Alaskan couple seeking help in finding Draperstown ancestors

Alaskans Stephen Bye and his wife Deborah searching for their ancestors
Alaskans Stephen Bye and his wife Deborah searching for their ancestors

A United States citizen is currently trying to trace his ancestors who hail from the Draperstown area of south Derry.

Retired social worker Stephen Bye, from the USA’s most northern state of Alaska, has been kept busy in recent weeks following up leads about his grandfather who was born in Draperstown.

He and his wife Deborah are on an extended holiday in Northern Ireland combining sightseeing with genealogy.

When Stephen retired, he spent some time on genealogy and was able to obtain Irish citizenship through his grandfather.

He is now the proud holder of an Irish passport. The Byes decided to put that passport to use this summer and combine relative hunting with a once­ in­ a­ lifetime holiday.

They’ve covered a lot of ground in recent weeks - starting with five days in Iceland and then moving on to London, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and a road trip through the Isle of Skye. They are now settled in to a guest house just outside of Ballybogey, County Antrim, which will be the base for their relative hunt.

If you have seen a grizzled, grey ­bearded man and his lovely slightly greying American Indian wife wandering around Draperstown asking questions about Connollys, Bradleys or maybe Hegartys, that would be the Byes.

What they know for sure is that Stephen’s grandfather Francis (Frank) Connolly was born in Draperstown in June 1865. This is all they knew as they arrived.

Since then, research has added that Patrick Connolly and his wife Martha (Bradley) were Francis’s parents and resided in Owenreagh, working as farmers and grocers.

Patrick and Martha had four other children who are hoped will be the source of living relatives. William Connolly was born in June 1867, followed by Jane in December 1868, then Bridget October 1870, and finally, Martha Teresa July 1874. Francis emigrated through New York in 1888 to Butte, Montana, where he married and had two children, Martha and Stephen’s mother Catherine Connolly, who married Walter Bye.