It is true what they say about Irish hospitality. As I think back on my visit to my Irish relatives nearly a month ago, I can’t remember one minute where I didn’t feel welcome or like a part of the family. The Irish people are some of the most friendly people on this earth.
Despite having never met us, Bernadette (O’Rourke) Cousins and her father, Tom O’Rourke (my DNA match) and the rest of their family, welcomed us into their home and even ferried us around the Mourne Mountain area, showing us the sites. Not only did they do that, but Tom’s wife, Magella, invited us to dinner where she served the most delicious stew as well as cake, ice cream and custard for dessert.
Tom and Bernadette were eager to show us around. They drove us to the Kilbroney Cemetery in Rostrevor so my sister could see our ancestor’s grave, then on to Hilltown, the Spelga Dam, the Silent Valley, the Catholic Cemetery in Kilkeel, Greencastle, then on a ferry ride across the Carlingford Lough and back. I have a new appreciation for the area where my ancestors were from — a small village named Killowen which is located in south County Down, on the edge of Cnocshee, a small hill that is part of the Mourne Mountains.
Tracing my great grandmother’s genealogy has been a challenge. For one thing, I had no idea what townland in Ireland she was from. All the information I initially knew was only that she was from Kilkeel. Even though Kilkeel is a small fishing village, it’s a large civil registration district that encompasses the south end of the Mourne Mountain area in Northern Ireland.
The second challenge has been a bit more daunting. In fact, it’s a conundrum and I don’t know quite what to make of it – there is a three-year difference in my great grandmother Mary’s age from her birth records than future records that document her life. Mary’s later records – those when she lived in Birkenhead in Britain and subsequent records after she immigrated to the United States give her age as three years younger than her original Irish birth records state.
I’ve been doing genealogy for a long time now and I know even if it’s written down on an official government document doesn’t mean it’s factual. People make mistakes all the time: they make stuff up, government workers incorrectly document facts, and there are misspellings, etc. etc. But my great grandmother Mary’s records after 1890 are consistently three years off, all the way to her death in Burien, Washington.
Was it deception?
This begs the question: was Mary deliberately deceiving people of her age? I’d like to think not but I don’t know the answer. If someone has an explanation why something like this happens, I’d like to hear it.
Now, it was common in the mid-19th century for people not know the exact date they were born, especially before civil records existed in Ireland, but my great grandmother was born in 1866, four years after civil records were implemented in Ireland. Also, I imagine 9-year-olds know they are not six-year-olds. In birth records, Mary was born before her sister Rose. Later records give her age as younger than her sister.
This is probably why I’ve had such a difficult time “looking” for my great grandmother in genealogical records. I even went as far as hiring a professional genealogist a few years back. The problem was I also had her incorrect birthplace, which is common since the survivors giving the information may not know the exact birthplace. Her obituary, which I came in possession of about 10 years ago, states she was born in Downpatrick (maybe a mistake for County Down).