Made Our Way Home (Stories from the Centre)
We love what we do at the Irish Family History Centre; it always leaves a smile on our faces when we watch customers walking away with a big grin and a new family line to unravel. Often that is the end of it, but now and again we’re lucky to have those customers get back in touch to let us know how their research has been going.
One such customer is Patty O’Keefe. Patty and her then-new husband Stephen (congratulations guys) visited our Centre last year. She got in touch recently to let us know the amazing connections she has made since her visit – and it really is a heart-warming story.
Patty was a bit stuck on one line, in particular, of her family tree. After a consultation with one of our Genealogists at the Centre, she was able to start building on the information that was found, and on to trace her line back to the 1700’s, Northern Ireland and a particular farmhouse that was still in the family!
So we asked her if she would be happy for us to share her story with you. She kindly said yes, and we hope you enjoy:
I'm reaching out to thank you for the immeasurable gift I was given as a result of my genealogy consultation at EPIC last year. Last September my husband and I were on our honeymoon and signed up for a consultation in the hopes of continuing to build my Dad's family tree and get answers on where his ancestors lived pre-emigration. Here's the full story:
I've been doing ancestry research for a few years because I want to know more about where I come from. My Dad died when I was young and my one uncle and my grandparents on that side died before I was born, which made research difficult. I knew they were Irish and that was about it. Over the years I pieced together information and did a DNA test that connected me with distant cousins who live in the US. They were able to help me build out my family tree - special shout out to Ellynmarie Theep!
When Steve [husband] and I were in Dublin we met with a genealogist who was able to find the birth record of my Great-great-grandfather Hugh McManus; one of the lines on my Dad's side I had the least information about. The birth record had the birth location on it. We drove up to the townland (a small swath of land, similar to a township) Tullymacrieve in County Armagh, Northern Ireland. The town is a rural farming town with a big hill off in the distance that dominates the landscape.
[‘big hill’ = Slieve Gullion; a mountain in the heart of the Ring of Gullion.]
There we found the village church and graveyard [Mullaghbawn Village]. We looked around the graveyard and found the family grave site of my Great-great-grandfather and other ancestors. This was a powerful experience in and of itself, but things didn't end there. The gravesite looked well maintained; there were flowers there that didn't look too old so we wondered if descendants might still live in the area.
(Photo of the gravesite in Mullaghbawn Village. Credit: Patty O’Keefe)
We started driving around the town looking for old farmhouses, because my mom has an old black and white picture of a farm house that was passed down through my Dad's family. We knocked on the doors of a few farmhouses, asking if anyone knew if someone by the name "McManus" had ever lived there. The second person we talked to told us a Mary McManus still lived in the area. He drove us to her house and we knocked on the door. A man answered and told us he'd been married to Mary McManus for 40 years and invited us inside.
(Stephen, Patty, Mary and Gerry at the house. Credit: Patty O’Keefe)
Mary came back 10 minutes later and asked who we were. I said, "My name is Patty O'Keefe and my Dad's name was Neil O'Keefe". She responded, "Oh, then your Grandma must be Marie and your Grandfather must be Myron", which are the names of my Grandparents, confirming these were my relatives. She then pulled out a huge family tree and gave us names, stories, and information dating back to the 1700's. My Dad was on the tree and under his name were question marks, so we got to fill in our names on her tree.
(Patty and Mary; Patty’s Great-great-grandfather Hugh McManus was brother to Mary’s grandfather Michael McManus, who was born May 1856. Credit: Patty O’Keefe).
She then told us the house we were in was the farmhouse my Great -great-grandfather was born and grew up in - the one in the photograph in my mom's basement. She gave us a tour of the house and the land, made us food, and we all got to know each other better. She showed us letters she used to write to my Grandmother, and she found a picture of my Dad that she had in her house. That night she called all the distant relatives in the area (my third and fourth cousins) and we all went to the local pub.
(Photograph of Neil O'Keefe, Patty’s father and grandson of Hugh McManus. Credit: Mary McManus.)
(Enjoying a drink at the local pub. Mary, Colin, Stephen, Patty, Michal – Michael and Colin are Patty’s third and fourth cousins respectively. Patty’s great-great-grandfather, Hugh McManus was brother to Felix McManus (born June 1865). Felix was grandfather to Michael and great grandfather to Colin Mc Manus. Credit: Patty O’Keefe.)
The whole experience was surreal and overwhelming. It made me feel more connected to my Dad and to people I've never met. If someone showed up on my doorstep and told me they were a distant relative I don't know if I would have been as welcoming, but I will be now after this experience. Mary kept telling us she was so excited that we'd "made our way home".
Anyways, that's the story! Thank you so much for the experience that was made possible through this consultation - it's been a highlight of our lives.
By Caitlin Bain
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