Heading back to Ireland

My sister, one brother and I are heading to Ireland this week for a little family history tour.  I made some great connections on my last trip and some new connections via the Internet that will make this trip very meaningful.  We’ll visit the townlands where the Sweeney, Horan, and Brennan relatives came from.  Through some wonderful local participation in our search we will be able to visit the Sweeney and Horan cottages.   One is in ruins and the other is a storage house.   My Brennan side left Ireland back around the 1840’s.  I have family history information on the relatives that stayed through the mid-1900’s but I haven’t had time to focus on that side of the family for this trip.

It will be a whirlwind trip through Ballinamore (Gubnaveagh) in county Leitrim,  Ballinafad (Ballaghboy) in county Sligo, and Lecarrow (Carrownamaddy) in county Roscommon.

If I bring my laptop, I might do some updates from the road.  I hope to have some good stories to tell upon my return.

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The friendly people of Ballinafad and Ballinamore

During our August trip to Ireland, we visited the townlands where my grandfather and grandmother grew up.   Driving was quite an experience, but we managed to make it through the trip without an accident!  I must admit I was nervous, as were my passengers.

Our first stop was Ballaghboy in County Sligo.  There didn’t seem to be any center of Ballaghboy, but we found the nearby village of Ballinafad .  With only one small main street,  it was not difficult to find my grandmother’s church in the parish of Aughanagh.  We walked a few doors down and inquired at the post office regarding my grandmother’s family – the Horans.   The woman in the post office suggested we walk down the street and knock on a door where a man would know.  We were a bit reluctant to do so, but we did and he was extremely helpful and directed us to the local cemetery.

We reached the cemetery and found a truck there labeled “Horan Brothers Monuments”.  I asked the man working if he knew where the Horan’s might be buried and he said “I’m a Horan”!  We determined that he was not part of my family but showed me to the grave of my grandmother’s brother and his family.  We didn’t have enough current information or time to see if there were any relatives living in the area.  Maybe next trip.

We then drove on to Ballinamore in County Leitrim.  Ballinamore has about 1000 residents with a beautiful downtown area.  My grandfather was from Gubnaveagh, a townland about 15 minutes drive into the hills outside Ballinamore.  We stayed in a nice B&B – the Buille Toll.  We planned to visit the gentleman whose family purchased the Sweeney property in the early 1960’s when my grandfather’s brother and wife passed away.   At every turn we met friendly, helpful people.  Whenever we asked someone about 30-45 years old about the Sweeneys, they said “let me call my dad, he’ll know”.  That happened at least five times.  It makes me think about all the oral history that will be lost when that generation dies.  We arrived unannounced at 8pm at Sharon Sweeney’s home/Confectionery in town.  She greeted us warmly and chatted for about 20 minutes before calling her father.  He immediately drove over from the other side of town and spent another 20 minutes with us.  It seems we are not related, but it was fun to chat with such friendly people.  Lots of wonderful conversations with our B&B hosts as well – along with the now expected call to her father to ask about the Sweeneys because “he would know”.  We also visited the Aughacashel Post Office where they said the person there knew everyone.  I actually heard about him from a genealogy Internet forum.  It was true, he gave me a few more bits of family information.

We visited St. Marys at Aughnasheelin in the parish of Oughteragh.  This is the church where my grandfather’s parents were married.  After covering the cemetery multiple times would could not find a Sweeney grave marker.  Perhaps with no Sweeneys left in the area for over 40 years, it was overgrown.   I have birth and marriage information about 3 generations of Sweeneys in the area and yet couldn’t find any death/burial records.  Is it possible they were buried on their property?

We managed to get directions to the former Sweeney property.  We made this connection through my cousin, Jim Murphy, and a cousin of the family that bought the property.  At some point, they made the connection when Jim mentioned his mother’s maiden name was Sweeney.  As it turns out, our families were all from the same area in Leitrim and had settled in Providence.  Another “small world” connection.  I was really looking forward to meeting the owner and hearing about the Sweeneys and the property.  Needless to say, there was no address or street signs and we got lost.  We took the “if you get lost” advice of our B&B hosts and knocked on a random front door.  The woman there didn’t know of the house we were looking for but she said “my father lives next door and he knows everyone”.  We went next door and sure enough he did.  It was raining, but he hopped in his car and led us to our destination.  Talk about making us feel welcome.

