Research links Larne families from right across the globe

Bill and Alene O'Neill (right) pictured with Kevin McQuaide and Brian Gallagher at Larne Museum and Arts Centre. INLT 17-315-PR
Bill and Alene O'Neill (right) pictured with Kevin McQuaide and Brian Gallagher at Larne Museum and Arts Centre. INLT 17-315-PR

LARNE Museum and Arts Centre was the setting for a happy reunion of members of two well-known Larne families.

The origin of this reunion lies in the marriage in 1931 of John (Jack) O’Neill and Margaret Kitson, both originally from the Old Glenarm Road area in the town, but who emigrated to Australia in the 1920s. Jack was a son of Agnes O’Neill and many of Agnes’s descendants and those of her siblings still live in Larne and East Antrim.

Similarily, Margaret Kitson, who was born in Glynn but brought up in Waterloo Road and Old Glenarm Road, had a number of siblings and wider family members, some of whose families still live in the town.

Former media executive Bill O’Neill, son of John and Margaret and born in 1936 in Sydney, New South Wales, has a great fondness for his family history and has spent many years researching his and his wife’s ancestry worldwide.

Although initially recorded in paper form, now running to seven volumes, the increasing availability of modern technology has enabled him to create much of this record in DVD form which, as well as being lightweight, can be produced in volume and made available to all those who contributed to his research.

Bill has now produced several editions of this family history DVD and the fruits of all this work and new contributions by newly discovered family members are evident in the 2012 edition.

Bill and his wife Alene, also born in Sydney, Australia, are now US citizens, living in San Antonio, Texas. However, they have enjoyed many visits to Ireland, and Larne in particular, and were back again last week as guests of honour at this family get-together. They were welcomed to the event by the Mayor of Larne, Councillor Bobby McKee and Liam Kelly, co-administrator of the Memories of Larne Facebook page, material from which Bill was able to use in the DVD.

When presenting the museum with copies of the DVD for reference, Bill added that he was delighted to have the opportunity to meet up with the many friends and family members who had aided his research by contributing historical material.

The gathering included friends and family form Larne, Ballyrickard, Feystown, Portglenone, Ballymena, Newtownabbey, Finaghy and Preston in Lancashire. Families represented included the O’Neills, Kitsons, Gallaghers, Johnstons, McCrossans, McKeowns, Wills, McGarels, McQuades, Loughridges and Duffins.