A Letter to my Irish Ancestor

The following letter from one of our readers - Jack Coffey from Canada - won a readers competition in 2014. In the letter, Jack imagines what a letter would have looked like from his ancestor who emigrated from County Cork - Padrick Coffey - and then pens his own reply.

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A Letter to my Irish Ancestor

Todays letter is a little different – it features an imagined ancestral letter written by one of our readers as well as their imagined response. We start with a letter received in Ireland back in the mid 1800s from Nova Scotia in what was to become Canada:

“Hello, My name is Lawrence Cavanagh and I am a friend of Padric Coffey who has asked me to write this letter for him as he can not read nor write. His Irish Gaelic is very strong and I might miss a few words but here is what he asked me to write for him.”

August 25, 1816,

To my descendants whom ever they be,

I have decided to leave my home in County Cork Ireland and have sailed to Canada this past season. Things are not good back home, and I do not believe they will improve. The Napoleonic wars have ceased and there is less demand for goods that we produce. I know that I would never be able to own any land, as most of it is under control of rich Englishmen who tax us to death on what we occupy. We can never seem to get ahead.

My dear wife, Judith and I got married last September in her church in Kilbrittain. Father John Foley married us. Judith and I met a while back one Saturday when she was helping her father with his cows at the Shambles market up on Kilbrogan Hill in Bandon. She is a very pretty girl and very kind. I spent a lot of time courting her down along the river, and we often meet on the Bandon bridge in the evenings.


A Bandon Streetscape

“The rain this year was terrible, crops not doing well, and the muck is up to our knees. When we told our parents that we were thinking about crossing the ocean to a new land where the government is gloving land away for free, her mother cried, but her father understood that I would not be able to get much cobbler work, and never have a farm so he told us to go. Both our parents are sad, they know they will probably never see us again. I promised them I would take good care of her.

Now that we have arrived in our new country we will look for a land grant and start our family. Judith and I want to farm and I can find work in my trade, I can use my musket to hunt deer and rabbit for food, I will fish in the nearby lakes for trout , cod, salmon, smelt, oysters and mussels. The winters are long and cold here, but the summers can be hot enough to have good crops, and the vast forest’s have enough timber to last forever. I feel in my heart I have made a good decision.

X. Padrick Coffey.”

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An Old MacCarthy Castle on the Bandon River, County Cork.

April 15, 2010. Bandon, Ireland.

Dear Great great grandfather;
Where are you? I am your great, great, grandson from Canada. I have just arrived in County Cork on Air Lingus. I know you spent a month on a ship to get to Canada and I was here in five hours. I am looking for your and my roots. My, my – your family is hard to find. I have searched the internet for hours trying to find something you may have left behind to show that you were here. I have visited the church in Kilbrittain where you and Great Great Grandmother were married. I have talked to many people in my efforts to find your trail. I know you have left something or someone behind and I will keep searching.

Love, your great, great grandson, John.

Many thanks to Coffey for sharing that beautiful letter and response.

Slán for now, Mike.

  • John kenny says:

    My grandfather: James. William Kenny was born in Bridgetown Co Welford about 1864/72. I am still looking for his father, Michael kenny who married Martha clamped who I am led to believe was french

  • Tracey beckley says:

    Great story but tinged with sadness

    • Sinéad Nic Iomaire says:

      My grandmother was Beatrice Coffey. My great grandmother Brigit Coffey & great grandfather Martin Coffey of Cork would love to find more about them & any other realtives in Ireland!

      • jill rouse says:

        my great great grandfather christopher coffey married margaret carroll both of county cork ireland and landed in victoria australia in 1841

  • Kenley Cooke says:

    I am looking for information on the surnames Cooke, Baker, Dempsey and Grey. I believe Cooke, Baker and Dempsey are from County Cork…thank you

    • Janet Grey says:

      Grey was my father’s step-father’s name. I don’t know much about the history of their family-but if you would like- I might be able to put you in touch with one of his ancestor’s.

    • Dan Murphy says:

      Hi Kenley:

      I have dome much research on the Dempsey families of Tracton and Minane Bridge in Cork.

      Where are your Dempsey’s from?

