The Irish in America

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Ireland Reaching Out to Middle America

Enjoy the latest press release from the folks at Ireland XO. It’s great to see them reaching out to the Irish communities in Chicago and Milwaukee!

Ireland XO reaches out to Mid-West Irish-American Diaspora

The Ireland XO Team in action at the Milwaukee Irish Fest: Mike Feerick, Dolores O’Shea, Rory O’Shaughnessy

Ireland Reaching Out began its first major outreach drive to the Irish-American diaspora with a busy and successful visit to Galway’s Sister City, Chicago and the Milwaukee Irish Fest 2012.

Loughrea, Co. Galway, August 27th 2012  The Mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel has asked Ireland XO to trace the Irish roots of his wife who has Irish ancestry – this is just one of the many hundreds of requests that the team took home from their first major outreach to the Irish-American diaspora in the US Mid-West.

As part of a delegation which included both Galway City and County Councils as well as Fáilte Ireland, members of the Ireland Reaching Out Programme travelled last week to Chicago, en route to the 2012 Milwaukee Irish Fest. Supported by local volunteers from the Chicago area, the team “reached out” to the estimated 120,000 attendees at the Fest to sign up Irish-Americans interested in tracing their roots and one day returning to the parish of their ancestors. There was extraordinary interest shown by those engaged in linking to their Irish Heritage and the majority of them were planning a visit to Ireland for The Gathering 2013.

In Chicago, Ireland XO made presentations at the Irish American Heritage Centre and Gaelic Park in Chicago where Irish culture, language, music, dance and sport is celebrated by many thousands of members. In excess of 150 people attended both venues where Mike Feerick and Henry Healy of Ireland Reaching Out explained their work and  closer co-operation between the organisations is envisaged. In particular, the IAHC has an excellent library and archives as well as a monthly genealogy group which Ireland XO intends to leverage.

At the Chicago mayoral reception, John Mahoney, best known for his role in the TV hit comedy Frasier, and whose grandfather is from Co. Cork, praised the Ireland XO concept and encouraged both Diaspora and Irish parishes to sign up.  At Milwaukee, the ancestral details of over 600 Irish-Americans were signed up for the programme. These ranged from one Virginia State resident tracing his ancestor’s departure from the town of Ballina in Mayo in 1740 and now having 1,200 people on his family tree (all members of the Ballina, Co Mayo Diaspora!), to those who were finding out for the first time about the Irish origins of their grandfather.  Commenting on the feedback, Mike Feerick stated that “the immense opportunity for local communities in Ireland to connect with their Diaspora was starkly evident at the Milwaukee Irish Fest. We should not stop until all 70 million of the Irish Diaspora are reconnected!”

For further information on the Ireland Reaching Out Programme, or getting involved, please  or telephone 091 842 013.

Bill Gaynor (Sister Cities), Henry Healy and Mike Feerick (Ireland Reaching Out), Austin Kelly (Sister Cities), Marian Ryan, general manager and John Devitt, President Gaelic Park Chicago.


Galway City delegation, members of the Chicago Sister Cities Committee, Ireland XO and Consul General Aidan Cronin with Mayor Rahm Emanuel

For further media information please contact:

Paula Kennedy, Press Officer,
Tel:               +353 (0)91 842013       / 086-069-5152



Mike Feerick, CEO of Ireland Reaching Out with Consul General Aidan Cronin

About the Ireland Reaching Out Programme
The Ireland Reaching Out (Ireland XO) project won the special award at the national “Pride of Place” Awards in Nov 2011 and in February 2012, was voted the “Best Community” initiative nationally by the Local Authorities Members Awards (LAMA).  The project was founded in South-East Galway by tech entrepreneur Mike Feerick in 2009 and has been funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Heritage Council, the Atlantic Philanthropies, the Ireland Funds, Galway County Council, Galway Rural Development (GRD), and Irish-American sources. Sponsors include Google, Guinness, An Post, and the National Library. In Dec 2011, the project launched a global partnership with the GAA, agreeing to link newly identified members of the Irish Diaspora to the network of nearly 500 GAA clubs worldwide. Well-known broadcasters and economists David McWilliams and George Lee have been prominent supports of Ireland XO pointing out the extraordinary economic potential of the project, which rises well beyond the immediate and obvious tourism opportunity. The Ireland Reaching Out project aims to connect over million people through the project by the end of 2013. It believes it can achieve a database of 10 million members of the Irish Diaspora, including delivering one million additional visits to the island of Ireland by 2016.

