Hughes' Views & News

An invitation for Hughes men in Ireland

Posted in Genealogy, Hughes by tahughesnc on May 23, 2017

The H. Hughes pub in Carrickmacross.

Five years ago, in 2012, I decided to begin researching my family history and to have my DNA tested.  I ordered a Y-DNA37 test from Family Tree DNA, joined the Hughes DNA Project, and began waiting for my results.

While I was waiting, I noticed that there was a man in the Hughes Project from South Carolina who reported having the same earliest known ancestor as my family:  Andrew Hughes, who was born near Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in 1755 and died in Pickens County, South Carolina, in 1843. When my Y-DNA results came back, the man in South Carolina was listed as a match for me, and I was able to work out from genealogical records that he and my father were 4th cousins. I later learned that the man, whose name was Larkin Hughes Jr., had died in 2008, so he and my father never met or even knew about each other.

Over the next several months after I got my Y-DNA37 results, I noticed several things that were a surprise to me. For example, most of the men who were listed as matches for me weren’t named Hughes, and many of them reported having earliest known ancestors in Ireland. These were men with surnames such as McArdle, McMahon and McQuillen, to name a few. I also noticed that Larkin Hughes Jr. was a member of the Clan Colla 425 null project, which is based on the theory that its members are descended from the Three Collas who ruled the Kingdom of Oriel — an area that corresponds roughly to the present-day Irish counties of Louth, Monaghan and Armagh — about 300 A.D. I joined the Clan Colla project as well after learning that my Y-DNA signature met the requirements for membership.

Finally, I noticed that my Y-DNA matches included several men named McMahon. At that point I contacted Patrick McMahon, who is an administrator for both the Clan Colla and McMahon DNA projects, and learned that my Y-DNA signature met the requirements for membership in the McMahon Project. So, I joined the McMahon project as well. I have since upgraded my Y-DNA results from 37 to 111 markers and have taken Family Tree DNA’s Big Y test, which is the most advanced paternal line test currently available.

The McMahons were the ruling chieftains over about 4/5 of County Monaghan for more than 400 years, from about 1200 until the English imposed their control over the area in the 1600s. The McKennas ruled the other 1/5. The last McMahon chieftain, Hugh Oge MacMahon, was held prisoner in the Tower of London and beheaded for his participation in the 1641 Irish rebellion against English rule. According to The Monaghan Story by Peadar Livingstone, people in central and northern County Monaghan with the surname Hughes — which means “Son of Hugh” — are considered to be probable descendants of one of the many Hugh McMahons or Hugh McKennas who lived during this era. The Monaghan Story says Hughes is also a very popular surname in counties Armagh and Tyrone.


St. Mary’s in Castleblayney — the black headstone in the foreground is for a Hughes.

I recently visited County Monaghan myself for the first time. As I walked through the graveyard at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Castleblayney, I was struck by the fact that many of the surnames from my Y-DNA and Big Y match lists — including Hughes, McMahon, McArdle and McKenna — were well represented on the headstones there.

My Y-DNA matches include men named McMahon who live in Ireland, but I don’t have any Y-DNA matches in Ireland named Hughes — all of my matches named Hughes live in the U.S. I would like very much to find one or more men named Hughes in Ireland who are a Y-DNA match for me.

Are you a Hughes male in Ireland with ancestral roots in the counties of Monaghan, Armagh or Tyrone? If so, then I hereby invite you to have your Y-DNA tested and to join the Hughes DNA Project, for which I am a co-administrator. You can do so at this link:

You will need to order the Y-DNA67 test, at minimum, in order to find out if you share the particular Y-DNA signature that I share with men in the Clan Colla and McMahon projects.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at

Discovering my rural Alabama heritage

Posted in Genealogy by tahughesnc on November 27, 2012

During Thanksgiving week, I traveled from my home in Durham, N.C., to Birmingham, Ala., to spend Thanksgiving with my parents, my girlfriend, Kelley Grogan, and the family of my brother, Brian.

Left to right: Dylan Hughes, Gloria Hughes, Arley Hughes Jr., Tom Hughes, Mary Bess Paluzzi (Associate Dean for Special Collections at the UA Libraries), and Brian Hughes.

Our agenda for Tuesday, Nov. 20 included a trip to the Hoole Library at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, where we donated a collection of 64 letters that my grandfather, Arley Hughes Sr. (1891-1969), wrote to his parents, brothers and sisters in Kennedy, Ala., while he served in the U.S. Army in France during World War I. The library plans to make the letters available on their website later.

After we concluded our business at the Hoole Library, we visited Arley Sr.’s grave, which is in Evergreen Cemetery, across the street from Bryant-Denny Stadium. He graduated from the UA School of Law in 1917, and then got married, before he was drafted into Army service. After returning home from WWI in 1919, he lived the rest of his life in Tuscaloosa.

