Getting ready for my solo adventure

Rostrevor, County Down, Northern Ireland
Rostrevor, County Down, Northern Ireland

In three weeks I’m leaving for Ireland for my first solo trip ever. I will be going to Ireland to meet long lost relatives, to research my genealogy and to have some fun. My last trip to Ireland two years ago was a blast but I went with four friends and it was a compromise every day. I wanted to do a lot of genealogy, but it was nearly impossible with four others and one car. Let’s face it, not everyone is interested in my family history.

I often wonder why I focus more on my father’s family than I do my mother’s side. I think part of has to do with my name — O’Rourke — one of the Irish clans from long ago. From as far back as I can remember people would ask me if I was Irish. Duh. Also, my father died when I was young and I was estranged from my O’Rourke relatives for 40 years. It was only in 2006, with the help of the Internet (it was before social media) that I was able to contact my Uncle Denny or Dennis O’Rourke. Uncle Denny was a Catholic priest when I was a child and 40 years later I found out he was married with two high school-aged children. One of his daughters, my cousin Katie, was interested in her family genealogy and told me the O’Rourkes were from a tiny town in County Down called Rostrevor.

I ended up visiting Rostrevor in 2013 with very little information. I contacted a man named Tom O’Rourke in Kilkeel, a few miles from Rostrevor, but we could not make a connection between our families. I tried looking up my great grandfather’s birth record at the Kilbroney parish in Rostrevor. The information I had was he was born in 1862. I found a brother born in 1862, so I was very confused. (More on that later.) I visited the Kilbroney (Catholic) parish graveyard and found about three graves with the name O’Rourke but didn’t find out until I returned, that one of those grave sites belonged to my ancestors. It was thrilling, knowing that I had actually found it.

To make a long story short, I found more connections, including a third cousin who lives less than 200 miles from me in Monterey, California. Lisa Cutshaw and her mother’s cousin, Joe Hogan, had done extensive research on the O’Rourke family and it was through her that I found out my ancestors were actually from Killowen, a small town between Rostrevor and Kilkeel. It’s so small, I don’t actually remember driving by it when I was there.

This time I am going to Killowen. Lisa’s cousin, Kieran Waters, is going to take me to the former O’Rourke farm. I will walk on the same ground that my ancestors walked 100 years ago. I will see where the lived and whether the house they lived in is still standing. I’m excited to meet Kieran as well. I figure he is around my age and he is a third cousin. He lives in Warrenpoint, not far from Rostrevor. He’s a “friend” on Facebook and I believe he is a retired fireman.

in addition, I also plan on visiting my paternal grandmother’s family. I have a cousin in Belfast, Northern Ireland — Roisin O’Neill. We hope to exchange photos.

Finally, I will sight see. I’ll be in Dublin a few days, then I will travel to Dingle by train, then bus. There are many archaeological sites on the Dingle peninsula that I’m interested in seeing, some dating as far back as the 9th and 10th century. From there I’ll travel to Sligo then County Lietrim, the historic home of the O’Rourke clan. I hope to visit the O’Rourke castle (now know as Parke’s castle) and sit in the O’Rourke seat in the tiny town of Dromahaire.

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