Top Tips For Visiting Ireland & Tracing Your Ancestors

A recent article in the online publication of by writer Catherine Shannon  Ballam covers in great detail how you can get into the nitty gritty of tracing your Irish ancestors while actually visiting Ireland.


Packed with lots of useful information such as the importance of how to understand the actual historic records of civil registrations of births, marriages and deaths. Another and often overlooked important method is to reach out to relatives who may have heard stories from their eldery family members as this source can unearth previously unrecorded locations or names that would otherwise remain lost.

Of course the article also states how the web is now a wonderful resource to help you plan your ancestor search while in Ireland with government records from both the Rep. of Ireland and Northern Ireland now accessible online.

And then when actually in Ireland, the writer covers the importance of local churches and graveyards but also local county libraries as these can hold a wealth of information not as easily accessible at a national level.

So if you are planning your trip to Ireland and really want to make the most of the journey by tracing your Irish roots then read the article in full here:

Image Courtesy of Catherine Shannon Ballman/

The Irish Clan Names On USA Declaration of Independence

The website recently published an insightful article on the names of the Irish men whose signatures featured on USA Declaration of Independence.

With names such as Lynch, Carroll and Taylor the article profiles those of Irish descent who defiantly signed their names on this historic document with the article stating:

“Among the citizens who signed what could have been a death warrant, were at least eight Irish Americans, three born in Ireland.”

This makes for a very interesting read on these figures and the writer, Brendan Patrick Keane proudly & rightly states:

“My love of country, the United States, and of my heritage (Irish) converge in that document because I acknowledge the Irish who risked their lives to sign it.”

Read the article in full here:

Author’s exploration of Irish Roots inspires novels

The renowned author Mary Pat Kelly (who has penned both ‘Galway Bay’ & ‘Of Irish Blood’) explains in a recent interview with The Irish Times newspaper that it was the sceptical attitude of her in-laws that drove her seek out her Irish heritage.

And in the process, she came to realise that her own family background within Ireland could form the basis for a sweeping historical novel called Galway Bay to be followed up by the sequel, Of Irish Blood.

The article gives an insight into what was involved in her delving into her Irish roots culminating in her arrival at her ancestral homestead:

“Finally on a June morning in 2002, with the sun shining bright on Galway Bay, I stood on the strand at Bearna/Freeport, the piece of Ireland that was mine. There had once been a fishing village here where my great-great grandmother Honora Keeley was born in 1822 and where she married Michael Kelly in 1839. The home place.

Honora started talking to me that day and her life and the history of my family became the basis for my historical novel Galway Bay and the sequel, Of Irish Blood.”

Read the article in full here:

Image source:

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Irish Clans Network 2015
The Irish Clans Network would like to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Family and our Irish Heritage are two very important things that I would like to you think about this holiday season. The Irish may be spread out throughout the globe but we are united by our proud heritage. Make 2015 the year of the Irish. Research your clan(sept), join one of our facebook pages and by all means remember you are IRISH! We have big plans for 2015 and will be getting more active online. Be part of what we are trying to achieve.

Is Mise Le Meas.

Proinsias Mac Gafraidh

The Irish Clans

Irish clansYour Genetic homeland refers to the area where your ancestors lived for hundreds if not for thousands of years. It is the area where your ancestor fist took his surname surrounded by clans with whom he often shared a genetic ancestry, where he left his market on the place names of his ancient territory.

The first people to settle in Ireland on the edge of Europe, for whom there was no where else to go, land meant everything – there was no compromise. Land was held by the Irish Clan also known as a sept, which comes from the word Clann in Gaelic which means “seed” or children, and was bitterly fought over and defended for centuries. Hence each Clan occupied its territory for hundreds if not thousands of years leaving their mark on the place names of their territory. Even with the arrival of Vikings, Normans, and later 16th and 17th Century Scots and English, the Native Irish remained and toiled the land merely switching a Native Irish Chieftain for a Norman Knight or English lord. In its pure form, the clan was a family grouping living in a defined territory and headed by a chief, with succession based on primogeniture or merit. Apart from the chief and his entourage, the clans were largely classless which might explain how they survived over the years. This system meant that over time family names became inextricably linked to particular regions. Clans might split into different territorial branches, while intermarriage frequently changed identity and allegiances. Yet ultimately, the clan system came to unite distinct groups of people under a common surname, the honour of which was stoutly defended.

The idea of the clan was also popular in other Celtic territories such as Scotland and Wales.The Scottish tartan has been closely linked to clan culture. Many assume that Irish Clans also embraced the tartan garment. Historically this was not the case, although Irish surnames have tartans nowadays which lead many to assume tartans are also a part of Irish culture. Irish tartans are a recent invention to celebrate a particular country or family, and tartans are especially popular among people of Irish descent living abroad. Many modern tartan are designed for specific individuals, companies, places or organizations, leading to hundreds to designs. We get so many emails here asking for the Clan Tartan of Irish Surnames so I hope this answers those. Irish Clans had crests and coats of arms mostly that is all.