Ireland XO in the Press 2011/2012
TV3 Morning Show – Ireland XO wins Arthur Guinness Fund Award

RTE George Lee – The Business – The Irish Diaspora
New Tech Post (David McWilliams): Ireland Reaching Out Launch 2012
New York Times: In tough times; the Irish call their Diaspora
RTE Nationwide: The Obama Visit – Linking to the Diaspora
Irish-American Magazine; Bring them all Back Home

Ireland XO Press Section 

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Ireland Reaching Out News

The following is the latest press release from the folks at Ireland Reaching Out:


Award-winning National Community Programme

Ireland XO set to expand in the Shannon Region

In partnership with Shannon Development and the local LEADER groups, over 376 mid-west parish communities throughout the Shannon region are being targeted to take part in an innovative programme to identify and reunite their local parish diaspora abroad.

Photographed at the announcement of their partnership are members of Shannon Development, LEADER and Ireland XO at the offices of Shannon Development.

Loughrea, Ireland, July 16th 2012 The Ireland Reaching Out programme is stepping up a gear and rolling out into the whole of the Shannon Region in the coming months. Following a successful pilot in East Galway, the Shannon Region will be the first region in Ireland to be mobilized under the initiative. With the support of Shannon Development, Clare County Council and LEADER, there is the potential for over 376 parishes to participate in the programme. In the last two months, Shannon Development has facilitated numerous meetings to put structures in place to enable community involvement.

Working with the LEADER groups across the Shannon region, the Ireland XO programme will engage with all interested parishes. In the coming weeks, John Joe Conwell, Parish Liaison Officer, Henry Healy, Community Activation Leader and members of the Ireland Reaching Out team will be holding information sessions in the Clare, Limerick, Offaly, and Tipperary county areas.

Paul Ryan, Shannon Development’s Tourism Marketing Manager, said: “The expansion of Ireland XO into the Shannon Region is the beginning of a new chapter in heritage tourism with the potential to deliver additional international visitors to the Shannon Region in 2013 and beyond.  It will generate a renewed sense of community among the Shannon Region diaspora abroad and complements the work we are doing on ‘the Gathering’ which will bring over 325,000 additional visitors to Ireland in 2013.”

Anyone with an interest in their community, its history, tourism, business or genealogy, is encouraged to get involved and learn more about the project. While Ireland XO parish volunteers are reaching out around the world, the website provides a landing point in Ireland for people abroad who have some detail about where their emigrant ancestors hail from in Ireland. By joining any parish community online, they can seek direct genealogical research assistance from local people in the area who also volunteer to meet them on their return.

For further information on upcoming parish meetings or on getting involved, please contact

Tel: 091 842 013 or Paul Ryan, Shannon Development Email:  Tel: 086 2259728.

A programme for the economic, social and cultural development of the Irish people

Mike Feerick and Henry Healy



Ireland Continues to Reach Out to Diaspora

Henry Ford, Jr. and Bill Clinton have theirs. So does Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly. Do you want one, too?

The Irish Government launched the Certificate of Irish Heritage program this past Autumn. All you need to do is submit your application with proof you have an Irish ancestor and $75 and you will receive your choice of three certificate designs. The certificate is also available in Spanish, English, or Irish.

The Certificate of Irish Heritage website describes the key element of the application as the ancestor document – “a document which identifies the recipient’s ancestor as Irish or as being born in Ireland.”

The documentation should be relatively simple for most people seeking a certificate to obtain (many most likely already have it.) The Irish government will accept birth, marriage, and death certificates or census records, from any country as proof of Irish ancestry.

If you have trouble pinning down an ancestor of Irish origin, the website offers links to professional genealogists who are ready to help you locate the necessary documentation.

Tip: You can save $ if you purchase multiple certificates at the same time. Get your entire family on board and organized and order your certificates together. You will save time by only compiling the appropriate documents and research once. Obtaining the Certificate of Irish Heritage could be part of your next family reunion or holiday get-together.

What do you think of this certificate? Will you apply for one? Please leave a comment…I would love to hear your thoughts!

Are your Irish roots in North Kerry? Yes? Then you are in luck!

I recently became aware of another Reaching Out initiative in Ireland. This time it is North Kerry looking to connect with members of the diaspora back to their region.

They have a great website offering assistance to those tracing their roots to North Kerry and providing local historical and current events information.

The following parishes of North Kerry are participating in the NKRO effort: Listowel, Ballyduff, Lisselton/Ballydonoghue, Ballybunion, Asdee, Ballylongford, Tarbert, Duagh, Lyreacrompane, Lixnaw, Moyvane/ Newtownsandes, Knockanure, Finuge, and Kilflynn.