      Dan Murphy – Boston, MA

      • Elisa Doak says:

        Hi Dan,
        I am Elisa Doak from Clifton Springs in Victoria, Australia.
        I am wondering if you can help me.
        My husbands maternal line leads me to a William Henry Dempsey/Dempsy. On his death certificate his mother is listed as ‘Unkniwn Mustidik’ no record of his father. Given spelling variations I wondered if records on the irishgeanealogy.ie site for a Patrick Dempsy and Eliszabeth Musterdyke/Mastesdike, 1 in Ringtone and 3 in Tracton Abbey, would be the same person. I also was wondering if this was a name you have come across and have any more information you would be prepared to share.
        Look forward to hearing from you.

        Regards Elisa

  • please subscribe me to the letter

  • Kathleen Conlon Sieber says:

    Thank you.

  • James A. Gallagher says:

    Would love to receive the free letters from Ireland. My ancestors are from Fermanagh County Donegal about 1796… John Gallagher…son Denis who married Elizabeth Moore.

  • Lisa Gaughan says:

    Lovely to read the two accounts

  • This is the precise year my g-g-g- grandfather came to Canada – 1816 – and like the descendant in your letter, while I have found his cemetery, tombstone and will, as well as various other info…nothing at all in Irish records so far. I am guessing his situation is similar, except that he sailed from Wexford. Family legend has the family originating in Wexford, but we know zilch about what they did, where they lived, etc. etc. I am subscribed to as many genealogy sites as possible, although there are that many fully invested in Ireland. At the moment I have time on my hands and am wondering if in your opinion, going to ireland without anything more than ship sailing info, approx birthdate, and Canadian info would be a mistake.

    Ideally what should I have in hand before beginning a research visit? Kind regards, Mrs. Darlene P White

    My ggg grandfather’s name was John Tatlock,Tetlock and he was protestant. (Methodist)

    • Karolyn Massey says:

      My great great great grandfather was James White from County Wexford. He was married to Raechel Earl (30 years his junior) They came to Canada about 1817 and settled NW of Brockville Ontario in a place called Caintown. They had 7 children, 2 boys, 5 girls; only the youngest child, James, was born in Canada. James Sr. died in 1822 and Rachael died in 1872. I am descended from their eldest, John.
      My brother has been to County Wexford but because White is such a common name, as is James, it was a lost cause as we have no more information to go on other than the county name.
      Your letter was interesting because your circumstances are much the same. Good luck with your search.
      Sincerely, Karolyn

    • Denise Smith says:

      G’day Darlene
      I knew the village my Gr grandmother came from. Ballinderry in Tipperary. Her surname was Stanley and they were Protestant. I always thought that not everyone would have emigrated. Someone related must have been still back there.
      I went to Ballinderry and started asking questions. I was referred to a man with Stanley connections. ( remembering Stanley is about as common as Smith is). He asked a few questions & as soon S I answered “Protestant” he said ” if you go down a particular road, and past a cross roads , the farm on your right is owned by Stanley’s. I think they may be yours.
      BUT you will need an introduction as Irisht people will be suspicious as to your motives.
      HOWEVER my B& B landlady knew them, phoned ahead, we visited with our family history documents, and the gentleman turned out to be my mothers 3rd cousin.
      They knew nothing of anyone emigrating to Australia. But other information matched up.
      They were able to tell us that
      “Family tradition has it that four Stanley brothers were brought over to Ireland by Cromwell because they were skilled tradesmen”
      Also that my Gr grandmothers brother fell in love with a Non-Protestant girl and while the families were at church they eloped in a jaunting car and went to Barnsley in Yorkshire where they were married & had their first child. As the only son he did return a year or so later to the family farm.
      So it is possible to find gold at the end of a rainbow of family history in Ireland.
      The Protestant fact made it so easy. I felt soooo blessed.
      Go for it. You never know your luck.
      Best wishes
      Denise Smith.
      Qld, Australia

  • Maureen Freeborn says:

    I found this so moving,many others must have had similar experiences.

  • Beverly Hahesy Hannon says:

    I cannot find my gr-grandfather, William Hahesy, where he was born or lived while in Ireland. He came to the US with wife Bridget Houlahan Hahesy and 6 sons about 1858 or thereabouts. They were married in Portlaw-Ballyduff parish about 1848. I’ve looked in Griffith’s Valuation(?) and can find Wm. Hahesys, but don’t know if one of them is him. Gaelic spelling: O’hAithesea.

