Picture above: Diaspora visitors, Jeannie and her husband visiting the RIC Barrracks in Ardagh, County Limerick
This St Patrick’s, amidst uncertainty surrounding the accessibility of Ireland for our UK neighbours, visitors from further afield are more willing than ever to make a momentous visit to their Irish place of origin and to connect with the local community living there today.
In January and February of this year, Ireland Reaching Out has registered 100 different groups who are looking to connect with their ancestors’ place of origin. That’s an increase of 50% on the same period in 2018. With March traditionally the busiest month for this nationwide Diaspora engagement service, there appears to be no slow down in the numbers of visitors looking to discover more about their Irish origins, and in doing so, to create new bonds with communities all over the island of Ireland.
Ireland Reaching Out Programme Manager, Laura Colleran says: “Our Diaspora connect with us on the IrelandXO platform, and what begins as simple curiosity about their Irish ancestry becomes a real desire to understand more about the place they came from, and what it means to be Irish. Everyday we see connections happening online and often, as a result, plans are made to make the journey to Ireland, and to their ancestors’ place of origin.”
With ‘ancestral travel’ a key growth area for the Irish Tourism Industry, understanding the motivations of our Diaspora, and being able to offer a personal and rewarding experience is essential to delivering the Céad Míle Fáilte that Ireland is famous for. By beginning the relationship before the travel plans are even made, Ireland Reaching Out is in a prime position to ensure that every visit reaffirms our Diaspora’s sense of connection, creating lasting bonds among the global Irish community, fostering opportunities at home and abroad.
Ireland Reaching Out member Jeannie Lewis visited Limerick from Chicago in September of last year, re-tracing the steps of her Great Great Grandfather John O'Connor. Speaking of her Ardagh visit Jeannie said: “I am so thankful to local IrelandXO volunteers Seamus Callaghan and Mary Kury. Our Ireland heritage experience was only possible because of their knowledge, their determination to reconnect a family whose ancestor left Ardagh 151 years ago, and their generosity of time. And the best part of this IrelandXO adventure? We did not just find our O’Connor family but we have two new friends in Ardag!”
If you have an interest in local heritage and family history, or simply enjoy welcoming people to your local community, please get in touch by sending an email to Laura or Jane at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
There are many different volunteer roles available at Ireland Reaching Out, and if you are interested in family history research, or creating content for your local XO Community, visit www.IrelandXO.com and locate your local Civil Parish to find out more.