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After years of searching, a request for help from IrelandXO led Barbara to Birr in County Offaly, where she shared an unforgettable evening in a pub with her new-found Irish cousins.

The Sharkey Cousins in Birr

Anna Sharkey, Barbara’s great-grandmother, together with Anna’s siblings and parents (Barbara’s great-great grandparents) had emigrated to New York City from Birr in County Offaly in Ireland – something Barbara had always known. But when in 2019, Barbara and her husband finally had the opportunity to visit Ireland, Barbara posted on the IrelandXO Message Board asking for help and information for her visit. Soon after, Barbara was contacted by local IrelandXO volunteer, Margaret Hensey.

A picture of IrelandXO Volunteer Margaret with Barbara, visiting Birr

IrelandXO Volunteer Margaret together with Barbara, visiting Birr

Margaret kindly connected Barbara with Ursula Sharkey Thompson, who still lives in Birr. And that connection led to something Barbara could never have imagined – a meeting at the local pub of Barbara and her husband with Ursula and her brother, along with several cousins all from the Sharkey clan. It was a wonderful evening!

A picture of Barbara with her Sharkey cousins in Birr

Barbara with her Sharkey cousins in Birr

From what the cousins have been able to find, there seems to be only one Sharkey line in the area, so they are quite sure they are directly related – likely fourth cousins! Now, it’s time for more research to find out exactly how. And the IrelandXO volunteers and members will be there (via the IrelandXO website) to help along the way.

Are you feeling inspired by Barbara's story? A simple post on the IrelandXO Message Board may be all you need to get started on your journey. Or perhaps you have already made the trip "home" to Ireland to visit the place of origin of your ancestors? If so, we'd love to feature you in an upcoming IrelandXO Connection Story. Contact us at to share your story.

We hope you have found the information we have shared helpful. While you are here, we have a small favour to ask. Ireland Reaching Out is a non-profit organisation that relies on public funding and donations to ensure a completely free family history advisory service to anyone of Irish heritage who needs help connecting with their Irish place of origin. If you would like to support our mission, please click on the donate button and make a contribution. Any amount, big or small, is appreciated and makes a difference. 

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