Thursday, May 15, 2014

How A Professional Genealogist Found Her Townland Of Origin, Part I

This week and next, Townland of Origin is delighted to have guest posts from professional genealogist, Lisa Walsh Dougherty. Lisa has been researching her Irish ancestry since the 1990s. In her article, she outlines how she found her townland of origin.

Lisa (Walsh) Dougherty has been an avid family history researcher for nearly 20 years.  Since 2009, she has shared her knowledge and experience with many through her volunteer hours, workshop trainings, and commissioned research.  A member of the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) and a graduate of the ProGen Study Group, she specializes in helping people with Irish roots discover their “Townland of Origin”.  Lisa is based in Upstate New York near Albany, and provides a free consultation toward assisting you in finding your own unique family story! You can find out about Lisa's professional genealogy services on her APG profile page.


Her website is Upstate NY Genealogy.

I grew up being aware and very proud of my Irish roots.  It was something that made a huge impression on me, and I remember it always being a part of my life.  When I was a teenager, my father, Jack Walsh, became interested in genealogy, and his one goal was to find out about his Irish roots.  I don't think I was aware until much later that my dad was only half-Irish, because this was the only part of his origins that he was interested in.  He pursued his family history the way many people did in those days, by visiting family plots in cemeteries, utilizing local libraries, and writing letters.  A gravestone found in St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Troy, New York, revealed a puzzling place of origin for his great-grandfather James Walsh—Osary, Queen’s County.  Research in the local library told us that Queen’s County was now called Laois, and Osary was actually Ossory.  An ad placed in the Laois Nationalist newspaper seeking information on the Walsh family (with a mention of the wife’s maiden name, Anne Mortimer) yielded surprising results in the form of several letters from Mortimer family members who very well could have been cousins!

Alas, Dad passed away in 1990, after a short-lived interest in genealogy only got him so far.  His desire for answers and legacy lived on—I found his genealogy folder 5 years after his death, stuffed in a drawer and forgotten.  With the dawn of the internet, and a whole new world of possibilities opening up, the time was ripe for new discoveries. This was the beginning of my own personal obsession with family history, and for me it has been not fleeting, but life-changing.

My husband and I went on our first of 4 trips to Ireland in the 1990s, with a guided tour in 1996.  It was not nearly enough to satisfy my hunger for all things Irish.  I dug out the Mortimer letters from the 1970s, booked a B&B nearby where they had been sent from, and started my journey.  In 1997, I met Jim Mortimer, one of the letter writers, knew we were cousins, but did not know how.  By our 4th trip in 1999, the B&B owners where we stayed had become good friends, and were seeking out my Mortimer relatives for me so I could meet them when I got there!  Their detective work introduced me to more members of the Mortimer clan, including an audience with an elderly gentleman, Michael Mortimer, who had a razor-sharp memory, and his son Brendan who showed us the family homestead high in the Slieve Bloom Mountains.  A chance meeting in the local pub with the parish priest’s bridge partner got my sister and I in to copy the baptism and marriage records.  Only after a thorough examination of those, together with the memories in the 1970s letters, was I able to piece together everyone’s relationship.

On Monday, learn more about those relationships and which townland Lisa’s ancestors came from.

3 comments:

  1. seeking Nolan's from Mountmellick approx 1910 emigration to NY. Elizabeth and 5 children.

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  2. I got to participate in the Show Allt For Sverige to find out about my Swedish family, hopefully there will be a time I can find out about my Irish family. Leslie Ann Longoria

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