Finding your Donegal Roots

Image of thatched cottage in countryside
West Ulster Genealogy Services

Connecting members of the Diaspora with their Donegal Roots. This is my passion. I have been an amateur family historian for almost 14 years now, working mainly in County Donegal. Whilst researching my own family, I began to realise that hundreds of thousands of people, including many of my ancestors, left Ireland in the Nineteenth Century and never returned. Whole families just vanished from the records. I have now contacted many of my own “cousins” and I am determined to help as many other members of the Diaspora to find their roots as I possibly can.

Next year has been designated by the Irish Prime Minister as the year of The Gathering. Preparations are well underway for this big event which is bound to draw literally thousands of extra visitors from the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom who will wish to find their ancestry. I want to ensure that they are able to find what they seek and avoid disapointment.  Let me relate a short story first before I explain.

A couple of weeks ago,  Robert Rankin from Georgia, USA, was on a visit to Monreagh Heritage Centre near Carrigans looking for his Rankin ancestors. The manager referred him to me and Robert told me that his great grandfather, the son of a William Rankin of Carrickatane, had emigrated in 1869. Knowing that it ought to be fairly easy to locate William Rankin in the online land records, I invited Rob to my home and by the time he arrived I had already found that William Rankin had a farm in Carrickatane, he had left a will in 1867, there was a headstone in a local churchyard which named Robert’s great great great grandfather and there were still two Rankin spinsters in Carrickatane in 1901. Using online maps from the 1850s, I took Robert to Carrickatane, found the gravestone and the rankin home, the current owner of which was able to put Robert in touch with cousins of his in the United States who had visited the previous year. 

My point is that, if someone's ancestors left Ireland after circa 1855, and if the townland, or at least the parish is known, then it is not difficult to locate that person's homestead ifyou know how to do the research. And you can send the visitor away satisfied.I can either help on a voluntary basis or if more is required, I can actually do the research for people. 

To find out more, you can check out the links below where you will find lots of information, photographs and stories of people who have found their roots. If you have any questions, feel free to email me at

Boyd Gray.