Carmichaels of Dungiven

The old, worn, red-covered book for genealogy of the Carmichael Clan* records John Carmichael’s parents as Archibald Carmichael and Isabella Dunlap and that the family lived near Dungiven, County Londonderry, Ireland. However, the only source listed is a Carmichael family Bible and in our copies of the Bible nothing is mentioned of John’s parents. So I set out to answer the question “were Archibald and Isabella John Carmichael’s parents?”

There were a few clues that suggested Archibald and Isabella were John’s parents. John’s older sister was also named Isabelle and later John and his second wife, Mary Eve, named a son Robert Dunlap Carmichael and a daughter Eliza Isabella Carmichael, who usually went by her middle name. But no Archibald, although there could be a number of reasons for that.

Prior to visiting Dungiven a few years ago, I located several Carmichaels on the same road just outside Dungiven. Using Google Street View, I identified the house that looked the oldest and wrote a letter to the woman at that address. Even though I didn’t get a reply, we dropped by the home on a beautiful spring morning. We were greeted warmly by Mrs. Carmichael and she invited us in when I asked about her genealogy. She shared with me a small notebook with the handwritten her and her husband’s genealogy. She didn’t know the names I mentioned and her genealogy only went back to the early 1800s.

Despite a lack of proof of connection, I felt connected to Mrs. Carmichael and to the place as I sat in her home. But after returning home, I wondered about the accuracy of the connection again. Would there ever be proof beyond the feelings I had in that 300-year-old home in Dungiven?

While not absolute proof, I recently was browsing the newly-launched collections at virtualtreasury.ie. The collection includes surviving parts and copies transcribed before 1922 of the 1766 Religious Census that was undertaken by the state church. What survives is a patchwork of statistics and lists of people by religion. Only one of the parishes my ancestors lived in had a extant copy of the census with names: Dungiven.

Archibald is in the second column, five from the top

A search of the typed document for Carmichael didn’t turn anything up, which was weird as Mrs. Carmichael said Carmichaels had lived in her home for at least 350 years. But when I searched for “Arch,” my screen jumped and highlighted “Archd. Cormichall.” This is most likely an incorrect transcription of Archd. Carmichael!

While not definitive proof of parentage, the existence of an Archibald Carmichael in Dungiven Parish just a few years before John was born is a big find. It seems more likely that John’s parents are indeed Archibald and Isabella.


*Phoenix, Opal Carmichael. The Carmichael Clan, Westbrook, and Allied Families. Morgantown, W. Va.: Scotpress, 1984.
The book has been digitized at https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=wu.89062880299&view=1up&seq=242&skin=2021&q1=dungiven

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