A2Z 2022: Ancestral Homes


Today is the first of my Special Moments, Magic Memories series for this year’s A to Z Blog Challenge.

Cast your mind back to the late 1980s and life as we knew it then: no internet, no mobile phones, no online maps, no Google, no email. The past was indeed a different technological “country” then. In those bygone days, I’d been researching my families’ histories for only a few years and this was my first exploration of ancestral lives in their home countries.

As I drove towards the village of Broadford in  Co Clare, Ireland, a curtain of fog hugged the hills and valleys almost to ground level. We’d flown nearly 17,000 kms (10,500 miles) to see the home place of my great-great grandmother, Mary O’Brien from Ballykelly townland. Would this end up being a complete white-out with no chance to even see the geography?

We found the local Catholic church and went in to say a few prayers to maybe turn our luck around. As we walked out again, it was as if someone was retracting the white blind that had obscured everything. Suddenly we could see the stereotypical green hills of Ireland. It was one of the more unusual experiences of my many research trips although there have been a few “Who Do You Think You Are” (WDYTYA) moments. Was this a reward for perseverance or the power of prayer?

An overview of Dorfprozelten, Bavaria, home of my 2xgreat grandfather George Kunkel. © Pauleen Cass

Over the decades we’ve managed to visit all known home places of my husband’s and my ancestors. These discoveries have been so enriching and form a continuum of special memories for me. Along the way we’ve met wonderful people and explored places that no tourist map is likely to take you.

  • A memorable morning with a distant relative in Strachur who offered Mr Cassmob a whisky (at 10am!). Being a courteous soul, he slowly sipped his way through it, adding a dab of water after each sip, only to be told at the end that the elderly gentleman never touched the stuff. Needless to say, I drove that day.
  • Being told by the priest on our first visit to Dorfprozelten to come back another day. Pleas that we’d come from Australia fell on deaf ears.
  • Our youngest daughter receiving her 11th birthday present near the graveyard behind the church on that first trip and ending the day with owls hooting in the gloom at Tuamgraney graveyard.
  • The elderly lady at Moorgate church, Nottinghamshire, who took a shine to Mr Cassmob with his shoulder bag, and the kindness of the parishioners sharing their post-service morning tea with us.
  • Irish whiskey and Guinness with the Clare cousins. Only having a half-pint would make him a “handbag”.
  • Patting a cat in Courtown which led to a photo of my great uncle who drowned in Dublin harbour.
  • The parish priest of Broadford dropping us at the door of the relatives who’d inherited the O’Brien farm. Paddy then showed us the original family land at Ballykelly townland amidst much amusement that his mates were wondering why he was in a car with English plates.
  • Clambering over spiked fences on unused graveyards to hunt for markers.
  • Braving the weather from dry crackling grass in Australia to blow-you-down winds on the Isle of Lismore, Scotland, and the drenching rain of North Shields in Northumberland. At least there are no snakes in Irish graveyards.
  • The generosity of people who’ve shown us the remnants of ancestral homes and land.

To understand and reconnect with our stories, the stories of the ancestors, is to build our identities. Frank Delaney, Irish novelist. From https://www.brainyquote.com

Visiting the ancestors in Scotland: Left the grave of Isabella Morrison McCorkindale, my 2xgreat grandmother. Left below: The gatehouse where her husband James lived in his later years. Right: Leith, home of my Melvin ancestors for generations. © Pauleen Cass
The Sim family farm, Backrow, at Bothkennar, Stirlingshire, Scotland. © Pauleen Cass

Have you ever travelled to visit ancestral places? Did you make new discoveries of have a fun adventure?


39 thoughts on “A2Z 2022: Ancestral Homes

  1. You have definitely had some terrific adventures. Technology has made some things easier, especially family history research and communicating with cousins.

    I feel your frustration on your first visit to Dorfprozelten but I am guessing you did get to return.

    At the moment I feel very stuck in the antipodes – there are so many places I want to visit – I feel fortunate we did travel in 2019 before the pandemic.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, Anne, I did back to Dorfprozelten a few years later and was much luckier with that priest. He pulled down registers that were centuries old to show me info and I was able to confirm my 2xgreat grandfather was born there, and where his father came from. On the next visit I was able to spend time with the local historian and share info with him about emigrants from the village to Oz.