Any of these places sound familiar? I bet the folks at NKRO would love to hear from you!


Ireland Reaching Out, Portumna Workhouse, and a Family Reunion

Journalist Loretto Leary has written several articles, as well as conducted interviews, about the Portuma workhouse in South East Galway and posted them on her website Breise! Breise! (Extra! Extra!).  We have heard quite a bit about the South East Galway region recently for its participation in the Week of Welcomes, the pilot program of Ireland Reaching Out.  Local Portumna historian John Joe Conwell ties the workhouse, emigration, and the Ireland Reaching Out initiative together very nicely in Part 2 of the Irish Workhouse Center video (which appears midway down the page.)

Ursula Marmion is the project head of the Irish Workhouse Centre in Portumna.  It is an exciting and ambitious project to conserve the buildings, establish a visitor’s center, and tackle future redevelopment.  Ms. Marmion shares her thoughts in Part 1 and Part 2 of Irish Workhouse Center.  Videos and articles can be found on Loretto Leary’s site.  When you are finished with the Irish Workhouse information, take a spin around the rest of her insightful blog.  Thanks to Noreen Bowden (@noreenbowden) who introduced me to Loretto’s blog via a tweet yesterday.  Click here for a few photos of the Portumna workhouse.

More than simply a family reunion, the Irish Times calls the meeting of over 300 members of the McNamara clan in Loughrea, Galway the McNamara Festival!  This ambitious endeavor was inspired by the Ireland Reaching Out program, now perhaps it will inspire you to plan your own family reunion.  I am more than happy to help spread the word and help track down American relatives.  Leave a comment if you have ever considered organizing an Irish family reunion.


Ireland Reaching Out: Update and FAQ

The following is a copy of an email I received from the Ireland Reaching Out program.  Sounds like they are on track for a fantastic “Week of Welcomes” in the parishes of south-east Galway…

Hello from South-East Galway!


We have been receiving an overwhelming amount of email from you over the last weeks and days as we ramp up the project and look forward to our inaugural Week of Welcomes 26th June-2nd July – a week of learning, heritage and fun.


Due to the volume of enquiries, we are not in a position right now to answer every individual query. We are a relatively small team, made up almost entirely of volunteers, and the immediate focus is on a successful pilot and rollout of the project in the South-East Galway area. With this email, we’d like to answer the most frequently asked questions. 


What is the Ireland Reaching Out pilot project and when will it expand to other areas of Ireland?

The Ireland Reaching Out pilot project is primarily focused on making contact with our South-East Galway Diaspora, i.e. global emigrants and/or their descendants who left the area and inviting them to reconnect with their place of origin. Over the past year, over 40 local Irish parish communities have been working hard to find out who left their areas and have been helping us to create an online presence for each parish such that should you believe you are connected to a particular Irish parish, you can introduce yourself directly to the local Ireland Reaching Out team.

Due to the huge popularity of the project, we have experienced a great volume of queries relating to parts of Ireland outside of our initial focus. These are welcome, but right now, we must prioritize those queries which are made in connection to South-East Galway.  You will, however, be pleased to know that it is anticipated that the Ireland XO will expand nationally in the second half of 2011. Should you be interested in becoming involved in a parish anywhere else in Ireland, you will be able to register your specific interest at that time.

How can I keep myself informed about the project and its progress?

How can I help spread the word about the Week of Welcomes June 26th-July2nd?

The Week of Welcomes will become an annual fixture in every parish’s calendar in Ireland – help us to spread the word about the inaugural event in South-East Galway this June. The website is continuously being updated as we confirm more details but one thing is for sure: it will be a visit to remember!


Can I attend the Inaugural Week of Welcomes June 26th-July2nd?

The quick answer is that yes you can! Even if you are not connected to South-East Galway but priority is been given those with local South-East Galway roots and those with surnames such as Kelly, Burke, Fahy and Madden which are native to the area (see the 1855 Griffith’s Valuation list of most common surnames in the pilot area here – scroll to bottom of page: A small number of places in each parish is reserved for people of Irish Heritage who would like to come along and enjoy the local Irish welcome for this very historic event. If you would like to attend but have no specific link to South-East Galway, please let us know. The event will covered by local and international media.
I am interested in tracing my ancestors – can you help me to do this?

