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I am planning a trip to Ireland in May, safe travel permitting. I have been researching three lines in my family and one line in my husband's family. I would appreciate help in planning and organizing so I can cover as much ground as possible in a little over a week. Here's what I know:

Byrne family, Newstone, Drumconrath, County Meath. Blacksmiths and farmers. I am back as far as Thomas and his wife Judith Donnelly. I understand there is some fluidity between the boundaries of Meath and Louth, and know that Thomas reported his birth was in Louth in the 1901 census. I'd like to find out what happened to my G-Grandmother's siblings, and if anyone is still there. I believe my grandmother was raised there for at least some time betweens 1912 and 1920 (ages 9-16), before immigrating to NY. One of her siblings is at the Byrne home on the 1901 census, and two of her siblings appear with them on the 1911 census. I'd like to learn about the area and what it was like in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Feeley family, Glebe, County Leitrim. My missing relative was G-Grandfather James Feeley who was the son of John Feely and Mary Mulherin. There were siblings, who I have had better luck tracking than I've had with James. I'd like to know when and where he was buried, and get a sense of the area where they lived.

Hughes family, Newry, County Armagh. The family is well documented by another enthusiast, but I'd like to see where my Grandfather lived and understand the location better. I'd also like to investigate an old family story that I suspect is untrue.

Reavey family, location unknown. I lost the trail of Philip A. Reavey (b1815) in Manchester. He was born in Ireland as (was his father) but the exact location doesn't appear on his US Naturalization papers and I can't locate an inbound border crossing.

I'm sorry about the wall of text, but I'm just very excited about the trip and want to make it as enjoyable and fruitful as possible. Thank you!


Friday 15th January 2021, 04:34PM

Message Board Replies

  • I’ll leave others to advise on Counties Leitrim & Meath. 

    As far as the Hughes family in Newry is concerned, do you have any townlands (addresses) for them? What were their names, occupations, and roughly when did they leave the area?

    Do you want to share the family story that you refer to in case we can suggest what enquiries you might make about it?

    The surname Hughes is pretty common in Co Armagh. In Griffiths Valuation (1864) there were 837 Hughes households, though when you narrow it to the civil parish of Newry it comes down to 6. Probably worth adding that part of the parish of Newry is in Co Down. There were another 18 Hughes households in that part of the parish in Griffiths.

    Elwyn, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Friday 15th January 2021, 05:17PM
  • Thank you for your speedy reply, Elwyn!

    My grandfather was Joseph Hughes, born 1900. Parents were Patrick Hughes (b1871) and Mary Gawley (b1875). They lived at 59 Castle Street, Newry. I can get both Patrick and Mary back one more generation.

    Joseph Hughes immigrated to the US via Liverpool aboard the Cedric on 11-Mar-1922. Family lore has it that he had to go quickly because something exploded, maybe barracks.



    Friday 15th January 2021, 05:31PM
  • ahr-nj,

    I assume you have the family in the 1911 census.

    Parts of Castle St are still there but there has been a lot of redevelopment in the area. Whether no 59 is still standing, I am not sure. Most of Castle St is now a new road called Abbey Way. On Google Earth I can see one or two older buildings still there. They look to be offices now (judging by the car parking arrangements) rather than private houses. But I can’t see whether no 59 is still standing. It wouldn’t have been far from the Newry & Mourne Museum at Bagenals Castle.  That might interest you in its own right as something to visit. They might also know of local historians who can give you “on the ground” information. The museum is probably closed at present but will likely re-open when it is safe to do so. You might want to contact them in advance of your visit to try and find out if they can recommend anyone, or any historical publications that might have relevant information.

    Your family story appears to imply that Joseph Hughes might have been in the IRA in 1922. Obviously that was 100 years ago and there won’t be anybody alive today who knew him. Some might see them as freedom fighters, others as terrorists but either way the IRA were on the wrong side of the law in 1921/22 and so wouldn’t have been big on keeping paper records on their members, for obvious reasons. I would say you might have a bit of a challenge finding anything out about Joseph’s connections, if any. But the museum might be a good starting place to ask. 

    That there was trouble in the area in the 1920s is not in doubt. There is a report in the Portsmouth Evening News of 26th May 1921, which mentions that a Joseph F Hughes of Cornmarket, Newry and several others were convicted of an attack on Crown Forces on December 12th 1920 near the Egyptian Arch and were sentenced to 15 years penal servitude. Presumably not your Joseph as he would have been in prison in March 1922, but it indicates the general situation in Newry then. I couldn’t find any other mentions of a Joseph Hughes from Newry in the newspapers c 1921/22 but all that might mean is he hadn’t come to the authorities notice.

    The Egyptian Arch mentioned in the newspaper report is still there. It’s a bridge on the Belfast to Dublin railway line (built in the Egyptian style) and is a local landmark, and appears on the Northern Ireland £1 coin (sterling).,Road%2C%20in%20the%20County%20Armagh%20half%20of%20Newry.

    Your Joseph was born at 34 Castle St in 1900, so it looks as though the family moved to no 59 between then and 1911. So that’s another property you could search for during your visit:

    What else would you like to know?

