Posted by Erika Manternach on January 19, 2018 in ProGenealogists

A hike to an old stone barn on a sheep farm in the country. A walk through a graveyard. An 11-day bus ride with 22 complete strangers.

Vicki Stuber by an old tomb on the farm where her ancestor lived

 

Graveyard where Vicki’s ancestors are buried in County Clare

This may not immediately sound like the description of a dream vacation. But talk to California resident Vicki Stuber for two minutes, and you’ll be convinced that these activities and many others on her recent visit to Ireland made for the perfect trip. In October, she joined AncestryProGenealogists researchers and guides from Go Ahead Tours on their inaugural family history tour through Ireland to discover more about the origin and hometown of her ancestors. Months after her return, she is still glowing.

The tour’s route through Ireland

“I want to say this was a once-in-a-lifetime trip, but now that I’ve done it, I know it’s not going to be only once,” Stuber said.

For 11 days, the group of genealogy buffs visited one treasure after another on the Emerald Isle. Some were well-known, like the famous Blarney Stone, while others were specifically meaningful to her family. All were new discoveries for Vicki. Her father died at a young age in 1979, and he had not shared many details of their lineage. It was up to her to track it down, and she hired AncestryProGenealogists to help her with her family tree.

“You know, I’m not a wealthy person, but it was just something I set aside for, and it was worth it to me,” Stuber said. “It was like a blessing. I couldn’t do this on my own.”

Vicki and her cousin joined 22 other travelers who were interested in tracking their own family histories. The group bonded instantly, rejoicing when anyone made an ancestral discovery and sharing tips with each other about how to carry out their research.

“It was awesome! We all had this common ground, common interest, and purpose,” Stuber said. “We all cared when someone talked about their family and their ancestors’ history. We cared about how they found that information, because that could help us.”

Professional genealogist Kyle Betit was on the bus, too, sharing the knowledge he has gained throughout his career in genealogy and on numerous trips to Ireland. Along the way, he gave presentations about such topics as church records and passenger lists, not to mention insights about each town, cathedral, and castle they passed.

The adventure, which started in Dublin, moved first to the City of Kilkenny. After checking out Kilkenny Castle, the group stopped to marvel at the Saint Canice Cathedral, where one traveler found his ancestor (the 8th Earl of Ormonde) buried in the church graveyard. They walked in Queenstown (Cobh), visited the Emigration Centre there, and walked along the port from which most Irish natives left. They also shared a moving visit to the Dunbrody Famine Ship in New Ross (County Wexford) to learn about the realities of emigration.

Sleeping quarters aboard the reconstructed Dunbrody Famine Ship in New Ross, County Wexford

“They give you boarding passes, and they make it interactive, so you can check out where your family bunked, and you follow whether they made it, if they lived,” Stuber said. “It makes you feel a part of it.”

The travelers continued to County Cork, where they visited the impressive English Market and the Blarney Castle. Stuber was grateful for the freedom to delve into family history knowing the tour took care of all the logistics of transportation and lodging.

Blarney Castle in County Cork

“The facilities, the hotels, the food, the tour guide—loved him!—[it was] just absolutely the best,” Stuber said. “And the locations—I just loved it all.”

At the Blarney Woolen Mills Hotel, where the travelers stayed on one night of the tour

Later stops took them to County Kerry (Killarney, Muckross House, and Ring of Kerry), County Clare (Cliffs of Moher and the Burren), County Galway (Galway City and Connemara), the monastery at Clonmacnoise in County Offaly, and Kilbeggan, including its historic whiskey distillery, in County Westmeath.

Taking in the sights of these ancient locales was breathtaking for Vicki, but a side trip to a small village in County Clare was the most unexpectedly moving stop for her. She had arranged for a day-long ancestral home visit to the village of Cree and Ballynagun West Townland in Kilmacduane Civil Parish of County Clare, where her paternal ancestors lived. Joanna Cicely Fennell, a researcher from the Dublin office of AncestryProGenealogists, met her there with a bulging file of documents she had discovered about Vicki’s ancestors. Vicki knew she would need professional help to sort out the many local residents with her family surname Considine. She and Joanna hit it off immediately.

