In the overall Irish “Coffey” population map from Dr. Tyrone Bowes (see category “Coffey Geography”), County Down in Northern Ireland is indicated as a potential “Coffey Homeland”. And I have a story that is connected to the population in Down. First, have a look at this map:




The Ards Peninsula is part of County Down in Northern Ireland, and there are a lot of Coffey families there. And I have a “spy” in the area. I had been corresponding with Fintan Coffey, one of our “Irish Coffey” group, who actually now lives in Northern Ireland. Fintan thinks he comes from County Meath, but his job is now in Belfast. And here’s what Fintan wrote about the Coffeys from County Down, with specific reference to villages on the Ards Peninsula:


FROM FINTAN: “You raise some interesting points about County Down in your notes.  I now live in Northern Ireland, and someone pointed out some of the local history to me.  The County Down cluster is interesting because it comprises two distinct, but 'linked', family lines.  One line seems to have stayed in Ireland, but the other is a line that has descended from the returned migrants from Ayrshire, Scotland who came back during the Ulster Scots Plantation.  Originally, they are likely to have migrated to Scotland as part of the Gaelic expansion into West Scotland.  Today the County Down Coffeys are associated with the fishing industry and have settled in some of the coastal towns and villages, for example, PortavogieKilkeel and Donaghadee.  There are some church records from some of the Presbyterian churches on the Ards Peninsula, and probably records of lands granted during the Plantation.  Today there are some Coffey families still in Ayrshire, Scotland.  As far as I gather, one might be a politician for SNP, the Scottish National Party.”


“The source of my information was a work colleague who lives in County Down, but he is not a Coffey.”


“I did however get chatting with Alan Coffey from Belfast's Fish Market.  I met him last year, once.  He confirmed his family origin as Ulster Scots settlers.


MY FOLLOWUP (FRED): I’m not shy about asking for DNA, but I must not be very good at it since I get turned down (or ignored) more than half the time! Anyway, I did send a note to “Alan Coffey from Belfast’s Fish Market” – and never got a reply.


And with a little help from Google I also had no trouble finding the “politician for SNP, the Scottish National Party” in Ayrshire. In my first note to him I didn’t mention DNA, and got a very pleasant and informative reply. His roots are actually in Tipperary, and of relatively recent origin – much later than the “Ulster Scots Plantation”. He told me about several generations of his ancestry. In my second note I mentioned that I was also very interested in Tipperary, and in DNA samples, and never heard from him again.


I have worked with Lena McVea and Mary Becker, who are administrators of the “Ards Peninsula Families DNA Project”. Their project has several “Coffey” members, but for the most part those appear to be people with no clear and known connection to the area. Some of them are already members of our own Coffey DNA Project.


There are many men on the Peninsula who use the spelling “Coffey”. Lena McVea and Mary Becker helped me identify a few, and I sent some notes seeking their participation. One agreed to the y-DNA test, but never returned the test kit.


I did find one test result, for “an American in Texas who descended from an immigrant from Scotland who probably actually came from County Down”. You may find this newsletter article of interest:


Newsletter Issue 139, page 10


THE “CAUGHEY” CONNECTION: The Ards Project does not presently have a “Coffey” with clear connection to the Ards Peninsula. But they do, however, have a “Caughey” member who claims a clear link to the Peninsula, and I suspected it was quite possible that Coffey and Caughey were just spelling variations. (Lena McVea has corrected me on this, advising that they are locally pronounced quite differently, as Coffee versus KAGH-ee.)


A ”Caughey” did join our project, but I’ve seen no evidence of a Coffey connection,