Branching Out: A Family Affair

By Grace Dobush Premium

With today’s spread-out families and hectic lives, getting your relatives to reunions can be like pulling teeth. Not so for the Kalloch family: the Rev. Joseph Kelloch organized their first reunion in 1867, and 137 years later, they still can’t get enough of one another.

Anywhere from 69 to 200 descendants of Finley Kelloch, a Scot who settled in Warren, Maine, in 1735, gather every summer in their ancestral state. Many Kallochs, Kellochs and Kellers still live in and around coastal Maine, but family members travel to the gatherings from as far as California. Some have made the reunions a lifelong habit — 101-year-old Frances (Bird) Hjerpe of Rockland, Maine, has attended more than 95 of them since she was a little girl.

Family historian Peter Richardson first attended gatherings as a child with his aunt, who passed the Kalloch genealogy torch to him. Richardson says that making a point of keeping in touch with relatives has added branches to the Kalloch family tree. “A woman in New Jersey who attended the reunion for a few years wrote us later that she had found Finley Kelloch’s father’s name, which we had not known in our first century of reunions.”

Turns out Finley’s father, Robert, immigrated to the United States from Northern Ireland in 1718. That factoid led back three more generations to the Kallochs’ earliest known relative, John Killough, a member of Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army during the 1649 English Civil War.

What keeps the family coming back year after year? “Scots are clannish!” Richardson says. His clan’s comprehensive Web site at <> updates relatives on family news, photos and genealogy, and brings in newfound Finley Kelloch descendants. They have famous company — the site lists notable kin including Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, who got her start reciting verse from a table-top at a Kalloch reunion.
From the December 2004 issue of Family Tree Magazine.