Fun Stories in my Family History

About a month ago I dove into the web 2.0 fun of genealogies with Since then my family tree has grown to include 1,800+ family members (which I believe puts us in the top 100 for family trees, at least as of June 12) going back 48 generations to A.D. 314.

I found most of the information online, so it’s of questionable accuracy. I think anything going back to A.D. 314 would be of questionable accuracy. Here’s the short version: Several writers, a few massacres, a whole lot of dying in battle and then a kidnapping that created Ireland’s most-beloved missionary (how’s that for putting a positive spin on it?).

But if the stories are true…

Mateel Howe Farnham (1883-1957), my first cousin three times removed, was a successful novelist. One of her books was turned into the 1932 movie Wayward.

Gene Howe (1886-1952), my first cousin three times removed, was a journalist and publisher, known for his “Tactless Texan” columns in The Amarillo News-Globe. Gene Howard Elementary School in Amarillo was named in his honor. He was diagnosed with a bladder ailment caused by cancer and committed suicide in 1952, apparently to avoid living out his old age as an invalid (I believe that’s the second death by cancer/suicide in my family tree).

James P. Howe (1879-1970), my first cousin three times removed, was a foreign correspondent with the Associated Press and covered World War I and the Chinese Revolution and apparently served as a spy for the CIA. His obituary in the San Francisco Chronicle began: “They used to say you couldn’t have a genuine war until Jimmy Howe of the Associated Press got there.” He also started Howe Homestead Park in Walnut Creek, Calif. and was an expert on rare Chinese pigeon flutes. (Yes, my dad is not the only pigeon freak in the family. We’re so proud.)

E.W. Howe (1853-1937), my third great uncle, was a novelist and editor. Some compared him to Mark Twain, but I couldn’t get through the first pages of his biggest novel, A Story of a Country Town (which you can download online–go public domain!). If you didn’t figure it out, James, Gene and Mateel were all children of E.W.–quite the writing family.

James Young (1755-1829), my fifth great-grandfather, fought in the Revolutionary War and as a child survived a Native American uprising in Kentucky that killed his parents and all siblings save for him and a brother.

John Lamont (1619-1646), my ninth great-grandfather, was killed in the Dunoon Massacre (salt: Wikipedia says he was thrown in a dungeon for five years, my family history says he died in the massacre). The Lamont clan was under siege by the Campbell clan and John Lamont surrendered but negotiated to spare his people. When the castle gates were opened the Campbells slaughtered everyone. John’s wife, Mary Young Lamont, escaped to Ireland with her four young children where they changed their names to avoid further attack.

Malcolm Lamont II (1250-1294), my 19th great-grandfather, fought in the Crusades and supposedly married Princess Christiana, daughter of King Alexander II of Scotland (again, salt: Wikipedia makes no mention of a daughter), making a king my 20th great-grandfather.

Aedh MacNeill (born 1011), my 25th great-grandfather, was known as Hugh the Dextrous and was killed in battle.

Muircheartach MacNeill (950-977), my 27th great-grandfather, died in battle against his Uncle Olaf (not sure on that link), the Danish King of Dublin, before he was made High King.

Muircheartach Mac Niall (900-942), my 29th great-grandfather, was recognized by his long yellow hair and known as Muircheartach of the Leather Coats and Hector of the Western World. The nickname was associated with a leather jacket he invented that served as armor for his warriors. Muircheartach turned the tide of Viking invaders and died in battle, having spent his entire adult life in combat.

Niall Mac Aedh (791-846), my 32nd great-grandfather, was called Niall of the River Caillen; he drowned in that river trying to save one of his men.

Aedh Mac Niall (769-819), my 33rd great-grandfather, died in battle and was known as Hugh the Dignified.

Fearghall Mac Mael (675-722), my 35th great-grandfather, was beheaded in battle and known as Fearghall The White Gale.

Muircheartach Mac Mureadhach (475-534), my 40th great-grandfather, was murdered by his wife, supposedly drowned in wine and then burned. He’s also supposedly considered the first Christian king of Ireland.

Eoghan Mac Niall (380-465), my 42nd great-grandfather, supposedly died of grief for his brother and was baptized by St. Patrick along with the rest of his family.

Niall Mac Eochaid (357-405), my 43rd great-grandfather, also known as Niall of the Nine Hostages was killed in battle (sensing a theme here?). According to tradition, on a raid of Britain he kidnapped the future St. Patrick who later escaped but returned to Ireland and introduced Christianity. He was the first in a long line of “High Kings of Ireland” and was apparently the ‘most fertile man in Ireland’.

If you follow Niall’s family tree on wikipedia you can follow it back to the first century and Tuathal Teachtmhar and then from there back to Lugaid Riab nDerg in early B.C. Sheesh. I realize we’re now swimming in salt, but it’s still kind of cool.

15 thoughts on “Fun Stories in my Family History”

  1. Holy crap, Kevin! That’s some research you’ve been doing on your family history. I was feeling pretty good about having 100+ entries in my family tree, dating back to the 1800s … until I read this! You’ve raised the bar quite high. Good on ya.

  2. With all your relatives’ bad luck in battle and good luck in writing maybe they coined the phrase, “The pen is mightier than the sword.”

  3. Although with all his research he’s proven what I’ve been saying for years – he’s related to almost everyone in Kansas.

  4. A search for some family members turned into a little rabbit hole that went all the way back to 314.

    That and am I kind of a geek.

  5. Kevin,

    Have you had your dna tested?

    My Morrison dna is an exact match with O’Neill, Neal’s, MacNeill, etc.

  6. Keep the info coming!
    Is James Young, Matilda’s father? And have you ever found anything on David’s first wife?

  7. Hey,
    We are related. Surprised? I thought not. How many of us can trace back our ancestors to a man known as Niall Caille? (He was the commander who drowned attempting to save one of his warriors) I, too, have traced my lineage back to 314 a.d. when Eochaid mac Muiredach lived. If you keep digging you’ll find that we also have documents dating back to 500 b.c.–still in Scotland, by the way.
    Go to and poke around. So long, cuz. lol

  8. Hi Kevin,

    We are related, too. I’m a young girl whose father descends from Andrew Lamont-Young and Mary Adair. Because I’m overwhelmed I’ll just say…wow, cuz, it’s cool you’re a writer, cause I may need one. You’ve put a delicate and humorous style to showing the ‘realness’ of these ancestors. Nice touch and you remind me of some of my siblings. I fell into the rabbit hole eight months ago; soon to share with them their heritage ~ just gotta get out first.

    Lisa Young

  9. So, I guess you and I (and all the rest of you too!) are related! I too am a geek about all this. I love pictures and stories about my ancestors… lol.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing… cousin dear. hah.

  10. I just googled Mateel Howe Farnham and found this post. My great great grandmother Arminda was EW Howe’s sister, daughter of the Rev. Henry Howe and Elizabeth Ann Irwin. This relation must make us distant cousins :)
    Nice blog that you have. I bought my mom a few of Mateel Howe Farnham’s books and she loves them. Much easier to get through than her father’s A Story of a Country Town.

  11. E. W Howe is one of my favorite historical characters, It was very interesting to find this site. Thank you.

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