Derry Diary

Dear County Derry,

Can a place hold memories?

John Carmichael was my 4th great-grandfather. Do you remember him? He was born within your borders just outside the town of Dungiven on 11 June 1774. It’s thought his parents were Archibald and Isabella (Dunlap) Carmichael (although I haven’t found definitive proof of them). John and his sister, Isabel, left your beautiful shores before 1800, arriving in Charleston, South Carolina. They were poor, but she had work, and around 1788, Isabel sent John to Augusta, Georgia, to clerk for a businessman there.¹


Overlooking Dungiven, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland

Isabel married George Ringland in South Carolina in 1793. They would have at least 3 children before George died in 1804.

John was honest and industrious. A short biography of him claims, “He was very ignorant but his desire for education was so great that he studied in the attic without fire in winter to read and write rolling up his feet under him to keep them warm.”¹ He went on to become a successful businessman in Augusta, Georgia.

He married first Rachel Davis and they had one daughter. His second wife was Mary Elizabeth Eve. Together they had 13 children. Several of their children married other Scotch-Irish immigrants or descendants of Scotch-Irish immigrants. John also adopted Isabel’s three children when they were teenagers.

But back to you, dearest Derry. Recently, we visited your fine county, with it’s rolling mountains, patchwork valleys, and kindhearted people. We visited the home that John and Isabel may have grown up in. The lady that lives there now was good enough to invite us into the house and talk to us about her family and the house. She has lived there since she married her husband more than 60 years ago. The white-washed house was at least 300 years old then and when she came to live there, it had a thatched roof. We could see that the walls at the windows and doorways were at least three feet thick. She pointed to the stove in the cozy kitchen we were sitting in and told us behind the wall was the old fireplace. I could picture it as she described the size, shape, and the two seats on either side of the hearth.

Reluctantly, we said goodbye with a hug, a kiss to the cheek, and a “God bless you.” I felt like I knew this woman; I felt like I had been inside her home before; I felt the love that those walls have held. Those feelings of familiarity continued as we walked around the property.

So, Derry, can a place hold memories? I believe it can.

With love,

This post is part of my Ireland Genealogy Trip series.


  1. Scotch-Irish Society of America. The Scotch-Irish in America. Nashville, TN: Publishing House of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, 1892.

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