Many people of Irish descent, living all over the world, still have family in their ancestors’ place of origin. This creates an undeniable link between the past and the present, a tangible reassurance of their Irish identity and a connection with the local community living in Ireland today.
However, much of the Irish Diaspora, whose ancestors left Ireland in the 1800s, no longer have contact with relatives living in Ireland. In fact, many do not know exactly where their roots lie and may only have a surname to indicate their Irish ancestors’ place of origin.
That’s why Ireland Reaching Out was established nine years ago, to provide a point of contact for anyone of Irish heritage who wishes to find out more about their Irish place of origin, and to enable local Irish communities to connect and communicate directly with descendants from their area.
On IrelandXO.com you will find more than 2500 local community groups, identified by their Civil Parish name. This covers every single townland in Ireland, across the 32 counties north and south of the border. The Ireland XO Volunteer network is on hand through the online message boards, ready to offer free advice on family history queries, information about local heritage and to help members planning visits to their locality.
Not sure where in Ireland your ancestors hail from? On IrelandXO.com you will find an All Ireland group and a group for each of the 32 counties. No matter how little you know about your Irish heritage, Ireland Reaching Out Volunteers can give guidance and support in your efforts to connect with your ancestors’ place of origin.
Thousands of people travel to Ireland every year in the hope of discovering more about their Irish heritage and through Ireland Reaching Out, they can connect directly with the local community during their visit. Last year, Jim Finnegan from California connected with his ancestral home of Williamstown during a visit to County Galway. What started out as a simple message on the Ireland XO message board turned into a large gathering where family, separated by geography and generations, were once again united. Together they walked the land of Jim’s Great Grandparents, visited the site of the family homestead and paid their respects at the family graves in the local cemetery.
Jim wrote of his experience: “I posted my Grandfather and Great Grandfather’s name on IrelandXO.com and to my surprise heard from Eileen Finnegan. She thought the American Finnegan line was dead with the passing of my Grandfather. They assumed he had not married nor had children, but he did and here we are. Her emotion came through when she wrote we were second cousins.”
Speaking of his visit to Williamstown: “Eileen and her husband Leo hosted a wonderful get together at their home where we bonded as a family with pride and love. It was an emotional coming together of blood lines so deeply felt in the heart and mind; an emotional connection of people with a common bond that allows us to look back to our origins. Later we visited our Great Grandmother’s homestead — at least the plot of land — as well as our Great Grandfather’s, and the cemetery in Williamstown where they both lay along with our Great, Great Grandfather and other family.”
And now there are even more ways to connect with your Irish place of origin on IrelandXO.com. In 2016 Ireland Reaching Out introduced the XO Chronicles, a way for members to share what they know about the people, places and historical events of every Civil Parish in Ireland. This has created a growing gallery of Ancestors and Buildings, as well as an historical Timeline for every local Irish community. It can be viewed and added to by any Ireland XO Member, creating a rich gallery of local heritage and family history information, which descendants all over the world can connect with and collaborate on.
Perhaps you know a lot about your Irish ancestors but have no living connection with their place of origin in Ireland today. Adding to the XO Chronicles is a great way of sharing your family history with people still living in your Irish place of origin and other descendants who may be living around the world.
If you are not a member of IrelandXO.com, why not join today? It is a non-profit, volunteer-led organization and is free to join. It is funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade and the Heritage Council of Ireland. It is proud to be part of the Irish Government’s Global Irish policy on Diaspora.