Belfast Telegraph

Meghan Markle's cousins could be walking streets of Belfast

By Gillian Halliday

Some people in Northern Ireland may be about to discover they are related to Meghan Markle.

Leading genealogist Lorna Moloney said yesterday that the Public Record Office could expect a surge in enquiries after the royal's ancestral link to Mary McCue, born in the 1830s, was uncovered at the weekend.

"It's certainly more than possible that there are people walking around in Belfast that are descendants of Mary," said Ms Moloney.

"I'm sure they'll get a huge influx of calls - this is a big thing."

The 36-year-old Duchess of Sussex was presented with documents outlining her Irish ancestry during her first royal visit to the Republic with Prince Harry last week.

The link is on the duchess's father's side, which was discovered in marriage records showing Meghan's great, great, great grandmother was Mary McCue (McHugh), a Belfast woman, who married English soldier Thomas Bird in Dublin in 1860.

The couple's wedding is listed as having taken place in St Mary's Church of Ireland in Donnybrook on January 23 of that year, with her address listed as Merrion Strand in the city.

Private Bird was attached to the 22nd (Cheshire) Regiment of Foot, which had only recent returned to its station at Beggars Bush Barracks in Dublin after spending 10 years in India.

Fiona Fitzsimons, a genealogist with The Irish Family History Centre in Dublin, uncovered Meghan's Belfast link with the help of fellow expert Helen Moss.

Just the week before Mary's wedding, the newspapers in Ireland had reported that the island had been hit by a hurricane - prompting Ms Fitzsimmons to note that it must have been a "whirlwind romance".

Their information was presented to the Duchess of Sussex during the royal couple's visit to the Irish Emigration Centre, EPIC.

Records also show that Mary's father's name was listed in the marriage register as Francis McCue, whose occupation was noted as a farmer.

The genealogists traced that Mary and Thomas went on to have two daughters. Mary, the duchess' great, great, great grandmother, and Harriett.

The couple travelled to wherever Thomas' regiment was posted, which was initially Malta in June 1860. They then travelled to New Brunswick in Canada six years later, where sadly Thomas died in July 1866, aged 36.

However, Mary - who was listed as Irish and Catholic, along with her two daughters in the 1871 Canadian census - married again the following year to William White, an English widower who belonged to the same regiment as her late husband.

They went on to have two more children - a daughter named Alexandrine, who died young, and a son, William Thomas, who was born in 1873.

And it is through her son's own death certificate that Mary's birthplace is confirmed, as it gives her maiden name as McCue and says she was born in Belfast.

The family had relocated to New Hampshire in the United States, where Mary died of pneumonia aged in her mid-50s on August 28, 1885.

US census records filled in by Mary's daughter Harriett in 1930 gave her mother's country of birth as Northern Ireland. At various points Mary's maiden surname has also been listed in official documents as McKeg or McCague, but the variations have been attributed to officials writing them as they sound phonetically, which has led to the different versions, explained Ms Fitzsimmons.

She added that Ms Moloney's independent research on Meghan's ancestry in the United States on the McCagues had aided the work by herself and Ms Moss.

Ms Moloney, who lives in Co Clare, added that her own attention would now be focused on attempting to trace where Mary lived in Belfast through Catholic parish baptism records.

Although these were ruled out by Ms Fitzsimmons and Ms Moss as not going back far enough, Ms Moloney said she believed that such a record for Mary could exist.

"That's what I'll be looking for - the location of where Mary lived, and her parents' names, which then could open up the research to go further back," she explained.

She added that Belfast should be proud of its newly discovered connection to the Duchess of Sussex, who was also given the title of Baroness of Kilkeel following her May wedding to Prince Harry.

"I think it's wonderful," she said. "I think she's great for the royal family and is such a positive role model."

Belfast Telegraph

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