Visiting Ireland is at the top of many people’s bucket list. Despite the pandemic, there are thousands of people who are simply biding their time before they can make the trip in the near future to Ireland and visit the wonderful sights we are blessed with. The Wild Atlantic Way is, of course, a must see. The great thing about this tourist route is that it is vast, stretching the entire length of the west coast from Cork to Donegal. The Wild Atlantic Way encourages people to go off the beaten path and explore places a little less popular. Getting off the well-worn path is something I would certainly encourage, and one of the best ways to do this is by researching your Irish ancestors and finding out where they came from.
A number of years back we started to notice an increase in the number of genealogy research requests we were getting from people who were planning on visiting their Irish ancestors place of origin. The majority of queries had some scant information regarding their Irish heritage so we were tasked with trying to find their Irish ancestors records and more specifically, their place of birth. Fortunately, the majority of these queries proved successful. Not only did we find records for our respective clients ancestors, we were able to provide them with a townland to visit.
A townland is a small division of land found in both Ireland as well as our Gaelic neighbours in Scotland. Irish townlands are an intrinsic part of our Irish heritage. Each townland name in Ireland dates back many hundreds, in some cases over a thousand, of years. Today the names have been anglicized and so have no actual meaning in English so you must turn to the original Irish version for the meaning. For instance, the county Waterford seaside village of Ardmore is actually called Aird Mhór which means “Great Height”, a clear description of the great cliffs that surround the village. So the townlands tend to be derived from a geographical or physical detail of the area.
Most Irish genealogical records, be they Irish Church records or Irish civil records from the GRO (General Records Office), record the townland address on the record. The beauty of the Irish townland is that it is quite a small area, in some cases only an acre in size, and so in essence it gives you a precise address, ideal for those of Irish descendants who are hoping to see the fields and lands that their ancestors farmed and harvested.
Irish land records such as the Tithes Applotment records or the Griffiths Valuation land survey also record these same townland names and so there are plenty of opportunities to find your Irish ancestors townland of origin. Unfortunately there is rarely, if ever, the remnants of a dwelling left in these areas. However, each of our clients have experienced a real emotional connection upon arriving at their ancestral townland. It may not be like touching a tangible element like the stone and brick of a house, but it is an invaluable feeling all the same.
More often than not we get genealogy requests from people who have just departed Ireland and, having been bitten by the Emerald Isle bug, decide to explore their Irish heritage. When we produce their Irish Family Research report they are adamant on returning to Ireland. As it is a trip of a lifetime for many, it would be great for those with Irish ancestry to visit Ireland with genealogical research already carried out.
If you do have Irish ancestry and you are hoping to visit Ireland in the near future, you should consider adding extra value to your trip by exploring your Irish roots. For those clients who we have provided with a Family Research Report prior to their arrival in Ireland, they have used it to organise their own tour itinerary. Our reports aren’t just full of interesting details on the names and birth dates of your ancestors, but also details the culture and landmarks of their townland and parish. Visiting Ireland and creating an “ancestry” orientated itinerary brings a whole new level of connection for people visiting their Irish ancestors’ home.