Thursday, June 16, 2011

In Search of My Irish Roots

Long before I developed my current fascination with genealogy, I felt a particular pride in knowing that I came from good Irish stock: Granny Dobson was an O’Leary by birth. (And what could be more Irish than O’Leary? Genealogy unearthed an even stronger connection in the form of the Fitzgeralds, who married into the O’Leary family several generations back.)

What genealogy could NOT tell me was the specific place(s) in Ireland that produced my ancestors. The best I could determine was that John O’Leary married Mary Lambert, and together they had a son named Michael, born in Ireland circa 1832 (the family first appeared in records for Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, in 1834).

James Fitzgerald, although born in Ireland and supposedly arriving at the same time as the O’Leary family, might be connected to an earlier group of settlers. The Fitzgeralds started appearing in county records as far back as the late 1700s.

Alphonso Levi O'Leary
(1892-1956)
John and Mary’s son, John O’Leary, Jr., married Anastasia Fitzgerald, daughter of James. John and Annie’s youngest son, Alphonso (my great great grandfather) was one of the last keepers of the Queensport lighthouse on Rook Island (the final keeper being his son Osborne).

And Alphonso’s daughter Agatha is my Granny Dobson.

So, where did John O'Leary and Mary Lambert come from?

I have one possible lead in an 1825 document that indicates an Irishman named John O'Leary's intention to emigrate. I've only seen the index reference so far, not the actual document, so I don't know if it's my John O'Leary. But maybe. Just maybe.

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