th anniversary of George William Paysden’s death. His grandson Bert Groves recently visited George’s grave in Bailleul, Northern France. George was with the Royal Irish Rifles and survived the Battle of the Somme in July 1916. However, he then moved north to the villages of Loker and Dranouter where he was killed in action. George was awarded the Military Medal for bravery.   

gp-gravemarkerGeorge wasn’t married but he left a sweetheart behind in Belfast. Annie McMullan gave birth to George’s daughter Doreen while he was in France. One can only begin to imagine how Annie felt when she learnt of George’s death. Many years later Doreen married and subsequently gave birth to George’s Grandson, Bert Groves.


The birth of Doreen was kept secret from almost the entire family. My Grandmother, George’s sister, didn’t know about Doreen. While Doreen was in the RAF she struck up a lifelong friendship with her cousin and my aunt, Jessie Kendal. We believe they never knew they were actually cousins. Two years ago, Bert Groves, a fellow enthusiast of family history, tracked me down. Bert and I, along with John Paysden, have developed a close friendship and continue to unearth our joint family history.

sammy-kendal-bailleul-2004-bMy Father, Sammy Kendal, had heard many wonderful stories about his Uncle George. In 2004 he and I became the first members of the family to visit George’s grave in Bailleul. When we eventually found George’s grave, my father knelt down and tears rolled down his face. It was a very emotional occasion.

The song, The Green Fields of France, include the following lines. I think are very appropriate in this instance

Did you leave a wife or a sweetheart behind

In some faithful heart is your memory enshrined

And though you died back in nineteen sixteen

In some faith full heart are you forever nineteen

Do you have a similar story?

Post it to me at:  [email protected]


Finding Angela


Noel McCann was a very dear friend of mine. Unfortunately we lost Noel to cancer in September 2014.

Prior to his death Noel wanted to trace his long lost Aunt Angela who disappeared from the family home in Fermanagh in the 1940s. He suspected that Angela may have become pregnant and left Fermanagh to have the baby. His theory was correct. Angela gave birth in Dublin and eventually gave her son, Patrick, up for adoption in Belfast. It is believed she embarked on a journey to New York to find Patrick’s father. Patrick later became an orphan and was sent to Australia as part of a child migrant scheme.

With my advice and the help of DNA testing through The Child Migrants Trust, Noel was able to trace and be united with Patrick, his 70 year old long lost cousin. Patrick still lives in Australia. Meeting Patrick was a very emotional and fulfilling experience for both of them. Noel died just six weeks later.

Noel and Patrick 2014

The hunt for what became of Angela has been taken up by Noel’s daughter, Zoe McCaw (nee McCann). The mother in law of Patrick’s daughter, Sharon Regan, has also been very active in the search for Angela since the outset. It was Sharon who originally made contact with Noel.  Zoe recounts progress on the search much more succinctly and eloquently than I could.  She has undertaken some excellent research. I believe on balance her conclusions are highly probable.  

Zoe’s Research

Mary Angela Dolan was born on 5 June 1918 just outside the town of Belleek, County Fermanagh. Her parents’ were William James Dolan and Bridget Magowan. On 16 March 1945, Angela gave birth to a son called Patrick Magowan in the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin. At this stage Angela was using her mother’s maiden name, Magowan.  From there she travelled to Belfast, where she had Patrick fostered before placing him in an orphanage in 1948. Patrick was later sent to Perth in Australia by the orphanage   

The name Mary A. Dolan appears on the passenger list of a ship (the Britannic) sailing from Liverpool to New York in May 1949. I assume this is Angela because she is the right age (30) and gives a Belfast address – 5 Scotland Street – as her place of residence.   Furthermore, the rumour in Belleek is that she went to stay with her aunt and uncle, Susan and Hugh O’Dare, who owned a restaurant in Yonkers. During the course of my enquiries a cousin of Angela on her mother’s side told me she heard that Angela had stormed out of the O’Dare household after Susan asked her to wash the dishes.  

A World Apart

Whatever happened, there appears to be no further record of Angela beyond her arrival in the US. The Child Migrants Trust has not found a marriage or death certificate for her in the US or in the UK or Ireland.   In response to an advert I placed in the Irish Echo in March 2016 appealing for information about Angela, a genealogist in New York volunteered to help me with the search. She searched the Social Security Death Indexes in the States for any females with the first names Mary or Angela who were born on 5 June 1918. By cross-checking the records, I have managed to rule out her discoveries.

Patrick’s Father

This aspect of the post has been withheld pending the consent of Patrick’s father’s family

Latest Research

Sharon, has also been very active in the search for Angela. Recently she discovered the following article in the Jasper Dubois County Daily Herald dated Thursday 2 June 1960:

The chapel of the Convent of the Immaculate Conception in Ferdinand was the scene of an 8:30 o’clock Pontifical High Mass last Tuesday when nineteen postulants were received into the Order of St. Benedict and clothed with the religious name and habit. Most Rev. Henry J. Grinimelsman. Bishop of Evansville, who celebrated the Mass, officiated in the reception. One of the Postulants (Sister Mary Susan); Angela Dolan.

The search continues. If you believe you can help, please contact me through this website or Zoe’s Facebook page:  

Nuala with the Hula

Nuala 1A number of people have asked me about my logo. It represents the Thanksgiving Statue which stands on the banks of the River Lagan in Belfast. It was constructed in 2007 and is almost 20 metres high.

As with other public works of art in Ireland the sculpture has been given several nicknames. These include:

Nuala with the Hula

The Belle on the Ball

The Thing with the Ring

She represents various themes associated with hope, aspiration, peace and reconciliation and is derived from images of Classical and Celtic mythology. Her position on the globe signifies a unified approach to life on this earth. It encompasses oneness, while celebrating the diversity of culture. The globe at her feet indicates the universal philosophy of peace, harmony and thanksgiving, and has marked on its surface the cities where the people and industries of Belfast migrated and exported to.

The aim of the sculpture is to bring people together, change hearts and minds and to make bridges across the divides in our community.

As a genealogist I believe researching your ancestry, discovering your family history and developing your family tree gives you an insight into your own social history and provides an opportunity to understand others.

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Welcome to my Blog

Nuala 1Hi Folks

Thank you for all the very positive and encouraging comments I received in respect of my new genealogy website; Research Ancestors Ireland.

I am now adding a Blog facility which will include news, events, discussion, information requests and new research on tracing your ancestry. Hopefully this will help you discover your family history and develop your family tree