The Colgans and the O'Rourke DNA

DNA strand

Continued from The Cunninghams and the O'Rourke DNA.

Before I talk about the DNA test results, a little background. When I first started researching my family the only thing I knew about my maternal grandfather's grandparents were that they were named James Rourke and Ann Colgan. This information came from my mother's cousin Nan (Gallagher) Fleming's research. Nan was never wrong—well almost never—so I took the names as fact.

Later a kind soul in Northern Ireland named Deidre McEvoy sent me the complete list of Rourkes from the Kilbroney Parish Catholic Church Records. There on the list were three baptisms of children of James Rourke and Nancy Colgan, including the baptism of my great-grandfather John:

12.6.1822, Margaret, parents: James Roarke, Nancy Colgan, sponsors: Francis Colgan, Elizabeth Roarke
15.7.1824, Edward, parents: James Roarke, Nancy Colgan, sponsors: Edward Colgan, Margaret Roarke
19.1.1827, John, parents: James Roarke, Nancy Colgan, sponsors: Patrick Doran, Mary Colgan

So Nan Gallagher was vindicated again and I learned a bit more about the early Rourkes. But I never gave the Colgans much thought after that.

Then came back the results of the DNA test. We shared 100.40 centiMorgans with a man whose great-grandfather was Edward Colgan, born in Kilkeel in 1828, the son of Francis and Mary Ann (Campbell) Colgan. The amount shared was almost as much as my cousin shared with his known third cousin, a Carson descendant, so it was likely that the Colgans were about the same distance away genetically.

I started looking at this family and found that Edward Colgan had a brother who married a Sloan, another brother who married a Sloan, and a son who married a Ferron. There was a Brennan in there somewhere but I forget where. I decided I liked this family—all those names are found in the Killowen-Kilkeel area. They sounded like us.

I'm still waiting to hear from the contact person's cousin, also named Sloan, about the details of their family, but meanwhile I started researching them. Their Colgans are from Ballymadeerfy Townland, Mourne Parish (now Kilkeel Parish), County Down. This is just down the coast from where James and Ann "Nancy" Colgan were living in Ballintur Townland. There were an Edward and Francis Colgan, flax growers, living in Kilkeel in 1796.

Now look back at the list of the Rourke baptisms. First child's godfather: Francis Colgan. First son's name: Edward, his godfather: Edward Colgan. Third child's godmother: Mary Colgan. These names of children and sponsors, along with the DNA evidence is enough reason to think that our ancestor, Ann "Nancy" Colgan was part of the Colgan family from Ballymadeerfy. She could be a sister to the other family's Francis Colgan, who was about the same age. And their father could be Edward Colgan the flax grower in 1796, since both Ann Rourke and Francis Colgan named their first son Edward.

To sum up the autosomal DNA research so far, I would say that the most rewarding information came from this Colgan match; the most assuring came from the match on the Carsons, which confirmed my research; and the most helpful to the other families came with the Cunninghams. I might write to a few Fitzgerald contacts to see if they can help me fill in that part of my cousin's ancestry. And we still might hear more from the Colgan family.


The image of a DNA strand comes from Wikipedia:File:DNA orbit animated static thumb.png.