  • I wonder if this is how I will be when I finally have a chance to visit Ireland. My Great Great Grandmother was for Ireland I don’t know which county. Someday I hope to hind out.

  • Mike Harris says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this letter. I know my family (Harris, Finn, Donovan, Culliton) took the same path to Canada for the same reasons. I just cannot find the debarkation point.

    Thank you for all you do.


  • Grace Quinn says:

    My dad is John Coffey of the Boston families.

  • john handley says:

    Looing for my ancestors and seem to hit a brick wall but I will keep trying and Irish Heritage helps a great deal. Keep up the good work.

  • Brenda Hall says:

    My great grandfather was Richard Foy was born somewhere in Ireland about 1845, his father was Patrick Foy, he was married to Jane Madden in Manchester in 1867 and he had children, John, Mary Jane and Thomas. I am told he was an orangeman. Anybody got any information on his early years, please?

    • P.Madden says:

      Dear Ms. Hall

      Look at the Family Tree of one Owen Vincent Madden-1891-1965, he was born in Leeds, grew up in Liverpool, but his father was born near Manchester.

      Their from the City of tears in Ireland. It’s worth a look.

      P. Madden

  • Linda G. Williams says:

    I loved this article. It hits home for me. I would love to get your free weekly letter. I bought your book on my Kindle and have so enjoyed reading it.

    Thank you.

    Linda Williams, great great granddaughter of Robert H. and Elizabeth Burley Finlay of County Down, Northern Ireland and then from Hoopeston, Vermilion County, Illinois, USA

  • Lyne Lavoie says:

    Hello, my grandmother came from Ireland, around 1902 Her name was Mary Kierwan, her mother’s name was Anne Connolly and her father James Kierwan. Not sure if this is proper spelling of the name KIERWAN, this is how the cemetary spelled her name, My grandmother’s mother put her, her sister and her brother on a boat to Canada out of Liverpool, not sure of the year nor her siblings names. Can you refer me to somewhere or someone who can help. Do not want to intrude in anybodies life just would like history to pass on to my grandchildren Thank you very much have a nice day

    • Nola Cameon says:

      Ancestry.com will list ships out of Liverpool headed to Canada in 1902. You can access the passenger list. It will give you lots of other information. You will need to pay for a membership in order to get a complete picture.

  • Marion Jackson neeCoffey says:

    How I loved to read this. My Coffey family from Aghioll in Cork experienced so many hardships. My father Tim Coffeysurvived an industrial school and then life as a labourer in England before a premature death. He left behind three children who have all achieved great success and who will love and remember him always. God bless our ancestors.

    • Jack Coffey says:

      Marion; I just read your reply of last October to my letter from Ireland. Although my Coffey ancestors are not from the Aghioll area I know the Coffeys that are from that area and I can put you in touch with them if you would like. I also have a lot of their family tree. Jack Coffey.

      • Marion Jackson says:

        Just found this, Jack. Thank you so much for your response. I will be in Aghioll next week again, my father would think I’m crazy! Don’t live in the past. I would be grateful for whatever you have. There a lot of Coffeys in Aghioll and my uncle always said I was related to all of them. Marion.

        • Jack Coffey says:

          Marion; Sorry I missed your post before you went to Ireland. I know a lot of Coffeys in that area and I have their family tree. Contact me off this site and I can work with you on connections,Jack.

      • Erlene Watts says:

        Is Reuben Coffey a common name in this family? My family has the name Reuben used often. They are found in Virginia and Kentucky, USA

  • MarySue Wedl says:

    I was born Suzanne Killelea. My Great Great Grand parents were Peter Killelea & Bridget (Conlon) Killelea of Roscommon . My great Grandparents were Patrick J Killelea born in March 1854 in Roscommon. I’m not sure if that was the town or County of Roscommon. My Great Grandmother was Winnifred E. (Kilcoyne ) Killelea. She was born to in Sligo Co., Elizabeth (Scanlon) Kilcoyne of Sligo Co. and James Kilcoyne of Co. Roscommon on March 27, 1857.
    Patrick & Winnifred were married in New York City on April 14, 1873. They lived in Leominster, Massachucetts. Their son Charles Henry Killelea was my grandfather. I would love to hear from any members of these families at: mswedl@jefnet.com.

