I grew up in an inbetween sized family – two parents, four kids. Larger than the American norm, perhaps (or at least larger than the “Family of Four” vacation deals to Disneyland would allow…), but certainly smaller than many of my homeschooled peers’ families!
Though we remain close, my immediate family is now scattered to the four winds – across the United States and into Europe and Africa! It seems impossible at times for all of us to be in the same place at the same time, much less including the other 20 or so extended family members from both sides. We’re lucky if we see the uncles or cousins every few years or so.
Then, I became a Kelly.
Frank’s father, Anthony, is one of 12 children who were born and raised in a small two-bedroom house here in Drogheda. Three of those children have moved abroad, but all the rest live locally. Would you believe it? They hardly ever get together. Perhaps it’s down to age differences or old fall outs, but they reckon the last time all the siblings were together in one place was at their father’s funeral in 1969. Geez!
Last weekend I finally had the privilege of meeting all 12 of the original Kelly siblings and their spouses, children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren. What a legacy! What a party!!!
Even though I only got to spend those few hours watching and listening to the Kelly Clan (over 70 in number!), it was such a joyful experience for me to witness the family resemblances, put faces to names and receive many a wink and a nod from various uncles!!! I’m so glad Evelyn got to be there, too, and it was a very special day I can tell her about in years to come.
The only problem is that now my curiosity is piqued – what of the previous generations? Where did they live and what did they do? How many children? I’m sure in a town (and country) this size, there are probably more distant cousins than we realize. It makes me wonder, too, about my own Irish ancestry, which is many generations back.
I’m not nearly the geneological detective that my friend Erin is, and finding family records in Ireland can be a massive task. Apparently, many of the government documents were lost or destroyed throughout the last turbulent century of Irish history, though a lot of parishes still keep some family records. It’s also hard when people don’t know much about their grandparents and greats, as is the case with the Kellys, and as you can imagine, it is extra complicated when so many people share the same surnames! (Frank’s family alone has numerous Patrick Kellys in their lineage, but I’d wager there are more than a few men by that name in early 20th century Ireland!!!! Over 55 of them in our county alone, to be exact!!!)
However, I do have one golden ticket in my hand – the 1901 and 1911 Irish census’ that are available free of charge online. If you have any family members who were living in Ireland around that time, you should definitely check this out!!! We’re pretty sure we found Frank’s great-grandfather on here, as well as where he lived, what his house was made of, what he did for a living, and his social status!!! Incredible and sooo interesting!
Meanwhile, I am trying to keep a family tree from the Koopman/McDonald side as best I can – luckily a lot of work has been done for me on that front – so that Evelyn will know where she came from. I know as I get older that discovering similarities with my ancestors gets more meaningful all the time… as though, Aha! That’s who I am! The more I dig, the more I realize I’m quite lucky to be one in a large history of world travellers and adventurers! Woo hoo!
Of course, the most important family history I can give my daughter is the one we’re living right now, and spending time with all these Kellys, Walshes, Koopmans, McDonalds, Ledfords, and their cousins, aunties, uncles, grandparents… this is the invaluable stuff! And I’m so proud of them all. We are really very, very lucky. 🙂