Monday, November 25, 2013

Review: Tar Abhaile, Episode 2

Episode two of Tar Abhaile was on last night (scroll down, or click here, for a review of episode one) and it featured one person from each side of the border than is often crossed in this blog - Brenda Cavillin (nee Killeen) from Ontario, Canada, and Blake Dickie, from St. Louis, MO. Despite being from faraway places, they shared a common place of origin, Tulla. Co Clare. The episode also showcases the value of graveyard research in Ireland.

Brenda's journey was highlighted first and her ancestry goes back to the mid-19th century as her probably 5x great-grandfather, James Kileen, went to Canada in 1847. He did so as his father received land for army service, possibly a land grant for serving in the British army. James had two brothers in Ireland, Charles and John, and they shape the rest of Brenda's visit.

Blake's case was quite interesting in that he was adopted but was able to find out who his birth parents were. He struggled to find information about his mother's family but was successful with research into his father's side. Two of Blake's ancestors, John Moroney and Susan McNamara married, probably, in Springfield MA; both were from the Tulla area. Susan's parents were John McNamara and Bridget Clune. Bothe these families are the focus of Blake's journey to Ireland.

Like Martha in the first episode, Blake got to meet one of the oldest people in the area, Jackie Moroney, and he was related to him. It was very touching to hear Jackie tell Blake that he could see his own father in Blake's facial features. He also found out who Bridget Clune's parents were which was one of his main goals.

For Blake, one of the valuable lessons of Irish genealogy in North America was learned: he came to Ireland soon after discovering he had Irish heritage but learned little. This is completely understandable but it shows that you need to carry out extensive research in the U.S. and Canada first. This was a good theme to touch on in Blake's story.

After finding the place of origin in Ireland, the next thing that most family researchers want to discover is what was life like for their ancestors in Ireland. In this episode I felt the viewer really got an understanding of that; in particular, through learning about the life of the Rev. Charles Killeen, Brenda's ancestor. Also, the extra information that was found on the grave of Rev. Killeen, in the Killeen family graveyard in Kiltenane, and on the Clune family graves was a fantastic extra bonus.

Obviously the show is not about trawling through family history documents, as this is done before the person comes to Ireland. However, I felt it would have been very interesting to hear more about the land that Brenda's ancestor received from his army service, and to also show some documents in relation to that. Also, a small piece about the huge Irish concentration in Springfield, MA might have added additional perspective to Blake's story.

The Tar Abhaile series is showcasing the success of the Ireland Reaching Out (Ireland XO) organization. Ireland XO focus on the simple but brilliant idea of finding out who left a particular area, tracing their living descendants all around the world, and inviting them back to where their ancestors are from.


  1. Hi Joe, I too would have loved to see some examples of the research. I know some of the IrelandXO volunteers involved in the programme and their research was extensive. One tells a great story of being up the side of a mountain as the light was fading with two local men as they tried to find the townland boundary and the remains of an old house!
    I'd also like to second your recommendation that people search extensively in the U.S. before attempting to search Irish records. Especially with common surnames! All of us volunteers hate to see people disappointed and that is often the case when there are huge gaps in the research.
    I am delighted to have found your blog and look forward to reading it regularly from now on. Thank you, Martine

  2. Hi Martine,

    Thanks for commenting. That is a great story too!