Sunday, 28 June 2009

The Second Sight

The Second Sight, or an dara sealladh, is one of the more curious, but constant cultural phenomenons, in Celtic lands and those places where Celts have settled around the world. It is the sixth sense, the ability to see and perceive, images or knowledge of events, of death to come, either near or distant. It most associated with Gaels of Highland Scottish or Hebridean ancestry, but is also known throughout Ireland and Scotland. Modern science, in an attempt to classify the phenomenon, describes it as the paranormal perception at a distance in time and space and the parapsychologist place the Second Sight along side ESP, or extra sensory perception.

A frequent vision seen by those with the Second Sight is a premonition of a death shortly to occur in the community. This can take the form of seeing an apparition of the person, his wraith, no matter how far away the person might be. There are also reports of those gifted seeing lights around the person that is fated soon to pass over.

Sometimes the Second Sight concerns more mundane occurrences, such as the sure knowledge that comes to those gifted of a future outcome or occurrence. This is not a case of luck or coincidence, but rather the complete, certain and accurate knowledge, of an event in the future or even a case of just 'knowing' where something that has been mislaid is.

The Second Sight is called a 'gift', but is not considered so by those afflicted with the sense. The episodes come on them not of their own choosing, but in spells which they have no control. The burden of knowing where death will call among friends and family, or just the burden of knowledge of the nature of people, or their never to be realised dreams, etc., often makes those with the sense solitary by choice. They will often seek to live in wooded cabins, or seashore or mountain homes, places where they do not have to discourse with people, just to escape episodes of the Second Sight. They live lonely lives of solitude, deep in thoughts and knowledge of how mysterious life really is.

Sarah Pearl Tweedy, born in 1883 in southern Illinois, had the Second Sight. Her family left County Cavan early in the 1700s for Colonial America. This photo take circa 1905.

Science only now is perhaps providing some explanation into the Second Sight. As leading physicists develop theories into quantum physics, into String Theory, or of multiple universes and dimensions no further away than our finger tips, perhaps some explanation into the Second Sight can be understood. Perhaps in the population among certain people, in Scotland for instance, some families have long had abilities perceive these things, to have access to time and space, not as a linear progression, but access to the entire flow of events.

The Second Sight is thought to be hereditary and it 'runs' in some families. As is often the case in genetics, the Second Sight may skip one or two generations, and then return, like some regressive trait for hair colour or shape of ears. The phenomenon is much too authenticated to pretend it does not exist.

While this is so, here in the 21st Century amid a society based on consumerism and values taken from a very material world, instances of the Second Sight seem to be waning. The massive intrusion of media, the incessant TV and radio programs, Cell phone signals, satellite communications, computers and more, could very well make the all too fragile links to the other world to frayed and cloudy for those with the Second Sight to perceive their reality anymore. Only in rural areas in Scotland and Ireland, and in the Southern hills and uplands in the United States, where so many Irish and Scottish settled, are there still reports of people with the Second Sight.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Ulster's Mitochondrial DNA

mtDNA and my Ulster heritage
by Harry D. Watson

After about 30 years of tracing my family-history by the traditional "paper-trail" method, I had just about dotted all the i's and crossed all the t's, so the new science of genetic genealogy came along at just the right time to revive my flagging interest in the subject.

I thought I knew all about my origins already, but the results of my cheek swabs held some surprises. Not so much as regards my Y DNA (father's father's line), which turned out to be R1b like the majority of West European males: with the distinction that I match the "Scots Modal R1b" which Dr. Jim Wilson of Edinburgh University has called "the genetic signature of the Picts". They were the Celtic tribe or tribes who lived north of the Forth-Clyde line in ancient times, not least in the "Kingdom" of Fife as we Fifers like to call it. There is evidence that the present county of Fife was in fact a separate entity in the past, and Dunfermline in the west of the county was a royal seat (as late as the 17th century, it was the birthplace of Charles I) while St. Andrews in the east was the ecclesiastical capital of Scotland, like Canterbury in England. My father's family have lived in the same village in Fife for hundreds of years, as far back as the written records stretch, so on that side of the family I suppose I was fated to be a Pict!