  • James Connelly says:

    Very good letter… My grandfather is from Limerick… William Thompson…
    Trying to find the easy way to make connections… Real tough…

    My G-Grandfather Dennis Connelly born in Monaghan, Erie.. But got marry in
    Providence, RI… Trying to find the church is difficult… Marry around 1872…

    Hoping to find the church and can get some info of his where about…


    • hi jim after reading your comments.i live in monaghan.they is quite a few connellys here..if you need any help with me living here.. email myself..i try to help if i can. regards sue

  • Fred Boyles says:

    What a wonderful article. , if it were true even better. My third great grandfather sailed from Ireland in late 1800’s for a better life and future.

  • Marion Bond says:

    How can I find my ancestor born in Ireland about 1813 and died in Kingston upon Hull . All records show his birthplace as just Ireland but no clue as to where. Any help would be great. Thank you. Name. Dominick McNally.

    • Tom Malone says:

      Hi Marian!
      You did not say what sources, if any, you have already looked at. Sadly official civil BDM Irish records were not kept until 1864. Some parish records might go back further. Most early Irish census, except 1901 and 1911, were destroyed in 1922 Civil War fire. So searching can be a slow process. If Kingston on Hull is in UK, you might find census and BDM records more complete in UK. Joining Ancestry.com or using it for Free at your local library can help you access hundreds of remaining records from UK, US and Ireland. If starting from scratch I would suggest that if you have not yet done so, you first need to gather all the family BDM records, obituaries, Cemetery records, newspaper funeral write ups, etc. you can that trace back to your ancestor. Also talk to your oldest surviving relative in that line to pick up long forgotten hints. Trace the census back. Take all the documented hints (witnesses, pall bearers, attendees, naturalization, others relatives buried in grave, etc.) you can from this information. This will help piece together your tree and might help you find neighbors and cousins of your ancestor who might have helpful origin information or relations who have already researched their family tree. You might luck out and find town land & County mentioned or a long-lost cousin who pieced all this together already. When you have more leads, you might look for your ancestor or family as a tenants in Ireland on land in Griffiths Valuation (about 1854-67) and/or others on the earlier Tithes Applotment (1821-37) which are FREE online from various sites if you google them. Hope this helps! Good luck!

      • Margaret Clifton says:

        Hi Tom
        I’m related to the Malones from Scarriff in County Clare. My ggrandmother Winny Canny’s sister Mary Canny married a Tim Malone.
        Any relationship to you
        Regards Marg Clifton

        • margaret. carroll says:

          I also have family with the name Malone my great great grandmother was Margaret Malone who married a john O’Brien from Scarrif. Margaret

          • Patty says:

            My great grandmother was Margaret Culty Malone…my great grandfather was James Malone and i believe his mothers name was Catherine.

  • Heather Irwin says:


  • judy says:


  • Lynn says:

    So sweet…made me cry.

  • Crystel Bowen says:

    What is homeland like now…..want to.come home but don’t have enough money

  • Leigh Miller says:

    I am researching my great great grandmother Mary Cloran who left Galway aged 20. Her parents were Anne (Barke, Bourke, Burke) and Patrick Cloran a farmer. She arrived in Geelong, Victoria, Australia on the Persian in 1854 along with over 200 young Catholic women.
    I am sure she must have had siblings and hence many descendants searching the same lines I am. I would love to find others researching Clorans from Galway.

    • Joe Cloran says:

      Leigh, My family came from the village of Gort, just south of Galway. There were also relatives in the village of Taum. My great great grandfather, Thomas Cloran came to Philadelphia in 1890. Your great great grandmother may have been a sibling of my great great great grandfather, Henry Cloran (born about 1825). I have been having trouble locating his family members. I would appreciate any information you may have.

