Volunteer group helping to reconnect descendants of Limerick

Volunteer Maresa (bottom left) brings together descendants of the Ballysheedy/Ballyneety Toomey family from Massachusetts and Limerick.

A GROUP of volunteers in Limerick are reconnecting the Irish diaspora with ancestors who left Ireland in days gone by.

Ireland Reaching Out, an organisation with volunteers all over the country, aim to reconnect those with Irish family to the places they come from, and encourage them to visit and see where their ancestors lived, and possibly meet some long lost relatives if they’re still in the area.

One such story is that of Thomas Pullant, from Washington, who returned to his family’s ancestral home in Bruff.

With the help of local Ireland Reaching Out volunteer Maresa McNamara, Thomas was able to discover the history of his family before they emigrated to the United States.

Thomas eventually visited Bruff and met up with Maresa, who was able to show him around the village at some of the places his family would have once been.

Sign up for the weekly Limerick Post newsletter

Thomas said: “Maresa made it possible for me to visit Bruff, to the church and town where my grandmother was born. She assisted in the search of the church records … and spent hours with me searching Mt Saint Lawrence for the graves of my great grandparents.”

The helpful Maresa also assisted another family in reconnecting with their ancestoral homes.

Mary-Rose Denton visited Adare from Canada to recount the story of her great-grandfather, James Lynch, who fled Ireland in 1846 at the height of the Great Famine. Maresa was able to show Mary-Rose around the town and tell her all about her family history.

Another Ireland Reaching Out volunteer in Limerick City helped to reconnect a husband and wife from Scotland with their Irish roots.

Married couple Brian and Liz, along with two of their American cousins, met volunteer Muftah to learn about his second great-grandparents John Hogan (c.1841) and Ann Finn (c.1842) who were married in St Mary’s Catholic Church in Limerick on 8th April 1861.

Denise O’Leary, Programme Coordinator with Ireland Reaching Out, said that the organisation needs more volunteers to continue facilitating reconnections across the country.

“Typically, at this time of year, our volunteers would have several hundred ‘meet and greets’ organised for the summer. If interest keeps going at the rate we have seen since the President’s visit, we could be dealing with as much as one thousand local connection requests by the end of the year,” she explained.

“Our present volunteer base simply cannot handle that level of demand. What we need is more volunteers. More people from local communities with an interest in meeting visitors whose ancestors once lived in the same places they do.”

The organisation currently have over 300 volunteers, but need more to facilitate the amount of connection requests from people abroad.

Anyone interested in volunteering with Ireland Reaching Out can email [email protected] for more information.