If you are trying to trace your ancestors to Ireland, the Ireland Reaching Out Project can certainly help you once it is rolled out Ireland-wide later this year. What we offer is a connection to your parish(es) of origin where local people (possibly relatives!) who have volunteered as part of the project will be keen to assist.  One of the remarkable aspects of this project is that when you have a community of people assisting you to trace your ancestors, the process is way quicker!

If you don’t know your parish of origin, knowing the county of origin will help.  If you don’t know this – but simply know your people are from Ireland – then please have patience, because we are possibly going to get to you from the other direction – all in good time however.  If you have some information about your family, but are unsure of where they come from, we will give you the opportunity to register that information later on this year.  For now, help us to help you by letting people know about this project which in turn will help the project to scale up.  Through your help, we can systematically reunify the entire Irish Diaspora. Even if you are a “John Kelly” of Irish roots, working together, we will one day find out who you really are!

I would like to get involved in the project — how do I volunteer? And what skills are you looking for?
We have had many offers of assistance for which we are very grateful. We are keeping track of every offer of assistance and even if we do not get back to you straight away, please bear with us as our central organization is strengthened in the coming months.  You can sign-up and tell us about your skills and areas of interest here:

In the area of Loughrea, Co Galway, we are looking for people with professional IT, web, management, research, strategic development, financial, marketing, PR and event-organization skills.  Further afield, we are looking for volunteers to assist with the online management of local Irish parish websites, something that can be done as easily from Australia, UK or the USA as from the West of Ireland!

Thank you for your continued interest, offers of help, ideas and support!  If you have family and friends with an interest in Ireland, please let them know about the exciting project!

The Ireland XO Team


Dolores O’Shea
Project Administrator – Ireland Reaching Out
South-East Galway Diaspora Pilot Project
25, Dunkellin Street, Loughrea, Co. Galway


Ireland Reaching Out: Parish List

Mike Feerick of Ireland Reaching Out left a comment a couple of days ago and provided a complete list of the Galway parishes involved in the program:

The Full List of South-East Galway Parishes….. It’s a big part of County Galway!

Abbey and Duniry
Aughrim & Kilconnell
Ardrahan / Labane
Ballinakill & Derrybrien
Gort (Kilbeacanty & Beagh)
Kilconieran & Clostoken
Clonfert, Meelick and Eyrecourt
Fohenagh and Killure
Kilchreest & Castledaly
Leitrim & Killeenadeema
Fahy and Quansborough
Kiltullagh & Killimordaly
Mullagh, Killoran, Kilrickle, Cappataggle
New Inn & Bullaun
Portumna, Boula, Gortanumera
Ballymacward & Gurteen

Do you trace your ancestry to one of the south-east Galway counties? If you can, you must visit the Ireland Reaching Out website!

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James J. Fahey: Best-selling author with roots in Ardrahan, Galway

Earlier today I received an email from Rory O’Shaughnessy, a team leader for Ardrahan Parish in Galway, part of the Ireland Reaching Out project.

He asked for my help in spreading the word as they search for any descendants or relatives of James J. Fahey.  James Fahey wrote “Pacific War Diary: 1942-1945” in 1963.  Click here to read his obituary printed in the New York Times and to learn what he did with his earnings from the sales of his book.  It is a great story.

James Fahey’s people came from Ardrahan.  He was born in New York City in 1918.  His parents died three years after his birth, and he was sent to live with relatives in Waltham, Massachusetts.  Later he lived in Marco Island, Florida with his wife Adele and died in 1991.  His obituary stated that he had no biological children, but had stepchildren.  He was also survived by two brothers – John and Joseph.

Any relatives of James J. Fahey out there?  Let me know…leave a comment on this post, or send me an email:

Ireland Reaching Out is an exciting project happening in the parishes of Southeast Galway.  Help them as they try to identify and connect with the descendants of those who left Ireland, members of the vast Irish Diaspora.


Ireland Reaching Out: The Newsletter

More on the Clancy family of Moylough, County Galway coming up, but first I wanted to share something I found in my inbox this morning.

Click here to get the latest information and updates on the Ireland Reaching Out program of south-east Galway.

If you live in one of the parishes involved in this pilot program, you obviously are aware of the efforts to connect with members of the Diaspora throughout the world.

Some of the parishes involved…



Clostoken & Kilconieran


Fohenagh & Killure

Gort & Kiltartan

If you can trace your Irish ancestry to any of these parishes in south-east County Galway, contact I am sure they would be delighted to hear from you…

Please leave a comment if you would like to share any information about the IRO program, searching for your Irish roots, or tracing a relative who emigrated to the US.  We would love to hear what you have to say!

Read the first edition of the IRO newsletter here.