A Letter from Ireland:

Have a close look at this photo …….


Cnoc Samhna

People often wonder about their families “castles”! But as we discover, the stone castles we see all over Ireland today are a relatively modern phenomenon – most built from the 1400s to the 1600s.

So, how do you find earlier traces of your family? Many of the buildings they lived in were made of wood and wattle – and surrounded by earthenwalls – sometimesthe ring or “fairy-forts” we see today.

But another thing you can do (for the Gaelic families here) is to find out the main tribe or kingdom that your family belonged to. These were groupings that existed for hundreds of years before the advent of surnames.

This picture?

This is the “Cnoc Samhna” (“Hill of Samhain”) – which you will find just to the south of Bruree (Palace of the kings) in modern county Limerick.

It is believed to be the “inaugration” site of the kings of the Uí Fidgenti – a tribe that gave us the surnames Collins, O’Donovan, Flannery, Ring, O’Connell and McEniry. It was on these sites that significant rituals took place – such as the inauguration of a new King.

The families in this tribe were driven south to Cork in the 1100s by the Fitzgeralds and McCarthys.

Many of these hills are insignificant today – often a hill the springs up a little more than the land around it.

But, when you know what you’re looking for – your imagination will fill in a lot of the details!

  • David Wayne"Bud" Gillrie says:

    I have been sitting her enjoying your page with great interest. The only chance I had to go to Ireland was when I was serving with the Canadian Army in West Germany in the 1950s, however I only got as far as England on leave, money ran out. We didn’t get paid a lot back then.
    I have been attempting to research my mother’s family, particularly in the last few years, I am a bit long in the tooth and a relatively new widower and want to leave some family history for my children.
    So far I have traced my mother’s family to Thomas McGuffin 178601866 possibly at Newry Down, who I believe is my Great, Great Grandfather, his wife was Ann Barr b. 1788. One possible clue I have received indicates he may have died in the Newry Down “Workhouse” (I Assmue Poor House)
    My grandfather Robert McGuffin immigrated to Canada possibly 1913, his family may have followed him later 1916? on the SS Lapland out of Liverpool.. Grandfather may have been members of the Salvation Army in Belfast
    Any information would be appreciated I will try Amazon. com for your book on Irish surnames
    Bud Gillrie

  • David Wayne "Bud" Gillrie says:

    Rather slow getting this reply back to you
    My grandmother’s maiden name was Sweet.
    My Grandfather’s father was Hudson McGuffin he was married to Eliza Nugent. Great Grandfather I believe was born in or around 1827 and died in 1854.
    His namesake Hudson McGuffin died at sea while serving with the Royal Canadian Navy during World War 1 just days prior to the end of that war while serving aboard the HMCS Galiano.

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