    Elwyn, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Friday 15th January 2021, 06:48PM
  • Patricia

    Friday 15th January 2021, 11:00PM
  • Sounds like a great trip. Having been to Ireland many times, I'd like to suggest you give yourself two weeks to do this itinerary at a sane pace and to leave yourself time for traveling and sightseeing and just relaxing. I'd also suggest you contact the local historian at each county library or the local history society in each area you plan to look for ancestors. They may be able to assist you.


    Friday 15th January 2021, 11:04PM
  • Hi Elwyn,

    I've been thinking about your question. I'd like to know if I'm likely to find records in Newry that I wouldn't be able to find online, and where I should hunt for them. I doubt I'll have time to see Belfast on this trip, but if there are records held locally in Newry they may give me more insight about my grandfather's earlier relatives. I'd also like to see where his parents went to church and where they are buried. The museum at Bagenals Castle sounds like a good place to visit, too, so I'll add that to my list.

    As far as my grandfather's story, I suspect what actually happened was that because there was much unrest in Newry at the time, even if he held an opinion, he didn't want to be directly involved. He would have been 22 years old, so it would probably have been only a matter of time before he was drawn in, so he moved out. The absence of an reported incident right before he left pokes big fat holes in his story. In short, I think he was all talk.

    Thank you. You are extraordinarily helpful.


    Saturday 16th January 2021, 07:07PM
  • Thanks, Patricia. That sounds like good advice. I'm going to sneak in a few cousin visits while I'm there, so I know time will be short. (I sure hope they like libraries and cemeteries as much as I do!) How did you go about contacting the historians when you traveled to Ireland?


    Saturday 16th January 2021, 07:10PM
  • Ahr-nj,

    When you ask about records, the answer depends a little on what you are looking for.  The statutory records (Vital records in the US) for births & deaths start in 1864. Statutory recording of RC marriages also started in 1864 and non RC marriages in 1845.  Those records are largely all on-line on the irishgenealogy site, save for post 1922 records for Northern Ireland which are on the GRONI site.  RC church records are also nearly all on-line too.

    The general repository for records for Co Down and other counties in Northern Ireland is PRONI (the public record office) in Belfast. If going there you need photo id to get a readers card. Passport is the obvious one to use.

    Churches your family possibly used are Newry Cathedral on Hill St (opened 1829) or St Catherine’s Dominican in Dominic St. I would say the Cathedral is the more likely as it’s only about 300 yards from where they lived.

    If you are trying to meet local historians, I recommend you arrange that in advance.  The visitor information centre is in the museum. I would e-mail them and ask if they can give you a list of historians or local guides, and book someone. They are unlikely to be free if you just walk in unannounced. Some towns here have local guided walking tours. I don’t know if there is one for Newry (the tourist office will know though) but that might interest you. There’s a fair bit of history in the area. The town does have information boards for visitors all over, so you can get some from that if you walk on your own. The Merchant’s Quay area is along the old canal (built in the 1700s to bring coal from Coalisland in Co Tyrone down to the sea). It is long closed as a commercial canal but has been smartened up and is a pleasant tree lined area to walk around.  Many visitors from North America seem to come with very tight schedules, in order to cram lots in. Understandable but I always recommend leaving a day free in case you discover something extra you want to do, or someone you want to meet. 

    Elwyn, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Sunday 17th January 2021, 12:37AM
  • You're absolutely right, Elwyn. So much to do, so little time! My hope is to research the choices ahead and be organized, so I can make realistic decisions about where I'll be able to go while I'm there. I don't expect to be able to see it all on this trip, but I hear you should always leave something for next time. I love walking tours and you've made a great case for Newry!

    Now my fingers are crossed that lockdowns are lifted before I'm scheduled to go. I just got vaccinated last night so I'm optimistic.



    Sunday 17th January 2021, 01:24AM
  • Amy,

    There is still a lot of Covid about in Ireland and everything but essential services is shut. As I understand it, the only people allowed to travel in from overseas at the moment are Irish & British citizens plus foreign residents. And it’s only supposed to be for business or essential reasons. Tourism isn’t one.  And you have to have a Covid free certificate issued in the 72 hours before you travel.  Northern Ireland is in the middle of a 6 week lockdown, and there is something pretty similar in place across the Republic of Ireland. Meaning you can’t travel round the country at present at all. But everything is shut anyway. So there’s not much to see and nowhere to eat, unless you get a takeaway. But that will change. Here's what the local news said the other day about Covid. Daisy Hill hospital in Newry is mentioned:

    Covid jabs are being issued here too, and hopefully by the spring a good proportion will have been vaccinated. I certainly know of plenty of older people who have already had it. So fingers crossed things are improving.

    If you are hoping for answers to your questions about Leitrim & Meath, I’d be inclined to put separate messages on the 2 relevant county boards. They are more likely to attract the attention of volunteers who live in those 2 areas.


    Elwyn, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Sunday 17th January 2021, 08:29AM
  • Hi Maria,

    To contact local historians, google the name of the place you are visiting with "local history" or "local history association". Also go to the county council page for the county you are visiting and look for the local historian. If none, write to the county librarian. I hope this helps.


    Sunday 17th January 2021, 05:09PM