In 2021, the Foundation was approached by the production company Third Street Studios to carry out genealogical research into the family background of TV and radio broadcaster Stephen Nolan. Stephen is well known in Northern Ireland with an extremely popular week-day show on BBC Radio Ulster, as well as regularly presenting documentaries and his thrice-weekly radio show on BBC Radio 5 Live.

Stephen had information on his four grandparents but knew nothing beyond that so our Research Officer Gillian Hunt researched all four of his family lines. All of his grandparents had been born in Belfast but research connected them to Kilmood, Kilmore, Ballygowan, Drumbo and Dundonald in County Down and Ahoghill and Kilbride in County Antrim. There were also links to Burton-on-Trent in England and Brooklyn, New York, USA.

Gillain and Steven Nolan Media Projects

Stephen’s family surnames included Bennett, Cochrane, Coulter, Drummond, Duff, Ferguson, Gamble, Gray, Hunter, Jellie, Johnston, Kenny, McBride, McMullen, Nolan, Smyth and Willis. His family story involved ancestors who died in Belfast workhouse and children in an industrial school, migration from Belfast to England (and back again) for employment, an ancestor’s long connection with the Orange Order, a daughter looking for her elderly father who had emigrated to Brooklyn and was not heard of for over 20 years, and finally a stolen or ‘borrowed’ bicycle!

Gillian and our Research Director Dr William Roulston both appear in the documentary Stephen Nolan: Ulster-Scots, My Family and Me, which aired on the BBC in February 2022. In the programme Gillian joined Stephen at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland to share her findings and show him documents relating to his ancestors. William met Stephen at a number of different locations which had a connection to his family, and placed the experiences of his ancestors in the broader context of rural life in Ulster in the nineteenth century.