On the trail of Great,Great,Grandfather Mahony in Millstreet and Knocknagree,Ireland

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October 19th 2013
Published: October 23rd 2013
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We are missing the toaster! Breakfast is just not quite the same without hot buttered toast with jam or peanut butter. We have had to make do with croissants after our muesli, fruit and yogurt and it’s not quite the same. So that’s something we are looking forward to, other than seeing the family and friends in the flesh again when we get back home.

We are not having quite the luck we need with the weather at the start of the day and this morning it is raining again although thankfully the forecast is for the rain to clear.

Today we are heading inland to the small town of Millstreet on the trail of my great, great grandfather Michael Mahony to try and put some missing pieces in the ancestry puzzle on my late mother’s side of the family. The name we are tracing is clearly a very Irish one and when you look at records on various websites you find that the name is very common here. One small difference which is not uncommon also is the addition or exclusion of the letter ‘e’ before the ‘y’ in the name.

From a death notice in a NZ newspaper that my great grandfather had inserted in 1901 when his father died we have traced Michael back to Millstreet using the date and his age as the major clues.

Driving north east through Killarney, Gretchen observed just how many houses were painted yellow in Ireland that we had passed by and we have decided that is because they need a contrast to the lush green grass and also to cheer them up when it is dull, grey and raining!

Vannessa,the rental VW we have driving, has been very mean on diesel and as yet we haven’t had to refill her tank in all the kilometres we have travelled so far. We have put that down to the car being manual so you can control the speed and use of the gears better and also the sparse traffic which means the speed we have travelled at has been very consistent.

The N12 north east from Killarney towards Millstreet runs through pleasant farmland and we noticed another feature that has stood out for us and that is the number of relatively large, new homes in the rural areas close to the towns and cities. Of course Ireland had had a major building boom a few years ago that had led to problems for the country in the economic crisis that started in 2008. There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of new houses under construction currently so perhaps they have an oversupply for the current population.

Another feature of Ireland is the huge number of small pubs and often in small towns there can half a dozen or more to cater for the population. One name that has appeared frequently in the towns we have passed through is ‘Murphy’s’ which of course is to be expected being that the name is very common in this country, although it would be interesting to know just how many pubs named for the Murphy’s that there were.

Millstreet has a museum and we thought that we might get some leads from there by seeing what history they had. Before we went into the museum we checked the Catholic Church in the middle of the town. The church had been built in 1932 so there wasn’t going to be anything there of interest and the cemetery around the church didn’t seem to have that many graves and headstones going back far enough.

We still had the museum to check out and crossed the road only to find that although there were hours advertised for it to be open on Saturday, there was no one there. However, the library was open and as a last resort to talk to someone who might know something about the history of the area we went inside. And it was just as well we did as Grace, the librarian, was most helpful and did a census search for 1901, the year Michael died, and found him recorded living with a family by the name of O’Keeffe in nearby Knocknagree. Michael’s age that was recorded agreed with the age he died which was in June 1901 and so it seemed we had another clue to follow.

So it was back in the car and a drive to Knocknagree about 10km away.

We checked out the Catholic Church in the small village but it was too new and the graves and headstones in the cemetery didn’t go back far enough to cover the time when Michael died. We were interested in finding a headstone as it would likely have family information on it perhaps even covering all of the family which would have been great.

While checking the headstones we found one that had a family from the ‘Townland’ of Shanballa where Michael lived with the O’Keeffes. ‘Townland’ we guess is land that was leased and farmed and now we needed to find where the area known as Shanballa actually was.

Being a Saturday afternoon there was no one about in the village so we took a drive out into the farmland to see what we might find. Down the road a bit we saw a local man out clearing leaves and stopped to ask him if he knew of the Shanballa ‘Townland’ and we got another break as he gave us directions to the area and also the name of a local person who was up on the history of the village and surrounding area. He didn’t know what house he lived in but if we asked at any house on the road we would be directed to the historian’s house.

We chose a house where there was a car in the driveway and by chance we were just one house away from the man we needed to talk to.

But it was here the trail went cold as the man wasn’t home.

So although we didn’t come away with a a picture of the grave and headstone we did get more names and information to follow up online and it may now be worth writing to the historian once we get home. We could have hung around to see if the man came home but we had no idea whether he was just out somewhere local or further away and the neighbour didn’t know either.

Our accommodation for next 2 nights was at the Travelodge in Cork which was an hour or so away and we took ‘The Butter Route’ over the Boggeragh Mountains which was a pleasant drive through dairy farmland on a narrow and winding road that was the original road for local farmers to take their dairy products to market in Cork.

It had been a long day and generally successful day in ancestry tracing and with the heavy overcast sky the daylight was starting to fail when we made it to Cork.


25th October 2013

plan ahead
you should have contacted the museum, or our website millstreet.ie for help with who to contact and where to go to find information :(
27th October 2013

Millstreet Visit...For the attention of Grahame and Gretchen Benvie
I've just become aware of your Travel Blog from a "Millstreet in the News" feature on our official Millstreet website www.millstreet.ie. Firstly I'm glad that you had some success in your root search in the general Millstreet/Boherbue area of Co. Cork. Millstreet Library personnel are always so very helpful. You mentioned your visit to Millstreet Church - the original of which was built in 1840 and for which there are records from 1853. You then referred to your unsuccessful visit to Millstreet Museum indicating that it was closed although you had read somewhere that we were open on Saturdays. I would like to clarify this - For the past four years Millstreet Museum has not been open as renovation to the overall Carnegie Hall (in which we are based) was being made. We open from Monday to Friday (excluding Bank Holidays). We did open on Sat. 5th Oct. 2013 for a special one day Exhibition relating to a major Motor Rallying Event in our area. I would very much appreciate it if you would indicate where you noted the Saturday opening of our Museum/Tourist Information Centre so that we are in a position to correct this for any future visitors. I am aware of other tourism websites of which we do not have control where opening hours of past years may still not have been updated - If this is still the position we shall make contact with such websites and request updating. As your public travel blog has appeared on our Millstreet website it is necessary that I clarify the opening hour situation for the many daily visitors to our local official website. I shall also indicate where you became aware of the incorrect opening days and hours. My compliments to you on an excellent Travel Blog. We've helped many people to trace roots over the years including two couples during this past week alone where we were even able to bring them to the exact location of their great grand father. Both of these couples had made contact with us in advance of their arrival by referring to www.millstreet.ie. In fact we welcomed two other couples from New Zealand over the past six weeks. Our Museum is run on a voluntary basis with two very dedicated assistants financed by a Government Scheme. I may be contacted by emailing millstreetmuseum@eircom.net . Thank you for your attention and your great interest in Ireland and in particular this Duhallow area of Co. Cork. I wish you well on your many travels. Kindest regards - Seán Radley, Curator, Millstreet Museum/Tourist Information Centre.
3rd November 2013

Thank you for your contact.I am now back at work in NZ but when I have some time I will check out where we saw that the office was open on a Saturday.I will be back to you very soon.
6th February 2018

6th February 2018

The Mahoneys of Knocknagree
My G G Grandfather was baptised on 31st January 1856 at Rathmore with Nohaval and Kilcummin,Kerry just acrross the provincial border from Cork.His father was Michael and his mother Catherine Brosnahan.I don't believe Con came to New Zealand and I have seen a record of him living with his sister Catherine or Kate who married Michael O'Keefe and lived in Shanbally on the Knocknagree Townland.

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