How AncestryDNA® Helped Me Find My Family in Ireland

AncestryDNA, Customer Stories
27 February 2018
by Tom McAna

I started doing research on my family history a few years ago.

I got back to my great-grandfather, who had come from Ireland to Boston Harbor and settled in a little town south of Boston.

But that was as far as I got until an AncestryDNA® test led me to connect with a cousin in Irelandand eventually with the rest of my longlost Irish family.

“I Think We’re Cousins”

Out of the blue, I got an email from someone in Ireland named Mike, who had taken an AncestryDNA test and through that test connected with another relative. Through that person, he got my name.

He reached out to me via Ancestry®, and said something like,

“I’m Mike. I live in Dublin. And I think we’re cousins.”

We started communicating and exchanging information. It turned out Mike, in addition to being an avid family history researcher, worked at Ancestry (small world).

Based on our research, we realized my great-great-grandfather was Mike’s great-great-great-grandfather.

Shared ancestor hint.

Thanks to our connection, Mike opened a whole slough of ancestors I couldn’t track on my own.

The McAnaws of Donegal, Ireland

Eventually I too took the AncestryDNA test, and sure enough Mike appeared on my test results as a third cousin.

Mike had told me that there are still family members in Ireland who share my last name, McAna, but that they spell it McAnaw.

It turned out the McAnaws still live in the townland of Druminnin, Donegal, Ireland, with some still living on the farm that they’ve been living on since the 1830s.

Hilly landscape of Donegal, Ireland.
To the left of the main road, there are some green fields and a few small lakes

I decided to take a chance and write them a letter, just addressed to the McAnaw farm in Donegal, Ireland. I had no other information but hoped it would make it to then.

About 3 weeks later, I got a call from an 81-year-old relative named Bernard who now lives in Glasgow, Scotland.

He had attended a funeral in the townland where our relatives currently live. It turns out the postman was a McAnaw too, and during the funeral, my letter had been passed around.

Bernard had gotten my phone number from that letter and called me.

Meeting My Irish Family

I already feel so connected to my Irish family based on our correspondence. Bernard helped me discover another branch of the family.

And I was able to share a fun family tidbit with Mike: During Prohibition in America, one of my great-uncles was making whiskey in his backyard. One of my cousins had gotten the recipe, and I shared it with Mike, along with photos.

McAna family whiskey recipe.
McAna family whiskey recipe

Mike was able to share lots of family photos with me that he had collected both via Ancestry and through family connections over the years.

I’ve never been to Ireland, but my wife and I hope to travel there this year.

I told Mike that when I travel there, I owe him a drink.

And I can’t wait to see my other long lost relatives and the small town where my ancestors came from generations ago!

Ready to discover your long-lost family? Start your journey with an AncestryDNA test today.