Colleen Kelly receiving her Certificate from Niall Gibbons CEO of Tourism Ireland

Tourism Ireland CEO presents Irish-American sisters with Certifi

Colleen Kelly was very proud to receive her Certificate of Irish Heritage in November 2012 in Dublin.  Her ancestors come from Mayo and Limerick and she paid an emotional visit to her ancestral family home in Newport, Co Mayo while visiting Ireland.

Colleen will front a brand new programme called Family Travel with Colleen Kelly, due to air in 2013 right across the US on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).

Cousins reunited after unrelenting search

Maureen Ashworth

Mary Murphy was born in Milltown, Co. Kildare on May 9th,1909; she was the daughter of James Murphy and Anastatia Glynn. She seemed to be very popular locally and stories about her have travelled down the generations. She was a bright, intelligent and articulate girl who loved life and all that went with it. Unusually for a girl at the time, she received a secondary school education from the nuns in Kildare town. She had one sibling, her brother James, who was my wife’s father. At the age of 19, in 1929, she emigrated to Boston in search of a better life; she planned to live there with her father’s sister, Bridget Kane, who had been born in Milltown in 1858 and had emigrated to Baltimore in 1881.

Mary’s ‘American Wake’ in Milltown must have been a grand affair, since the story goes it lasted 3 days! According to local legend all the neighbours travelled to Kildare station to see her off and there were scenes of great emotion as the train pulled out, taking Mary away, never to be seen by family or friends again.

I met Mary’s niece, Anastatia (Ann) in 1970, and I very soon heard about aunt Mary,her early death, and the baby she had in Boston.

Ann knew very littlemore than this; her father did not talk about the subject, perhaps he was too traumatised about the events. Ann had learned the little she knew from her mother, who never met Mary. All family documents,old letters etc. had been destroyed in a house fire in the 1960′s. Ann and I married in 1973 and within 2 years both her parents were dead, taking all the information to the grave with them. At this stage Ann did not even know Mary’s marriage name, which was a major stumbling block later.

Down all the years, Ann wondered what happened to her aunt Mary, and what became of her only paternal first cousin; it was really eating her so against the backdrop above, in 2007, we decided to embark on a search for the facts.

Neither of us knew how to go about this, and other than accessing a few websites we had no experience of such research. We initially found the Ancestry website very helpful ( and ‘The Ships Passenger Lists’ did produce the record of Mary leaving Queenstown on April 13th, 1929, on board the SS Republic; the record stated she arrived at Boston port April 22nd, 1929, where was met by Bridget Kane. The US Federal Census record from 1930 found her living in Boston, not with her Aunt, but with her cousin Edward Kane as a boarder. After that the trail went cold, and Mary Murphy seemed to disappear.

We therefore hired the services of the New England Historical and Genealogical Society (based in Boston), who produced two reports for us, but neither of these informed us of anything. We are now 2 years down the road, and frustration is starting to creep in; we felt our only hope was to upskill ourselves and learn more about Family History Research. So I undertook a diploma course in Genealogy at Independent Colleges in Dublin; this was run by two professional genealogists with a number of visiting lecturers. I am now a pseudo genealogist, and it has become a major hobby with me. Doing this course has really been the key to our success in finding Mary Murphy, even though the professional genealogists thought it would be impossible.

With our new skills and our more structured approach to family history, we really started again and built a complete history of the Murphy family, this time starting with Ann; we now included the Kane family in Boston. This journey took us not just to Boston but to Baltimore, to New York State ( where we found Mary had visited a relative) and back to Boston. At this stage we needed someone on the ground in Boston to visit the local repository and search records there for Mary’s marriage record , so we spoke to a genealogist who specialised in Irish Ancestors; he had in fact given one of the lectures at the course I attended, so I think fate was intervening here.

He agreed to take on the project and we supplied him with all the information we had built up; as the New England Society had already researched all the Mary Murphy’s in Boston and come up blank, our strategy was a little different this time. We were confident the record we needed was in Boston but we decided to search a different name and we picked on a likely Confirmation name. As a lot of girls in Kildare at the time were given Bridget, we decided on this one; after a lot of research at the repository, this strategy proved successful and Mary Bridget Murphy from Ireland, daughter of James Murphy and Anastatia Glynn, came out of the hat. It seems very easy now that such a simple guess provided the clue which broke down the brick wall; however, it had taken 5 years of fairly painstaking research to get us to this stage.

