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Ireland in My Blood: Discovering Our Ancestral Irish History (part one)

Updated: Aug 8, 2020

I am a bit embarrassed to say that I have yet to do a recap of my trip to Ireland from October 2017! So this is way overdue. And the time has come to document this phenomenal trip to my ancestral home. Here is a link to a brief blog post for the setup of the trip.

Many things developed after I initially booked my trip in February that same year and completed the post above. I will focus this post on the 2nd leg of our trip which was centered around my genealogical and ancestral discoveries.

What did I know?

I knew which of my ancestors (my great grandmother Ida Mae's grandfather William C McMullen) was the first generation in our family to make way from Ireland to Canada during the potato famine. The family came from Kilkenny, Ireland, in which I was able to find that information within This led me to focus in on splitting the trip into two parts - sightseeing Dublin to start us off, then onto our genealogical research. The trip, due to budget and timing would only be about a week, so time would be limited. Because I knew they were from Kilkenny, I found an adorable historic cottage in a little town called Kells where I had also seen that name pop up a few times during my research. I hoped that by being in Kells, I might find some relationship to that village and my family, but if not, at least I was in the general area of Kilkenny to use this cottage as a hub for venturing out to do research. I essentially booked it on a whim. It would be the most idyllic Irish countryside escape I've been looking for... thatched roof and all.

What I didn't know?

I was struggling to put the pieces together - burial sites, occupations, generations further back, maiden names of wives in the line, origins of our name, why the constant spelling variations, etc. My many times great uncle, who also was part of that first generation to migrate from Ireland, was a well known writer and Canadian historian (John Mercier McMullen), however many of the excerpts of his writings were more about life in Canada as opposed to his Irish descent, even denying his rich Irish blood in some extent. Through a forum in Ancestry, I decided to pose the question to the world hoping someone out there might know more about my family and their Irish story. Sure enough, I connected with a very distant cousin who happened to be the head of the McMullen clan. He had the answers I had been looking for all along and more.

He also cleared up why my great uncle John M didn't write much about his Irish roots when I asked if he knew where I could obtain copies of his writings. It was common that once settling onto new land, the need to assimilate was important to the family's success and prosperity in this new place. This is sadly true even to this day. His advice below was very telling to the nature of John M's writings...

"What I would not do, is participate, forward, promote or sanction the information contained in John Mercier McMullen's bogus sketch. While it contains many useful pieces of information, the entire story has been filtered to eliminate our actual Irish heritage and establish a theme John M found more attractive to the community he was pursuing in Canada at the time. Written when all of his siblings were deceased, it was not accepted or published by any male descendant McMullen, then or to this day. It was published by a maternal great granddaughter unaware of its controversial content. Since advised, I believe it has been removed."

A Magnetic Pull to My Ancestral Home

The most shocking detail of them all? It just so happened, that the cottage I had booked on a whim months earlier, was actually owned and lived in by my five-times great grandfather and his family. John William McMullen (b.1779) was a business man and developer in the village of Kells where he flourished. He settled with his small farm and mercantile business in the quaint village of Kells, which at the center of this idyllic landscape is a grain mill, which he was involved with developing, and the ruins of Kells Priory which is a beautiful historical gem. He leased a property from close friend and business partner, where...

"On this property he erected several stone dwellings, a barn, other out-houses, an orchard and garden, all sheltered from the North wind by the huge wall of what was thought then to be part of an ancient Danish Fort." - excerpt from McMullen family archives

This perfectly matches the Mill Cottage in Kells in every detail. The cottaged stayed in the Mullins family until the 1960s (spelling variation of McMullen - spelling would change to remove the Mc/Mac during periods of religious reformation or political shifts to either show or deny allegiance to the Crown).