We had a great visit with the current owner whose family purchased the adjacent property from a family that purchased the Sweeney property.  We learned more about the Sweeneys and life in the area.  What a friendly man.  After a generous glass of whiskey in his kitchen, we were on our way back to Dublin.

Visiting these small towns in Ireland was the highlight of our trip.  It was so much fun talking to the local people and finding out what I could about the Sweeneys.  I’m doing more research and hope to visit again.  My one regret is letting the bad weather stop us from walking out to see the remains of the cottage where my grandfather grew up.  It’s still there and I guess that means I have to go back!

(Note: I was reluctant to use names without permission with the exception of my cousin and Sharon Sweeney who has a web site.)

Posted in genealogy, ireland, travel | 9 Comments

A great trip to Ireland

My wife and I and another couple went on a trip to Ireland this August.  It was great craic as they say in Ireland.

After several planning iterations, including advice from Pat Preston of IrelandExpert.com, we ended up with a hybrid trip that worked out really well.  We flew into Dublin and spent some time in the city on our own.  We then joined a tour to see some famous sites and get us to Galway.  We left the tour in Galway and stayed there to visit the Aran Islands.  We then rented a car and drove to the townlands where my grandmother and grandfather were from.  We stayed in a B&B and met some wonderful, helpful people in small towns in Sligo and Leitrim.  Many stories to tell when I get a chance.

Modes of transportation on this trip – plane, train, ferry, bus, car, and bicycle!  Enjoyed the city, the famous sites, and the countryside.  It seemed like a good compromise to keep the stress level down that we were afraid a full driving vacation might have brought.

Here’s a summary of the trip for anyone interested in doing something similar.

Day 0 – Aug 5 – depart Aer Lingus EI-104 from JFK at 5:45pm, overnight flight

Day 1 – Aug 6 – arrive at Dublin airport at 5:15am (Best Western Ashling Hotel)
Train to Kilkenny, back in Dublin for the evening

Day 2 – Aug 7 – Dublin, join 2009 Irish Discovery Tour at 7pm (Ashling Hotel)
St Patrick’s, Christ Church, Guinness tour, Kilmainham Gaol

Day 3 – Aug 8 – Tour Dublin (Ashling Hotel)
Trinity College/Book of Kells, Dublin Castle, Jameson dinner show

Day 4 – Aug 9 – Tour to Killarney (The Brehon Hotel in Killarney)
Rock of Cashel, Blarney Castle

Day 5 – Aug 10 – Tour to Dingle Peninsula (Brehon)
Dingle, Blasket Centre, Dunquin

Day 6 – Aug 11 – Tour to Galway (Radisson SAS Hotel in Galway)
Tarbert, River Shannon by ferry, Lahinch to view Cliffs of Moher, Galway Bay

Day 7 – Aug 12 – Exit Tour – stay in Galway (Radisson)
Aran Islands – bicycle around Inishmore

Day 8 – Aug 13 – Ballinamore (Buille Toll B&B)
Drive to Ballaghboy, Sligo then Gubnaveagh/Ballinamore, Leitrim

Day 9 – Aug 14 – drop car at Dublin airport (O’Callaghan Alexander Hotel)
Abbey Theatre to see The Rivals

Day 10 – Aug 15 – Dublin (O’Callaghan Alexander)
Train to Belfast, bus to Giant’s Causeway

Day 11 – Aug 16 – depart Aer Lingus EI-105 from Dublin airport at 10:30am, arrive at JFK at 1pm

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Podcast novels – social media at work

I decided to share a few of my podcast novel recommendations in the science fiction and fantasy genre.   My previous post of “What’s on my iPod” did not include books I’ve listened to on my iPod.  Given the time I spend in the car, I’m always looking for new content.  I have purchased audio books for years.  Now, I find more than enough free content to keep my mind occupied while driving.

Here are a few authors/books that come to mind.  Each author worked hard to build an audience by giving away content for free via podcasting.  Using social media, building and nurturing their online communities allowed them to bring that loyal audience to publishers as proof they could sell their product.  This helped to separate themselves from other authors trying to get books published.  They were pioneers as this was somewhat counter-intuitive and considered a bit crazy to give your content away for free in one medium hopes of being able to sell it in another medium.  These authors each signed contracts with traditional publishers after podcasting their content.

