2007 Trip to Ireland -- Donegal

We had good luck in Donegal as well. It was quite recently that I identified this townland, with the help of TIARA member Marie Dorsey. I had heard that William Emmett Dever, Mayor of Chicago in 1923-27, was a relation, as were the Devirs who were mayors of Malden, but I did not know the connection. Marie had researched the death records and naturalization papers for many of the Devers, and proved that there were at least four brothers who came from Letterilly. My connection was proven when we found my grandmother’s cousin in the 1930 census, living as a cousin with the sisters of William Emmett Dever! My great grandmother Mary Dever was his aunt. Another TIARA member, Robert Murray, is descended from Mary’s aunt, Grace Dever.

Mary Dever was one of eight Dever siblings who came to Woburn, Massachusetts, one at a time over a period of about ten years. Their uncle Patrick owned a tannery in Woburn. Mary’s parents, Dennis Dever and Sarah McCole, never left Letterilly. As I learned from the Griffith Valuation cancellation books, there was probably one more son who stayed in Ireland, and took over the Dever family plot when Dennis died about 1878. This was Thomas, who may have been the oldest son, as he disappeared from the records in 1896.

We drove to Letterilly by the scenic route, visiting Killybegs, the Slieve League, and the Country Life Museum in Glencolumbkille before approaching Glenties, which is the nearest town to Letterilly.

The Slieve League, DonegalCountry Life Museum, Glencolumbkille

The church is in Glenties, but the parish register started too late to record the baptisms of the Dever children who came to America. Although we spent a long time in the old graveyard, we could not identify any Dever tombstones. They may have been obliterated by time, or the family could not afford markers. We talked to two groundskeepers, who were from Letterilly, but they had never heard of any Devers there.

LetterillyThe Old Cemetery in Letterilly

Again armed with an 1857 map, we set out to find the family plot. We drove up and down the road, searching for landmarks. The area is right on the west coast of Donegal, with wide sandy estuaries and beautiful beaches.

Finally we identified a little brook, called the Maas River on the map, which led us to the plot. Dennis’s plot was on the border between Letterilly and Maas townlands. He leased 54 acres, but as we discovered, it was almost all bog. There were not even any sheep grazing there. To my delight, there was the house! It was just where it stood in 1857, and resembled the two-room houses we had seen in the museums.

Dever HouseDever Property

I now have photos of the homes of my ancestors! I also have many pages copied from the Cancellation books, and many items from the parish registers, which may or may not have reference to my families. The nice thing about doing genealogy research is, you never come to the end!

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