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