1. J.C. Hutchins – http://www.jchutchins.net/ – 7th Son Trilogy

I really enjoyed this trilogy.  It makes the top of my podcast novel list in this genre.

2. Scott Sigler – http://www.scottsigler.com/ – Infected, Earthcore, Nocturnal, The Rookie, and short stories

I almost hesitate to recommend Scott Sigler, but I must admit to waiting impatiently for each new chapter to be released via podcast as he was writing the books.  He is scary and funny, albeit in a violent, foul, and egotistical way.  His books are clearly not for everyone and his style takes some getting used to.  He refers to his readers as junkies since they get hooked on his content.

3. Mark Jeffrey – http://markjeffrey.typepad.com/ – The Pocket and the Pendant of the Max Quick Series

This series is suitable for a younger audience, but something all ages can enjoy.  I’m about to start the second book.

Beyond the obvious  iTunes, lots of  interesting podcast content can be found at sites like:

1. http://www.podiobooks.com/

2. http://librivox.org/

3. http://www.podcastalley.com/


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Social Computing is an accelerant for Collaboration

In my recent post, I discussed terms such as social computing, social software, social networking, and social media.  What about collaboration?  I often see the term collaboration used in the same context as social computing.

Collaboration doesn’t require computers, but this discussion will assume computers are involved.  Collaboration occurs when two or more people work together toward a common goal.  People that know each other tend to work better together.  There is a level of trust and alignment of goals.  A common bond motivates people to help each other and have the desire to succeed together.  Co-location is one way to accelerate the process of building trust.  However, co-location is often not an option in this global economy.   The question is how can we get to know and trust each other and strive for mutual success if we are not co-located.   One answer is by leveraging social computing.

Social computing accelerates the collaborative process by extending our collective rolodex.  Most work starts by reaching out to our personal networks.  Social computing helps people get to know and trust each other as well as build reputations.  Every successful endeavor is an opportunity to exhibit and grow one’s skills while adding new network connections.  This knowledge helps us form teams on future projects and be productive more quickly.

While collaboration implies working together for a specific purpose, social computing does not have to be as purposeful.  We can build our social networks through casual interaction, common interests, and fun and games.  Even relationships built socially can prove useful in later collaborative work efforts.

How do we measure the impact of social computing on collaboration?   What is the return on investment for implementing these tools in a corporate setting?  I’ll discuss these questions in a future post.

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I said Social Networking and Corey said Social Media

I made a comment a few months ago regarding the social networking success of Corey and Liam at  irishfireside.com.  Corey responded and used the term social media.  We were talking about the same topic and yet we viewed it in two different ways.  That made me think I should be more careful about terminology such as Social Computing, Social Software, Social Networking, and Social Media.  All four of these terms seem to be used interchangeably at times.  I’ll attempt to give a very simplistic definition of each term.

Social Computing – This term tends to be used for the entire space of social interaction using computing technology.

Social Software – The  computer software that enables social interaction.

Social Networking – The act of building, maintaining and utilizing relationships with people facilitated by social software.  You can draw these networks with individuals as nodes and lines connecting the nodes depicting relationships between individuals.

Social Media – The information we publish, share, discover and re-purpose using social software.  This process leverages our social networks or enhances our networks while sharing information.  You can relate the use of the word media to how people refer to traditional vehicles such as television, radio, and newspapers focusing on content, communications and the ability to reach and influence an audience.   With Social Media, it is possible to drive deeper relationships and build more effective communities than with traditional media.

Positioning Social Networking and Social Media – I think Social Media is the term that is more in vogue.  You also sound less like a computer geek if you talk about Social Media.  However, if you are focused on the connections more than the content, Social Networking  is more appropriate.

I hope that helps simplify the landscape.  In a future post, I’ll position Social Media vs Collaboration.  No computer science degree required, just a simple explanation.

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Social Media paranoia or valid concern?

Up until a few months ago I had no problem with the practice of sending real time updates to sites like twitter, facebook, flickr, blogs, or other social platforms.  However, I’ve refrained from updates during my recent travel.  I also haven’t put my trips in dopplr or similar sites.  My apparent paranoia began as I put together this blog and the associated sites that make up my persona on the Internet – see my About page.   The more information about me that I aggregate and expose on the Internet, the more someone could potentially identify my physical address and perhaps take advantage of real time information that I present on the web.