Harry D Watson and his wife

However, my mitochondrial DNA (mother's mother's line) was a bit more interesting. Just to give the family-history background first, my mother was also from east Fife, but her own mother came from the Scottish Borders, and further back there is a link to Northern Ireland. My mother's mother's mother's mother - my great-great-grandmother - was called Agnes Pettigrew, and she was born in or near Belfast in about 1832. Her parents were Archibald Pettigrew and Jane Murray, and Jane was the daughter of William Murray and Nancy Howat, who appear to have lived in the Ballymacarrett area of Belfast. Nancy Howat is my earliest known mitochondrial (mtDNA) ancestor. The International Genealogical Index (IGI) shows that the surname Howat is commoner in the Ballymacarrett area of Belfast than anywhere else in the island of Ireland, and in Scotland the name has always been commoner in Ayrshire than anywhere else. Ayrshire is the county, in the west of Scotland, which provided more emigrants to north-east Ulster in the 17th-century "Plantation" period than any other. So much for the paperwork.

Anyone who has kept up with research in the genetic genealogy field will know that, by common consensus, the vast majority of modern Europeans can be shown to be descended from one of seven women who lived in the distant past, many thousands of years ago. Professor Bryan Sykes of Oxford University calls them "the 7 Daughters of Eve". Six of these women were born in Europe; the seventh, mtDNA J - or "Jasmine", as Sykes has dubbed her - was allegedly from what is now Syria in the Middle East, and her descendants were Europe's first farmers, bringing agricultural know-how to the Europe of the hunter-gatherers in the Neolithic or New Stone Age period. The mtDNA I have inherited from all the "mothers" in my mitochondrial line is from this "haplogroup".

Most interestingly of all, by comparing my mtDNA results with those of other testees on the major genetic databases - FTDNA, Sorenson, Genetree and mitosearch - I have identified a small cluster of "Jasmines" in north-east Ulster and elsewhere in Ireland. Sharon Bodet, who matches my mtDNA haplotype almost exactly (6/6 on HVR1 and 9/10 on HVR2), traces her maternal line back to a Susannah Bailey in "Northern Ireland", and another Bailey descendant with the same mtDNA results is Joyce Carico of Georgia (NB there are Baileys from Newtownards, Co. Down, in my Pettigrew extended family in north-east Down).

Pam Thomson can trace her earliest mtDNA ancestor back to an Ann Ramsay in Co. Antrim, and Marilyn Marx's equivalent ancestor is a Jane Kirkpatrick born in 1795 at Ballyhalbert, Co. Down. Pam and Marilyn, like Sharon and Joyce above, are almost exact genetic matches to myself. All of us are what is now termed mtDNA J1c1, and all of us are descended from women in Northern Ireland with Scottish or at least British as distinct from Irish surnames. I also have a match in Co. Tyrone called Hutchinson, and one in Dublin called Locke. And an American called Ryrie who matches my J mtDNA has a mitochondrial ancestor called McLean in 18th-century Ayrshire itself.

Apart from my Irish matches, most of the other matches I have found for my mitochondrial genetic pattern have been Norwegians or Norwegian-Americans. So what is the connection between Norway and Northern Ireland? For an explanation of this phenomenon I am grateful to Professor Stephen Oppenheimer of Oxford University, whose book "The Origins of the British" (2006, pb.2007) has a map on page 214 (pb. edition) showing the movement of what at the time of writing was known as mtJ1b1 (now J1c1) from Norway to Scotland during the Neolithic era. Several thousand years later many Scots would emigrate across the Irish Sea to Ulster, taking with them the DNA they had inherited from those remote ancestors. And, as we all know, in the course of time a lot of Ulster Scots would re-emigrate to the land of their recent forebears. In the case of the "Jasmine" Scots-Irish, the journey had started in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East some 10,000 years before.

So much for the theory that our forebears seldom left their ancestral village until the Industrial Revolution and the growth of modern communications!

Harry D Watson
Edinburgh, 26th June 2006

Thursday, 25 June 2009

The Bann Valley Henry Family

The Bann Valley Henry Family

One of the large family groups participating in the Ulster Heritage DNA Project is the Henry family of the Bann Valley. In the Diaspora they are located across the South of the United States, in Alabama, North Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas. The Henry family has had great success locating far flung branches and confirming related lines, but there origins are still a mystery. The appear as a typical Scotch-Irish family that immigrated to Colonial America in the 1700s, yet their DNA results link them to a kinship group of Gaelic families from mid Argyll. The Henrys are related to the McKean/McCain (Mac Eáin) family of Glassary, and the Duncan (Donnchadh) family, also of Argyll; these relationship suggest the Henrys are also a Highland Gaelic family in origins.

The family has only two anglicised forms, Henry and Henrie, with none of the families using the prefixes O or Mac. A study of the primary source records have to date not revealed any insights into the family's ultimate origins. In Ireland they were found along the banks of the Bann. One member of the family has an ancestor that was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1631, but it is not known if he was native to the city or his family had moved there.