My grandfather’s headstone.

My father lived the first several years of his life in this house at 828 11th Ave.

While in Tusaloosa, we also visited two home sites where my father, Arley “Bill” Hughes Jr., had lived while he was growing up, and a third home site where my mother, Gloria Breland Hughes, had lived. Only one of these homes was still standing. The other two survived a massive tornado that struck Tuscaloosa in April 2011 but have been demolished since then.

On Wednesday, Nov. 21, we went on a self-guided tour of several cemeteries where ancestors of ours are buried. First we visited four cemeteries in the rural area where my grandfather grew up, in the countryside outside Kennedy, a small town of a few hundred residents. Then we visited two cemeteries in Reform, Ala., a larger rural town where my grandfather’s wife, Virginia Ellen “Virgie” Doughty (1896-1978), grew up.

Shown here are me (at left), my father, and my brother, Brian, standing behind the headstone of my 2nd great grandfather, Thomps Hughes.

Our first stop was at Ashcraft Corner Memorial Cemetery, next to Ashcraft Corner Baptist Church. For me the highlight of this cemetery was seeing the grave of our first direct line Hughes ancestor to settle in Alabama, James Thompson “Thomps” Hughes (1831-1919). Thomps was the grandson of our earliest known Hughes ancestor, Andrew Hughes (1755-1843), who was born near Lancaster, Penn. but lived most of his adult life in the old Pendleton District in South Carolina.

Next we visited the Wesley Chapel Cemetery, which is on a dirt road (Wesley Chapel Road) and deep in the woods, about 2.5 miles from Ashcraft Corner Memorial. Here we found several graves of ancestors of ours named Wilson, a family that our Hughes line has been associated with since the 1700s. One example of this association: Thomps Hughes’ mother was Margaret “Peggy” Wilson (1801-1848), who married Thomps’ father, Elisha Hughes, in South Carolina in 1819.

Hulda Hughes Wilson (1833-1865) was a sister of Thomps Hughes. She married John Wilson (1828-1862), who was her first cousin.

We found additional examples of the Hughes-Wilson association at the next cemetery we visited, the Old Wesley Chapel Cemetery (aka, Wilson Cemetery) on Junkins Road, outside Kennedy. There we found the graves of two of Thomps’ sisters, Hulda Hughes Wilson, and Adline Hughes Wilson. Hulda, Adline, Thomps and their younger brother, William M. Hughes, were orphaned after their mother died in 1848 (their father, Elisha Hughes, had disappeared several years before). Custody of the orphans was awarded to their uncle, William M. Wilson, in Anderson, S.C. in June 1848. But by 1850 Thomps, Adline and William were living in Pickens County, Ala., in the home of their older sister, Harriet Hughes (1825-1906), and her first husband, John W. Hamby (1822-1862).

Here are a few more examples of the Hughes-Wilson connection.  James A. Wilson (1805-1876) is also buried in the cemetery on Junkins Road. James A. Wilson’s son, John Wilson (1828-1862), was the first cousin and husband of Hulda Hughes Wilson. James A. Wilson also had a daughter named Elizabeth “Eliza” Wilson (1829-1904), who was the grandmother of a fellow named Arley Hughes Sr., who was, you may recall, my grandfather. Another son of James A. Wilson, named James Harvey Wilson (1837-1900), was the first cousin and husband of Adline Hughes Wilson.

Our next stop was the Kennedy Express, a gas station and convenience store with a little restaurant inside. While we had lunch there, the clerk told us about a another Wilson Cemetery nearby, which we set off to see after lunch. This cemetery, like the one at New Wesley Chapel, was on a dirt road deep in the woods.

The headstone of James Harvey Doughty, one of my great grandfathers.

Then we drove to Reform (pronounced “REE-form”). First we visited Arbor Springs Cemetery, and then we visited Graham Memorial Cemetery,  which is close to Pickens County High School. Many of my grandmother’s Doughty relatives are buried at Graham Memorial. Arley Hughes Jr. was a school teacher in Pickens County before he went to law school in Tuscaloosa. In fact, he met his wife, Virgie Doughty (my grandmother) when she sent him a letter inviting him to apply for a teaching job. She wrote the letter on behalf of her father, James Harvey Doughty, who was highly active in the civic life of Pickens County.

What did I learn from this trip? It gave me a better understanding than I have ever had before about what life must have been like for my earliest Hughes ancestors in Alabama. They lived on a small farm in an area that even now seems to me very remote, rural and sparsely populated, although it’s only about an hour’s drive from Tuscaloosa. According to my father, the same trip took my grandfather two days by horse and wagon in the early 1900s.

The city I grew up in, Mobile, is in the same state, but the world of my childhood there in the 1960s and 70s was in many ways an entirely different planet from the world my grandfather grew up in. This trip taught me, in a very visceral way, that I am not that far removed from my rural Alabama heritage.