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  • Writer's picture Jana

We Return to Ireland, Where We're off in a Search of Family Roots in Stunning County Mayo.

Updated: Jun 29, 2023

Knowing that we would be traveling to Ireland this summer, we started doing rather extensive family research a few months ago. On my father's side, we had a fair amount of information from our family in Portugal, so we made progress rather quickly, which was quite satisfying. On my mother's side, things proved to be more challenging. She had documented a fair amount of information well before she passed away, so we had thankfully we had a solid foundation. However, we quickly hit a lot of deadends, which was frustrating. My mother was half Irish (Swedish and Norwegian on the other side).

For the purposes of our trip, we concentrated on our Irish heritage

We had four branches to research: McDonald's, Barretts, Hesters, and Morrisons. After weeks of work, we made some promising progress with the Hesters and Morrisons. We came to learn that both families had resided in Newport, County Mayo, Ireland. As luck would have it, we were going to be staying in the town of Westport for one night, which is just one town over, from where our family originated.

With so much to do to prepare for the trip, not to mention end of the school year business, we didn't have a chance to return back to our genealogy research before we left for our trip. Whatever we were going to find out, we would just have to do once we arrived in the area.

We started our day with a delicious and hearty breakfast at the delightful Bisop's Gate Hotel, before checking out and getting on the road. We were sad to say goodbye to Derry and Northern Ireland, but there were other adventures beckoning us.

En route to Country Mayo, we drove through Country Sligo, which was as scenic a place as you can imagine. We went on the Mullaghmore Head Loop drive, which is not only a stunning drive, but includes exquisite views of Lord Mountbatten's castle, Classiebawn. Lord Mountbatten, also known as Albert Victor Nicholas Louis Francis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, was the Queen's cousin as well as Prince Phillip's uncle. Sadly, he was murdered by the IRA in 1979 near his castle residence.

.As I peered out over the roaring ocean with the castle in the distance, the kids took the opportunity to roughhouse in the grass and stretch their legs before carrying with our long day of driving. To learn more about Lord Mountbatten's castle use this link:

After two-plus hours more of driving, we reached Newport, County Mayo. It was exciting to finally be in the area where my ancestors came from. As it turns out, or so the sign says, Princess Grace of Monaco, can trace her roots back to the same town as us!

One of our first stops was to see Debbie, in the parish office at Burrishoole Parish, in Newport. We had been able to trace the marriage of my great-great-grandmother, Ellen Morrison, to my great-great grandfather, Micheal Hester, in this very parish in the mid-1800s. I had been in touch with Debbie, via email, a month or so before our trip to see if she could be of any help.

As it turns out, many of the important records dating back prior to 1872, were burned in the early 1900s, in a fire in Dublin, where they had been moved. Consequently, Debbie was not able to provide us with as much information as we had hoped. However we really enjoyed visiting with her and learning more about the area. She also gave us some excellent resources to follow up on when we return home.. Most importantly, she pointed us in the right direction to where of the Hesters, in the area, have lived, which was very exciting!

Debbie sent us on a long and windy drive into the hills of Newport in an area called, Treanbeg. The drive and views, on a one lane road, was maginificent. The area overlooks a gorgeous lake known as was overlooking Lake, Lough Feeagh. The hills were dotted with sheep as far as the eye could see. It was a really special experience to be there, knowing this is where our family has once lived.

Debbie also recommended that we visit the Burrishole Abbey and cemetery, where we might be lucky enough to find some of our ancestors. Unfortunately, many of the older graves were not in good enough condition to read the inscriptions, but it was still a lovely place to visit, nonetheless.

After a long day of driving and ancestor hunting, we arrived in Westport, an equally charming town, adjacent to Newport, for the night. We spent an hour or so walking around the town and window shopping (unfortunately everything had closed for the evening before we arrived), before we headed to hotel.

We finally checked into our lovely hotel, the Castlecourt, where we enjoyed a delicious dinner in the hotel restaurant, which was exactly what we needed after our long day on the road!

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