      • Heather B says:

        Hi there – I am descended from Thomas Cloran who left Galway for England. He was born in Galway in 1825, but married in England in 1853. I have no more information to tie him directly to a family – all information would be welcome

  • June Kelly McCoy says:

    I have always wanted to search my Kelly family roots but I come to a dead end. Somehow they go in the , English direction. That is the direction I don’t want to accept. I can’t come up with anything to go further in my research. Dear Lord I have to be of Irish descent. Please help me to find it is so.

    • Kirsten says:

      June, my mum says if you shake any family tree hard enough, an Irish woman will fall out. Good luck with your shaking 🙂

  • Cheryl adams says:

    this could of been a letter from my great great great grandfather. He was an only child and came to United States in early 1800s. Have found that much out but like this gentleman not finding any info in Ireland. He was born in county downs. I am planning on going over there next year.

  • Marie O'Hare née Breslin says:

    Wonderful. Know how you feel. Trying desperately to find my Breslin ancestors.

    • My Grandmother was Bridget Breslin from Ireland says:

      Im on face book . Live is Schoharie county New York. y grandmother Married A specht

    • judy tropeano says:

      My grandmother was a Breslin from Frosses, Co. Donegal. Seems there were quite a few in that area hope this helps.

    • http://www./ says:

      Congratulations on the weight loss. Great for you!!I love bread so instead of denying myself, I usually go for a whole grain or whole wheat roll, so I can have my bread without feeling like I’m cheating.

  • Darlene Homer says:

    I wish I had such a letter … left for us…. it explains a lot of what must have been going on, which would also have my family move from County Tyrone in the late 1830’s… The whole family came, not just one son, but all 6 plus two sister one but a year old… Thank you for sharing… was very enlightening…

  • margie reilly says:

    Still looking for Thomas Aloysius O’Reilly’s birth parents/family in Ireland. Born or christened in March 1860 somewhere in Ireland. possibly Cavan or Galway. He left Ireland in 1880. Lived in Chicago. Illinois USA. by last name Reilly.

  • Janet Himmel says:

    My parents were born in Ireland, my mom in cork my dad in lie tram

  • i am looking for myfahey ancesters. i can get as far as edmund fahey in western bay nl canada.his father could have been thomas who camw from ireland

  • Terry Murrihy says:

    Anyone tracing Murrihy’s anywhere in the world please contact me

  • Craig Moore says:

    Been searching for years and have hit a wall.
    All I can find is where my family got on a ship to America in 1746 in Belfast. And landed in South Carolina.
    Can find nothing more about them.
    Any help would be greatly appreciated. Can’t afford all the online sites right now. . Help please….

  • Jim Ward says:

    1816? Seriously? Does the person have a clue about what year(s) records started being kept by the Irish government? Apparently not. My GG-Grandparents left Ireland for Canada in 1826…so far I found their marriage in a parish register but that’s about it. Any records before the 1850s are probably non-existent for several reasons, the fire in Dublin in 1922 being one of them.

    • Jack Coffey says:

      Hi Jim; Just read your post from last October. Yes, my dates are correct. I have their marriage record from the church where they were married, as well as my G G Grandmothers baptism record from 1794 in the same church. Also have visited the church and have picture of grave of the priest who married them in 1815. Have newspaper article from 1844 where one of their sons told the reporter they were from Bandon, about 5 1/2 miles from Kilbrittain. Have all the family tree records here where all their children were born after they arrived. Jack.

  • Joanne Shirley says:

    This letter lets us see a bit of the reality that brought our ancestors to North America. We can only imagine. By the way, my great grandmother was also a Coffey.

  • Roslyn says:

    My Dunns and Longs left Ireland before the Revolutionary War. I believe they were from Co. Down. Most info on Irish sites is from later on.

  • Pam says:

    Found out my Grandmother who came her in late 1800’s and settled in Lowell Mass came from Dingle, 16 Green St to be exact. Her name was Elizabeth Foley. Still trying to find out what happened to her Dad Daniel Foley and his parents name. Also his wife Mary (Hoare) , where she was from.
    It is a painstaking but so worth.

  • When I visited Ireland years ago, the first time, our group went on a horse drawn carriage tour. Our driver was Padrick Coffey. Amazing coincidence!!!

  • Pat Smith says:

    Please subscribe me. I enjoyed the letters and only wish our family had similar. Great, great grandfather Thomas McDonough came to Australia from Connemara in about 1856.

