Guides & Speakers

Dr Mary Wack (Washington State University)

Read Mary’s Blog – roevalleyancestors.org

Keynote Speaker

Dr. Mary Wack is Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and Dean, University College, Washington State University. A native of the Washington, D.C. area, Dr. Wack received bachelor’s degrees summa cum laude in English and Classics from Georgetown University. Following a Fulbright year at the University of Heidelberg, Germany, she completed a Ph.D. in Medieval Studies (emphasis in literature) at Cornell University.

Dr. Wack was hired in 1993 as Professor of English and Chair of the department at Washington State University. From 2000–2007 she served as Dean of the University Honors College. During 2005-07 she served in the Provost’s Office as Director of Undergraduate Education, and became Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education in 2007. She became Acting Director of General Education in 2009. With the founding of the University College in late 2009, she became its first Dean in 2010.

Dr. Wack has been awarded many research grants over the years. When she inherited some documents and photos from the daughter of a Roe Valley emigrant (Leeke and Ballymonie townlands), she shifted her research interests to the 19th-century social history of the area. A series of articles in The Winding Roe, Familia, and talks at national Irish Studies conferences in the United States draw on a variety of public and private sources to shed new light on the area’s history. These studies have brought her into contact with a far-flung RoeValley diaspora, many of whom are actively researching such families as Ferguson, MacLurg, McFeely, Murrell, McCloskey (many), Farren, Campbell, Osborne, McCausland, O’Kane/Cain, Hasson, McGrellis, and so on.

While the Roe area has been blessed with many works of parish history and some excellent local histories, a detailed scholarly account of the life of the ordinary inhabitants in past centuries awaits to be written. Fortunately, the Ordnance Survey Memoirs for the Roe Valley are of unparalleled richness for this purpose. Existing academic scholarship has approached the Memoirs largely as folklore, or more recently, from the point of view of post-colonial theory. Neither approach focuses on individual informants in their historical reality, or on their stories as historical testimonies. Dr. Wack’s book in progress, Memoir, Story, History: Roe Valley Studies from the Ordnance Survey Memoirs, seeks to give voice to silent (or silenced) ancestral generations by probing stories told by or about named individuals, and by recreating the social and economic context in which these individuals lived and from which many of them emigrated.


Dr Brian Lambkin (Director, Mellon Centre for Migration Studies)

Brian graduated from Cambridge University in 1975 and then trained as a teacher at Queen’s University, Belfast. He taught at Rathmore Grammar School, Belfast until 1981 when he joined Lagan College as a founder teacher with responsibility for History and Religious Education.

He became Vice-Principal in 1987 and Principal in 1993. In 1998 he became the first director of the Mellon Centre for Migration Studies at the Ulster-American Folk Park, Omagh. He and his colleague Dr Patrick Fitzgerald (below) are the authors of Migration in Irish History, 1607-2007 (2008).

Visit the Mellon Centre for Migration Studies website


Dr Patrick Fitzgerald (Lecturer and Development Officer, Mellon Centre for Migration Studies)

Dr. Patrick FitzgeraldPaddy was educated at Queen’s University Belfast. A former curator at the Ulster-American Folk Park he has been teaching a QUB Masters in Irish Migration Studies since 1996. Patrick Fitzgerald has an overarching interest in all aspects of human migration relating to Ireland from 1600 to the present.

Particular interests include Poverty and subsistence migration, Irish migration to Britain (1600-1800), British migration to Ireland (1600-1900), visual representations of historic Irish migration and Ulster historiography. He and his colleague Dr Brian Lambkin (above) are the authors of Migration in Irish History, 1607-2007 (2008).

Visit the Mellon Centre for Migration Studies website


Dr William Roulston (Research Director, Ulster Historical Foundation)

Dr. William RoulstonWilliam is a native of Bready, County Tyrone and graduated in History from the University of Ulster in 1994. He carried out the research for his PhD in the School of Archaeology and Palaeoecology at Queen’s University, Belfast, and was awarded his doctorate in 2003.

He joined the staff of the Ulster Historical Foundation in 1997 as a researcher. In 2006 he was appointed Research Director in succession to Dr Brian Trainor.

He is the author of a number of books, including Researching Scots-Irish Ancestors (2005), Restoration Strabane, 1660-1714 (2007) and (co-edited with Eileen Murphy) Fermanagh: History and Society (2004).


Gillian Hunt (Research Assistant, Ulster Historical Foundation)

Gillian HuntGillian is research assistant with the Ulster Historical Foundation. She was previously The Woodland Trust’s research officer, working on their ancient woodland inventory project. In addition she has worked with the Ulster Historical Foundation as a genealogical researcher since 2001.

She regularly runs classes and gives talks on family history as well as visiting the USA to promote family history at events such as the Stone Mountain Highland Games in Georgia in 2008 and the ‘Experience Northern Ireland’ exhibition in New York in 2010.


Dr Brian Trainor (retired Research Director, Ulster Historical Foundation)

Dr Brian TrainorBrian retired as Research Director of the Ulster Historical Foundation in 2006, but remains actively involved with Ulster Historical Foundation. He was educated at Queen’s University, Belfast, and from there went to the Institute of Historical Research in London. He returned to Belfast where he lectured for several years at Queen’s before becoming in 1956 an archivist in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland.

He was Director of the Public Record Office from 1970 to 1987 when he became Director and then Research Director of the Ulster Historical Foundation. He holds an Honorary Doctorate of Law from the National University of Ireland.


Brian Mitchell (Genealogist, Derry City Council)

Brian has been involved in local, family and emigration research in the wider Derry area since 1982. He is author of numerous Irish genealogy reference books such as A New Genealogical Atlas of Ireland, A Guide to Irish Parish Registers and Pocket Guide to Irish Genealogy. He has also published local histories and surname studies on the north-west of Ireland. He has spoken widely on Irish history and genealogy.

Visit the Derry Genealogy website


Dr Bill Macafee (formerly of the University of Ulster)

Dr Bill Macafee is a retired university lecturer who spent some thirty years in the School of Education, University of Ulster, Coleraine, and before that teaching in schools. He is the author of numerous publications that deal with population history and rural life in Ulster, and has a particular interest in townland studies. In 2010 he published a CD on Researching Derry and Londonderry Ancestors: A practical guide for the family and local historian.

Visit Bill Macafee’s website

Buy his Researching Derry and Londonderry Ancestors CD


Bobby Forrest (Forrest Research Services)

Bobby Forrest has carried out extensive research into his Limavady forebears and is the author of ‘Scots-Irish Origins’ series of e-books focussing on genealogical sources for the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. He has fourteen years’ research experience in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, and has a particular interest in sources that pre-date civil registration of births, deaths and marriages. He offers a commissioned research service.

Visit Bobby Forrest’s website