NEW BOOK! Origins and Descendants of James Bole

I am pleased to announce the publication of my new book, The Origins and Descendants of James Bole of Westmoreland and Armstrong Counties, Pennsylvania.  At this Lulu link, under “More Detail”, you can obtain a preview before deciding whether to buy.

Many years in the making, and coming in at 411 pages, the book covers the revised ancestry and descendants of James Bole (1752-1836), who married Mary Painter and settled in Westmoreland and Armstrong counties, Pennsylvania. The couple have left family spread throughout the nation. The book contains full references and an every-name index. Maps and photos are included. The volume supersedes the obsolete 1986 publication by providing the true origins of the family, adding many descendants, and correcting a number of errors.  The Scottish and Irish background of the family is treated at length.

There is a full index in the Lulu preview, or you can consult it using the link provided at my Bolesbooks publication website.  I’m happy to introduce so many long-lost Kelburn Boyle descendants!


9. The Irish, The Not So Irish, and The More Irish Than The Irish

For more on the families mentioned in this post, please see The Omnibus Ancestry, available for download through

St. Patrick’s Day is a good time to review genealogical transplants from the Ould Sod. That’s surely an apt term for loveable old Ireland given its ubiquitous peat mires and boggy weather. My wife and I have contrasting connections, for hers were Catholic immigrants while mine were Protestant. But as will be seen, distinctions can blur.

The Irish

My favorite Irish immigrant on my wife’s side is Patrick Hickey, who sailed from Ireland in 1849 at the peak of the potato famine. My wife’s grandmother helpfully referred to him as “Paddy Hickey from county Cork” shortly before denying it, while another family member claimed he was from co. Wexford [1]. Those very Irish statements of family origins seem likely to remain the final word until my dying day, if ever I live that long.

Counties of IrelandTraditionally the Hickeys have been considered Celtic in background, with a presumed history extending back thousands of years in Ireland. The surname, it is said, derives from the Irish word “iceadh”, meaning “healer”. Surname expert Edward MacLysaght has stated that the Hickeys are “A medical family of the Dál gCais” [13], referring to a tribe claiming descent from Cormac Cas, a King of Munster of the 3rd century AD. Its septs include the Clancys, Kennedys, MacMahons, MacNamaras, and O’Briens among others [2]. At some point earlier or later, legend fades into myth and the Dál gCais claim descent from Milesius, the supposed ancestor of all Irish Celts, living around 1000 BC give or take a couple of hundred years [3].

Unfortunately for these traditions, modern Y-DNA testing indicates that the Dál gCais families do not share a common ancestor [4]. Even among the Hickeys themselves there are multiple origins [5]. Perhaps that’s to be expected of an occupational surname, for surely many Irish families had healers.

The Not So Irish

The Not So Irish were the interlopers, settlers in Ireland from Scotland and England. They were the orange to my wife’s green, good Protestants all. I recently wrote of my own Scotch-Irish family in “The Kelburn Castle Origin of the Boles Family: A DNA Success Story”. It was a family that originated in Ayshire, Scotland, went to Northern Ireland probably after 1606 when Scottish migration began in earnest [6], perhaps settled in co. Londonderry (known as Derry by the Green Irish), and then sailed to America after 1752 [1].

But there were others in my background as well. Cunninghame is a district of Ayrshire that gave its name to the Cunningham family. My ancestor Mary Cunningham was a “small sister” among three who came to America from Dublin in 1729, in the company of a couple employing the eldest as an indentured servant. Mary was 12 but already a Quaker [1]. She was thus a genealogical treasure for her numerous descendants by her eventual husband Richard Robinson, for the Quakers were among the most careful record keepers of the time. Her ancestry can be traced three generations in Ireland, through the Cunningham, Tomey, and Auliffe families [1].

Those names show how distinctions can blur. Tomey is a form of O’Twomey, a native Irish name meaning “descendant of Tuama” [8], while Auliffe is a form of MacAuliffe, believed to be Norse as it derives from the name “Olaf” [7]. Twomey is well known in counties Cork, Kerry, and Limerick, Ireland [1]. Daniel Tomey, Mary Cunningham’s great-grandfather, is in fact first known as a resident of the city of Cork in 1645. MacAuliffe is also a southwestern Irish name prominent in co. Cork [13], although in this case the great-grandfather, Edward Auliffe, was of co. Kilkenny about 1671 [1]. Both families were almost certainly Catholic shortly before these 17th-century dates, attesting to Quaker success in gaining converts — and blurring the presumed Scottish Presbyterian origins of the Cunninghams.

Another Not So Irish ancestral family of mine was the Hollingsworth family. Its earliest known ancestor was Henry Hollingsworth, whose name appeared on a 1630 muster roll in Oneilland Barony, co. Armagh. His family also became Quaker [1]. He was certainly of English extraction, the surname ultimately deriving from a place name in co. Chester, England [9].

The More Irish Than The Irish

“More Irish than the Irish” is a term used to refer to descendants of soldiers in the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland in the 12th and 13th centuries [10]. The invasion started in 1169, undertaken at the behest of Dermot MacMurrough, deposed King of Leinster. The portion of the island that was occupied reached nearly half by 1200 and three-quarters by 1250 [11].

Why more Irish than the Irish? Because over generations, many of the newly settled families acquired the customs and language of the Irish, as well as their sons and daughters as husbands and wives. Religion was not an issue, for the Protestant Reformation was still centuries in the future. The families were and largely continued to be Catholic. In many cases the only way to tell that they were not completely ethnic Irish was by the evidence of their surname.

Among many others the early settlers included the Sinnotts and Colfers, Flemish mercenaries of the Normans [11]. They are my wife’s ancestors. Catherine Sinnott, the immigrant ancestor, was one of six sisters who came from Kilmore parish, co. Wexford, in the 1850s and 1860s. She married Patrick Hickey in Ohio, the couple later removing to Illinois. The family is traceable in Irish Catholic church records, with Catherine’s grandfather John Sinnott (1734/5-1823) having married a wife from the Colfer family [1].

The Unexpected Melting Pot

As these examples show, Ireland has been a melting pot to an extent not widely appreciated by American descendants of its people.   Many of us are used to thinking in terms of two groups at most: The Catholic native Irish, and the Presbyterian Scotch-Irish. But the Irish could also be Norse, English, and Flemish, as illustrated in the relatively recent ancestry of just my wife and myself [1]. True, we’ve not yet traced back to any of the shipwrecked sailors of the Spanish armada, a more controversial contributor to Ireland’s population [12]. But one never knows what the future holds when pursuing The Genealogist’s Craft.

For more on the families mentioned in this post, please see The Omnibus Ancestry, available for download through


[1] Boles, D.B. (2016).  The Omnibus Ancestry.  Ebook available for download through

[2] Information retrieved fromál_gCais (2015).

[3] Information retrieved from (2015).

[4] Information retrieved from (2015).

[5] Information retrieved from (2015).

[6] Information retrieved from (2015).

[7] Information retrieved from (2015).

[8] Information retrieved from (2015).

[9] Information retrieved from (2015).

[10] Information retrieved from (2015).

[11] Roche, R. (1970). The Norman Invasion of Ireland. Tralee, Kerry, Ireland: Anvil Books.

[12] Information retrieved from (2015).

[13] MacLysaght, E. (1980). The Surnames of Ireland. Dublin: Irish Academic Press.

Picture attribution: Retrieved from Used by permission.