  • Carol Kirwan Hare says:

    Please subscribe me. Also, where is the statue located.

  • Vicki nee Cranny English says:

    my father was Robert Emmet Cranny
    His grandfather was John Thomas Cranny born approx 1845 County Kilkenny ? Married Mary Hogan born 1845 in County Clare ?
    His great grandfather John Thomas Cranny born circa 1820 also Kilkenny
    I see you have a Cranney for the area of County Laois

    Are these areas in close proximity? They were catholic and I know nothing more about them.
    Are you able to shed any light on this?
    Cheers, Vicki from Australia

  • Jim Moore says:

    The letters are powerful and expose the difficulty we face in trying to locate our kinfolk in the “Old Sod”.
    I have the problem of my paternal side leaving Ireland too early for records and the maternal side leaving no trace of their origin in Ireland.
    This, and the facts that the names Moore and Walsh are too common to pin down. I’ll keep looking. —Jim Moore

    • Dianne Britt says:

      Hi Jim,

      I really feel sorry for you with the name Walsh. Do you know how many Mary Walsh I have come across? I’m no even looking for Walsh but there are so many. You may want to try in Tipperary and Waterford as that is where I ‘m researching and have encountered many in those areas.

  • Valda Douglas says:

    I was born in Bandon, and now live in Canada. I lived just up the road from “The Shambles”, which are still there. I left Bandon when I was 18, and I know that there are families with the name Coffey who still live in town. I am sure that a link will turn up somewhere…keep searching. That whole area…Bandon, Killbrittan, etc. is a goldmine of information. If you contact the local geneological society, they might be able to help. Ask for Les Harpur.

  • Gary Holmes says:

    does anyone know the name “HOLMES” i n ireland???

  • Shelley Gauna says:

    Great letter. Love reading it. I am researching Dillon. They settled in PA.

  • Janet Grey says:

    My g g grandfather was from Ireland.. His name was Samuel Lucas. He came to America at the age of 18. I hired someone in Ireland to do some research for me but didn’t have a lot of luck. All of his siblings and his mother eventually made the trip but I have found no evidence that his father did. I haven’t been able to find a death record or anything either. The locations mentioned in some records I have are Co Tyrone, Dungannon. Samuel’s parents were Jane Liggett and Charles Lucas. (he also had a brother named Charles)

  • Kathleen says:

    How amazing & touching were these letters, I wish I had of know my ancestors my G G Grandfather Captain Emanuel Hungerford from The Island of Inchadony & Clonakilty. We are so fortunate to have our own family Society here in Australia the HAFS so it has allowed me to “know” & learn so much from family history.

  • Colleen says:

    As you spoke of this name it reminds me of my grandfather Caughey, he spoke many times of the name Coffey being a variation of the same name. I also have a written history which says the same that Coffey and McCaffee, Mc Caughey being versions.

    • Champ says:

      The Absent Ga#nCm8230;&oncereing me and my husband we’ve owned more MP3 players over time than I can count, like Sansas, iRivers, iPods (classic & touch), the Ibiza Rhapsody, etc. But, the last few many years I’ve settled down to one line of gamers….

  • stacy ward says:

    My great grandfather left Ireland in 1900. He was 18 years old and married. His name was James Goff. i have searched for my family. I was told by my father, that we came from county cork.

    • Dianne Britt says:

      Hi Stacey,

      My grandfather was John Britt and when he married, his best man was a Maurice Goff. In my research I have encountered may Goffs in Co. Waterford, Kilenny and the southern part of Tipperary.