Irish Surnames Can Be Confusing

irish SurnamesThere’s more than meets the eye when you embark on a study of Irish names. To fully understand the why, you have to immerse yourself into the history of Ireland and become familiar with some historical events.

Most people have heard of the Vikings, those fearsome Norse seafarers, who traded and raided their way across Europe from their Scandinavian homelands. Although the Vikings were only a tiny part of Irish history they did influence and spawn a number of Irish Surnames. MacAuliffe is as Irish as they come but its origins come from Vikings – MacAuliffe means (son of Olaf). The most well known Irish name of Norse origin has to be “Doyle”. Doyle is an anglicized version of the Irish Surname of Ó Dubhghaill, (“son of the dark (or evil) foreigner”). The Vikings were generally described in this manner and not a popular people in Ireland. Some academics argue that this surname refers to one particular Viking who was King of Idrone, in present day County Carlow, around 851 AD – a Viking by the name of DubhGilla (again meaning dark foreigner). There can be several origins to an Irish Surname and one has to look at the history and location of the time. It’s worth noting that the Vikings mainly settle in coastal areas of Ireland. In those areas you will find a larger percentages of people with Scandinavian traits such as eye and hair color.

It was in the 12th Century that the Norman Invasions in Ireland started and many changes were about to take place. Up to the 12th Century most Irish surnames were patronymic, being taking from the names of their ancestors. The Normans introduced surnames from place names, occupations and colors. The most notable names stated with Fitz, such as Fitzgerald, as well as names with the prefix “De” such as De Burgo more commonly known nowadays as “Burke”.

The next big event in Irish surnames came with the attempted murder of the Gaelic language and culture by the British imperialists. Here’s where it starts to get confusing for those tracing their Irish Roots with many new spellings for the same name. Some Irish surnames were forced to take an English Language version to appease the British oppressors. Let me give take the example of two brothers. Cuneen means rabbit in the old Gaelic Language. So one brother may keep this name in the old tradition. However say the second brother has to go work in Dublin and to appease the British would have to change his name to Mr. Rabbit. From here two families spring, the rabbit family and the Cuneen clan. They are both brothers but with different surnames.

Confused yet? Sure we’re only just getting started. Lets keep with the example above. Mr. Rabbit may decide to move back to his home and revert to a version of his Irish Name, calling himself Mr. Cunneen to his Irish friends but on official documents calling himself Mr. Rabbit. In the past there were fewer documents to fill out and even less signatures required. Say Mr. Rabbit was allowed to own some property and needed to sign a deed. How might he sign that deed? Will he add an extra “t” to Rabbit now becoming Mr. Rabbitt! Lets take this to another level, every family has a black sheep, and the blacksheep of the Rabbit family now writes his name Mr. Rabbitte, adding an extra “e” just for the fun of it.

The more documents that were needed to be signed, when settling in foreign lands such as American, Australia and Canada, the more spelling variations that started to occur.

I hope this article has shed some light into the confusing nature of Irish Surnames.

Irish Battles That Shaped Our Clan’s History

Do you know your Battle of Kinsale from your Battle of Clontarf? Do you know your Battle of the Boyne from your Battle of Arklow?

Many historic and history-shaping battles were fought on the island of Ireland down through the centuries and each one went on to shape the history of our Irish clan.

View the map (click to enlarge) below to find out where these historic events occurred such as the Battle of Kinsale, Battle of Arklow, Battle of Yellow Ford, Battle of Benburb, Battle of Aughrim, Battle of The Boyne & of course the iconic Battle of Clontarf.

map of irish battlefields

Wexford Heritage Trail To Encompass Irish Clan Sites

Wexford History Irish Clan Trail

Wexford History Irish Clan Trail

A new history driving trail in Wexford has been launched which will cover some important sites of Irish clan heritage in the region such as:

  • Enniscorthy Castle
  • Duncannon Fort
  • Tintern Abbey
  • Ballyhack Castle
  • Johnstown Castle
  • The Kennedy Homestead
  • Father Murphy Centre
  • Dunbrody Abbey
  • Irish National Heritage Park
  • Vinegar Hill Battlefield
  • Dunbrody Famine Ship
  • National 1798 Rebellion Centre

…and many more historic attractions that are of interest to those wishing to connect to and to find out more about their Irish clan and the influence our ancestors have had on the history and heritage of this particular part of Ireland.

