This blog is a personal take on Listowel, Co. Kerry. I am writing for anyone anywhere with a Listowel connection but especially for sons and daughters of Listowel who find themselves far from home. Contact me at

Tag: Find your Kerry ancestors

Kerry Ancestors, New Kingdom and Road Works on Main Street

The trees are in their autumn beauty

The woodland paths are dry

Under the October twilight

The water mirrors a still sky.  

W. B. Yeats

Rose hips by the river Feale

Trees in Listowel Pitch and Putt course

Autumn fruits


Are you searching for Kerry Ancestors

Every now and again I am contacted by people who are researching their family history and are planning a trip to Kerry to find their Kerry roots. i always send them first to the website of Listowel native, Kay Caball. Kay is a recognised expert on genealogy and she has a particular interest in Kerry families.

Kay’s  website My Kerry Ancestors is the very best starting point. There you will find lots of tips and links to help you to do the search. If you hit a stone wall, there is no better person than Kay to help you circumnavigate it.

Kay’s latest blogpost is a must read for anyone planning to visit to continue a search that is well under way. The more work you do at home before you set out for the emerald isle, the more productive will your visit be.

I’m reproducing here that great piece of advice from one who knows, in the spirit of, if you learn from the mistakes of others, then you are less likely to repeat them.

“To-day I would like to give a few hints to any Kerry descendants who have an idea or who are even at the planning stage of coming to Kerry to walk in the footsteps of their ancestor who emigrated from there, probably in the 19th century.   I get a large number of online enquires from the United States, Australia New Zealand and Canada from great and great-great grandchildren of Kerry emigrants who are passionate about visiting, finding the ancestral home if possible while here and ‘walking the land’ where their forefathers were born and reared before leaving, never to return.

Many descendants have done some research, many have done no research but all have the same impression – that somehow there are records in Kerry that will allow them to find the elusive family and associated townland.  This year in particular, I have had a number of emails from descendants arriving in the next week and hoping that all will be revealed during the visit. This is not the case and I hope this blog to-day will set the record straight.

The first bit of research should be done at home and you need to start this research at least six months prior to the proposed visit to Kerry. ‘At home’ means in the records available in the U.S., Australia or New Zealand or wherever the emigrant settled. You need to come with a parish or townland of origin.  I would like to quote from

Seek to discover the immigrant’s Irish origins using U.S. (Australian/Canadian etc) records. Consult family papers, parish registers, vital records, censuses, naturalization papers, passenger lists, probate records, city directories, local histories, and many more historical documents. Every community where the immigrant lived created records that may provide meaningful information. To begin your U.S. records search on, start here


Fitzgerald tomb, Molahiffe

To-day I want to give you an example of the right way to go about this.   Peggy Nute whom I will quote, has given me permission to record her research and visit which was very successful – what every genealogy visitor would like to achieve.

Peggy initially contacted me last March asking me to take on a commission to trace her grandfather  John Fitzgerald.    She had very little information except an older relative had stated that ‘John Fitzgerald was from Cty Cork and came to the USA as a young boy of 14-15’.  However his marriage certificate 20 Sept 1866, when he married Frances Ellen Barnett in Charleston, Mass., stated that his parents were listed as William Fitzgerald and Mary Connors from Ireland’.  Peggy believed herself that ‘all family records point to the fact that he was from Tralee and born Sept 1845’.

I started by accessing baptismal records for Counties Cork and Kerry but I also took on board the fact that the (a) port of embarkation in 1860 could have been Queenstown and many descendants looking at shipping records assume incorrectly that Co. Cork is the home location of all passengers and (b) the date of birth recorded at death is never exact – it could change by up to as much as 8 years.

After an exhaustive search of both Irish and U.S. records and much emailing back and forth to Peggy for further clarifications, I identified the elusive John Fitzgerald, baptised in Killarney on 17 September 1843.  Identification of townland and land records followed.  William Fitzgerald, John’s father was occupying land in the Parish of Molahiffe in 1853.   All of this research and clarification process took up to six weeks.   Peggy then made plans to visit, booked her hotels in Killarney, booked a driver, Helena,  to take her to Farranfore and to visit the surrounding townlands.

Peggy and her husband eventual arrived in August and the visit was an outstanding success. Arriving in Firies and making local enquiries led them to the Fitzgerald family of Gowlane.  They were received most hospitably    They were treated to tea and members of the family then took them to Molahiffe graveyard and showed them the tomb of their Fitzgerald family.   Peggy got phone numbers of other older Fitzgeralds in the parish who were not home at the time and she intends contacting those also.

