13 July 2011


     Today, I am going to talk dirty. As in genealogical dirt. Earth. Soil.  Stepping in the very mud our ancestors stepped in, toiled in, lived on, and tilled.
     When I visited Co. Tyrone in the summer of 1995, I had hoped to find the townland of my Lagan ancestors. Through a stroke of Irish luck, I found the Kerr family, whose ancestors were neighbors of my Lagan's. I discovered that the Kerr family members were local historians who preserved the history of the families of the townland of Innishatieve. They helped me trace many generations of my Lagan's and Reilly's.  Not only did they escort me through the townland, they took me to the very spot where my Peggy Lagan's stone house once stood.

    It is difficult to put into words the visceral feeling one gets while standing on the soil of ancestors. This connection to the past is not the cerebral connection that we researchers experience when discovering new records. Standing on the ancestral dirt, literally, involves many senses. I connected with my ancestors through my feet, standing on the same earth; through my eyes, seeing the same sights; through my ears, hearing the breeze stir the sycamore leaves; through my nose, smelling the green fields; and through my skin, touching the stones they once placed their hands upon.
     So, take a genealogical trip this summer. If you can't get to Ireland, visit a local place with significance to your family history--a town your grandmother knew, a church your great grandfather attended. Look about you with their eyes, sit still for a moment and listen and breathe. Your ancestors are speaking through the years.
Below: a short video I made of my1995 visit to Peggy's home:

(In memory of Michael Kerr, God Rest His Soul)