I've been home from Ireland for a few weeks, but am just now getting my feet back under me. I had hoped to post to my blog during my trip, but I found myself falling exhausted into bed each night instead. Every day was thrilling and overwhelming. I did take lots of photos, and over the next few weeks I plan to write about some of the research repositories where I worked. But there is one particular story that wants to be told first.
The day that stands out most in my mind was the day that my new-found Irish cousins, Ann and her brother Peter, took my husband and I out to Moycullen, a parish in County Galway, northwest of Galway City. My great-grandmother's brother, Stephen Burke, married a Moycullen girl named Margaret Barrett. Margaret's younger brother was Ann's great-grandfather, Nicholas Barrett. That Ann and I found each other and wove the wandering threads of our families back together is a miracle that Internet communication made possible, but that's another story.
Margaret and Nicholas grew up in a cluster of cottages that made up the Townland of Islandmore. It was an exquisite day when we set off to find this place. In a land of soft days filled with misty rain, this day was crystalline clear and warm, under a dazzling blue sky. Ann stopped the car along the side of a vine-covered stone wall. We pulled aside the vegetation that had overgrown the engraving in the stone that told us we had come home to Islandmore.
Ann drove down a dirt lane just wide enough for two tire tracks, and pulled up to a small farm house.
The owner graciously led us back, climbing through piles of hay bales, and pointed out the ruins of the original stone cottages. The thatched roofs were long gone, only scraps of corrugated tin that replaced them remained. Some of the stone had been replaced by cement blocks during the years that the structures had been used as barns and outbuildings. Vines and bushes had been hard at work reclaiming the former homes, but parts of the walls survived.
We pulled the branches aside, ducked our heads under the low doorway, and crossed the threshold into what the elderly property owner pointed out as being the former Barrett