Today I’m embarking on a trip to Ireland and I’m very excited because I will be meeting my O’Rourke relatives, my Irish family, for the first time.
About this time last year, I was looking at new DNA matches on the FamilyTree DNA site when I came across a Mr. Tom O’Rourke. FTDNA estimated that Tom was a fourth cousin of mine. Figuring he was a man living in the United States, I got in contact with the administrator of Tom’s account who told me Tom was living in Ballintur, near Killowen, the same townland in Ireland where my great grandfather was born.
I was able to contact Tom’s daughter, Bernadette O’Rourke (now Bernadette Cousins), and we have been corresponding for a year. Bernadette lives on the property that is adjacent to my ancestor’s home. We’ve arranged a visit next week and I’m very excited to meet all of them.
Yes, they are distant relatives, but just to have a connection with a family that still lives where my great grandfather was born is very exciting to me. I have been searching for an O’Rourke relative for a number of years. Last time I visited Ireland, I visited a third cousin, Kieran Waters. Kieran lives in Newry, Northern Ireland, a few miles west of where my great grandfather was born. I will be meeting with Kieran as well and am looking forward to seeing him again.
This trip is costing me a lot of money, but I don’t regret it for one minute. It is worth every penny. I had a fabulous day yesterday when I met an Irish cousin (third cousin) and set foot on the actual property where my great-grandfather John O’Rourke was born. The property is situated up a small road about two or so kilometers east of Rostrevor. It is at the side of a small mountain known as Knockshee (Fairy Hill).
The property has a great view of Carlingford Lough, a bay sits on the border of Northern Ireland and Ireland. Kieran Waters, a descendant of Francis O’Rourke, John’s brother, was kind enough to take me there. It was exciting to finally meet him as we have been corresponding through Facebook for at least a year. Not only did Kieran take me there, he also brought me photos, a family tree and a copy of our second great-grandfather’s (James O’Rourke) will written in 1903.
In addition, he brought me a phone number of local historian of sorts – Mark Brennan. I am invited to Mark and his wife’s home for tea Saturday evening at half-six (6:30 in Irish). I am really looking forward to it. This is exactly what I wanted to do – meet the actual people of Ireland and Northern Ireland and learn about what life was and is like for them. When I left Ireland after my vacation two years ago, I knew I had to come back. My trip to County Down then had been mostly a failure. I failed to locate my great grandfather’s baptismal certificate and I was unsure if I found my ancestor’s grave in the local cemetery. I had gone to the cemetery my last night in Rostrevor at the urging of
my partner Toni who said I would regret it if I didn’t. It was not until I arrived home that I realized I had located my ancestor’s gravesite and I owe it all to ancestry.com and Lisa Cutshaw, a third cousin who resides in Monterey, Calif. For those who don’t know about ancestry.com, if an ancestor in your family tree matches another person’s tree, it notifies you. I was notified that my great grand uncle Francis O’Rourke matched Francis in Lisa’s tree. To make a long story short, I contacted her and she confirmed the gravesite I had found was my ancestors’. She also told me where they had lived — a place known as Crockshee or Knockshee. I also had help from Deirdre McEvoy, an
amateur genealogist from the Rostrevor/Killowen area. I made plans last September to revisit County Down. And yesterday I realized my dream – to meet an O’Rourke cousin and see where my family is from. Enjoy the photos.