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Launch of ‘The Campbell Quest’ by Patrick C...

22 August 2009

I was a fairly typical new genealogist. I didn’t think about researching my family until I was the oldest surviving member of my immediate family with almost no-one left to ask for information. Basic research enabled me to assemble a relationship chart of the relatives I knew about, and in many cases, the previous generation. It was not too hard to append names and dates and I was proud of the result.

But what my work failed to tell me was where my family had actually come from.  I grew up in England, and with a last name like MacCulloch and a middle name of Campbell I mistakenly concluded that we were of Scottish origin.  My father was of no help.  Four years and three wounds in the world war one trenches, and a father that he had once told me that he disliked, left him most unwilling to discuss any family history and I felt unable to pry (in fairness, years later I came across his testimony at an estate hearing; asked about the previous generations my Dad had said, “I was one of the youngest children, and by then they didn’t talk about such things.”)

I left home when I left school and was immediately called up into the army.  When I left the army I went down to London and found a job with an international mining company.  My first posting was to central Africa and my second was to Canada where I have lived ever since.  Not an encouraging environment for resuming British family research.

But a breakthrough came after my father died.  I brought many of his papers over to Canada.  One day I was moving a batch of them when a postcard fell out onto the floor.  The picture was of a farm house with a 1920’s car standing outside – and on the back my father had written, “My Dad’s home at Ballyarton Northern Ireland.”  I already had an Irish wife – suddenly I found that I too was of Irish descent!

A cascade of discoveries followed.  The residents of the farm house were hospitality itself; and they had known my grandfather and Campbell great grandfather!  Then they directed us down the road to see the old stone family house which had been moved to the Folk Park.  And there we learned about the two sons who had emigrated to America; particularly Robert Campbell who became one of the rugged pioneering “mountain men” fur trappers in the Rockies, a friend of President Grant and – by the end of his adventurous life, a multi-millionaire.  He left a fortune worth 42 million pounds in today’s terms!

1400 Campbells claimed kinship!  160 were confirmed…… and my father was one!  It had taken 57 years for Robert to amass his fortune and then it took 68 years of family problems and litigation to distribute it!  To trace and record the drama of those years in County Tyrone and the American West has been my Campbell Quest!