So it takes time, research at home and well-laid plans to locate accommodation for a few days ‘on the ground’ of  the target parish.   I continually tell descendants that Irish people and particularly Kerry people have no problem at all with genealogy tourists turning up in villages asking questions, one contact will lead to another and another, tea or something stronger will be part of the search experience and you will find your roots and feel part of the great Kerry diaspora.”


New Kingdom Facelift

 Pity about the fada over the wrong A


Road works on Main Street


Deserved Recognition for Radio Kerry

Radio Kerry has been named Local Station of the Year at the PPI Radio Awards

Your voice in the Kingdom also took silver for Innovation and bronze in Best Short Feature for the ‘Just Once’ series. 

Plus, Weeshie Fogarty has been honoured with a bronze medal in the Sports Broadcaster of the Year category! 

A Few Final Odds and Ends from the children’s events at Writers’ Week 2015 and The Athea Mural

Remembering a Great Few Days

This is British children’s author, Andrew Cope at the entrance to Listowel Town Park during The National Children’s Literary Festival at Writers’ Week 2015.

U.S. children’s author, Emily Raabe, with Maria McGrath, children’s programme administrator, Irish author, Sarah Webb and committee member, Mairead Costelloe.

Local Xistance Youth volunteers painted faces all day long.

Philip Ardagh in full flight.

Kerry GAA star, James O’Donoghue posed for a photo with some young admirers.

Here I am with Will Collins, his wife, Karen and son, Luke and his parents, Willy and Peggy Collins, my good friends from Kanturk.

Still face painting.

Best selling author of the Darkmouth series, Shane Hegarty signing copies of his book.

Happy days for Cora: face painted, Scellig chocolate lolly in hand and the show about to begin!

Taking a rest after a whistle stop tour of the town

Sarah Webb signing her book for a young fan.

Still face painting…. these young face painting artists were tireless.


How to Behave at The Palace

Should you get an invitation to the queen’s garden party, The Telegraph has a handy guide to a few essential table manners;

If you are seated to the right of the queen, you are the guest of honour and will be spoken to during the first course.

If you are to her left you are of less importance and can expect to be spoken to during the second course.  Whether you are left or right, you never speak first. You speak only when spoken to.

Never touch the queen or any item of her placesetting or cutlery.

Replace your teacup on its saucer after every sip.

Hold your wine glass by the stem.

You may drink wine even if the queen declines. She usually drinks mineral water.

So now you know.


Meanwhile in Athea

I went to Athea on Saturday, June 27 to check in on progress on the forge mural. A little bird (named Jim Dunn) had told me that there were some new figures added recently.

This was the scene, high vis jackets and hard hats everywhere, cherrypickers at every pole and it looked like every ESB worker in Limerick had descended on the village for the day. I had struck town on the day of the big switch on of the new lights.


This is how the mural looks from across the road. The lovely peaceful olde worlde forge scene is now  behind a kind of modern maypole of wires and shiny silver aluminum. Shame!

I ignored the pole and inspected the additions to the work of art. It’s going to be a masterpiece! Even an ugly ESB pole fails to detract from the charming scene from a more slow moving era.

A sleepy yet vigilant dog is now lounging at the feet of the horseman.

The original horse man has been joined by another gentle country man, this time dressed up for a visit to town with collar and tie and good sports coat. He is standing like a man at ease with the world admiring the work of the farrier. This little tableau is just perfect.

Now we discover that our first man is killing two birds with one stone. He is on his way to or from the creamery with his two small churns in the body of his cart.

Meanwhile in the forge the farrier is shoeing the draught horse while the owner is reassuring his animal that it will be over soon. I love the attention to detail  in this horse’s tackling. Look at the winkers, the collar, the hames and belly band…all perfect.

My father died when I was seven and many of my memories of him are with working horses like this.

This man has brought a machine for repair. It looks like a seed drill to me but it could be an implement we called a scuffler.

One of these days I’ll hit Athea when Jim is actually working on this.


Great News for Family Researchers

“It is all good news to-day on the Church records.  Next Wednesday afternoon 8thJuly, the Catholic Church Parish records will be released on their website  by the National Library.”

This good news comes in a blogpost from Kay Caball of  Find My Kerry Ancestors

Click on the link to hear how compiling your family tree has just got a whole lot easier.

  • manhole covers, Rathea 1950 and a puzzling sign

    On the streets of Listowel

    Today I’ve taken an unusual tack and I’ve photographed the various manhole covers in town. We walk on them everyday but did you realise there were so many different ones?


    Rathea 1950

    The photo belongs to Betty Stack and was posted on Facebook by


    Sizing Europe

    Sizing Europe and Jonathan Burke after another great win in Gowran on Saturday. When it comes to photographing racehorses Healyracing of Listowel have no equals.


