It took almost two years from the first DNA match email I received to reach a definitive connection between our Sweeney families. Alex O’Brien Feldman first emailed me in January of 2015 with an Ancestry.com autosomal DNA match. We quickly determined our Sweeneys lived in the same Providence neighborhood in the early 1900’s and went to the same church. Surely, they must have known each other, But were they related?
Alex sent me copies of hand drawn family tree information from his grandmother, Esther Sweeney O’Brien. My ancestors and even my siblings were listed on the paper. Sure seemed like we were related, but there was nothing to confirm it. Was that just research information or did she know the families were connected? There we sat for about a year.
I created a summary of four Sweeney lines in Leitrim in the late 1800’s. Two families in town and two up on the mountain. I assumed at least two of these lines were probably connected. But which ones? My Sweeneys were from Gubnaveagh on the mountain and Alex’s family was from Ballinamore.
In April of 2016, things got more interesting when Alex contacted his Sweeney relative in Virginia in hopes of something more concrete. Then in October, we cracked the code! Alex’s relative had a letter from Alex’s grandmother about a Sweeney cousin in Narragansett. The letter named the cousin, Patrick Sweeney, and his son, Robert Sweeney. I knew they were also cousins of my family! At this point, the flood gates opened.
I had photos from a Sweeney family party in Narragansett in 1976. Turns out the photos included Alex’s grandmother and her sister, Ethel Sweeney Moffit. My parents moved away from Providence just before I was born, so I asked a Providence cousin if they remembered either of these people at our grandparents when we were growing up. They didn’t, but they did know Joseph Sweeney and his wife, Peggy. They lived behind my grandparents. This was Esther’s brother! My cousins used to walk through the backyard to visit them. My cousins were young and unaware of the relationship.
Alex and I plan to meet in Providence sometime soon. I doubt we ever met as children, but with all these connections anything is possible.
With two of the four Sweeney lines now connected, I wonder if we’ll find out about the other two families at some point. There is always another mystery to tackle.