This is a story about a phone call I got in my home in Galway one night at 9 30pm, a phone call that got me a friend for life. The year was 2006...
When I answered the phone there was a deep Wyoming accent at the other end, "Can I speak to Alfie Deehan?" he asked. "Speaking," I said.
"I don't believe it!" he said, "I've been in Ireland for over two weeks trying to trace my roots and no luck. Somebody gave me your name and said you might be able to help. It's my last chance as I'm going back in three days' time.
"My name is Dr. Fred Lindemann from Big Horn, Wyoming and my grandfather came from Mountaffe, Aclare, Co. Sligo. I have been there twice and nobody can help me, I was told that you perhaps could help me."
I jokingly said I didn't think there were any Lindemann's ever living in Mountaffe to which he replied, "Oh no don't hang up Alfie it's not Lindemann I'm looking for, its Brennan."
I paused for a moment and asked him "Would it be a Cormac Brennan who emigrated to St. Paul, Minnesota in1893?"
There was a long silence and as he told me afterward there were tears in his eyes as he replied "Yes!"
This was the start of a great friendship that grew from strength to strength.
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I met Dr. Fred the next day in Athenry where I live now, I took him to three Thatched Bar's, Media's Thatched Bar in Athenry, The Thatch in Oranmore and Morans of the Weir, this was something he never forgot, we had small tipples on our trip, like Guinness and Jameson, which added to his enjoyment.
The next day we drove straight to Mountaffe where I took him exactly to the old ruins of his forefathers. The ruins were still there but overgrown with heather and rushes. Still, he was able to sit on the side of the hearth where his grandfather sat when a boy before he and his family emigrated to Minnesota never to return. This was typical of many families in that area at that time.
How did I know about this family and other families emigrating to America in the late 1800s? Well, I was fortunate to be brought up in an area where many of the older people were born in the late 1800s and early 1900s and they told me many sad stories of that time. I remembered them clearly so when somebody like Dr. Fred contacts me I can usually point them in the right direction.
Like many of the Irish, Cormac Brennan made it good in the New World, he ended up owning 5,000 acres in North Dakota, a great achievement for someone that came from a 5-acre farm, and all bog.
Dr. Fred enjoyed his trip so much he came back every day to visit and my wife, Kitty, and I had the pleasure of having him stay with us. I visited Fred in his home in Big Horn, Wyoming, and what a trip, a trip I will never forget. I visited Butte, Montana, and St. Paul, Minnesota as well but that's a story for another day.
I have made great friends down through the years pointing people in the right direction when tracing their roots.
My next story will be about my trip to Wyoming, I'm delighted to say that Sheridan, the Capital is called after an Irishman, General Phil Sheridan.
Hope you enjoyed my story and kind regards to all.
Alfie Deehan, Raheen, Athenry, Co. Galway.
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