How I finally found my long lost Irish ancestors


 I was happy with my purchase and buying minutes was easy as well. I think that the priests must get a lot of Americans looking for their roots who just show up at their doorstep, without specific information, leads, or clues in hand.

Once I demonstrated my politeness, persistence, and specific connection to the area, they were most often extremely kind in return, showing or copying baptismal records.

I tracked my Shore side of the family to Birch Cooley, Minnesota where my grandmother had grown up. After looking at census records and newspaper obituaries at the Minnesota Historical society, I tied in other surnames as well: McCarthy, Hurley, and Desmond.

Families tried to stay together when they immigrated, and that is exactly what happened on this branch of my family tree. Shore doesn’t sound particularly Irish, so having the other surnames helped tremendously to find the Irish townland. However, I did find it, with the help of some distantly related Shore cousins who were generous with clues and spirit.

Catherine Hurley Shore, my great-great grandmother, was a tough ancestor to nail down. Two of her four children’s death certificates listed different maiden names for her. Her obituary and her own death certificate listed none. A plat map of the Minnesota township and the neighboring township revealed a clue. Immediately to the east of her farm a Patrick Hurley was listed, as well as a few other Hurleys. In addition, although at the time I didn’t realize that it was a clue, Patrick’s township in Minnesota was named Bandon.

 When I searched the microfilm version of the Griffith’s Valuation, I searched for Shore and Hurley together. I knew from local death certificates that William Shore’s mother was Mary McCarthy Shore. So, I added, in the back of my mind, the name McCarthy. Guess who I found? Mary McCarthy Shore was renting from a Bartholomew Hurley in Farranalough, County Cork. Farranalough, as it turned out, is just a few miles northwest of Bandon, Ireland.

Once you arrive in your townland, there may be ample opportunity for you to continue your research. Librarians, as I mentioned above, are wonderful resources, but so are retired, local farmers. I was privileged enough to meet one in the graveyard near Farranalough.

As it turned out, John Joseph Lyons was not only kind-hearted, but had done a tremendous amount of local historical reading and was willing to spend a whole day driving around the townland, telling stories, and looking at my archival plat maps. After our day of touring, he even dug into his own files of the area and came up with local census information that wasn’t available in the States.

We scheduled an additional meeting to visit a smaller, out-of-town graveyard in which the Hurley family of that area was buried. Mr. Lyons’s grandmother was a Hurley as well. We may be distant cousins, but I don’t have specific genealogical proof to that end. I would like to think that this wonderfully gentle, sweet man and I are cousins.

Rule 5: “How could I have been so stupid?”

Sometimes a clue is staring you in the face, and you look back, possibly for years, without understanding its worth. That’s what happened to me on my Cooper and Healy side of the family.

Catherine Cooper, my great-great grandmother married John Halloran in the U.S. On her grave marker in Minnesota, her place of birth is listed as Hospital. For years I thought that this was a quaint way of saying that she was born in a hospital. Then, I realized that the letter “h” was capitalized, so it could certainly be a proper noun, a place name, and that’s what it is - a Catholic Parish in Limerick.

I wrote to the Limerick Genealogical Society asking for help. They were most efficient in their research and provided me with baptismal information for the Cooper family, along with general information about the area. Catherine had been baptized in Hospital, along with a younger sister, but an older brother had been baptized in Bruff, not too far away.

 Catherine’s mother’s name, according to the baptismal records, was Julia Healy Cooper. Her husband was Edmund Cooper. In Bruff, I saw from the church records that there were many female Healys in the area, starting as early as 1784.

The Limerick Genealogical Society also reviewed the Griffith’s and found that a Julia Cooper was living in Rawleystown, just north of Hospital. Additionally, a Mary Healy was listed as an immediate neighbor.

I ordered the corresponding archival plat map from the Irish Land Valuation Office and was able to go directly to the land. Unfortunately, the old cottages were demolished and new ones stood on their site. Julia, to my best account, did not immigrate to America. She probably is buried in the small graveyard just south of town, although I couldn’t locate her gravestone.