Pilgrimage to Ireland is part of The Gathering
In spring 2013, I will be travelling to Ireland as part of an Ireland Tourism initiative called The Gathering. I will be researching my family roots before I go and while I’m there, and walking the same earth my ancestors trod upon two centuries ago, before emigrating to Canada. The Gathering is a very ambitious program of events taking place all across Ireland, all year long in 2013, to entice the Irish diaspora back for a visit. There are far more people of Irish heritage outside of Ireland than within its borders, including close to 5 million in Canada alone — and I’m one of them.
I grew up listening to my grandmother’s stories and became fascinated by her “Irishness,” though she never set foot in the country. Monica (Mona) Whelan, my Nana, was from a large Irish Catholic family, and part of a community of Irish Catholics, that had lived in eastern Ontario for generations, inter-marrying, and keeping their traditions alive. When I was growing up we drank strong tea, ate fresh baked goods and heard there would be “wigs on the green” if we caused trouble — among other Irish-isms. I get my distinctive round Irish eye sockets, love of tea and penchant for story telling from her.
First steps of a mythic journey
Nana’s maiden name was Whelan, and that’s the main branch of the family tree I am tracing. Her great-great grandparents were the original immigrants. John Whelan and Clara Carty came to Canada from county Cork, Ireland to escape the Irish Rebellion of 1798. To begin life again, they settled in Canada as pioneers in a remote part of the country with thin soil, harsh winters and buggy summers.
You will hear a lot more about these people and this journey in the coming months. I hope you will follow along with me as I connect with my past, trace my family roots and visit the Emerald Isle for the first time.
Posts in this series
- Going Home to Ireland
- The Journey from Ireland and Back
- On the Whelan Trail in Eastern Ontario
- In Search of My Ottawa Valley Irish Roots
- My link with Ireland: Nana
- Journey to Ireland for The Gathering: Part One
- Journey to Ireland for The Gathering: Part Two
Genealogical Resources for finding your family history in Ireland
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