My family always took great pride in being Irish Americans. We celebrated St Patrick's Day with gusto. We spoke of our Irish roots on both sides of my family tree. My father's mother's family were from County Claire ( no one ever said where or when they came to America). His father's father was German and my Great Grandmother mother was a FitzGerald. My mother's mother was also German and my maternal grand father came from a long line of Irish farmers who had lived here in Sullivan County, New York for a very long time.
Pretty vague, wasn't it? We were so proud of our heritage and we had no idea what that heritage encompassed. Unfortunately, I never really gave much thought to when my ancestors came here, why or exactly where in Ireland they had lived. When I finally got the bug to investigate my ancestry, my best sources of information were no longer available to me. I was in my 50's and my grandparents were no longer around to question. AN entire generation had passed on- so much history and knowledge was gone forever.
In January 2013, one of my cousins emailed me that he wanted to organize a family reunion of my mother's father's family. I just had to work on the family history. There had been a reunion in 1982, that we both had attended as a child and young adult. I would be able to build on the information gathered for that reunion.
But again, there was nothing specific about where we came from, when or why. I went to our cemetery and found the original family plot, got names and dates and started my journey into the past. My next find was an obituary of my Great, Great, Great Grandfather. He came from County Donegal, Ireland to Ulster County, New York in the 1840's and found work in a tannery. After four years he returned to Ireland, to bring his wife, daughter and son (my Great, Great Grandfather) to a land "where the flowers bloom as luxuriantly in the yard of a poor man as in the in the yard of a rich one" The wording of his obituary had me by the heart. I could not stop learning about this man I came from.He passed in 1897, he worked in the tanneries until he had enough money saved to buy some land and start a farm in Sullivan County, NY, he was successful and was one of four farmers to mortgage their farms to help build our Catholic church. This man rocked! He left his home, wife and two children in Donegal at the beginning of the Great Hunger, worked his butt off for four years in a strange land to have enough money to go back and bring his family to a new life in New York.Now, I wanted to learn all about County Donegal.
When I thought of Ireland, it was fitty shades of green, rock walls separating field after field, sheep and ancient castle ruins. Now Donegal... the west of Ireland was something all together different. When I googled Donegal the first photo I saw was Donegal Bay, the next were mountains, then...rocky coasts, the wild Atlantic, then forests where I could imagine the Fairies gathering. Beautiful! This was where we came from! It sounds corny and overly dramatic, but I felt an ache in my heart.I wanted to go there to be where they had been.
The reunion was wonderful and my family history slide show was well received. Afterwards, my husband and I started discussing my dream trip, investigating tours and saving money. I found the Wild West Tours and knew this was the type of tour we wanted. Small and focusing on the history, people and the beautiful land. We had started savings for our trip, but as always, life had other plans. Things always seem to come up that require the money you put away. But we keep at it- saving a little here and there and I know I'll visit the Wild West of Ireland, soon.
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