Vicki Stuber and her AncestryProGenealogists guide, Joanna Fennell, as they visited the town where Vicki’s ancestors lived.

“She’s my little Irish doll! She was so much fun,” Stuber said. “And you know what I love about the Irish is they’re so welcoming, and they’re so family-oriented. And we drove around to cemeteries, and she would point out her relatives and my relatives. We had so much fun that whole day. She was just so excited about my journey and what I was doing, and then, when she’d point out a relative of hers, I think I was just as excited about that.”

After some colorful conversations with friendly village residents, they found their way to the farm where Vicki’s great-grandmother grew up.

“I just thought at the time, ‘This is something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve set aside money for it. I’m going to take advantage of everything,’ ” Stuber said.

They took a chance and knocked on the door of the home that now stands on the property where Vicki’s great-grandmother, Mary Considine, once lived. The man who answered was a Considine himself, and he celebrated with Vicki when she described their connection. He spread out photos and family pictures and got on the phone to call relatives who lived down the street.

Vicki and Peader Considine, her 3rd cousin once removed, who now lives on the farm where their mutual ancestor grew up

Joanna even led Vicki to the home of Mary Considine’s father, where they again found a friendly homeowner who graciously shared what he knew of the farm.

“It was so emotional,” Stuber said. “And I could never have gotten to those places without that help. I could never have found those places.”

Another discovery was in store—this one astounding even the genealogists. Vicki had taken an AncestryDNA test before the trip (the test is included in the cost of the trip, along with several hours of professional research), and the results revealed a cousin match who lived in Galway. She contacted the cousin, Peggy Doherty, via Ancestry’s messaging service, and they arranged to meet when the tour arrived in Galway.

Stuber said the meeting felt like a reunion, even though the two women had never met and likely never would have without the help of AncestryDNA. Their common ancestors lived so far back in time that historical documents alone are not able to prove their connection; DNA analysis was essentially the only conceivable way they could ever have realized they were related.

Vicki and her 3rd cousin, Peggy Doherty, in Galway. They discovered they were related through an AncestryDNA test

“We’re friends for life now,” Vicki said.

The women shared the research they had done with each other, and Peggy’s work opened up an entirely new branch of Vicki’s family tree. Now Peggy plans to visit Vicki in California to continue researching their family together.

Each step revealed a new part of Vicki’s ancestry, and she struggled to articulate just how much it meant to know more of her own identity, not to mention the deep connection she felt to her own father after all these years since his death.

“You know what it did? I always thought I was a mutt, just not ‘anything of anything,’ ” Stuber said. “And I found I’m almost half Irish. I feel like I’m somebody now. I have a sense of who I am. I have a culture, and I’m proud of that. And my dad would be so thrilled, you know? I mean, this is what I’m going to pursue now. It has really meant a lot to me. It’s changed me.”

Many opportunities to expand Vicki’s family tree remain, and she is now planning her next research pursuits, hoping to follow her great-grandfather’s story in the coming months. She is already saving for another trip with AncestryProGenealogists and Go Ahead Tours.

“I had the time of my life,” Stuber said. “It was the ultimate trip for me.”

More tours of this kind are planned to Ireland, Italy, and Germany in 2018. Click here to learn more, or stop by the Ancestry booth at RootsTech, where experts from AncestryProGenealogists will be available to discuss further details about all upcoming heritage trips.

 

Erika Manternach

Erika Manternach writes family history narratives for AncestryProGenealogists and appreciates all opportunities to share compelling stories. Before joining the Ancestry team, she worked for ten years as a TV anchor/reporter in Wisconsin, South Dakota, Indiana, and Utah. She then taught high school journalism and writing for 6 years. Erika and her husband live in Draper, Utah.

52 Comments

  1. Kate McGee

    This was wonderful to read! I’m from Ireland also. Still can’t find the boat they
    arrived on… what a wonderful treat for you!