There are several Henry families of separate origins in the Bann Valley. The McHenry, i.e. Mac Énrí family, which has also participated in DNA testing, are a sept of the Ó Catháin clan native to the Bushmills area, but are not related to the Bann Valley Henrys.

The family is being studied by the Henry DNA Project. Anyone that has insight into this Ulster family is urged to contact the Henry project administrator:

The Henry DNA Project

Old Time and Bluegrass in County Tyrone

18th Annual Appalachian & Bluegrass Music Festival Omagh Co Tyrone

04 September 2009 until 06 September 2009

This famous festival is jam-packed with performances from some of the biggest names in bluegrass music.

Stroll through the museum for the afternoon sessions with six stages of great music to enjoy or book tickets to experience the electric atmosphere of a night time concert.

International artists performing this year include The Claire Lynch Band, Dirk Powell Band, Kenny & Amanda Smith and the Malpass Family all from the USA. The Foggy Hogtown Boys from Canada will also perform alongside Acousticure, Four Wheel Drive and Turquoise from Europe as well as plenty of home-grown talent.

Booking information:

Weekend passes or evening concert tickets can be reserved from 028 8224 3292.

All are urged to bring your dancing shoes!

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

DNA Testing Summer Sale!!!

There has never been a better time to participate in the Ulster Heritage DNA Project or the Ulster Heritage mtDNA Project. The genetics laboratory we use for the testing is running a sales promotional with substantial lowering of their prices. The Ulster Heritage DNA Project uses the Y chromosome test; it is for males only as this chromosome is only passed from father to son. This is why it is excellent for surname studies, particularly for families from Ireland and Scotland that often use patronymic naming patterns.

The Ulster Heritage mtDNA test uses mitrochondrial DNA, which is passed by the mother to both her sons and daughters. For this reason, both men and women can participate in the Ulster Heritage mtDNA test.

When you join, make sure you sign up for the Ulster Heritage newsletter and forum at:


The details of the sale and Max Blankfield's note to me is below:

In the last few days we have received several e-mails from group administrators asking us to extend our "Unparalleled 50% Promotional Discount" Y-DNA37+mtDNA for $119 (the regular project price is $248 – a reduction of more than 50%!!), as many people are only now becoming aware of the promotion.

We have decided, therefore, to extend it until June 30th, 2009. Kits must be paid by July 7, 2009. In order for the most people take advantage of this promotion, we encourage you to post the following link in your family messages boards, blogs, and mail lists, as well as forward to people when they ask you where to place the order:

Join Ulster Heritage Project and mtDNA Project

For those projects that require a "Join Request", please be sure to reply to the prospective test candidate in time for him to order at the promotional price.

As always, that you for your continued support.

Max Blankfeld
Vice-President, Operations and Marketing

Friday, 19 June 2009

Comhaltas Uladh

Comhaltas Uladh Comhaltas Uladh was founded in 1926 and is a provincial assembly of Conradh na Gaeilge.

Comhaltas Uladh administers the work of Conradh na Gaeilge in the province of Ulster as well as County Louth. The organisation's main purpose is to promote the Irish language in Ulster.

Comhaltas Uladh organises feiseanna, Irish language speaking competitions and branches for pupils in both primary and secondary schools. Comhaltas Uladh works in partnership with Universities and training collages in Northern Ireland. The organisation publishes a monthly magazine An tUltach as well as books on story telling. It provides assistance to drama groups, preschools and other Irish language schools in the 10 counties.

Cathal Ó Díolúin
Secretary: Úna Ní Chriagáin
13 Taunton Ave. Béil Feirste

Email: --

Friday, 12 June 2009

Foyle Day Events!

Foyle Days 2009 - 13th and 14th June 2009
12pm - 4pm
Queen's Quay

This weekend the Banks of the Foyle will be awash with a range of activities celebrating the city's vast maritime heritage as part of the Foyle Days 2009 event.

This event promotes the accessibility of the River Foyle, highlighting the range of activities that are available for families and outdoor enthusiasts.

Highlights include:

* SCUBA diving taster sessions with the City of Derry Sub Aqua Diving Club*
* Sample canoeing with the Foyle Paddlers*
* Eco tour of the River Foyle with Just Kayak*

*Advance booking for taster sessions at the information desk on site is essential

For your chance to win £250 vouchers take part in a "Slow Bike Race" which takes place in the DOE car park on Saturday 13th June only from 12 pm - 4 pm. Bikes and safety equipment will be provided.