      Being unable to travel with confidence is a real pain right now. I’m glad we got so much done years ago.

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  2. There were so many special moments in your post. It may not have always been comfortable at the time but are certainly wonderful to look back on. We are not even thinking about OS travel at the moment but I am glad to have visited some of the places my ancestors lived in England and Scotland. I was sorry on a visit to Belfast that I didn’t have time to go to Fermanagh where paternal ancestors lived. Since then I have found that they were not really related as a DNA discovery meant my paternal side came from England. I was sad to lose my Irish connection.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What a shame to lose your Irish! Doesn’t matter how much you see, there’s always more you want to find, or more places to go;)
      I have English but DNA puts me in a 50:50 split Ireland:Scotland, probably because they’re more recent.
      It’s so frustrating not being able to travel with confidence, or to even make plans.

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  3. I’m so pleased you decided to join the challenge. You have some wonderful memories of chasing down your ancestors. I’ve only visited ancestral places in England. Scotland is on the bucket list. Looking forward to reading more of your memories during April

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m pleased you decided to join the challenge Pauleen. You’ve certainly had great adventures chasing your ancestors. I’ve tracked mine down in England. Scotland is on the bucket list. Looking forward to more of your memories during April.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. G’day Pauleen,
    I too have been lucky enough to travel and visit the areas where my ancestors came from prior to arriving in Tasmania. But I didn’t actually see their homes, just the landscapes they would have been used to.

    Now I have done more research, my next trip overseas might be different whenever that happens.

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  6. I’m fascinated by your travels to trace the origins of your ancestors. That’s a superb idea. I’m looking forward to reading your A to Z posts. All the best for the Challenge.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I enjoyed your memories. Nice to have photos. Yes, I have been to a number of streets where my ancestors lived in Cornwall, Essex and London however most of the houses have been replaced with 20th Century homes. The building in Kentish Town Road, London survives however the facade has been totally remodelled into a land agent’s shop window displaying properties for sale. Nothing like I imagine a watchmaker’s shop would look.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. How frustrating it is to find the buildings demolished. I wonder if the real estate company might have any earlier photos of the watchmaker’s shop? Or a local history centre? I always live in hope…or should that be delusional?

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  8. I heard a great quote today on the Bookshelf show podcast. Looking backwards to the future or something like that. You have some great memories here Pauleen and have truly honoured your ancestors.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. When I retire in 5 years or so, I think I’ll research our genealogy. I’ve done 23 and me and I know I have Irish roots and we traveled there in October. I have no idea where our ancestors lived though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Many of us know little when we start on the family history journey. Part of the fun is making the discoveries, but realise your free time will diminish once you start 😉

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  10. I love the photos of the old shed and the family farm. I can almost feel the fog in my face. Photos taken in sunshine are great, too, but these foggy photos have so much more character.
    Thanks for sharing your stories and photos!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I’m sure the power of prayer cleared the mist on your first journey. I have been to the sites of some of my ancestors homes. both in Detroit and in the southern USA. Mostly they are now parking lots. Or just gone.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Congratulations on taking up the April challenge once more. I had prepared a spreadsheet with a calendar of posts but just didn’t have it in me to proceed (Covid malaise). I am pleased that I can join vicariously through your posts. You have dredged up memories of visits to Ireland and the joy of finding family homes. Well done on finding so many homes and sharing your experiences. I look forward to the remainder of your memories this month.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Jill. I’ve had the concept in my head since last year but will I make it to the end? Just trying to kickstart myself a bit. Pain about the covid but glad you’re now over it.

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  13. Love your photos and descriptions.
    My father’s not much interested in his history, but we’re been to a few places from my mother’s side, mostly because her family have lived in the area we live in for generations. They used to be big landowners where my dad was Rector when I was growing up. I would like to look up my dad’s side of the family at some point, because they’re Scottish and I love Scotland and would like to dig deeper.
    Tasha
    Tasha’s Thinkings: YouTube – What They Don’t Tell You (and free fiction)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Tasha. Strange as it seems to family history addicts, not everyone is keen to revisit the past. At least your mother has shared with you. I think Scottish records are generally excellent so when you’re ready, they’ll be there.

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