  • Angela O'hare Orourke says:


  • Gail l. Savage Helmer says:

    My maternal grandfather, John Patrick O’Neil was Irish. He died at age 45 in Kansas City, Missouri in 1924, Ibelieve. He married Margaret Henderson and had 2 daughters. Margaret (Peggy) Elizabeth O’Neil and Frances Rose O’Neil.(my mother) I have no idea how to find info on him or my grandmother…

    • Jean O'Neil Porter says:

      My fathers name is also O’Neil descendants are from County Cork, I have a lot of information on my family here in the states, but would love to have more information on descendants in Ireland, my fathers family originally settled in VA and the Carolina’s here in the states, planning on traveling to Ireland one day

  • Joanne says:

    sad but loved the letter. Best of luck in finding him. Would love to go to Ireland looking for fam names Gamble,Scott,Conorton, & Wilkins came to Canada. Love to get more letters Thanks Joanne

  • Lisa Kelley says:

    I have a familiar difficulty as well. I know the town, the year and the name. Sometimes I think its a false name. But just in case here is my elusive ancestor; Mary Brandworth(I know doesn’t sound Irish) born 1831 in Midleton Cork. I have searched high and low. Every resource I could possibly think. I don’t believe she was Catholic either, came to New York sometime prior to 1851. I hope someone recognizes the name Brandworth at least.

    Great letters, I should be so lucky 😉

  • Reg coffey says:

    My family came to halifax sometime around 1845-50. We can’t really trace it back to a specific time or place but we’re fairly certain we are from county cork.

    • AKerry Harrison says:

      Reg, Do u have a brother named Brent Coffey? And your father was Gerald Coffey? If so, please drop me a line as I have further info for you. (My mother was your aunt, Mary Elvena Coffey)

  • marygshea says:

    Loved the letter my Grandmother was Catherine Sullivan Walsh from Coolcumish Co. Kerry her mother was Catherine Coffey Sullivan.


    • Patsy Wolf says:

      Hello, My Great Great grandmother was Noora Coffey. She was the daughter of James Coffey and Julia Sullivan. She married Denis Greany in 1843 in Kilcummin Pariash in Kerry. Spnsorrs were James and Timothy Coffey.

      Please reply if you remotely think there is a connecttion.
      Thank you. Pat Wolf

    • Susan K. Peck says:

      Mary, have we been in touch before? My Coffey connection from Coolcumish Co. Kerry (Church Town) Matt Sullivan the son of Matthew and Mary Sullivan census 1901. Sibling Joanna md. dan Coffey moved to Massachusetts.

  • judy tropeano says:

    My grandfather came to America in 1903 with his friend Ann Coffey from Bruff Limerick they arrived in Philadelphia.

  • Amanda says:

    Sorry to butt into your business, I would not be so quick to disregard researching further on them being from England. History proves that a lot of Irish went to England to work and send money home to the rest of the family or to make enough to take a ship to America, Australia and other countries. And also often times Irish would take ships to America from English ports. So researching the English information may bring you a step closer to finding your ancestors from Ireland. Good luck, and God bless.-Amanda (from the donachy, donachie, donichy, and Christy clans.

  • Ray Walker says:

    wonderful letter and reply.. Great comments, We took over 40 years to find my wife’s relatives but we have them all twice. My family tree (English) took 3months, did what Tom Malone suggested !! Remember details like old spellings !! The writer will spell what is heard !! Dialogues are the problem. Enjoy your searches and have a good time.

  • Lyn B says:

    What a wonderful letter! I wish my Robertson, Reilly, Barrett and Beveridge relatives had done the same! While we come from Ireland. And Scotland, is certainly hard to find information! One of my Scottish Robertson Family went to Toronto, Canada and married a Grierson but finding who went, how and why are the harder bits! The Reillys however are a very elusive bunch! The joys! Thank you for publishing this…it gives us all hope!

  • donna bartley says:

    My ancestors are the Bartley, Roberts, Healy, and Burns, of course the Roberts were from England, the Barley’s from Sligo, Ireland and the Healy’s from Armagh, and the Burns were from Scotland…I love searching the records to find all of my ancestors.

  • Ellen Burns says:

    Would love to be part of this newsletter.

  • mariemclauglhlin74@yahoo.ie says:

    I am sitting in JFK Airport in New York waiting on my flight home to Ireland. While I was in New York I went to Ellis Island….it nearly made my cry in that Registration Room thinking of all those people who came to places like New York from Ireland….mostly to escape a life of extreme poverty…..I can’t imagine how difficult a decision it was to leave the homeland, probably their first journey outside of the rural area most people lived in….This account just makes me think back to how difficult it was in the 19th and 20th century. If people emigrate today then they have some opportunities to return home for visits etc….