Visit the Navy Ship which will be berthed along Queen's Quay. The ship will be open from 2.30 pm - 4.00 pm on Saturday 13th and 2.00pm - 4.00 pm on Sunday 14th June.

There is also the opportunity to avail of a historical tour of the Ebrington Site, visiting the Atlantic Memorial Exhibition in the Workhouse and the Spanish Armada Exhibition in the Tower Museum. A free shuttle bus service will be provided and tours will depart from the lay-by opposite Quay West at 12pm, 1.30pm and 3.00pm daily.

Other highlights include:

* Open Yacht Race and Dingy Race
* Visit the marquee for arts, crafts, maritime face painting, street entertainment with maritime pirates, puppet shows and story-telling.
* Reminisce and explore the City's maritime history and heritage in the Knowledge Zone.
* View the large scale model of the "Peace Bridge"
* Chill out in the Maritime Marquee and avail of great quality refreshments in a unique 1940's style ambience.
* Walled City Market traders will be offering a variety of products suitable for everyone and located at Queen's Quay.

Further details on Foyle Days can be obtained by visiting

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Ulster Heritage Forum Now Open

The Ulster Heritage Forum is now open. It is a service open to all with Ulster ancestry. The forum's moderator is Jim McKane of Wiarton, Ontario, Canada. The forum concentrates on family history and genealogy and is unique in that it also includes new information that has been revealed from the Ulster Heritage DNA Project.

Ulster Heritage Forum

Monday, 8 June 2009

Ulster Heritage DNA Summer Sale!

Have you ever wanted to participate in the Ulster Heritage DNA Project, to uncover your lost family history, to reconnect with your lost kin in Ulster and the Diaspora?

Well, now is a very good time to pursue your dream as the laboratory that performs the Ulster Heritage DNA testing is running a summer sale on their DNA test.

The prices of the DNA test have been slashed and this is an incredible opportunity that should not be missed. Details are below:

Offer summary:

• Y-DNA37+mtDNA for $119. (The regular project price is $248 – a reduction of more than 50%!!)
• The promotion will begin on June 9, 2009 and will end on June 24, 2009
• Kits ordered in this sale must be paid for by June 30, 2009

With this offer, new members can skip past the Y-DNA12 and Y-DNA25 tests and get the best Y-DNA Genealogical test on the market in addition to an mtDNA test for an extremely reduced price!

To take advantage of this excellent opportunity visit:

Ulster Heritage DNA Project

and click on 'Join UH DNA Project' from the menu on the left. Also, bookmark the homepage to stay up to date on the Ulster Heritage DNA Project. The homepage is located:

Ulster Heritage

Many families of Ulster descent have already successfully reconnected with their family in Ulster today, many families have also successfully uncovered lost family history and genealogy by using DNA testing. This is an excellent opportunity for everyone that has Ulster Heritage.

Barry R McCain
Ulster Heritage DNA Project

Monday, 1 June 2009

The Brown DNA Project

Arlington, Virginia USA, June 1, 2009
The Brown/Browne/Braun DNA Study announces a program to encourage genealogical DNA tests for men who live in Scotland and Ulster. As part of this program, the contractor for the Brown DNA Study, Family Tree DNA (FTDNA), will offer up to ten free DNA tests for Scottish men, when representatives from FTDNA attend the 2009 "Gathering of Clans" on 25 and 26 July in Edinburgh. The tests will be open to Scottish or Ulster Scots men who carry the "Brown" surname or a variant like Broun, Browning or Brownlee. It's anticipated that additional DNA tests for Brown-surnamed Scottish men will be subsidized later in 2009.
The Brown/Browne/Braun DNA Study is a non-profit, volunteer activity operated by amateur genealogists. Its purposes are (a) to support one another in applying DNA analysis to genealogical research on various "Brown" family lines, and (b) to encourage additional DNA testing by Brown-surnamed men worldwide. The project currently has 567 successfully tested members, plus another six men who are awaiting their first DNA laboratory results.  The bulk of members reside in the USA, while other members live in Canada, Australia, England, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand and Scotland. About 95% of members have been tested by FTDNA, but the project welcomes members tested by other laboratories and companies.
Family Tree DNA is the world's largest genealogical DNA testing firm and has a customer database of more than 150,000 surname-specific (Y Chromosome) DNA tests. The company's main offices are in Houston, Texas. Laboratory work is conducted both at the Houston headquarters and at the University of Arizona, with the latter work under supervision of the University's internationally recognized DNA scientists.
For additional information, contact:
Jim Brown (James A. Brown, Jr.)
Phone: 703-241-4511