A 'twin' connection - Ontario and Galway

Wednesday, 16 March, 2016
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In 2012 Rose and her husband Pat took their first trip to Ireland. In preparation she began to search for information about her Irish ancestors focusing on the only pieces of information she knew - County Galway and a connection to the priesthood.

Brothers Denis and John Walsh

Picture above: Denis and John Walsh

Rose's genealogical research led her to a cousin she had never met who also grew up in Canada, having moved there some 40 years earlier. Meeting for the first time they shared the information they had both gathered separately and Rose began to discover more about her great-grandfather, who left Ireland to settle in Nova Scotia, and his brother who was a priest. 

Here Rose recounts her journey, from making contact with Ireland Reaching Out volunteers in County Galway to continuing her search today alongside third cousins she has met along the way.

Making a connection with volunteers in the community 

"During my Irish family history research I found my Great Grandfather Denis Walsh’s birth record. I wrote letters to all of the Catholic churches in the area and was contacted by a wonderful lady by the name of Sister DeLourdes Fahey. She has made it her mission to help people like me look for their families and is the Ireland XO volunteer for Gort, Co. Galway. She even went so far as to check the archives in the Dublin library on her next trip. She had little success and referred me to the East Galway Family Resource Centre. By then I had names and dates for Denis's family so the center was able to send me birth, death and baptismal records.

My Great Grandfather Denis Edward Walsh was born to John Patrick Walsh and Honoria Mary Moloney, from Abbey, Loughrea, Co. Galway, in the townland of Kinamullaun, Abbeygormacan, Co. Galway on February 27, 1869.

 

Pictures above: Rose at the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare and her Great Grandfather Denis Edward Walsh

Denis was the fourth son after twin brothers, an older brother (the priest) and an older sister Mary. There were a total of 6 children. When he was just 3 years old his father John died while his mother was pregnant with a baby girl. A few months after her husband’s death Honora’s daughter was born but she also died a short time later. After a time Denis' mother Honora remarried and had more children.

A transatlantic journey to live in the US and then Canada

In 1887, aged 17, Denis left Ireland for America. He arrived in New York City and his older brother John followed two years later. By that time Denis had met and married his wife, a Canadian girl named Annie Boyce. They immigrated to Nova Scotia, Canada to begin a new life while John remained in New Jersey where he married and raised a family. The brothers did not see each other again for 47 years. Denis worked for many years as a caretaker at the government school down the street from his home in Amherst, Nova Scotia where he died at the age of 83. By all accounts he was well liked and respected by everyone in the community.

 

Pictures above: Little has changed in 200 years in the green fields near Loughrea in County Galway, Ireland

While continuing the search for my family I came upon a family tree that had similarities to mine. Some names did not match but there was enough information to indicate that it was the same family. I contacted Kieran, the owner of the tree and discovered that we were indeed family. I had found my third cousin! Quite amazing considering Denis left Ireland 130 years ago. My third cousin Kieran’s Great Grandmother was Denis’ sister Mary. After speaking to an uncle, he found the family of James Walsh, John Walsh’s brother. When tracing that line, he soon discovered that his wife Margaret is his cousin through that line and that his son-in-law is a cousin through James’ line as well. So it seems that Margaret is my fourth cousin.

We have exchanged photos and been corresponding through email for about a year. Two of my Aunt Mary’s sons were policeman and one was a priest. One of her grandsons immigrated to Canada in the early 1970’s and lived an hour’s drive from where I have lived my entire life. He did not remain here but returned to Ireland a few years later. Another of her sons died during the flu epidemic of 1918 while studying for the priesthood in Dublin.

Twins in the family

I have also learned that the gene that causes twins was passed to me through my Walsh family! I have twins and when I asked my cousin Kieran, he has twin brothers and sisters. My twins are also one of each sex. My Grandfather Art Walsh had two sets of twins and Denis had twin brothers!

Picture above: The church and Graveyard in Kilnamullan where many of Rose's ancestors are buried

My husband and I have booked a return trip to Ireland in June. I am very excited at the prospect of meeting Kieran and Margaret, their family and hopefully other cousins. Kieran has been continuing the search and through speaking with relatives has found the remains of the cottage on Kilnamullaun. He is told there are still Walsh’s living nearby and plans to go and speak to them in the near future.

To be able to stand in the place where my family comes from is going to be one of the best experiences of my life.

Clearly this story is not at the end yet!"