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Look What I Found in an Old Shoe Box

by Ivan Finley

Finley photoEvery family probably has old family photographs, newspaper clippings, most likely of weddings and obituaries. But they are in a box, or drawer and you haven’t done anything with them.

You could have gotten them from an old aunt or cousin. Someone could have tried to organize them into some semblance of order. You know what? You have a gold mine. You have the start of your family tree.

You now need to have some way of keeping track of it all. I found a computer program, “Broderbund, Family Tree Maker, 8.0,” and then my fun started.

You need to start with your family and work backwards through time and go as far as you can to track your roots. In 2-1/2 years, I have accumulated 28,200 names in the Finley Family Tree. In that time, I have learned more history about the origin of our country, the early migrations of the Scotch-Irish to America, and how they dispersed in the early colonies. I even learned a bit of the history of several European countries.

I basically use three web sites - there are many others, but these will get you started.

My family is traced back to Fearchar McFinlay, born in 1214 in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. He was recognized as the Chief of the Banished Clan of Fionnladh (Finlay). At that time, the Clan name was Farquharson. He married a daughter of Patrick MacDonachadh. Balmoral Castle, summer home of the Royal Family of Englan, was once owned by the Farquharsons.

Later generations migrated to Ireland where some but not all the Finleys contiued on to the new America. The first Finleys arrived in the late 1600s. Most of them arrived in America on The Brig Eagle Wing. This ship was built special for the immigrant trade.

They arrived over a 35 year period as the Eagle Wing made continuous trips from Dublin, Ireland. The trips took from seven to 10 weeks depending on weather conditions. This ship was very important to the Clan Finlay. It is tradition that the Finley Clan chartered the Brig to take advantage of reduced fares.

Three brothers, James Finley, his wife and seven sons, Samuel Finley, his wife and five sons, and John Finley, his wife and six children, all immigrated to America on the Brig Eagle Wing, landing at Newcastle, Delaware on May 22, 1720. They originally settled in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, where some stayed and others went to Augusta County (Whythe), Virginia.

Early Finleys had large families, some as many as 22 children. Lots of children died young. Divorce was almost unheard of. Mothers died, often during or after childbirth, leading the husband to marry again to help raise the first family and start a second.

One of the most famous Finleys of all was John Findley (Finley), “The Pathfinder.” In 1744, he was a licensed Indian Trader and interpreter. In 1752, he had a trading post in Piqua, Ohio. In 1753, he was one of two survivors of an Indian raid in (now Clark County) Kentucky. In 1754 he was a scout for George Grogan and was in the Battle of Fort Duquesne.

Here he met Daniel Boone with whom he served as a scout in Braddock’s Campaign of 1755. In 1776, he was wounded in a battle with the Cherokees. He was one of the first white persons to enter Kentucky. He led a young Daniel Boone through the Cumberland Gap into Kentucky.

The Finleys left Ireland and Scotland because of religious persecution. A majority of the early Finleys were Presbyterians, many becoming ministers, building churches. In America they flourished as farmers, tradesmen, preachers, and politicians. Some became doctors others attorneys. The first president of Princeton was a Finley. The first president of The University of Oregon was a Finley. The Governor of Pennsylvania was a Findley. One of the drafts of “The Declaration of Independence” was written in a Finley house in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Finleys fought during the Revolution. I have counted over 50. Samuel Finley was a General. One Finley Family had five sons in the War at one time. One was killed and one was a prisoner of war. Finleys fought on both sides during the Civil War, with several deaths, wounded and prisoners.

This is one of the most fascinating, interesting hobbies that I could ever imagine. It started out as a hobby and has now become an obsession. Be very careful, it could happen to you.

If you need help getting started, or have questions, please contact me. I’m in the book. Before 9:00 pm, please.

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