    • Kyle Betit

      Thank you Kate! We’d love to have you on a tour sometime. One tip: finding a passenger arrival list is important and meaningful, but in many decades it’s not likely to tell you where they were from precisely in Ireland. That’s more likely to come from records in the US like marriage and death records, obituaries, tombstones, military records, naturalization papers.

  2. Barbara Champion

    I sent my dna sample in before Christmas and I have not even been informed that you have received it. Please advise.

    • Kyle Betit

      Hello Barbara. I work for AncestryProGenealogists and am involved with our tour program. DNA processing is not something I personally work on, but I wonder if you have received any notification yet?

    • Sokolee

      Did you activate the kit online as the instructions tell you to do? If you didn’t do that they can’t notify you that it was received because they have no one to match it to. If you still have the instruction folder the 15 character alpha-numeric code is in there and you can activate the test. Otherwise call Ancestry at 1 800 262 3787 for some help.

    • Member Services Social Support Team

      @Barbara: If you’re still having issues with this we would highly recommend you to please call us at 1-800-ANCESTRY (1-800-262-3787) between the hours of 9am to 11pm EST, seven days a week and we will of course help you further.

  3. Monica Adams

    What a great article!!! I would love to learn more about a family history tour involving places that my ancestors lived!!

    • Kyle Betit

      Hello Monica! Thanks so much for your response. I work for AncestryProGenealogists and am involved with our tours. What countries do you think you may want to visit?

      • Julie Bushmaker

        I live in Butte Montana. We were the melting pot of Ireland, Italy, and the Balkan Countries. I have helped many people with AncestryDNA. We have a state of the art archieves, which I am volunteer. Any employment opportunities?

  4. Monika

    Truly a great article. I just came across a beautiful picture of a street in an old village and an old man walking up the street with a cane, and underneath the picture it said “Just once, you should walk down the same street your great-grandfather walked.” This is sooo true! I started doing genealogy at the age of 65, something I never had any interest in and never expected to be doing one day. But, for some reason, on my 65th birthday, I sat in front of my computer and started to reminisce about my life. I remembered my wonderful father who died much too young, at the age of 61, and who worshiped the ground I walked on to the great chagrin of my sister who could never understand what made me so special in my father’s eyes. I knew that he was an orphan by the time that he was 15 years old and that he first lost his mother when he was eight years old. But, because this was such a painful experience for him, he never talked about his parents and we never asked him. That is when the thought came to my mind “I am 65 years old today and I do not even know the first names of my paternal grandmother and grandfather”. So, knowing where my father was born, I went on the internet and started “googling” the e-mail addresses of all the churches in Vienna, Austria, where my father was born and shot a mass mailing off to all of them that same night to ask them whether they had the birth record (baptismal record) of my father and, sure enough, within 48 hours one of these churches wrote back to tell me that they were in possession of it. (Austria did not have “recorder’s offices” for vital records until 1938, so if you want a birth, marriage or death record, you still need to go to the individual churches for these vital records–unless these churches handed these vital records over to an Archive.) A couple of weeks later I was in possession of this birth record which gave me the surname of my grandfather and the surname and maiden name of my grandmother. That is when the search began for their marriage record and their death record. When, a few weeks later, I held the death record of my paternal grandmother in my hands, I discovered that she had died on January 30, 1911. MY BIRTHDAY IS JANUARY 30!! I finally understood why I was so special to my father and clearly he wanted me to know! Months later I made my first trip back to Europe in about 40 years and retraced the steps of my ancestors, starting with my paternal grandparents. I visited their graves and traveled to the villages where they grew up. These villages were so small (about 400 inhabitants each) and some of the homes that are in these villages are hundreds of years old, so they really have not changed much since they were built–other than having more modernized bathrooms and kitchens than they used to have! When I went to visit the little village where my grandmother was born I had to drive through a forest to get there and truly felt like I was traveling through a forest like the ones described in the Brother Grimm stories of Haensel and Gretel. I feel like I found myself when I stood in front of the house that my grandmother was born in. It is one of the most enriching experiences that one can have and I, since then, have tracked down all of my paternal ancestors all the way to the 16th century. But even if your ancestors were born in the United States I highly recommend that you should “walk down the same streets” they lived in. My husband’s great-grandfather immigrated to the United States from Germany and settled down in Iowa. Several years ago, when I was working on my husband’s genealogy, I traveled to Iowa and, among other things, I went to visit the grave of his great-grandfather. To my great surprise I found that his tombstone was completely written in German, so I stood there and talked German with him for about half an hour! I bet it has been a long time since he heard any German in his resting place. By all means “Go walk the streets your ancestors walked”. You will find yourself!

