Monday, December 16, 2013

Review: Tar Abhaile, Episode 5

Episode five of Tar Abhaile featured two contrasting family histories. Mike Kelly, from Detroit, MI, had a grandfather who left Ireland around 1900 and knew where his ancestors were from. Bill Corcoran from Tuscon, AZ, didn't even have a county of origin.

The show started with Mike's story: his grandfather, Joseph Kelly, left Ireland and made his way to the motor city. Mike's great-grandparents were James Kelly and Anne Cahill. They came from the Ballymacward area of East Galway. Early on we learn from Mike that his grandfather and grand-uncle, Michael, first came to Boston to their sister, Bridget, who was already set up there.

We learn some useful lessons as we learn about Mike's family history. He thought he was at a dead end after he had accessed everything he could find online. This, however, is a first step in research as you have to consult the non-digitized material, of which there is still a colossal amount. The idea of identifying a local Irish paper (even if you just have a county) and putting a notice in the paper was showcased. We tend to put our requests for more information about our ancestors online but by doing this we are most likely only going to find fellow genealogists. By using a paper advert, you will reach a larger group of non-genealogists who can still be aware of their family history. Mike is a Kelly, which is a very common Irish name. Agnomens, or nicknames, were, and still are used to separate families in the same area with the same name. In his story, we learn about one type: occupational agnomens.

A common feature of emigration from Ireland is also touched on. In those large Catholic families there simply wasn't enough land and employment for everyone. In this story we see that half the children in a family go to America. This is how it was for so many families in Ireland.

While it might seem that Mike knows everything there is to know about his ancestors, including that all important townland of origin, he learns many new things, including a case of murder and mistaken identity.

The second story featured Bill from Arizona. He was very different to Mike in that he didn't have a county of origin, let alone a townland. This was also the first feature in the series where DNA testing was included. Bill's great-grandfather and two of his brothers emigrated to Minnesota. Bill was raised by his grandparents as his mother died when he was a baby. His grandfather, John Corcoran, was the second son of one of those initial immigrants.

This particular story was the equivalent of hitting the genealogical goldmine. A 91 year old man finds evidence of a direct-line sixth-generation ancestor who died in the mid 1700s in the west of Ireland! I can only imagine the amount of research that went into finding out Bill's family history.

In an interesting snippet of occupational history, we learn about an 'old-timey' job that most have probably never heard of before: bank ranger. To find out what this was, and to learn about Mike and Bill's stories, you can watch the episode below.

To read a review and watch previous episodes, click: episode 1episode 2episode 3, episode 4.


  1. Hi, a very nice accurate, insightful synopsis of episode 5. Kudos, from a fellow genealogist. Would like to use on my Facebook.
    Mike Kelly from Detroit.

  2. Mike Kelly from the show?! If so, thanks for getting in touch. Great episode, it must have been a fantastic experience. By all means link to the post. If you want to quote some text I'd be grateful if you would give me a mention.