McNulty/Tracy of Co Donegal & Co Fermanagh

The McNulty/Tracy family lived in County Donegal. Hugh McNulty (1820-1903) was from Donegal but his wife, Isabella Tracy (1819-1907) was not. We believe that Isabella was from Ardgart townland, Inishmacsaint parish, County Fermanagh. They had three issue but only one survived childhood.

Hugh, Isabella, and daughter Susan emigrated Ireland in 1866 and entered the United States in the same year but not together. Hugh arrived by himself in June. Whether Isabell and Susan crossed before or after him isn't known. The family settled in McHenry County, Illinois.

Why this McNulty/Tracy family emigrated is a mystery. Hugh and Isabella were in their mid-forties when they emigrated. Passed the time when they would have left Ireland to make a better life. There is a possiblity that the McNulty's knew Edward Clancy, whom daughter Susan was to marry, in Ireland.

Surname spellings

According to the Rev. Patrick Woulfe, in his Irish Names and Surnames, the Irish surname Mac an Ultaig meaning "son of the Ulidian" was anglicized as M(a)cNulty and M(a)cAnulty. It is a Donegal family that was probably a branch of the O'Dunlevys.

There were two branches of the Tracy family, according to Woulfe, one in Leinster and the other in Connacht. The name is now common in many parts of Ireland. The Irish surname O'Treasig meaning "descendant of Trearac" was anglicized as O'Trassy, O'Tressy, O'Trasey, Trassy, Tressy, Tracy, Tracey, and Treacy. The latter three variations are the more common found in Fermanagh.

Isabella's origins

According to her obituary, Isabella Tracey McNulty was born and married in "the town of Arderth County, Fermanagh, Ireland." Assuming first that a comma is misplaced and that the name of the place should read "Arderth, County Fermanagh", it remains that no such place exists in County Fermanagh with the official name "Arderth", either now or ever. Neither has a place been discovered known by that name coloquially.

Even though we have no direct evidence of Isabella's home there are guesses we can make. Also, one item of folk lore, if it doesn't connect Isabella with the place, is a fascinating coincidence.

The most likely place to have been Isabella's home is Ardgart townland in the civil parish of Inishmacsaint. Ardart is in southwestern Fermanagh, next to County Donegal. Her husband Hugh McNulty was from Donegal and they lived in Donegal after marriage. Tracy's have been living in this area since before Isabella was born. There never was a church in Ardgart townland but there is a chapel in the neighboring townland of Carranbeg. Actually in a subtownland of Carranbeg called Toura. There is also a cemetery on the chapel ground with several Tracy tombstones, some of whom lived in Ardgart.

There is a second larger chapel in the town of Garrison, south and west of Toura, also in Inishmacsaint Parish. There is a correspondingly larger cemetery with Tracy tombstones. While Gerry and Tom were traversing this cemetery in December 2001, recording Tracy tombstone inscriptions, Gerry was approached by a Mr. McCabe. He was the gravedigger and caretaker of the church, school and cemetery. Tom first noticed Mr. McCabe walking up and down the aisles of the cemetery, stopping occassionally to pray in front of various tombstones.

One Tracy tombstone was inscribed in Irish and Gerry asked Mr. McCabe if he knew what the words meant in English. "Oh, that's Master Tracy's stone," says he, "Is that your relation?" Gerry explained that we were searching for a relation, any relation, of Isabella Tracy. Then Mr. McCabe volunteered, "There's a McNulty in there, too."

McNulty! We did not find one tombstone in that cemetery with the name McNulty inscribed thereon. But here was this simple, devout man casually mentioning that a McNulty was buried there. We know that Hugh and Isabella had one, possibly two, offspring that died young. Had we stumbled onto Isabella's family? When pressed, he didn't remember how he knew that fact. He thought maybe his mother told him.