Of course, very few people read this blog and the prospect of a criminal reading it and being in my physical area and taking advantage of the fact that I am traveling is probably minuscule at this point.  However, if I am announcing when I am not home and perhaps a member of my family is home that is a risk that I don’t want to invite, no matter how small.  It’s one thing to have someone rob your empty house, it’s another to have them think it is empty and yet have your family there.

Am I paranoid or is this a valid concern?

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It’s Sweeney after all

The 1911 Irish Census is now available at the National Archives of Ireland.  Thankfully my grandfather’s family is listed as Sweeney.  I realize people say don’t worry about multiple spellings, but I’ve tried to convince myself that I’ve been working with the correct family history information from multiple sources.

In addition to the census, I went to Ireland in August and visited the townlands of my grandfather and grandmother.  I was able to meet the person whose father bought the Sweeney property when the last Sweeney there died in the early 60’s.  He knew my grandfather’s brother as did other people I met.  I also asked him about Sweeney vs Sweeny and he just laughed and said “I can spell my name two ways”.  So, I’m putting that issue to bed once and for all.  It’s Sweeney from now on and I’ll incorporate Sweeny data I find when I’m sure it refers to the same family.

It was fun to see the Sweeney property.  I’ll post more on that in a future blog entry about my trip.

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What’s on my iPod?

Several people have asked me what I have on my iPod, so I thought I’d share it here.  I’ll write more reviews of my favorites when I get a chance.

I listen to a tremendous amount of non-music content on my iPod.  However, I don’t listen to any content on my computer while I’m working as I find it distracting.  I listen to my iPod in the car, while walking, and occasionally when working around the house.  Here is a summary of most of what I have on my iPod and how often I listen to serial podcasts (Regularly, Occasionally, Infrequently, Rarely) or how much I’ve covered of a podcast with a fixed number of episodes (All, Most, Some, Few).

Music – a small amount of purchased music

The Bible – purchased

Audio books – quite a few, but not listed here

Podcasts –

Talk shows:

  • NYT Front Page – Reg
  • Dogear-Nation – Reg
  • Adam Curry’s Daily Source Code – Reg, replaced by No Agenda
  • NA (No Agenda) – Occ
  • Grammar Girl – Reg
  • CNN News Update – Occ
  • WSJ This Morning – Occ
  • MSNBC Countdown – Inf
  • Newspod BBC – Inf
  • RTE – Morning Ireland – Inf
  • Legal Lad – Inf
  • Sweettt.com – All, but infrequent podcast
  • Random Abstractions – All, but infrequent podcast
  • TWIT – This Week in Tech – Inf


  • The Clark Howard Show – Reg
  • WOR The Dolans – Occ
  • The Dave Ramsey show – Inf

Irish travel, culture, genealogy:

  • Irish Fireside – Reg
  • Irish Roots Café Genealogy and History – Reg
  • Irish Song and Recitation – Reg
  • Tourcaster – Dublin City Guide – All
  • Dublin Tourism iWalks – Few
  • The Engaging Ireland Podcast – Occ
  • RTE Documentary – Occ

General travel:

  • Frommers – Occ
  • Made in NY Walking Tours – Occ


  • UConn Coaches show – Occ

Math, Science:

  • Mathgrad – Reg
  • The Math Factor – Reg
  • 60-Second Earth – Inf
  • 60-Second Science – Inf
  • Scientific American – Inf


  • Lifespring – Inf
  • Early Light Daily Devotional – Inf


  • The Jefferson Hour – not yet
  • American History Before 1870 – not yet

Other podcasts have come and gone from my iPod.  Also, I have not listed podcasts at IBM.

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Family history records you can obtain

Early in my genealogy research,  I made a trip to the National Archives in Waltham, MA.  Everything else was researched on the Internet or through Ancestry.com and requested by postal mail or fax.

I must credit an extremely helpful person at the National Archives with unlocking the key to many records of my grandfather as he found the immigration and naturalization records.  I assumed my grandfather came into Boston as my grandmother did since they both moved to Providence, RI.  As it turns out he arrived at Ellis Island in New York.  Once I discovered this, the process became easier.

Here are the records I obtained:

  • Irish birth certificate
  • Passenger manifest entry for the ship coming to the US
  • Irish and US census information
  • Immigration and naturalization papers
  • World War I draft registration
  • Marriage certificate
  • Death certificate
  • Social Security record
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