According to a 1999 February letter from Mark Ardis in County Armagh,
Northern Ireland UK, his aunt, Doris Ardis, celebrates her 80th birthday
in 1999 June. Happy Birthday, Cousin Doris... from all your Ardis Cousins
in America... and around the World!!!
In July of 1963, I visited Armagh,
Northern Ireland UK, with my parents, Evart William ARDIS and Dorothy
After sailing overnight from Holyhead, in
Wales UK, we landed in Dublin, Republic of Ireland. We went to a car
rental agency with the intention of driving north to County Armagh, in
A very nice gentleman completed our
paperwork and inquired as to our purpose. My dad explained that his
grandfather had come from Armagh, and that while we knew of no relatives
there, we were intent on going up there to at least see the place.
"Well, you would want to eat at the hotel in Armagh
City when you get there," said the rental agent. "The food will
be good... and the lady that will be your host is my good friend... name
of Doris Ardis."
He went on to explain that he had spent many years as a
driver for "rich American tourists". When he went to Armagh he
ALWAYS took them to eat at the hotel.
We set out for Northern Ireland with a new sense of
expectation. We crossed the border and I remember thinking it was rather
odd that the lone, and somewhat elderly, border guard had a large,
water-cooled, .50-caliber machine-gun outside his shack.
After the border crossing we were in County Armagh and
headed north toward Armagh Town. It would have been easy to ignore the
small village of Newtownhamilton, except that I spied a sign along the
main street that made us turn around and go back. It said "Ardis Dry
A couple, perhaps in their fifties, were the proprietors.
Yes, they were Ardises... yes, they knew of Doris... and her two
brothers... in Armagh City... yes, they were related... but had
"forgotten" exactly how.
"We are some kind of cousins," they offered. The
man looked and talked just like he could have been a twin to my dad's
brother, Burke Ardis, back in McBain, Michigan USA.
We were thinking we needed to press on to make lunch at
the hotel in Armagh City when my dad happened to mention his boyhood home
of McBain to the Ardis Dry Goods folks.
The Ardis merchant's eyes lit up with a sparkle and a grin
came over his face. "Well, " he said, "you would want to
meet Mr. Boyd across the way." He pointed to a small stone cottage,
directly across the street from the dry goods store.
Dad seemed somewhat bouyed by this prospect and soon we
were across the street and knocking on the door of the cottage. I learned
later that the postmaster in McBain, Michigan USA, was named Mark Boyd...
and that my father considered him an "uncle"... although he was
probably a "second cousin, once removed"... or some such
gibberish as that.
We were greeted at the door by a wonderful old gentleman
who welcomed us in without any need for scrutiny of our quest. He was 96
years old and still the "town barber" for Newtonhamilton. He
drew a curtain across the center of his one-room abode... and he had
barbershop... and living quarters... all in one room. A small fireplace,
with burning peat, warmed the place.
The old gentleman listened to dad's story about McBain and
his "uncle" Mark Boyd and growing up with his "Boyd
cousins". He smiled broadly and nodded his head. Rather than respond
directly the old barber got up and walked over to a beautiful wooden
dresser, one of the few possessions that he seemed to own. From the top
drawer he reached under a couple of wool sweaters and pulled out a
newspaper, which he handed to my dad.
My dad's mouth seemed to drop open at first. Then he got a
broad grin across his face. The paper was a McBain Chronicle from 1896.
The picture and story on the cover told how our "Mr. Boyd" was
returning from McBain to his native Newtownhamilton in Ireland... after
spending three years in McBain... with his brother... Mark Boyd!
WOW! We were starting to feel a little bit like the
Ardises across the road... what with "some kind of cousins" just
appearing all over the place.
Anyway, it was definitely time, in our insanely rushed
schedule, to push on to Armagh City. We got there in time for lunch,
afterall. We went into the hotel, found the dining room, and perhaps
taking a cue from the rather coy Mr. Boyd we just sat down and ordered our
We were waited on by a young blondish woman, perhaps in
her late teens. There was also a dark-haired, middle-aged woman about...
that seemed to be in charge. "That's the one," said my dad. My
mother and I agreed.
We asked the younger woman if that was "Doris
Ardis" and she said it was. It turned out they were both Ardises.
Doris came over and after all the introductory chit-chat she told us the
young woman was her niece, who was helping out for the summer.
I was always impressed that Doris dropped everything right
there and insisted on giving us a tour of Armagh. I'm not sure either
Doris or my dad had the information to figure out if, or how, we were
actually related. There just seemed to be an instant recognition of our
affinity... and that seemed to be good enough... for all of us.
For a couple of hours we were treated to the wondrous
sites of Armagh Town... the hills, the wonderful Georgian architecture...
and the two cathedrals. Although the "The Troubles" had not yet
started in Northern Ireland in 1963, I knew the long history of conflict
in Ireland between Catholic and Protestant. I was greatly impressed that
Doris wanted us to know that Armagh was the "religious capital"
in Ireland for both religions, and she especially wanted us to see and
admire the two wondrous cathedrals that grace this beautiful hill town.
All too soon it was time to leave. Our boat was leaving
Dublin that evening and the next day we would be seeing the University of
Michigan Men's Glee Club perform in a competition at Langoghlin in Wales
I believe dad and Doris corresponded a little after that.
Short years turned into long decades and contact was lost. Dad and mom
finally retired to California. Doris stayed in Armagh City... living in
the Council houses.
It was the ARDIS Genealogy project, the Internet, and the
very dear lady who is the genealogist at Armagh Ancestry that helped me
find Doris once again.
I'll leave it to our genealogist in the William Ardis
Sept, Ronald Ardis Brooks, to figure out someday exactly what our
relationship is. I would have to guess its something like "fourth
cousin, once removed"
It doesn't really matter. The recent passing of my
father's sister, Katherine Ardis Ux, at age 89, has brought home to me
that we do not have forever to make good on our dreams.
I always dreamed that I would see you once again, Doris.
Perhaps I will, even yet. But, on your 80th birthday I just want to say
that I LOVE YOU!
And I want you to know that I have always carried with me
that indelible image of the strong, raven-haired "Ardis
woman"... the one who was "some kind of cousin"... and who
took the time to show us, however briefly, the land of our ancestors... in
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DORIS... from me... and from all your
"ARDIS Cousins" in America, and around the world... all 900, or so, of them!!!