For more information read this article in the Irish Times or visit:

Visiting The Life Of Our Ancestors In Ireland

Interesting article from The Irish Times on an experimental archaeology project being undertaken by UCD students to show how our ancestors lived in Ancient Ireland.

How many of us would survive in similar structures & with similar diets today?

From website:

“Constructing the life as lived by our ancient forebears

Have you ever tried digging a hole with a stick? Or chopping down a tree with a stone axe? How about living on porridge for breakfast, lunch and dinner for a month? Reading about the way people lived in Stone Age and Mesolithic (10000-5000 BC) times gives only a very limited understanding of how things were in the distant past. Actually recreating everyday life introduces a sense of empathy and other dimensions which paint a far more detailed picture: the essence of experimental archaeology.

Let’s begin with a clarification. Experimental archaeology should not be confused with reconstruction. Those involved don’t dress up as cavemen and women for the sake of an audience. They are using certain tools and techniques common in different time periods to try and learn more about the variables which affected hunter gatherer life while also exposing some of the misunderstandings that have become accepted truths.

The University College Dublin experimental archaeology department is currently building a Mesolithic structure based on the only surviving example on this island: Mount Sandel in Co Derry, which dates from 7800 BC.

“Our structure will be six metres in diameter with a number of timber posts going up and forming an apex – not unlike a teepee – but bigger in scale,” explains Dr Graeme Warren of UCD’s school of archaeology. “Smaller hazel sticks will also be stuck in the ground to support it and we will then weave hazel like a basket around. We’ll leave one area as an entrance and have a turf covering on the lower half and possibly thatch on the top half.

Wild boar
“We could also use animal skins to cover it. It would be easier now to get them than it would have been in the Mesolithic period as the fauna was quite restricted. The biggest animals they would have had were wild boar but seal skin and even salmon skin might have been used back then.”

Structures like this, which can be found across Europe, question much of the conventional wisdom of the life of the hunter-gatherer. “People assume they were very mobile and didn’t have many possessions but we’re building a six metre diameter house that will be seven metres high and there’s evidence to suggest structures like these may have housed up to five or six generations of the same clan in their time.”

In fact, in parts of the Pacific North West, archeologists have found evidence of huge halls from Mesolithic times and communities with up to 1,000 people living in the vicinity.

Talking shop is the easy part in all this. UCD undergraduates, postgraduates and doctorate researchers are all giving up their time to work on building this structure – and several more down the road – using traditional techniques, such as digging with a sharp stick.

PhD student Niamh Kelly, 25, has found it somewhat easier than expected. “It’s obviously no shovel and spade but it’s not too bad. I was also involved in chopping down trees with stone axes. We worked in groups and these took about 40 minutes each.”

View the article in full on

Ireland calls the diaspora home – NBCs take on The Gathering Ireland

US news media giant NBC features a wonderful piece on The Gathering from Helen O’Neill where she covers the importance of this initiative to both Ireland itself but more importantly to the Irish diaspora.


“The tall ships looked majestic as they sailed into the bay — replicas of the masted, rigged vessels that once transported millions of emigrants from these shores.

The ships had departed from Liverpool, England, three days earlier, carrying descendants of Irish emigrants in a reverse voyage billed as an opportunity to “Sail Home to Your Roots.” A crowd on the docks cheered as they entered Dublin port and the crew unfurled a giant green banner with the words, “Welcome to Our Gathering.”

The May voyage was just one event among thousands taking place throughout Ireland, part of an ambitious yearlong tourism drive to boost the country’s battered economy by luring its diaspora home.”

Billed as The Gathering, the initiative is really multiple gatherings, large and small, ranging from the cultural and historic to the sporting, the quirky and the poignant.

Highlights include flagship events like a July 21 Riverdance extravaganza, in which 2,013 master dancers are expected to kick up their heels along the banks of Dublin’s River Liffey and attempt to break the world record for step-dancing. The last record was set in Nashville with 632 dancers in 2011.

Popular annual cultural events such as the Galway Arts Festival, the Cork Jazz Festival and the Dingle Tradfest are all incorporating “gathering” programs, as are big sporting events. Choral gatherings are huge. It seems like every little village or town is hosting a gathering and inviting choirs from Europe and the U.S. to join them.

There are busking gatherings and blacksmith gatherings, scientist gatherings and even an “Evil Eye” spiritual gathering in Donegal in August.

There are quirky gatherings to raise money for charity — for example the redhead convention in Cork in August. And bog-snorkeling, sheaf-tossing and welly-throwing (Wellington rubber boots) gatherings.

The goal, tourism officials say, is to tap into the estimated 70 million people who claim Irish descent worldwide and bring at least 350,000 additional tourists home.

From around the world, they are heeding the call.”

View the article in full at: