Whenever and wherever I travel, I’m inspired not only by the places I visit but by the people I meet along the way. As our family historian, I love spending time in the British Isles doing genealogy research. They’re a great place for those who may be hesitant to visit a “foreign” country. After all, they speak the same language (sort of), eat the same foods (sort of), and, for most of us, their culture isn’t too “foreign”. We can forgive them for driving on the wrong side of the road.
A couple of years ago, two girlfriends and I headed to Ireland. Week one was spent on a mini-bus tour that hit all of the highlights of both Northern Ireland and the Republic. After six nights of bunking in hostels, sharing bathrooms, travelling, schlepping luggage and partying with 24 young people, the three of us “more mature” ladies were ready for the three bedroom/four bath stone cottage we had rented for week two. County Roscommon was chosen because my maternal great great grandmother had been born in the area. I had mentioned this six months earlier when I booked the cottage. The owner asked for the name of my ancestor since they knew all the families in the area. After giving her the information, I went merrily on my way with my vacation planning. I wasn’t relying on the luck of the Irish to find anything. My goal was to simply get a feel for the land and the area where my ancestors had been born.
We arrived at our cottage retreat on a Friday afternoon. As our landlady was leaving, she pointed to some papers on the kitchen table and said I might find them of interest. I not only found them of interest, I was overwhelmed by the information they contained. A local family historian had searched the parish and census records for my ancestors and all the historical data was printed out for me. But the final piece of info was the best – “John is related to your family and he would be pleased to meet you and assist in any way with your search for roots.” His phone number was included but since I didn’t have a mobile, as they call it in Ireland, I would have to wait until I went to town to make that call.
After a Saturday morning of shopping and lunch in Sligo, we returned to find a car in the laneway. Our landlady’s husband, Paddy got out and introduced himself and said to me, “hop in and we’ll go find the Barry farm.” I didn’t have to be asked twice.
Now, this is something I never would have done back home in Canada – gotten into a vehicle with someone I’d just met to go traipsing across the countryside to find a farm that no longer existed on land that was now part of a forest! But in Ireland I didn’t give it a second thought and off we went.
Uncertain as to the exact location of the farm, Paddy stopped a lorry along the road. The lorry driver looked into the car and said, “Oh Paddy, you have the Canadian woman with you.” Like Paddy, he wasn’t sure where the farm was but suggested we stop down the road at Sean O’Brien’s. Sean’s wife, looking out the doorway said, “Oh Paddy, you have the Canadian woman with you.” She didn’t know the location of the farm either but suggested we stop at Dennis’ just down the way and ask him. Dennis, who also commented on Paddy having the “Canadian woman” with him, didn’t know but suggested that we call John since it was his mother had lived on the farm and she was the last of the Barrys.
Since “the Canadian woman” had planned to contact John anyway, Paddy lent me his mobile and I made the call. John was extremely pleased to hear from me and gave Paddy explicit directions to the farm. The next day, the three of us gals spent a lovely afternoon with my new-found cousin John and his family.
All too soon, our time in Ireland came to an end. I will be forever inspired by and grateful to people I didn’t know – and some I will never meet – for the assistance I was given. The lovely little cottage still beckons the “Canadian woman” back to the old country to spend more time soaking in the atmosphere of her ancestors. Because if you’re lucky enough to be Irish, you’re lucky enough!
About the Author: Maggie Patterson – a very young great grandmother – enjoys traveling with friends to places far and near in search of her family’s roots.
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