Mary married George Barrett in Boston in 1932; now that we had her marriage name the rest was very straightforward. Her daughter Maureen was born on Feb. 28th, 1933. A search for her death certificate told us Mary died in Boston, just 5 months later, Aug. 9th, 1933 from TB. We similarly discovered that George Barret died one year later from the same illness.

Maureen was now an orphan but we found her again in the 1940 US Federal Census living with her Barrett Grandparents. As it turns out these were the people who reared her.  A search for a marriage record for Maureen Barrett produced a result in 1960 when she married James Ashworth. All that remained now was to find an address for Maureen Ashworth, assuming she was still alive. We found this, again using the genealogist in Boston.

Ann immediately wrote to Maureen and it was a major surprise to her because, while she knew her mother was Mary Murphy from Ireland, she was convinced nobody here knew about her, or cared. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Ann was now most anxious to meet Maureen, so we made immediate arrangements to travel to Boston. We were taking with us the only photo. of Mary Murphy in existence and this was very important because Maureen had never seen a photo of her mother. We also wanted to take with us something from her home place, so we took a St. Bridget’s Cross; and we were aware of  The Certificate of Irish Heritage from the Obama visit, so we thought this would be an unexpected and very appropriate gift; it turned out to be so and Maureen said ‘she really loved it and would display it in a special place in her home’. Maureen has 3 daughters (all of whom we’ve met) and they expressed their appreciation that their mother should be recognised in this way and presented with such a wonderful gift by the Irish Government.  From our own point of view, it was tremendously satisfying that Ann, meeting Maureen for the first time, was able to bring not only her mother’s photograph, but an official gift from Ireland, reconnecting her with her homeland. We would certainly endorse this Certificate of Irish Heritage, and would recommend it to anybody as a very beautiful and appropriate gift for those with Irish Ancestors across the world.

A most important element of our trip to Boston was a visit to Mary Murphy’s grave; this was very emotional for Ann as she is the only one of her family ever to get the opportunity to do so; it seemed to close a chapter which had been open for 79 year and bring closure to what had to be very family sad loss at the time. Not just a daughter, but a granddaughter as well.

We now had a successful conclusion to a family search, which at times had seemed to be a lost cause.


Catherine Bertini remarks on being awarded Certificate of Irish Heritage in September 2012

Prof  Catherine Bertini

Minister Costello, Ambassador and Mrs Collins, Friends

“There but for the Grace of God, go I.”

My Irish American grandmother, Mary Farrell Vino, my mother’s mother, said this to me more times than I could count, as we rode through poor neighborhoods seeingother people struggling to get through the day.
Her words became part of the foundation of my career commitment to helping people who were less fortunate than I.
Mr Minister, perhaps some of this IS genetic, as it has been clear for decades now that the Republic of Ireland maintains a strong, unwavering mission to work to end hunger throughout the world. When an Irish official speaks on this topic, it is with commanding moral authority. The Irish government and its major NGOs like CONCERN are global leaders in this effort.
It is Irish history that drove Michael Farrell and Catherine Danahy to leave their country and move to America in the mid-nineteenth century. They became farmers in upstate New York, as did their only son, John.
But John and his wife, Margaret also farmers, had nine children. Their professions branched out.
Among those nine and their children and grandchildren, the Farrells’ careers included:

  • Air Force Colonel
  • Deputy Chief of the US Air Force Nurse Corps
  • Member of the US Congress
  • State Treasurer
  • Professors
  • Authors
  • Teachers
  • Medical Doctor
  • Nurses
  • Business owners
  • Lawyers
  • A World Food Prize Laureate

And those were just the women.

Male Farrell’s included:

  • a US Army general who was a principal in the Manhattan project
  • a Colonel
  • Corporate executives
  • Engineers
  • a Lawyer
  • Business owners
  • a Musician
  • a Farmer
  • and of course, two Catholic Priests

