Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Companion Map for Balbirnie's Book

If you're descended from Irish Vances, you should know of William Balbirnie's book; a genealogy of Vances in Ireland in 1860 and listed on our Online Books of Interest page.    While it certainly contains errors (and it's not really a primary source, so you need to take it with a little skepticism), his book is still the best available source of detail about Irish Vances in Ulster from 150 years ago and so has been referenced for decades by Vance researchers looking to tie their family trees back to Ireland.

Balbirnie lists dozens of places in Ireland where Vance families lived or were known to have lived in the past.  Many of these placenames were Gaelic in origin and their written names in English have changed over the years, even from Balbirnie's day to modern times.   But because of these and other changes across the landscape of Northern Ireland, many of these places are hard to find on a map today.

I made the map below for a book on the older Vance lines and I thought it might be useful to anyone else researching Vance lines in Ireland (credit for the map image, by the way, goes to JPL/Caltech, and the mapping tool was Google Earth (TM) - both of whom require attribution!).

You'll find a table of details for each location, with Google Earth(TM) lat/long references and comments where appropriate ("WB" in the table means "William Balbirnie").   You'll see a confidence assessment too - for example Balbirnie mentions the will of Patrick of "Lifficulty" in 1697, but that place appears nowhere in modern or old books about Ireland.  However, the modern transcription of the Index to Raphoe Wills lists the same will for Patrick of "Lissacully", and there IS a modern "Lissacholly" in Donegal.  Is it the same place?  It seems the best fit, but I listed it with lower confidence and I'm happy to be corrected if anyone has a better answer.

There are two more detailed views where the larger map gets densely crowded and hard to see.  Click on these pictures below for larger versions.

Hope this helps anyone looking to find the path of their Vances in Ireland!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

2013 Summer Vance Reunions (in the US)

That's right - "reunions" plural!  I would like to point out that there are two Vance surname-related reunions this summer in the US.   Social media and connecting over email are great in their own way, but after all, genealogy is in its heart a study of human connections and there is no substitute for getting out there and seeing people face to face!

The first Vance reunion is from July 5-7, 2013, at Beaver Lake near Rogers, Arkansas.  Kim Richardson Adams Emery and her relatives have organized several local Vance reunions in past years; most of their family is I believe descended from the Vances of Calhoun County, MS (themselves descended from James Alexander Vance who died in 1821 in South Carolina, and part of Group 8 of the Vance DNA Project).  You can bet this will be a festival of true Southern hospitality overrun by very active and energetic Vance family researchers!  Details, directions, hotel suggestions, and more are on their website at

The second is the Vance Family Association (VFA)'s own bi-annual reunion, from August 19-20, 2013, in Fort Wayne, Indiana.  The VFA has coordinated their reunion with the Federation of Genealogical Societies' Conference (which takes place Aug 21-24 also in Fort Wayne, and VFA members may participate in any of the FGS conferences as well).  Most of the VFA's own meetings will be conducted before the FGS Conference at the Genealogy Center of the Allen County Library which includes a tour and research time taking advantage of the library's facilities and helpful staff.  A great way both to connect with VFA staff and members and further your own research at the same time!  This reunion is for VFA members, so details are in the May newsletter, or visit to sign up for membership and get a quick note off to to request more details about the reunion.

Any other Vance or Vance-related (Vaux, Vans, Wentz, etc) reunions going on out there around the world? Let us know in the comments!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Map of the earliest US Vances

I don't know if anyone has a list of the various mapping sites out there that help you show locations and migration paths on a world map.  I don't have a full list, but I've seen some of them in action and they work pretty well.

Me, I'm a visual guy.  I don't get the sense of where my ancestors lived or how far they traveled unless I see it on a map.  For instance, when I read all the Vance DNA group reports (available under "Vance/Vans/Wentz Y-DNA Project" on the right hand side of this blog or else here) I can see how the research connects the early Vances in the US, but I don't get a good sense of how many or how widespread they were.  So I mapped them.

I picked the Community Walk website mostly because it was easy and free, and it has pretty good options.  The picture shows the results - you can access and play with them using this link: 

Each pin is a county where genealogists have found their earliest Vance ancestor in the US.  The colors show what DNA Group (from 1 to 8) that ancestor belonged to based on the y-DNA tests of their descendants.  Using the Legend, you can turn on or off certain Groups, and using the "Show Marker Titles" option, you can see the ancestor's name and the record and year that first showed them in the US (warning:  it gets pretty crowded if you turn on titles when ALL Groups are shown on the map!).

Please note not ALL of these Vances were the first immigrants into the US - many are known to be born in the US, and some have been confirmed through DNA analysis to be related to each other.  They're just the different lines we all have found connections to (that still have male descendants available to be DNA tested).

Interesting?  I thought it was.  Do you have a better site for mapping your ancestors?