Finding my ancestry at a kebab shop in Cork

Please note, this post is part of a series. Click here to read from the beginning.

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My main motivation for travelling to Republic of Ireland is that is where my grandfather grew up. My grandfather died when I was 10 years old and, although I spent a lot of time with him, he rarely spoke about his childhood or his family. There were rumours and snatches of information that had been passed from other family members to my grandma and my dad, but I didn’t really know that much about him. A few years ago, my dad decided to research our family tree to find out more. Considering I am a product of my family, it was no surprise to discover that they moved around a lot, and therefore it’s difficult to find useful information. We do know, though, that my great-grandfather was a cabinet maker. Although raised in Ireland for some of his life before they moved to England, my grandfather was actually born in Scotland because that is where his dad happened to be working at the time. One document my dad did manage to uncover was the marriage certificate of my great-grandparents, which detailed their addresses in Cork. With the information that my dad had already gathered, I was fairly confident I could find at least one of the properties where my family had lived. My great-grandmother appears to have lived just outside the city before she was married, although I was unable to find the exact address on a google search. I think I know which area she lived in, but I suspect it has been redeveloped, and therefore decided not to pursue that one. My great-grandfather’s house, however, is on Coburg Street, virtually in the city centre. Even with my ability to get lost anywhere, it was easy to find.

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I should probably let you all know at this point that the house my great-grandfather lived in is now a kebab shop run by immigrants, which by the way, my dad found hilarious when I told him. I wasn’t expecting to find anything other than a building, if I was lucky, and I know I’m unlikely to have family still in Cork. I was just happy to stand in front of the house where one of my ancestors lived. Coming from a family that has moved around so much, and had various scandals and tragedies that have resulted in records and documents being lost, it was just nice to have a concrete connection to my great-grandfather. I doubt he would have ever thought about his great-granddaughter travelling from Wales one day just to see his house. I really liked the neighbourhood, too, and if for some reason you do find yourself on Coburg Street there’s a cool little coffee shop on the corner that weirdly reminded me of being in Alaska.

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It was great to visit the city of Cork too. I hadn’t really thought about what cities in Ireland might be like. I would expect Dublin to be big, but I wasn’t sure what to expect with the smaller cities. Cork, like Limerick where we would visit later in the week, both seemed nice. They have everything you would expect of a city centre, with a nice atmosphere and a slightly more laid back feeling than other cities I have visited. Most of the tourist attractions seem to be churches, which doesn’t really interest me, but it was nice to spend time in both cities. Whilst we were in Cork, I also learnt that there is a district called Blackpool. I was born in Blackpool, England. Although I would like to think there is some unconscious connection between the two thanks to my family, I imagine that the residents of Cork also just had a muddy swamp they wanted to drain to build houses on.

Coburg Street is as far back as my dad has been able to trace that part of his family. However, purely by chance I may have discovered some more information whilst I was in Ireland. Towards the end of my trip, I went on a bus excursion around the Ring of Kerry. One advantage for me being in Ireland is that, as I have an Irish surname, it’s the first place I have travelled that I don’t have to spell it for people. The lady who took my ticket immediately noticed my Irish name and also that I am clearly not Irish. She asked where my family are from, and I told her Cork. She then asked if I was sure, because apparently my surname comes from Tipperary. I passed the knowledge on to my dad, who so far had found no Tipperary connection in his research. Who knows, though? One day I might be stood in front of a kebab shop in Tipperary thinking ‘this is where my great-great-grandfather lived’.

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