As Ireland Reaching Out grows its volunteer network across the 32 counties, it is introducing a volunteer leadership role at a County level, to ensure that guidance and assistance can be extended across the entire volunteer network, in a consistent manner.
The Network Leader programme aims to identify individuals from within our current volunteer network that can take on a level of coordination of IrelandXO activities at a county level.
It is proposed that every county will be considered to have its own network of Ireland Reaching Out Volunteers and each network will be guided by the County Network Leader or Leaders. This new volunteer role will be supported by the Volunteer Coordinator, Jane Halloran Ryan.
The County Network Leader will be the main point of contact between the local County volunteers and the IrelandXO Volunteer Coordinator. They will: assist with the recruitment and ongoing training of volunteers; have oversight of the message board activity for their county; identify opportunities for IrelandXO within their county.
To date, 7 experienced Ireland Reaching Out volunteers have taken on this new role, and are helping coordinated message board, Chronicles creation and meet & greets at a local County level and with great success.
Here is a brief introduction to our first Network Leaders, their background and interests and how they use their experience and skills to connect people of Irish descent with their local counties.
Maresa Kearney McNamara
County Limerick Network Leader
Maresa Kearney McNamara is a volunteer with Ireland Reaching Out for the parishes of Croom, Kiltenanlea and Parteen. She has been active with the programme since 2012 and she has always been interested and active in local history and genealogy. She returned to University and completed a Certificate in History of the Family and Genealogical Research Methods at the University of Limerick in 2012 and with her knowledge and experience, she has helped many others with their genealogical research and family trees. Maresa lives in Limerick with her husband, two daughters and Bonnie, their much loved dog.
County Cork Network Leader
Frank is a former Chief Fire Officer and Mayor of Skibbereen. He was born in 1944 to David and Bella Fahy of Townshend Street in the town of Skibbereen. Frank has been very involved with genealogy and local history in the West Cork area for over 35 years. Frank’s voluntary work has included the transcription of all the parish registers for Skibberfren, Rath and the Islands from 1814-1969 as well as setting up the Skibbereen & West Cork Family History Group which provides free help, advice and a greeting service to all diaspora from the area. This group meets the second Thursday of every month to assist members and all who are interested in their roots free gratis. Frank is a brother of Bill Fahy, the owner and administrator of West Cork Genealogy (www.westcorkgenealogy.com) Frank has been a member and volunteer for IrelandXO since 2015. He is active in Abbeystrowry, Castlehaven and many West Cork civil parishes.
County Tipperary Network Leader
"I retired as a National School Teacher after forty years’ service in 2010. In 2006, I undertook a course in Digital Media and was conferred with a Masters Degree from UL in 2008. I’ve always had an interest in putting together my own family tree which I began following retirement. At the same time I noticed an advertisement for IrelandXO and attended a meeting in Nenagh. This led to training to become a meet and greet agent in Roscrea. Since then, I have facilitated many families researching their roots; finding local relatives in some cases and meeting those who journeyed to Roscrea. I have found it a most rewarding experience."
Jennifer Jean Burgess
County Limerick Network Leader
"My name is Jennifer Jean Burgess – I am a relic from the Second World War having been born in the stately home of the Queen Mother in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, England. The house was given over to evacuee mum’s-to-be to get them safe from the bombing areas of London. I guess that the idea was to keep a new generation alive and well to “take over the world” after the war!
I was raised along with 14 siblings in various locations and homes but can never complain that we did not have a healthy and happy childhood by comparison to many of that era.
My mother was adamant that good schooling, great manners and a determination were the models to “get one by”. Wanting to be a teacher was a dream for money people in the 60’s so in order to save for college I worked from 12 years old in a chemist every evening –; but the boyfriend got precedence over saving and I got married at just 18 years and had my most beautiful daughter Janet Elizabeth.
I always worked whether it was cleaning, office tea lady, typist or book-keeper, tally lady and finally civil service. Meantime I had five more children; each as beautiful as the last.