    Walking on water?

    This sign from Glendalough made it into a European book of indecipherable signs. I get what it means. Don’t you?

     It must be an Irish thing.


    Amelia Wilmot, a blagger before the word was coined

    Today in My Kerry Ancestors website, Kay Caball is blogging about a little known Listowel heroine. Amelia Wilmot, while working as a housekeeper in Abbeydorney R.I.C. Barracks in 1920 and 21 blagged information and passed it on the local IRA. She even managed to procure guns and ammunition.

    Information about Amelia and other active volunteers is contained in recently digitized application forms for IRA service pensions. In order to qualify for the pension one had to give a detailed and verified  account of one’s active service during those troubled times.


    We are so lucky here in Listowel to have the winner of Georgina Campbell’s  casual Dining  Award for 2015 right here on our doorstep.


    Vintage cars, Century Ireland, other old stuff and Dermot O’Neill

    Micheál O Muircheartaigh addressing the large crowd in Killarney before the walk from darkness into light on Saturday morning in aid of Pieta House.

    A group from Presentation Secondary School, Listowel took part. Teacher, Bridget O’Connor,  sent me the photo.


    On Monday May 6th 2013 we had a Vintage Day in town. The Square was full of old tractors and cars and people who love these things were having a day out. 

    I was there with my camera and I’ll bring you a few of the photos this week.

    No, we did not have anything as grand as these Model T’s from 1910 but we had these.


    Savannah McCarthy is pictured with Katie Taylor who presented her with her award at The Traveller Pride awards ceremony in Dublin on Thursday last.

    Savannah from Listowel is captain of the Under 17 Irish girls soccer team. Other award winners were John Joe Nevin and Kelly Mongan.


    The onward march of technology

    This is the first Irish cctv in Dublin airport in 1959.

    Remember these? Of course they had a querty keyboard, this one was part of a secretary’s protest.


    When I was writing about the Parents  and Friends Garden Fete, I omitted to mention the star attraction. It was  celebrity gardener, Dermot O’Neill. His talks proved very popular and people found him approachable and very free with his advice. He posed for a few photos with his fans as well.


    Two great new websites

    Since Tuesday last May 7 2013 a marvellous new website is up and running.

    Century Ireland

    Century Ireland is a partnership between RTÉ, the Department of Arts, Heritage and the GaeltachtBoston College, theNational Cultural Institutions and other partners.

    Century Ireland will make a range of archival material available to the public in the most accessible way possible, and will accompany this material with expert commentary. Alongside news reports from the time, the site will feature primary sources, academic research, and a wealth of visual imagery. The reach of the Century Ireland online news site will also be complemented with a daily blog and Twitter feed to bring information about the 1913 to 1923 period to the widest possible audience in the most easily accessible way.

    Jimmy Deenihan TD, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht commented:

    “Over the course of 2013, and in the decade ahead, we will celebrate a rolling succession of centenaries that mark the most momentous period in modern Irish history. In a mere decade, the social and political landscape in Ireland changed completely. The Century Ireland initiative is important because it takes our history and makes it tangible and accessible for the audience of today. The major stories featured will explain the events that shaped modern Ireland, but the everyday ones will help us imagine what it was really like to live through this decade of change.”

    Professor Mike Cronin, Boston College commented:

    “Century Ireland offers a decade long history of the major and everyday news events from a hundred years ago. Produced by Boston College, delivered by RTÉ and supported by the national cultural institutions, Century Ireland will bring the 1913-23 period to life. A rich mix of digital content, supported by social media, will allow the public to access a range of material and lead them through the decade of centenaries in real time.”

    Noel Curran, Director General of RTÉ, commented:

    “RTÉs involvement in the Century Ireland project is reflective of its commitment to opening up and showcasing some of the wealth of materials available within the RTÉ Archive. Online and mobile engagement nationally and internationally increases every year and we feel confident Century Ireland’s positioning within the RTÉ.ie website will help this project secure the recognition and visits that it truly deserves. It has been a privilege to have worked in partnership with such esteemed organisations to create a national cultural resource of such quality and value.”


    If you don’t get too bogged down in Century Ireland, take a look at this great new site.

    Find your Kerry ancestors


    There is a great Facebook page called Rare Irish Stuff. It was there I found this treasure. It was taken in Kylemore McDonalds in Dublin on Saturday last, May 11 2013.

    Ia ait an mac an tsaol  (There’s none so queer as folk!)


    +  Donal Walsh R.I.P.  +

    Just a short quote from his inspirational article. He was an exceptional young man. May he rest in peace.

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