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nmay's picture


I am a descendant of Neal GILLESPIE( circa 1740 - 1815) and his wife, Eleanor DOUGHERTY,  of Clonmany Parish, Donegal.  Eleanor was born circa 1738 near Straid, Clonmany Parish and was the daughter of Michael DOUGHERTY and wife Eleanor, daughter of Arthur LEANING.  Michael Dougherty"s brother or son, Edward DOUGHERTY was said to have built the in Straid.

Eleanor Dougherty's family was wealthy and said to be descended from the present O'Dougherty chief's family.  She eloped with Neal GILLESPIE, a laborer on her father"s estate.  They went first to New Castle, DE in the late 1760s and soon after to Washington Co., PA.  In Pennsylvania Neal owned a large farm called Indian Hill and made a fortune suppling settlers going down the Monongahela River to Ohio after the American Revolution.  He was one of the founders of the first Catholic church in Western Pennsylvania and one of his descendants was the first graduate of Notre Dame University.

Descendants of Neal and Eleanor (DOUGHERTY) GILLESPIE include James Gillespie BLAINE, a Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senator, and candidate for U.S. President against Grover Cleveland and Eliza "Mother Angela" GILLESPIE,who founded The Sisters of the Holy Cross.  She organized and gave nursing care on the battlefields of the American Civil War and was a champion of education for women.  She also organized relief efforts for the Irish during the great famine.  A biography of Mother Angela is available entitled "Flame in the Wilderness: Life and Letters of Mother Angela Gillespie 1824-1887" by Anna Shannon McAllister, 1987.

I spent a month in Ireland in 2000.  The highlight of my trip was the day I spent in Malin Head with Conal BYRNE, the local historian who was instrumental in identifying the parents of my Eleanor DOUGHERTY and pointing me in directions for further research.  We drove all around the area and I was completely enchanted by his encyclopedic knowledge of the area and his charming stories which brought the history to life.

I have a large database of descendants of my GILLESPIE/DOUGHERTY line. I have also helped to organize Y chromosome DNA testing which has identified the unique Y chromosome signature of Neal GILLESPIE which would be present in all his male descendants with the Gillespie surname.  I would like to communicate with any Donegal Gillespies who have information on early Gillespie ancestry in Donegal or Argyll, Scotland.  I would also like to hear from Gillespie males with known descent from early Gillespie families who would be willing to do a Y chromosome test which could provide the missing link for American Gillespies to their early Irish origins where written records are lacking.

And finally, I would like information about the early LEANING families of the Clonmany area and any living descendants of these families.  Is Leaning the current spelling of the name?

All the best,

Nicole May


Ireland Reaching Out - www.irelandxo.com

James Gillespie Blaine

Ireland Reaching Out - www.irelandxo.com

Eliza "Mother Angela" Gillespie


cynoconnor's picture
Super contributor
Joined: 20 Jul 2012

Hi Nicole-

What fantastic information!

I've forwarded this post to a volunteer in the area who should be in touch-

Kind regards,

Genealogy support


triathlon's picture
Joined: 29 Oct 2012
Doherty Clonmany

Hi Nicole


I think we have corresponded before. I read in an old message from you that you have Michael Doherty married to Eleanor Leanings parents as Neal Doherty married to Sorcha McDevitt. Can you tell me how you have sourced this as my family are Clonmany McDevitts, I have DNA tested them and many other Donegal McDevitt and Doherty families with great results..


Hope to hear





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