It was when I retired and moved to Ireland that that I was able to take myself off to college and study with renewed vigour; the subject was Sustainability and Biodiversity in which I earned a diploma. I now teach National School children in Ireland ages 4 - 13 years through the Heritage Council: school curriculum encourages 'Outdoor learning' and bio-diversity through sustainability. Encouraging and assisting with the Green Flag programme. I also go around towns and villages giving talks on composting, health, gardening, and the natural world and similar subjects.
It was whilst venturing into villages and schools that I noticed just how much natural beauty, heritage and history was quietly sitting and watching the world move on without a mention or written word of it. A few friends and I decided to together to start a group for like minded people within a respectable size area – and we became The West Limerick Heritage Network. It was on a network tour that I went to an exhibition somewhere in Cork, they had an audio on the famine, migration and families lost in the south shore line villages. My step-father’s name came into the story (not an Irish name) and it led me to start enquiries into his family story. Since this time I have managed to find family trees for some forty families.
In turn this led me into Ireland Xo which is undoubtedly one of the best programmes to help all those Irish families to learn of their roots and to encourage the descendents to come for a visit to see what and where the ancestors once lived, worked and raised their families.
I hope that you have enjoyed this short story and that you will have such an interest in your own personal story too – however if it is encouragement or help that you seek, you can do no better than to join IrelandXo and we will be delighted to meet you"
Dr Paul Greaney
County Galway Network Leader
"I got involved in IrelandXO after attending a talk given by Mike Feerick to the Western Family History Association in 2015. I was inspired by Mike's enthusiasm for and commitment to the project, and shortly afterwards I became the volunteer for Annaghdown parish. I was later joined in that role by Irene McGoldrick. Since then we've welcomed many members of our diaspora to the area, and started a local DNA project which now has over 100 participants."
County Galway Network Leader
"I was born in Co. Galway and brought up in Killursa parish. I’ve worked in Software Development since the late 1980s. I’m married with 2 teenage sons. I’ve had an interest in family, local and Irish history since my school days. I’m a volunteer for the Killursa parish. My paternal Ancestry is mostly from the parish and my maternal ancestry is almost entirely from Annaghdown parish. I answer posts relating to parish queries and connected parishes when I can. If I can research information for posters I will and I’m more than happy to meet visitors and show them where their ancestral homes are/were and other related local landmarks (graveyards, churches, etc), within the parish and in neighbouring parishes."
County Offaly Network Leader
"Our Parish straddles the counties of Offaly and Tipperary. I always had an interest in local history and genealogy, and when The Gathering Ireland in 2013, I saw this as a twofold opportunity (a) an opportunity to learn more
about our local history, people and places, and also to (b) connect with the families and descendants of neighbours who had emigrated from the Parish.
Together with a core group of like-minded people we formed Dunkerrin XO Heritage group, and we set about organising a Weekend of Welcomes. Our first task was to seek out families who had left the area. We browsed school records, Undertaker’s records and meeting with older people, who remembered classmates and neighbours who had left the area. We contacted over 100 people. Over this weekend we had a great response and entertained visitors from Ireland, UK, Canada, and Australia. This weekend was the beginning of an influx of enquiries from people all over the world as the Government’s initiative of reaching out to the Diaspora took impetus. Visitors started contacting us and also arriving locally enquiring about their Ancestors and our small Reaching Out Group meet them with a huge welcome.
In order to assist Visitors in their search we source information from Parish Baptism and Marriage records, school records, graveyard readings and names of fields to identify the area, as well as online resources. We readily take them on a tour of the Parish, visiting Churches, Graveyards and any other relevant town lands of interest to them, in seeking a little information on their ancestor. The delight in being able to assist someone in locating any piece of information about their ancestors cannot be described. The Visitor is genuinely appreciative and on one occasion George from New York literally danced on the field where his great grandfather had been born and left for Canada in the early 1870’s.
I have so many stories of the incredible people we have me, and the feelings of connection they form with us and their ancestral home. This for me is the essence of Ireland Reaching Out, and the aim of our little group is to continue this spirit in welcoming home descendents of Parishioners to our Parish of Dunkerrin."
If you would like to find out more about volunteering with Ireland Reaching Out, and connecting with diaspora from all over the world, please visit our Volunteer Page.