DNA to help trace family’s descendants

Members of the Farrell family relocated from areas around Kirriemuir to Ulster in the early 1600s.
Members of the Farrell family relocated from areas around Kirriemuir to Ulster in the early 1600s.

A historian is currently searching for local descendants of a family which was prominent in a turbulent chapter of Ireland’s history.

Dr Sam Hanna is researching the role of the Farrell/Ferrell family, which relocated from Angus in the early 1600s, during the Plantation of Ulster for a new book which will focus on the contribution made by Scots during the plantation between 1610 and 1620, particularly in Donegal, Tyrone, Derry and Fermanagh where many of their descendants still live.

Dr Hanna said the Farrells would have been prominent in the Angus, Perth, Fife, Stirling, Aberdeen and Clackmannanshire region during the late 1500s, with some of gentry and merchant class.

Locally a Walter Ferrell was the manager of an estate near Airlie Castle and families lived on the Airlie Estate and at Shannally, Eassie, Inglistown and Meikle Kenny near Kirriemuir.

A James/Edward Farrell was also the Earl of Stirling’s agent in the 1630s at Long Island (New York) in a failed attempt at Scottish settlement.

He said: “On arriving in west Ulster between 1610 and 1620 the Farrells played a significant role in the plantation. Some were gentry and leased thousands of acres, some were merchants, and some had important positions in the bureaucracy of the plantation such as county sheriff. At least one family was Catholic trying to escape persecution in Scotland.”

The waters have been muddied somewhat as the spelling of surnames during this time was not standardised and the family name has been variously recorded as Pharare, Farrar, Farwell, Farry, Farnish, Farris, Farrett, Forrett, Forrell.

To help provide a clearer picture, Dr Hanna is hoping to use DNA evidence, supported by traditional historical research, which will be administered by genetic genealogist Dr Maurice Gleeson. He is asking for anyone who has a reasonable hunch that their ancestors lived in this area during the late 1500s/early 1600s, or who has of Farrells anywhere in Scotland during this time, to get in touch.

Any readers with a connection to these Farrells, or similar surnames, can contact Dr Hanna at samhanna1@btinternet.com or telephone 07595 289306.