Purcell Family of America

An association to help those trace the Purcell family line

Quarterly Message from PFA President Mike O'Shea, January 2017

My journey with the Purcell Family of America Genealogical Association began in 1988. Alice Grist Purcell had contacted me earlier that year having already received some information on my ancestor from another source. She prodded me along with correspondence for many months but it wasn’t until after I had left the United States for a military tour in Athens, Greece, that I finally joined with her quest to further the organization along.

Since that time, I have served on the Board of Directors for many years having been appointed to that position at the Carthage, Missouri, reunion. I also joined forces with the Officers at the reunion in Glacier National Park when I accepted the position of Secretary and Treasurer from J.F. Purcell. At the reunion in Eufaula, Georgia, I passed those positions along and took on the Vice Presidency and now three years later find myself the President of this super family group after twenty-eight years of association with this organization.

During those years, I have witnessed, right along with many others in the association, the ups and downs of the organization. Some times were very good while others were certainly not so good. Purcell families came and went but there were some who stayed the course. New and younger members joined and, although some left very soon, some have remained.

When I joined, it was obvious that the greater part of the membership belonged to one of two major Purcell family lines, both situated in the Virginia region from the late 1700’s or possibly earlier. I realized I was the outsider since my immigrant Purcell ancestor had come to the US in the late 1850’s and there was little chance of my ever connecting into either of these two large families. I wasn’t alone because along the way there were a few other Purcell families who were not associated with the two main groups, and I became closely associated with them. However, as time passed, most of them disappeared from our membership. It has perplexed me as to why we have not been able to keep these members and attract and keep new members while I have stayed around so long. I guess I’m just a joiner. I do my Purcell family research outside of the organization since there is little to entice me to do otherwise and I imagine that many of our members may feel the same way.

That’s why I would like to take us in other directions and see if we cannot at least alter the path we have been on for the last 45 years. Something has held us together for all those years and I want to find out just what it is. Many of our members have arrived at the age where doing active research is no longer a driving desire and I understand that. Others have reached a point where they are simply satisfied with the information they have researched and shared with other members. Some of us simply have nothing in common with the core of the organization except for a Purcell line somewhere in our linage and the chances of any two of these paths crossing is minuscule at best. Over the past years with the advent of DNA some of our members have been able to locate new relatives from various areas around the world and these members have joined and are now active members in the organization. Here is where I am at a crossroad: I do not carry the Purcell name so DNA here is, at best, a good guess. So, unless one of my extremely limited Purcell male relatives comes across with a DNA test, I am still wandering around the organization with nothing more than a very long leash.

Electronic sites such as Ancestry.com and Genealogy.com have certainly enhanced the ability to research easily when one cannot either afford the time or money to follow a trail into the past. This, however, has many pitfalls right along with its good qualities. With so many people searching the same family lines as you, it becomes confusing, and when you investigate their entries and find they are full of errors and you have substantial poof for it, it can compound the frustration. Many of those people are stubborn and will not change their entries to reflect the correct information. Unfortunately, other researchers latch onto these individual’s sites and generate a whole new line of mistakes. I’m not sure if it’s possible to correct this confusion of errors. I am certain, however, that the more primary and secondary evidence one can produce and publish with their family trees, the more likely it will be to be sure the correct information is shared. Even before the electronic age, there were disagreements even in the PFA and with the Thomas Pursell line. Without solid primary evidence there will always be that margin of error.

And that leads me back to our own membership. Many suggestions arose at our recent reunion that sparked not only my imagination, but those of our younger members, for which I am most elated. Some of our older members have questioned, and not without evidence, that we as an organization are held together by some bond which none of us can quite put our finger on. As an organization, our membership should have great expectations that we can do something more than send out a quarterly newsletter, or have a few trinkets for sale. My dilemma is how to address this issue, discuss it productively, and take affirmative action to put something in place that offers something to everyone in the organization.

With that in mind and over the course of the next several months I hope to hear from all our members as to what they look for in their membership. How can we as a group make the organization better? I am going to concentrate first on how we can improve what we already have and make it into something that will attract others. To accomplish that all our members must be actively involved. Over the years, we have tried various avenues that just haven’t produced anything useful and I want that to change. I realize it will be a slow advance over time, but I know we can accomplish it if our goals are reasonable. So, over the next few newsletters that is what my President’s messages will try to convey, “reasonable and attainable goals”. I want to wish everyone a very Happy and Prosperous New Year and a great PFA year as well.

Phillip Michael O’Shea, President
9101 Mace Arch, Norfolk VA 23503-4503
(757) 480-3962
Mikes41site (at) gmail.com