My Ireland Reaching Out story begins way back in March 1867 when my great great grandfather, John H O’Connor, left the Ardagh area after his participated in the Fenian Rising of that spring. He fled immediately to Chicago where he settled and joined the Chicago police force. My family knew nothing of him or his Fenian connections until a genealogist at the Irish American Heritage Center on the northwest side of Chicago uncovered this information. John H O’Connor had an entry in Chicago Irish Families, 1875-1925. And with that the trail went cold until I posted an inquiry on IrelandXO about eighteen months ago. I was not certain what to expect and what I got was the gift of my history.
Ardagh volunteer Seamus Callaghan answered my inquiry. He began searching through local baptism records and found the baptismal record for John H at St Moula’s Church in Ardagh. From there, Seamus learned that John H’s parents were Thomas O’Connor and Maria Colman, my great great great grandparents. But Seamus was not finished working on my family research. He contacted Ardagh historian Mary Kury from the St Kierans Heritage Association. Together they tracked down the land and house owned by Thomas O’Connor. I was stunned.
My parents visited Ardagh in September 2017, and I visited with my husband and two sons in June 2018. Seamus and Mary contacted the current owners of the former O’Connor home and arranged for my parents and my family to visit on our separate trips to Ireland. So visit we did! Not only did Seamus and Mary show us the house of our great great great grandparents, Mary showed us the constabulary targeted by John H and the other Fenians in 1867. Mary and Seamus helped us retrace the steps of the Fenians. Mary also explained the whole Fenian plan, and we imagined our great great grandfather on that March night. I have attached photos of our time in Ardagh.
I am so thankful to IrelandXO volunteers Seamus Callaghan and Mary Kury. Our Ireland heritage experience was only possible because of their knowledge, their determination to reconnect a family whose ancestor left Ardagh 151 years ago, and their generosity of time. And the best part of this IrelandXO adventure? We did not just find our O’Connor family but we have two new friends in Ardagh-Mary Kury and Seamus Callaghan!