I just rejoined Ancestry.com (by rejoined, I mean ponied up the cash for a one month membership.) I love looking up my ancestors. I love knowing about these people, their lives, their homes. It’s fascinating, what these people went through just to live sometimes. And sometimes, I find out the truth versus the stories we grew up listening to.
For instance, we were always told my great-grandfather’s family were Irish. They were Irish…until for some reason, they left Ireland and ended up in Scotland for at least three generations. I had to laugh at this development – it explained my love of plaid. But in discovering this one little tidbit on a site with old St. Andrew Society memberships, I went from knowing they were Irish and lived in Canada for a short bit to they started off Irish, ended up in Scotland for at least three generations, got caught in the Clearances and sent off to Canada. This lead to a trip to Canada, to the town they settled in, to find a graveyard full of headstones with my grandmother’s family name on it, plus the variations of the name, to the one stone with the original spelling (which explained why I couldn’t find any information about my grandmother’s ancestors), plus the name of their home town in Scotland (Stoneybridge, South Uist), and that our family was part of Clanranald, which means we had our own plaid. How cool is that?
On my dad’s side, I found someone online who was looking at the same family line who turned out to be a cousin of my dad’s…between the two of us, we filled in the blanks and found the ancestor who came over from England, who was born in 1616. I was stunned to learn that side of the family was here for so long, as I grew up mostly knowing my mom’s side, which were all more recent immigrants. I’ve been looking into my dad’s side more and finding more English roots – which I have to admit, my Irish side wants to rebel against, lol! But it’s timely as I am going to England next month. Maybe I’ll make a discovery there?
My mother’s side though has been notoriously hard to trace. It’s like these people just showed up on the shores of America one day – and even then, we’re not sure. They may have come through Canada, like my Scotch-Irish great-grandfather. My Italian side literally has no trace, though I think I found passenger records, but those give precious little information.
The Irish side – well, no one (aka the British government) really cared about keeping records on those pesky Irish peasants. And have you tried to pinpoint a Mary Healy to the one you’re looking for? Impossible. All I know of this key person (my g-g-g-grandmother) is that she had two boys. Then there are the rumors. They left Ireland during the Famine for England. The boys were sent to America as teens. The one son sent for her later on. She might have worked in a big house. Her husband was jailed, other children sent to Australia (okay, that I can see b/c the temper and troublemaking does come from that side as well, lol!) And the other g-g-g-grandmother Mary had just as vague of a story – that she came over with her two siblings, her sister dying on the journey and buried at sea, that she had scarlet fever which is why her hair was cut short, which she hated. We have pictures of her – a tin type of her in 1860’s type garb, a plaid dress and short curls, and slightly later portrait on cardstock type paper, more Victorian Era.
But one day, while reading records on Ancestry.com, I found an obituary for a young woman, who was the niece of people who sounded like our family. The names were right…except there were more brothers. And there was a name of a town in Ireland, which was in Clare, where they always claimed to have come from. So last year, when I went to Ireland, I mapped out where that town was, finding it wasn’t really out of our way. Josh and I followed the back roads and no signs and somehow made it to the small town of Cranny, Co. Clare. He took my picture by the town sign, just in case this was truly it. And then we drove through Spanish Point, where my grandmother once said that her grandfather’s family was from. At the time, we didn’t quite believe her, we thought it was a port. But really, there’s almost nothing there except a hotel and tourist homes…so maybe there is truth behind it?
I may never know where these people actually came from, but I hope it honors their memories that I am trying.