A museum in Newry has helped a Canadian family trace their roots to the Commons!
In February, Terry Miller contacted Newry and Mourne Museum on his sister Linda’s behalf to enquire about the location of Market Street in Newry.
This was the street where their great-great grandfather Andrew Miller had a shoe making business from 1870 to 1906.
In response to their query, Collections Research Assistant Shane McGivern informed them how Market Street had been demolished in the 1960s.
Terry was disappointed that this link was now gone and was going to give up looking for links to his family’s Newry links.
But Shane suggested as an alternative to look for the houses where Andrew Miller and his wife Elizabeth Neville were born.
A marriage certificate found in the family papers was able to give the home address as Commons townland. Using documents in the Reside Collection, including land valuation records and accompanying maps, Shane was able to locate the original ancestral Miller and Neville homesteads.
To the delight of the family, these houses are still standing. Linda and her husband Richard made the trip to Newry in April and visited the Museum to see the documents that mentioned their family.
With this information, they were able to make their way to the Commons and take photographs of the birthplace of Linda’s great-great grandparents.
Linda was amazed at how small the houses were considering the large families that would have lived there.
She said: “Walking through the place where my ancestors lived was a magical experience.”
Shane McGivern also contacted Reverend Brian Colvin, of the Downshire Road Presbyterian Church, who showed Linda and Richard inside the church where Andrew Miller and Elizabeth Neville were married on August 6, 1873.
Shane also arranged for the couple to meet Stanley Bond, of the Sandy Street Presbyterian Church, where members of the Miller family had been baptised over many generations. They were able to see the original baptismal bowl that was used, as well as the register that recorded the details of the baptism.
This information allowed Linda to find further generations of the Miller family tree.
Stanley Bond, using his great intuition, contacted a lady called Jennifer Campbell, whose mother’s maiden name was Neville. Jennifer knew immediately that they were related, as Linda’s great uncle Lloyd had visited Jennifer Campbell some 30 years previous.
Jennifer arranged for Linda to meet her uncle Joe Neville, who is 101 years old.
Joe is the nephew of Elizabeth Miller and had memories of the family from many years ago. It was an emotional moment when Joe and Linda finally met. Joe shared his experience of what life was like in Newry many years ago.
Jennifer said: “It was a wonderful surprise when I discovered that Linda and Terry were searching for their family roots in Newry. Linda and I are now in touch exchanging family photographs and stories.”
From a simple request to the museum about the location of Market Street, the family had found two ancestral homes and were reunited with their family on this side of the Atlantic.
Shane said: “Many people are returning to Newry to find their ancestral roots and in this case we have been able to go one step further by finding living relatives.
Museum Curator, Noreen Cunningham, added: “We are delighted to be able to assist Linda and Richard in their search for information. The Reside Collection has once again proved invaluable for bringing people closer to their past.”