LOWELL — In 2016, following a trip to Ireland, Kevin McEntee of Norfolk, Connecticut, said he did what everyone does nowadays: “I spit in a cup and I sent it to Ancestry.”
The results connected him to a family he didn’t know existed.
“I did not expect to see these names and I certainly saw none that I recognized,” he said of his father’s side. His great grandparents, he discovered, immigrated to Lowell from Prince Edward Island, Canada, around 1900, where they raised seven of their 12 children.
McEntee scoured obituaries and legal documents, searching for living family members. Then began the cold calling.
Teaming up with relatives Priscilla Greene and Leslie Greene Kittenbrink, who were already tracing the family’s history, McEntee was able to gain some clarity. He now has over 30,000 people in his family tree, including his mother’s side.
In October, McEntee relatives will gather at Saint Patrick Cemetery in Lowell to dedicate a new headstone at the family grave. Some will travel from as far as New Jersey, North Carolina, and possibly Florida.
The family’s story begins with James McEntee and Catherine Gillis, born in 1914 and 1916 respectively. James fled to Canada from Ireland during the potato famine. Catherine, born in Canada, was of Scottish decent. They married in 1859 and raised five sons and seven daughters on Prince Edward Island.
James, Catherine and most of their children immigrated to the United States in the late 1890s. A 1900 census shows the family living in Lowell.
There are holes, of course, in the story. McEntee only knows for sure what he and other relatives have pieced together from public records, some of which were found in old copies of The Sun.
Ambrose McEntee, also known as Amby, was one of the 12 siblings. Amby married Katie Kane in Lowell in 1907, then the couple lived in Maine for five years.
The family’s original grave marker, which is 107 years old, was placed for Katie, who died delivering her fourth child.
As of now, descendants of three of James and Catherine’s 12 children plan to gather in Lowell in October to commemorate the grave.
“The family members who will be there have, for the most part, never met one another except online,” McEntee said in an email. “I am sure there are still families in Lowell where a grandparent might remember one of our relatives,” he said.
Going forth, the family will continue to uncover pieces of their story. It may not be complete for generations, if ever, McEntee joked.
“This is not a one person effort,” he said. “We try to get the most accurate family history we can provide.”
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