Mr. Minister, Mr. Ambassador

Proudly, on behalf of the descendants of Michael and Catherine Danahy Farrell, I am honored to accept this Certificate of Irish Heritage. It is with gratitude for all that the Farrells have been able to do, as has our original “mother” country, to improves the lives of others in the United States and around the world.
And it is with personal humility that I thank you for recognizing my work against hunger. I thank you also for including here tonight many of my friends and colleagues who share in this important mission.
Finally, just a few days ago, as I was organizing some files in my home office, this little leprechan fell out of a file. It was as if he, knowing about this gathering, jumped up to say, “Remember me!”
The leprechan is a Hallmark card, sent to me by my mother some time ago. She has been dead for more than seven years. The printed card says:
“Wishing you
Eyes that are smiling
A heart full of laughter
And everything happy
On St. Patrick’s Day”
And in her handwriting:
” and a reminder that you are 1/4 Irish!
Love, Mom”
Thank you very much


Alan Long, Illinois, USA

Alan Long Comp

My earliest Irish ancestor is Timothy Patrick O’Brien who was born in 1841 in Tipperary. He immigrated to the U.S. aboard the transport ship England arriving in New York in 1854 as a result of the Great Potato Famine. He eventually settled in Burlington Vermont and married Johanna Hayes also from Ireland; together they had seven children. My mother is Timothy Patrick’s great granddaughter. Some of his descendants still live in Burlington and the surrounding areas.  Timothy’s occupation in Ireland before he left was that of a Silver Minor, however due to lack of mineable material in Vermont and the area of Vermont resembling his native Ireland Timothy spent the remainder of his life as a simple farmer.

As I delved deeper into my mother’s lineage I was surprised to realize the O’Brien’s are descended from the great Irish King Brian Boru. I have purchased a couple books on Ireland and Brian Boru and am fascinated not only by King Brian but by his descendants as well; they have been and are still am important and influential family in Ireland and one of royalty.

I also did not know but have found during my research that my father’s gg grandfather was John Long born in Ballybofey, County Donegal in 1788. He immigrated with his wife Margaret Roulston also of Balleybofey to Vermont around 1821, I haven’t determined the reason for leaving Ireland as of yet. John and his wife Margaret were one of the very first Irish settlers to Waitsfield, Vermont when they arrived around 1833 he was a farmer and most of their seven children continued farming on the family farm; John died in April 1872, Margaret a few years before in 1869.

I am very proud of my Irish Heritage; I had no idea the hardships and contributions the Irish people have endured and contributed; as well as these families to Ireland, Vermont and around the world. My certificate of Irish Heritage is very special to me; and is something I will always treasure.


Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. presented with Certificate of Irish Heritage


The Mayor of Charleston, Joseph P. Riley Jr., has been presented with a Certificate of Irish Heritage, recognising his ancestral ties with Ireland and his great friendship towards Ireland and people of Irish heritage in Charleston over 37 consecutive years as Mayor.

Speaking after the presentation, Mayor Riley said:

“I am so proud and grateful to have received the Certificate of Irish Heritage from Paul Gleeson, Consul General of Ireland.  I am so proud of my Irish heritage and of my Irish and Scotch-Irish ancestors who came to Charleston.  They came from County Antrim, Donegal, Strabane, County Tyrone, Ireland and Glasgow, Scotland.  I am so proud that I have had the opportunity of serving as mayor of the city they adopted generations ago.  I am also so proud of the citizens of Charleston of Irish descent who have worked so hard and continue to do so to make our city such a beautiful and successful place.”

The Mayor was presented with his Certificate, which depicts an emigrant ship ready to set sail from Ireland in 1853, by the Consul General of Ireland for the US south-east, Paul Gleeson. The Consul General said:

Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. Certificate of Irish Heritage “It is a great honour to present this Certificate to Mayor Riley, who has been a tremendous friend of Ireland for very many years. And it is wonderful to make this presentation in a city with such a rich and proud Irish heritage. Charleston was the biggest southern entry point for Irish emigrants coming to the United States in the early 1800s and the vibrancy and appreciation of Irish culture and traditions is still very much evident in the city today. Mayor Riley is proud of his Irish heritage and has been a great supporter of Irish initiatives in Charleston. I am delighted that we were able to recognise his contribution and ancestry as we launch these new Certificates.”



William Murtagh, Florida, USA

William Murtagh

From left to right, my uncle Robby 12, my Dad William 13, my grandfather William 40, my aunts Catherine 9, Marie 7, and Elenor 4, my grandmother Catherine 38 holding my aunt Agnes only a few months old.

My great grandfather, Peter Murtagh, apparently left Ireland to go to Manchester, England

Peter married Patrick’s daughter, Elizabeth on 18 February 1871 in the Roman Catholic Church Saint Mildred’s Chapel.  I was able to obtain a copy of their marriage document and found out that Peter came from Rathdrum, County Wicklow and his father’s name was James.

