Friday 22 November 2013

Tar Abhaile highlights the positive work of Ireland XO

After a rather hectic few days, I finally managed to settle down to the first episode of Tar Abhaile, TG4's new series about Ireland XO, the group of local communities that's helping the Diaspora reconnect with their Irish roots. It aired on Sunday and was repeated on Monday, but can be viewed at your own convenience on TG4's player, or below.

I have to say I engaged more with this programme than I have with some other genealogy shows on television. Not only were the people real – from the folk searching for their roots, to the extended family they met, and to the members of Ireland XO who were carrying out the research – the range of genealogy records covered was extensive.

Take Marsha from Chicago... Marsha wasn't 'new' to genealogical research or to Ireland; she had previously met Tommy Cooke, the 99-year-old grandson of her great grandfather, in Knockainey, but she wanted to know more. The Ireland XO team not only facilited meetings with Tommy and his wider family, they uncovered 'the old homestead' still (just) standing, they found tales of minor disagreements with offialdom in the Petty Sessions Court Registers and uncovered stories of her family's involvement in Land War agitation in historical newspapers.

And then there was Bryan Lynch from Ayr in Queensland, Australia, who believed he had no surviving family in Ireland but wanted to know where his great grandmother Daly was buried. This tale was a heart tugger, as he was introduced to a cousin who still lived in her house in Lough Gur and knew where to find the family grave. Not only were the Ireland XO volunteers able to satisfy his genealogical quest, they also helped organise for Bryan and his wife to renew their marriage vows, surrounded by local Lynch and Daly families, in the church where his great grandparents had wed 150 years ago. Pass the hankies around. (Or am I just going soft?)

Susan O'Brien of Ireland XO told Irish Genealogy News that the remaining broadcast will follow a similar format. "Each episode will show how two local communities helped members of their Diaspora – whether experienced family historians or novices – discover their ancestors. In the first episode, both Marsha and Bryan had already carried out a lot of their own research before they turned to Ireland XO for help. But later episodes will show examples of the 'reverse genealogy' for which Ireland XO have become so well-known, where the team have traced descendents of emigrants and brought them back to their place of origin."

The Diaspora is represented by people from the US, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the UK, while the Ireland XO teams are from towns and villages across Ireland.

All the episodes of Tar Abhaile (Come Home) were filmed between late Spring and the end of October. They are presented in Irish and English, with English subtitles. Click the link below to watch the first episode. It's just over 26 minutes long.