The New York Times is reporting on a promising new outreach effort to bring Irish descendants back home to Ireland .
‘Ireland Reaching Out’, a new organization created to link small towns in Ireland and the descendants of people who left them, some many generations ago, is off to a strong start.
“The project is based on a very simple idea: Instead of waiting for people of Irish heritage to trace their roots, we go the other way,” founder, Galway man Mike Feerick told The Times.
Feerick’s first group, over 30 in all just completed a return to East Galway where their ancestors left from.
Cameo Wood who came on the trip works on Internet start ups in Silicon Valley and “didn’t even know she was Irish” until a few months ago. That was when she got a message from Feerick and his organization.
“We are trying to connect with members of the Ball family,” it read, identifying her great-great-great-grandparents, Patrick and Margaret, and the parish where they had been buried, Kilchreest. “Contact me for more information.”
“I didn’t even know I was Irish until a few months ago,” she said. “My cousins wouldn’t believe me. We just thought we were random Americans.”
Wood had been on ancestry.com amongother sites seeking to trace her roots. While in Galway she found the grave of her ancestor.
Feerick tapped local local historians and other experts to identify long gone relatives.
Sister Mary de Lourdes Fahy, was one of those contacted. .She searched 19th-century land surveys for the names of the families who had left. “I would go to the oldest lady in the locality, and I would show her the name, and she would say, ‘Oh, he went to Canada, he went to New Zealand, he went to America.”’
The success of the project has led to efforts to broaden it all over Ireland.
Some see it as about time the effort was made “The people who left Ireland were in some sense the best part of us,” said Stephen Kinsella, an economist at the University of Limerick. “They were the most dynamic, the most ambitious, the most willing to succeed, and we did not give them the conditions where they could succeed.”
Now the bad economy has made efforts to reconnect even more important.
Economist David McWilliams, a long time believer in the power of the Diaspora is co- director of the project.
“The effects of the crisis are in midtown Manhattan, where you can see young Irish immigrants walking up and down the streets looking for work,”he says
“I want Ireland to start thinking of itself not as a physical place, but as a people,”Feerick now says.
Ireland Reaching Out is hoping to spread the effort to towns everywhere .
To contact Ireland reaching out visit Irelandxo.org.