    • Moniks

      Sorry, fingers fast and brain slow and tired. I meant to say that the birth record of my father gave me the GIVEN names (first names) of my grandfather and grandmother.

      • Kyle Betit

        Hello Monika! That’s an amazing story. Thank you for sharing it with us. You know the powerful experience of walking where your ancestors walked. I work for AncestryProGenealogists and am involved with our tours. Thank you again.

    • Dana

      That is just so cool. I’ve never had any interest in genealogy but reading these stories has convinced me to have a look. I’m so excited now. Thank you for your story. ~ Dana

    • Jennifer gary

      Thank you for sharing your story, Monica. I am so grateful for Ancestry.com that makes tracing your history so much more accessible to everyone. I was a history major at the undergrad level and always love and appreciate history for understanding our world today. What I love about genealogy is the ability it provides to see what we’ve learned in school played out in our DNA. If you know anything about how America was settled by immigrant wave and the movement of the settlers across the nation over time, that is visible in the life stories of the very real people in your family tree. I can see the immigrant for me arriving in Virginia’s tidewater area in the James River as an indentured servant in 1639 from a village bearing our family name in England. Then eventually his descendants moving into what became N Carolina, then into S Carolina where three of my ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War. That was how the family then ended up in Georgia where my mother was born because Georgia held a land lottery for all Revolutionary War veterans. It’s anazing. I knew that migration pattern as a history major, then seeing it play out in my genes was just amazing. Thank You, Ancestry.com!

  5. Stacey

    Three years ago this May my husband and I took one of those “once in a lifetime” trips to Europe. We traveled all over from France, Germany, and Austria. One of the most memorable moments was walking the grounds of the church where my 2x great grandparents were baptized, married and baptized their first born. We didn’t have time to go to Rouen, France where my 30th g grandfather Rollo is buried, maybe next time!

    • Betty G.

      I did family tree for my gentleman friend, and sent his DNA test, Jan 2018. His tree has Rollo I Rognvaldsson (856-942AD), 1st Duke of Normandy (born in Norway)…assume the same Rollo you refer to…. so a cousin of yours…. Art/Arthur H. in Iowa. I stopped at 419BC, past President Millard Filmore, Roger Conant, William the Conquerer, Kings of Franks, Charlemagne and Roman names….. have thousands of names, but have not had time to post all onto ancestry site yet as Helm Family Tree.

  6. Jo-Anne Graff

    Fabulous read! I didn’t know about the Ancestry Pro Genealogists group, but will reach out to them shortly for help in Ireland. I was adopted and have found cousins already through DNA matches, this is tremendous!

  7. Lisa

    Hello. Do you ever go to Donegal area? I’ve already done the ring of Kerry type tour but would be interested in a more Northern Ireland focus as my family is from Donegal and County Tyrone. My ancestry dna is 94% Ireland/Scotland, 5% Scandinavian & 1% Iberian Peninsula (Spain). I’m also a descendant of Niall and other High Kings. Thank you.

    • Kyle Betit

      Hello Lisa. We have a “Wild Atlantic Way” tour in Ireland that starts in Belfast, and travels west to Donegal and then south along the coast. We’d love to have you along! – Kyle Betit, AncestryProGenealogists

  8. Erin Lewis

    I have traced my paternal grandmother’s tree all the way back to 760 AD. I have found a royal bloodline in Wales (it was overthrown) and also that one of my very distant grandfathers was Pipin the Short. Any chance there might be a tour soon to Wales?

