Ancestors | Walking the Homeland

The main point of this post is how digital technology today allows us to take virtual trips to a vast number of places. It is almost like being there. But, being there in person is the truest way to experience the world. Travel for real if you are able.


My maternal ancestors include the Kelly and Huston lines from central Ireland. In June of 2011, Melanie and I went to Ireland for a vacation. We started in Dublin, then took the train to central Ireland to find my ancestral homeland. I wanted to see it with my own eyes and walk where they walked. We spent the night in Athlone. Next day, the train took us to Galway where we stayed for six more. What a wonderful place.

The Kelly and Huston families lived where the counties Meath and Westmeath border just north of Delvin. My great-grandmother was born there in 1838. She, her eight sisters, and her parents all came to America. A relative showed me a link to deed maps of the mid-1800s for that area. We found two parcels of land which her family apparently owned and farmed. This map marks close to the two parcels.

We rode the train from Dublin to Mullingar. There, were spoke with a cabbie, Mick. We asked him if he would take us out of town just northeast of Delvin. He made a call to his boss and then said he would be happy to do it. Mick was a local and knew the area well. He enjoyed the chance to get out of town for a change. He talked a lot and told some good stories.

Here is a closer view with a landmark we wanted to find. It was a gate to the entrance of an old estate called Rosmead, now in ruins. The link is a photo tour. The label is misspelled. The Kelly family had two small parcels of land on the north side of Rosmead. The second picture below shows those parcels highlighted in yellow. That old deed map was overlaid transparently on top of the more modern map.

When we reached the spot called Rosmead Gate, this is what we saw as rendered in Google Maps Streetview. If you know how, go ahead and navigate up close for a better view. Click on the road closer to the gate. Use your mouse wheel to zoom in. If you want to know how to get Google Maps to show you a Streetview, there is a short video at the end of this post with directions.

We turned left at the fork in the road at that gate, instead of following N52. We drove about one mile north and then about a half a mile to the right, or east. That put us just north of the Kelly parcels on the map above. We stopped near a small stream (Streetview) and got out to put our feet on the ground. In the distance was the land they farmed and cared for. Perhaps this road was also walked by my Kelly ancestors. It was a great feeling.

Click and drag the screen left or right. Zoom in or out. Click on the roadway to move along it. It is almost like being there in person. The virtual world is truly amazing. It can take us to so many places in space and time. Here are some examples. If you cannot be there in person, technology today can make it seem as though you are able to go.


How to activate Streetview

Use Google Maps to find a location. If Streetview is available there, a little yellow figure is visible in the lower right of the navigation screen. Drag him over the map window. That should activate blue lines wherever the view is available. Place him slowly over the spot you want. A small picture should appear. Drop him. Return to normal map view with a click in the lower left.

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17 thoughts on “Ancestors | Walking the Homeland

  1. Anarette.com

    I went to Ireland in 2002 I believe and hiked the Dingle route with a friend. The coastline is beautiful and there seemed to be a party going on in every Pup we visited. It was fun.

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  2. Jim Wheeler

    I’m glad you were able to trace your roots back so far, Jim. I can appreciate the feeling it gave you to think your ancestors were there. My own maternal ancestors were Irish (Murphy), but unfortunately my genealogical search hit a wall at South Carolina. Whoever Jenkins Murphy was, he left no trail I could find.

    Ireland has had a tumultuous history of course. Knowing that, I am fraught with emotion when I hear the song, Isle of Tears. I have Celtic Thunder’s version on my iPod, and it’s beautiful.

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    1. Jim in IA Post author

      Those ancestors are well documented, as are several others on my father’s side and those of my wife. I am the unofficial family genealogist. I hope someone comes along to carry the torch later.

      That is a terrific song. It does reflect the history, hope and dreams of the Irish and many others who came.

      Thanks, Jim, for stopping by today.

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  3. OceanDiver

    Ireland! How beautiful the countryside, and great your quest took you off the beaten track to see it. Fields, old bridge, narrow roads, and green. My maternal great grandmother (mother’s mother’s mother), Kitty Moore, emigrated from there in the 19th c. Poor, as many emigrants were. I hitchhiked and youth-hosteled in Ireland for a month at age 20 (after two months of same in Scotland…father’s ancestors). Wonderful places, especially outside the cities. Good for you, making the journey. Nothing compares to actually being there.

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    1. Jim in IA Post author

      Good for you. Wasn’t it a grand place?

      In 1999, we went to Scotland. Melanie’s ancestors are from the island of Barra in the outer Hebrides. We stayed there a few days where the Atlantic Ocean begins.

      As you say, nothing compares to actually being there. We will probably go back to both.

      Thank you for your visit.

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  4. Mrs. P

    I’ve never been to Scotland or Ireland and would love to see both. My 4th great (paternal) grandmother was born at Drummond Castle and I would love to see the castle and gardens. My great- great grandparents on my mother’s side grew up in Ireland but I don’t know where. Still searching that line for more specifics.

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    1. Jim in IA Post author

      I hope you will be able to go sometime. Are you doing the genealogy work yourself? There are people who can help speed that along. It can be a daunting task.

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      1. Mrs. P

        Yes, I am doing the work myself. I have no problem doing the research. In fact, I thrive on it!

        I have discovered more about my ancestors than I ever dreamed possible and have hardly touched the surface.

        I have so much documentation on my family that I have taken a break from researching until I get the stuff organized on hard copy. I’ve got tons of digital and have put quite a bit on Ancestry but it’s stuff like land records, new reports, etc. that I would like to put in chronological order.

        Not too bad for someone who knew nothing about their family history when I started. 🙂

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        1. Jim in IA Post author

          Good for you. I was fortunate to have an uncle who guided me in many ways. As you know, finding a special tidbit puzzle piece can be exciting. Enjoy.

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  5. Sheryl

    It’s amazing how you were able to take a virtual trip to Iowa using technology. The pictures and words made it feell like you were actually there. I use the internet a lot in my research, but have never really done much with Google Earth–and this post makes me realize that I’ve been missing a good resource.

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  6. shoreacres

    I have some roots in Ireland, too – on my mother’s side, the Crowleys and Deyarmons came from County Down. Hugh Deyarmon is as far back as I’ve been able to go – early 1700s. They landed in Philadelphia at first, and two of the Crowleys were with Washington at Valley Forge.

    An aunt and cousin went over to visit and found the “old home place”. That seemed enough to satisfy them — both have essentially given up the genealogical work now.

    It sounds like your trip was an especially good one.

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