Ancestry Tourism in Ireland: Local Clans That Have Spread Across the World
Travelling the world, experiencing the feeling of an ancient land leaving its indelible mark on you, yearning for a part of the world that is not home, but feels as though, in another life, it could have been…there is so much to be felt even just a few steps away from your stoop. Making connections with fresh soil, new skies, different outlooks and unfamiliar faces is precisely why we put up with flights on the redeye and road trips that drag on longer than any good playlist.
But there is a particular type of travel that stands out above all the rest – ancestry tourism, or the practice of travelling to parts of the world to which you already hold a profound connection.
Whether you still have living family in Ireland or just a handful of stories that connect your bloodline to these emerald shores, this country is always ready to welcome one of its own.
Ancestry Tourism in Ireland
So many people hold a connection to Ireland somewhere down the line, and our holiday home in West Cork has hosted many a family looking to feel a connection to their ancestral line. Many of our guests come to us from the United States of America armed with black and white photographs, letters, or even just a name – a name that can deliver them a long and complex story of bravery and hope.
For the most part, Irish families that dissipated across the seas did so as a result of the Great Famine, which lasted between 1845 and 1852 and led to the displacement of around 1 million Irish people.
As we all know, many of those families decided to risk the long and arduous crossing of the Atlantic Ocean. America promised new opportunities – a promise of higher wages, better jobs, safer homes and greater prosperity drifted back via letters from friends, old neighbours, and family members who had already made the crossing.
With food scarce and the risk of disease ever at the door, many decided that the unknown offered more than the ties of family history. Thankfully, so many of those stories have survived through the generations; names continue to mean as much in West Cork than they did almost two hundred years ago, and people who have never before left America can feel at home in Ireland. There are so many resources to scour for details, and invaluable sites to visit like the Famine Museum – exceptionally curated and fit for any researcher – just 20 minutes away in Skibbereen.
While staying in West Cork, you may wish to make the time to view Clear Island and Fastnet Rock, as both would have represented a final farewell from Ireland. Clear Island is the last visible inhabited part of Ireland before the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean, while Fastnet Rock is the last piece of Irish territory many would have seen for the rest of their lives.
The Clans of West Cork
A clan refers to a collection of families, otherwise known as a kinship group. This means that anyone with a family history in Ireland can connect with many different people and places through a single shared ancestor, no matter how disparate the clan may be these days. Connecting with your clan may not put you in contact with a direct relative, but your shared name and history in Ireland means that, somewhere down the line, there is a connection.
The Register of Clans is one of the best ways to connect with individual members who hold a wealth of information on your shared history, so this is a great place to start if you want a little more information to kickstart your search. The register is maintained by Clans of Ireland (Finte na hÉireann), and they review and authenticate all information and members, which makes research a lot easier.
West Cork is home to many Irish clans. Below, you’ll find a list of clan names known to the area:
How to Connect with Your Irish Ancestry
A little over a decade ago, Ireland Reaching Out was established with a view to connecting anyone – even those with a very limited understanding of their family history – with the right records, people, and stories. The entire project is run by volunteers who are passionate about strengthening connections that may once have seemed lost to the tides of history, and they’re a testament to the arms-wide-open welcome that Ireland is always ready to extend to its people.
Those interested in ancestry tourism in Ireland can also find a lot of interesting information stored by the National Archives of Ireland or take a DNA genealogy test to start connecting with members of your extended family tree (perhaps, more aptly, your family forest) online. And that’s before you even arrive in Ireland!
Once you’re here, there are so many places you can visit. For anyone with ties to the O’Driscoll clan, for instance, Baltimore will be of particular interest, and each year will see a handful of O’Driscoll gatherings in the area. One of the best ways to be involved in one of these events is through Facebook.
While there is so much research to be done, we often recommend getting to know the area the old-fashioned way: through conversation. This part of the world sees so many people passing through, looking for connection, and it’s filled with friendly locals all too happy to give you a little local insight. Who knows, you may even bump into a distant clan member.
Finally, when you’re staying at Gortadrohid, make sure you have a browse through the guestbook – you never know whose name you’ll come across in there. That’s one of our favourite things about Ireland – the sense of community that prevails no matter how widespread its people, or