  • Sheryl says:

    please subscribe me to this site. Cheers

  • Cara O'Connor says:

    Will be making my first trip to Ireland this April and May. Would love nothing more than to see the towns my family hailed from. They were O’Connor from Clare and Barry from Kerry. Left on coffin ships for Canada during the potato famine

  • Myra Brolly says:

    This letter reminded me of one my great great grandfather Michael Carton wrote to his 2 sons in Boston in the early 1900s asking them to come home or he would have to sell the farm. I only have the second page but it is so wonderful to have it. He talks about how difficult it is to keep the land in good condition and that everyone is making a lot of money in Flax except him, One of the sons did come home and managed the family farm which is still in the family today in County Londonderry, Northern Ireland. My great great grandmother was Margaret Sheehan from the Skibbereen area in County Cork and I have never been able to find out how a man from Derry met and married a woman from Cork (opposite ends of the country) in those days when everyone stayed at home or emigrated. I can find no marriage for them anywhere in Ireland, Scotland, Wales or England, I have been to Skibbereen several times but the name Sheehan and all its variations (Sheahan, Shane, McShane etc) is very prolific in Cork and my great great grandmother’s origins remain a mystery,

  • Rhonda Black says:

    ~Wow! What a letter to share, sad they had to leave their homeland and travel away from all they loved… sad.. the friend who wrote this letter, Lawrence Cavanagh? I have the family name Cavanagh/Cavan/Cavanaugh in my family and wondered if maybe this man was related to the Cavanaughs from Cork? My 3rd Great Grandmother was Catherine Cavanaugh April 1, 1825- March 19, 1896. Trying to locate and pin down her family…thank you for sharing this letter… I know I would be sad to have to leave my whole family and start over in a whole new country, I was sad leaving Ireland when I and to go back to the states…the vacation was a trip of a lifetime and I so hope to go back one day! My Irish ancestry keeps calling I feel…~ 🙂

  • Reg Coffey says:

    Hi Jack, I think we may be related. My great-great?? grandfather was Patrick Coffey from County Cork who married Mary Kenny. I believe he came to Canada during the late 1840’s but I haven’t found any records confirming that yet.

  • Laura McGinley says:

    I am still searching on my great grandparents from Malin Beg. Since I know they were from there it seems like it should be simpler to find their burial spots.

  • Denise Ford says:

    Reading these stories of ones ancestors stirs my heart and at times, bring tears to my eyes. Of all my ancestors, my Irish ones are the most difficult to locate! But to hear so many stories, it does inspire me to keep up my search in County Wexford for my Foley and Brown families. Thanks you so much Mike and Carina!

  • Michael Jon Daley says:

    My name is Michael Daley. Half of my relatives are from the Republic but Daley is from the north. I will be travelling to the North in late August of this year to search my Daley tree.

    I have an ancestor, Patrick Daley, who was born around 1822 in the North, we think County Tyrone. We know he went to Canada and settled in Ontario. I am in the 6th generation.

    In the records, Daley of often spelled Daly.

    I would very much appreciate any help in finding where my Daley ancestor was from.

    Many thanks

  • Michael Jon Daley says:

    My name is Michael Daley. My great grandfather, Kiron Flannery, was born in 1845 and emigrated to Ontario, Canada around 1863. He eventually crossed the St. Lawrence River and settled on the US side of it.

    We have been trying to find where he was from in Ireland. We guess maybe the south of the Shannon.

    Can anyone help me?

    Many thanks.

  • Dearest Margaret Mary Clarke: I found my way to your village, Mullagh, Co Cavan, in September of 2014. I asked about Lislin, which was the townland named on the census of your family. A lovely lady told me how to get there and I have a photo of myself standing at the sign. I felt you knew I was there and hope to find out more in the future about your husband, my 2X great grandfather Cornelius Riley. I’d appreciate any help you can give me from “above” With love and devotion…Barbara

  • Mark Garretson says:

    I appreciate this approach more than most could imagine. I’m sure you’ll have many replies. Mine will accompany them, to be sure…

  • Mary Glace says:

    The story of many immigrants to Canada and America. Most of us find no trail to follow back to Ireland or Scotland but remember them nonetheless. We owe them a great debt of gratitude and to our Lord for their safety on the ocean.