  9. Alanne Kennedy Turina

    Loved, loved, loved this article. I too, am Irish and have just recently found the the time to further delve into my ancestry. This is exactly the type of trip I would like to pursue in the near future. It is my personal goal to walk the same streets as my ancestors.

  10. Nancy Hewitt Spaeth

    My female DNA takes me to Belfast. I do not know her name but it might be Catherine Henry or Catherine is her daughter. I would love to find a bard that might know her very interesting story.

  11. patti

    Ancestry DNA helped me find my heritage on my father’s side. I am adopted so I never met my father but now know that I am mostly Scottish and I was able to meet my first cousin and finally get a family tree completed! The McCleod clan of Scotland runs through my famly tree so I want to visit Scotland next year and see Dunvegan Castle where the Clan McLeod still resides – the Isle of Skyee. I hope that I can find a tour going there!!!

  12. Kathi Phelps

    I took my daughter & grand-daughter to Ireland and Scotland this last October for two weeks to see where I knew my mother’s side of family were from. I have been on Ancestry.com for years an have (when time allows) discovered quite a few ancestors and it is very exciting! The trip was wonderful and I cannot wait to go back! After coming back I sent in with Ancestry and just received my DNA back two days ago! It is very exciting and I am still trying to learn everything that is on the site and what all it means. Most of it was a confirmation of what I already knew, however I am learning more because where I thought it would be 25/25/50 % Irish, Scottish,Czech – I’m finding there are more %’s in there! It’s amazing and confusing! But all this being said, I’d like to possibly get additional information on the Irish and Scottish/Wales side of the family and then explore the other side! I may very well hire ancestry experts, as they could assist I’m sure after reading all the above!

    • Kyle Betit

      Hi Kathi. AncestryProGenealogists would be glad to help you with your research! – Kyle Betit, AncestryProGenealogists

  13. Sherrie Meicher

    I signed up with Ancestry.com and had my DNA done and got the results. I would like to find which city/village that my ancestors came from in Ireland so I can plan a trip there. Please advise on when my Irish relatives came to the U.S.
    Thank you!!

    • Member Services Social Support Team

      @Sherrie: We’d be happy to give you some search tips for Irish records 🙂 As there are no full Irish census records which exist prior to 1901, we need to be a bit more creative when researching Irish genealogy. There are a few collections on the website which tell us a bit more of the heads of households such as the Morpeth Roll (1841), the Ireland 1766 Religious Census, Griffith’s Valuation, 1847-1864 and Tithe Applotment Books, 1823-1837. Civil Registration for BMD in Ireland began in 1864. Before this date, you would need to rely more on parish records. Depending on the parish record, the record may be recorded in English or in Latin. So Christian names may be changed. Common changes would be along the lines of: James = Jacobus, Mary = Maria, Anne = Annam etc. If the birth certificate is before 1915 you may be able to find it via this website: http://www.irishgenealogy.ie/en/. If a birth date for one of your Irish relatives is after that you will need to contact this email address, gro@gro.ie. We’ve also attached a link to an article here with some search tips for Irish records: http://ancstry.me/2f0Lndw. Hope this helps and that you will find what you’re looking for!

  14. Nancy Miller

    I am fascinated by this concept of a genealogy tour! I learned from my ancestry DNA test that I am more Irish than I realized and I would love to explore this further. And to do so in the company of other genealogy/history buffs sounds wonderful.

    • Kyle Betit

      It is wonderful to travel with other genealogy enthusiasts! We would love to have you on one of our Irish tours.

  15. Regina Sass

    Wonderful stories. I have done the ancestry.dna but my ancestors came to America in the 16 and 1700’s.

    Wish it was that easy.

