Barbara pushes for DNA testing

Barbara Miers (nee Agnew) and her husband Bruce Miers pouring over their genealogical research.  INLT 39-680-CON
Barbara Miers (nee Agnew) and her husband Bruce Miers pouring over their genealogical research. INLT 39-680-CON

A determined pensioner from the United States is calling on Larne residents to help trace her family roots back to Co Antrim.

Barbara Miers (Agnew), from Peoria, Illinois, has travelled to Northern Ireland on many occasions with her husband Bruce to carry out genealogical research into her family history.

Despite spending the past 40 years digging into her origins, the 70-year-old knows little about her ancestors other than a few key details.

She told the Times: “All we have managed to glean from our research is that my great grandfather, John Agnew, was born circa 1818 in Co Antrim and emigrated to America about 1840.

“We know he sailed from Belfast to New York, worked as a tailor and married a woman called Mary Ann Howard.

“Because I know little about my line, I started an online newsletter connecting Agnews in eight countries. I have also established a website called”

Having hit a brick wall as far as traditional research goes, Barbara has now turned to genealogical DNA testing to assist in her ongoing quest.

She added: “I have been promoting genealogical DNA testing for several years and have been able to connect a number of my readers to others in Co Antrim.

“Males carry the Y chromosome, which is passed down from father to son and follows the surname. I have started up the Agnew surname project with the goal of using DNA to assist in unravelling and clarifying who our families are and their place of origin.

“DNA testing is certainly not a substitute for traditional genealogical research, but it is a great supplement to that research on your main paternal line, particularly in situations where you have run into a brick wall on tracing back past an individual ancestor.

“The Agnew surname project now has 52 participants, and I would like to encourage any male Agnews in the Larne area to consider taking the test at”

And while her research has helped other Agnews connect with their relatives, the answers she is searching for regarding her own family line continue to elude her.

“It can be a bit of a downer when I fail to turn up any clues as to my own family history, but at the same time is very rewarding being able to help other people,” Barbara concluded.