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[Bann Valley] Re: visiting ancestral places

John Woods was right; this is one of the most meaningful topics that there can be on a genealogy list. In my opinion, part of the rationale for doing genealogy is to know where people came from. Even for those of us still living in Ireland, there is importance in returning to the place where forbears lived, and I can only imagine how vital it must be to people who have literally retraced the steps of ancestors back across the ocean. Perhaps people don't realize it, and get bogged down in marriage records and such, but in my view, anyone with an interest in their family's history won't experience it at a spiritual or emotional level until they return.

I think that there is something about the quality of light, or the line of a familiar horizon, which gets imprinted into people over generations of living in one place, and it is still recognizable after several lifetimes away.

Speaking as someone who grew up on a farm in NI, we were excited as children to meet people who came back from England to where they had lived themselves as children 50 or 60 years earlier; not our relations, but I can remember feeling even as a child that these people and my family were linked in a way. Certainly if you can, contact people ahead of a visit, or go with someone local, but don't rule out just dropping in, especially if you check locally to make sure the people aren't bedridden or whatever. Go to church and ask anyone to introduce you if the people from the homestead attend that church. Probably most people would be pleased to meet you, if you can call in the evening rather than through the working day.

Here is a wonderful quotation from an avid genealogist who returned to Ballywattick, near Ballymoney in the late 19th century

It had been my great desire to visit the old home of the early Dinsmores, the abode for many generations of their descendants. All the other Dinsmores there, in their several generations, were, in different degrees of consanguinity, my relatives. Business of another nature called me to Ballymoney, and I gladly embraced the opportunity of visiting one of the townlands, Ballywattick, two miles away. With Mr William Hunter, an occupant of part of a Dinsmoor homestead, I had enjoyed a pleasant correspondence for several years. An Irish jaunting-car, on the afternoon of the day of my arrival, bore me rapidly over the smooth, hard road to the home of Mr Hunter, where he, his amiable wife and interesting family, gave me the cheeriest welcome.....They live pleasantly and cosily in a well constructed, good-sized stone house, built upon a portion of the homestead of Robert Dinsmore, the writer of the historic letter of 1794. [The letter from Ballywattick to an American kinsman set out the details of the Scots ancestry and early history of the family]....Through the windows I looked forth upon fields familiar to, and trodden by, my ancestors two hundred and more years ago, and which had been sacred to their descendants almost to the present year. A lane, lined on either side with hedges, led us to the former home of Robert Dinsmore, the letter writer. It is a stone house of comfortable size and dimensions, with a roof of thatch. In its day it was one of the most pretentious in its neighbourhood. It is now unoccupied. Here it was that Robert Dinsmore lived, at seventy-four years of age, in 1794 when he wrote his letter, since famous, and now historic, to his relative John Dinsmoor of Windham, N.H., giving the genealogy and early history of the family'.

That venerable man little knew the boon he was conferring upon all of his lineage who were to succeed him, by the knowledge which he imparted in that epistle. He never dreamed that his letter would become historic, and that he was the earliest historian of his family, and had made possible the tracing of the annals of his race into the dim past. He little thought that a century later distant kinsmen 'from beyond seas' would seek out the old home and his abode, as the place where lived a benefactor. Yet such was to be the case.

His home stands alone. The fires have gone out upon the its ancient hearthstone. .....the beating storms, the buffeting winds and tempests, shall assail no more forever the Dinsmores at that old homestead.....

Linde Lunney

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