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Who is Mary Hay Reoch?


“Reoch” taken in Leith, Scotland.  According to Maureen Taylor (The Photo Detective) the picture dates to about 1893.

   As I prepare for this year’s Irish research trip, I’ve been looking at what research I can accomplish.  I’ve got more than a few brick walls (doesn’t everybody doing Irish research).  As I joked in the past, I don’t get a lot of time to work on my own family so things sit for a long time.  I also had a conversation recently about a topic for a lecture to a genealogical society.  In a recent survey they had done, the most requested lecture was on solving brick wall problems.  Well I’m sure that everyone has their own idea about brick walls…there are probably as many as there are genealogists (or more since we all have multiple ones).  

   I believe that brick walls need to be attacked with the basics…the Genealogical Proof Standard and a Research Plan.  So back to one of mine.

   What brought me to review this particular problem was a DNA match.  The person that I contacted had tested a nephew and daughter, both of whom matched me as possible 4th cousins.  I knew the relationship was on my paternal side, since using shared matches the individuals also matched by paternal 1st cousin.  It took about six months to get the first response.  The contact person didn’t know much, but had an uncle that was doing research.  It was another six months before the uncle contacted me.  His name was Reoch.  If you check out my Photos page, you’ll find pictures from my paternal great grandmother’s photo album.  There was only one picture in the entire album that had any notations…and it just said “Reoch.” By the way, if you recognize any of the pictures I’d sure like to hear from you!  My great grandfather, James Hay Sprague was born in Midlothian, Scotland in 1856 and he had two sisters, both of whom died very young.  One sister was named Joanna Reoch Sprague.  I’ve always thought  there was some relationship, but hadn’t found any connections.  James Hay Sprague married my great grandmother, Rachel Mackey in Ballyshannon, Donegal.  Turns out that my new DNA contact’s family was also from Ballyshannon.  And, he has the same picture of the woman taken in Leith, Scotland and identified her as Mary Hay Reoch, the wife of his great grandfather.  I now have a project!

 1.  Take out everything you have in your files and re-read it.  Do you have source citations for everything?  

2.  What is your research objective?  It’s important to have this written down in the form of a question.

3.  If you don’t already have a report and timeline for the ancestor, create one.  Since I didn’t have a report for this ancestor I began with what was known.  Then under Notes I wrote the report.  I find it helpful is as I’m writing the report to add “to do” items to my list.  I always find as I’m writing, I realize the things I need to further research.  I don’t stop writing to research…I list my to do and keep writing.

   In this case my initial research question, Is Mary Hay Reoch the mother of James Hay Sprague? was answered as I wrote the report.  First, as I re-read the information in my files, I realized that the death record of John Sprague indicated he was "the widower of Mary Hay” at the time of his death.  If I’d seen that before, I hadn’t made a note of it, so she couldn’t be the Mary Hay who was the widow of John Reoch who died in 1886.  Frequently, when you re-read the information you have you realize you already have the answer to your question. Make sure you are squeezing all of the information out of your sources!

4.  Create a new research question and repeat the process.  My new question is How are the Reoch and Sprague/Hay families connected?

I have a long list of to do’s now to move forward in my research.  Many of them are in Scotland or England.  Actually, if your Irish ancestors spent time in either location before they emigrated, you’re lucky because the records in Scotland and England are much better than Ireland.  In particular, birth and marriage records in Scotland have a great deal of information.  I also have some specific things to look for in Ireland.  The day that we’re at the Valuation Office in Dublin I’m going to look for a record of John Reoch in Bundoran.  It will be a bit more difficult because he was not there at the time of Griffith’s, so I’m just going to have to go through the revision books page by page to see if I can determine when he arrived in Ireland.  I do have some hints on that since I know he was in England for the 1871 census. 

   I leave on Wednesday for Ireland.  Check my blog for the next few weeks if you're interested in seeing what we do on the research trip.  Perhaps there will be some hints to help move your research along.

   Happy Hunting!

© Donna M. Moughty 2007- 2018