    Kaye

    • Monika

      I know what you mean Regina. When I started my husband’s genealogy (after doing my European genealogy) I was shocked to find out how much more difficult it is to do research in this country than the “old country”. This is when I discovered that, here in the U.S., people had no obligation to record a birth prior to 1895!!! Makes it much more difficult to find data than in Europe where most church books still exist all the way to the 16th century, allowing you to obtain birth, marriage and death records. Believe it or not, in the U.S. cemeteries have helped me a lot! Some of my husband’s ancestors even have cemeteries in their names! When I went to visit the cemetery where his maternal grandmother’s ancestors are, I discovered the grave of a little 2 day old boy who was buried between my husband’s great-grandfather and great-grandmother. Because he was only two days old when he died, he never made it into the record books and I would not have known about him had I not visited the cemetery. I assume your ancestors arrived on the East Coast as most immigrants did. So focus on the East Coast.

  16. Mary Haarmann

    Vicki’s story and photos literally brought a tear to my eye! Also appreciate Monika’s sharing. For the “pros”: I assume your local guides are all bilingual. Any trips to Finland planned?

    • Kyle Betit

      Hi Mary. Yes, our local guides are bilingual. Thank you! We do not have a Finland Ancestry Tour yet, but that’s a great suggestion for the future! – Kyle Betit, AncestryProGenealogists

  17. Barbara Kingry Fedak

    What an absolutely beautiful story. I loved seeing all the photos that accompanied this story. It’s amazing that the DNA test was so instrumental in making this such a rewarding trip for Vicki. Truly a wonderful story!

  18. Elsieskin

    Loved this story. Last summer my daughter and I visited the Queenstown (Cobh) Immigration Centre. Today would have been my late mother’s 98th birthday. She was adopted out at birth. Through DNA, I’ve located her birth family. She was 5’8 ½”, and would be surprised to know she was of Swedish and Irish descent, not just British as she had been told.

  19. Riche Brenda C.

    I have been doing genealogy since 1986, not continuously. Theu one thing I couldn’ find is whoy my third great grandfathers fathers name.
    His name was Bernard Dumont(Duboise) married to Marie Blaise Gros(Grande) they had all I could find was the son Maurice Dumont(Duboise) Which is my great-great grandfather on my Maternal side of my father.I am pretty sure they had more children
    than that, I would love to find out how to access that info, and to learn how to find info on my 3rd great grandfather Bernard which records here in U S seem to stop there. My sur name is Callahan which I have seen it spelled as O’Callahan as well.
    Also I was always told our name was Irish.
    So I really enjoyed the story of Vicky Stuber walking on the same grounds her great great great grandparents walked, and was able to find there names on their
    Tombstones.
    How blessed she is!
    Brenda Callahan Riche’

  20. Barbara Hunter terry

    I received my dna and it was all my moms side with one name on my fathers side. Now I need to know if he is a relative and where he belongs in my tree. I d my great great grandfather. So is this man named William Hunter my family? Can you check this for me. Thank you
    Barbara Hunter Terry

  21. Kathryn Danahy

    My grandmother’s parents came from Ireland, separately, sometime around 1865. Their names are very common and I have looked in many websites to find some connection to their parents, whose names I have from death records, but no luck. I have no way to find what county or town they were from. If I have DNA done, is there any possibility of getting closer to the answer?

  22. Sharolyn Hamilton-Davis

    I was in Charleston, SC several years ago- Walked on the step of a Hugenot church, and had this weird feeling that I was home…Found out through Ancestry that my GGGgrandfather was the minister there! Also, through Ancestry found that I too, have Rollo Rognavaldsson I of Norway , William I (the Conquerer) of England, (Normandy) Eleanor of Aquitaine, Frankish Kings, Charlemagne, Trojans and Jewish names etc in my family tree…I haven’t received my DN tests yet…bt my 2nd Cousin DID, and the Jewish DNA showed up, and puzzled her! I was able to show her thru Ancestry that this was from many generations past! What an adventure! The people I had read so often about, and was so intrigued by were MY FAMILY !

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