Wednesday, December 20, 2017

A Personal Experience in researching my Vances

This is a personal experience with my own Vance line but I thought I would share it here.

If you've read earlier posts you may remember that my own Vance line emigrated to the US in 1804.  From records both in the US and in Ireland I was able to determine that they came from the Inishowen peninsula in Donegal County in the north of Ireland.

I had an opportunity earlier this year to make a short trip to Ireland, and I ran up to the Inishowen peninsula in Donegal because an 80-year old woman who still kept the local Fahan parish records had the original baptism record for my 6th generation back grandfather and grandmother Vance's first child Elizabeth in 1784. I had found the transcript on but I wanted to take a picture of the original and the local parish pointed me to her.

This wonderful woman and her daughter not only showed me that parish record but she had already indexed all the other records left by other Vances from the area who lived after my ancestors emigrated to the US in 1804. She and her daughter drove me out to where those later Vances had lived. She showed me the ruined church where my ancestors' first child would have been baptized and where the grave of her grandfather, my 7th generation back grandfather Michael Chamberlain still exists. She spent most of an afternoon with me telling me what she knew of the area and how the Vances would have lived. She even told me what other church still had the actual font that their first child would have been baptized in in 1784!

Baptism record for one of my Vances in Fahan Parish in Donegal, Ireland.

Often genealogy is a solitary pursuit; we spend many hours alone on the Internet or in libraries or communicating with faraway people over email.  But every once in awhile we connect with an actual person and it is amazing what helpful and knowledgeable people exist in the world!  I am very grateful to have lucked into spending some time with one such person and her daughter.

The now-ruined church where my Vances held their baptism in 1784.  Michael Chamberlain is buried here also.

George Vance and Martha Chamberlain were married here at St. Columb's in Londonderry in 1783

As to where these Vances came from before that, I still don't know for sure.  There are no Vances listed in that area in any of the few surviving census substitutes for Donegal before 1660; after that there are plenty of Vances in that area and all seemed to be Protestant so they likely emigrated from Scotland or England.

In the mid-1600s just after the end of the Cromwellian period, the newly-restored King Charles II was rewarding some of his loyal officers who had fought in Ireland with land there.  The lists of those "1649 Officers" as they were called have survived and there are two Vances listed named John Vance and William Vance.  Right now I'm working on the theory that those Vances may have received land in Donegal although it's not proven yet.

What I do know is that right before coming to the US in 1804, my Vance family lived in Meenalooban on the coast near Desertegny.   Here are some pictures I took around that area; which probably hasn't changed much since they were there!


  1. Really enjoyed your story. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Thanks Dave. Looking forward to my own ‘research trip’. Robert (Aust)

  3. Beautiful pictures. Sounded like a great trip.


  4. Dave,

    Excellent blog, thoroughly enjoyed it.

    The Allen Country (Ft. Wayne, IN) Genealogical Center has a public online database and one of the articles is a very extensive research on a William Vance of Momeen, Co. Donegal, Ireland. Here's the link:

    Fahan Parish to Momeen, Co. Donegal, is a bit over 7 miles due north, but it would take some map work to find out if the John Vance farm, which is reported to be south of Momeen, was even closer to Fahan Parish. It would seem your Vances and the Vances of this research lived very close to each other.

    The article gives an account of what is presumed to be the original Vance to settle in the area, who was a soldier with King Williams III (protestants) routing of King James about 1690. This Vance soldier appears to have had a son Matthew, who had a son John (who leased a 25 acre farm south of Momeen.)

    I found no mention of a George Vance nor a Michael Chamberlain. The article is quite extensive, you need a good few hours to read it through. FYI.

    Neal Vance

  5. Really enjoyed this read! Beautful pictures

  6. Hey. Thanks for the article and the site. I've just discovered it. My name is Luke. I live in Sydney, Australia. I am a descendant of James Vance 1799-1879 Born Oghill County Fermanagh. I'm researching the Tyrone/ Fermanagh line and their links to Scotland. I look forward to trawling through the site further.

  7. Very interesting, I know vances in Co Down who are all Catholic.