Armed with this information, I was able to obtain Peter’s birth record which was 5 September 1843 and James Murtagh and Anne Behan’s marriage record of 2 August 1842.  James and Anne lived on Fairgreen Street in Rathdrum and, as far as I could find, had other children: William, Matthew, Thomas, Anne and their youngest Bartholomew married the Kennedy girl down the street, Margaret, and they had 6 children.

Peter and Elizabeth had 6 children in England, Elizabeth, Anne, James,my grandfather William, Sarah, and Mary.  Peter sailed to New York City, USA aboard the vessel “City of Berlin” arriving on 29 June 1885.  Elizabeth and the children, with the help of Annie Murtagh, Peter’s sister, sailed to New York City on the vessel “Adriatic” arriving on 25 May 1888.  Peter and Elizabeth went on to have 2 more children, Peter and John.

I hope to continue my search for James’ birth record and find his parents or at least find more information on the descendants of James and Anne Murtagh of Rathdrum.

William Joseph Murtagh


Daniel O’Brien, Rosario, Argentina

Daniel O'Brien

My ancestor Daniel O’Brien left the family farm at Ballinguile, Buttevant, Co.Cork about 1865 when he was in his twenties.Daniel O'Brien

He migrated to the Argentinean Pampas with a brother, Jeremiah, and a sister Johanna. They joined an increasing community of people from Cork and Kerry that had settled down in Carmen de Areco. Daniel became a shepherd at “El Ombu” a ranch owned by Daniel O’Connell native from Kanturk, a nephew of “The Liberator”.

My ancestor died of a sudden stroke at age 38. His brother Jeremiah met his fate shortly afterwards when he got killed by a rampaging bull.Johanna got married and lived to be an old granny. None of them could ever return, actually no O’Brien ever returned to Ballinguile until last year, when I travelled to Ireland with my wife, Peggy.

Apart from doing tourism and sightseeing, we scheduled our trip in advance to visit the farms and towns some our ancestors lived in, and the most important thing is that we met warm hearted people and relatives waiting for us in every place. Thus we also visited the Chapmans of Lisnacusha, Co.Longford, the McDonnels of Ballycowan, Co.Offally and the Martins of Loughnavally, Co. Westmeath.

Being at the very same spot our ancestors were born and raised was an emotive experience. We enjoyed very much our visit to Ireland and we are certainly going back again, there’s still much to be seen, not just beautiful landscapes.

The most valued treasure of Ireland lies in its people. I should not avoid to mention Luke Baxter of Co.Longford, an extremely kind gentleman with a fine knowledge of local history, he helped us to get in touch with people from these places I mentioned before, encouraging us to rebuild family and friendship links that had been broken since the times of famine and emigration. His Help was priceless.

It is never too late to get back to one’s roots, never mind how many years or centuries have elapsed. I see this certificate as a tribute paid to our ancestors; a way to keep alive the memory of those who left behind a family, friends and a distressed land to build up a future across the Ocean. The Certificate honors such sacrifice.

I’m glad to see this recognition has the seal of the Irish Republic, specially considering that my ancestors migrated to Argentina when the Republic was but a distant dream.
It was a nice surprise to find the Certificate is also issued in Spanish language, since the River Plate is a destination often ignored when talking of Irish migration. I think this is an effort for inclusion that must be applauded and commended.



Siobhan Keenan

In a ceremony at Ireland’s Department of Education and Skills on Friday 20th April, Education in Ireland’s first ever group of student Ambassadors were presented with certificates of achievement by Secretary General, Seán Ó Foghlú.Siobhan Keenan

On receiving her Certificate Siobhan stated “I’m really excited to have my Irish Heritage Certificate.  Being Irish is something I’ve always been proud of and now I have something beautiful to show for it!”


NUIM Student Ambassador Olivia Wirtanen receives her Certificate of Irish Heritage.

Olivia Wirtanen

In a ceremony at Ireland’s Department of Education and Skills on Friday 20th April, Education in Ireland’s first ever group of student Ambassadors were presented with certificates of achievement by Secretary General, Seán Ó Foghlú.Olivia Wirtanen

On reciept of her Certificate Olivia Stated “What an honor and privilege to be recognized in my ancestral home by receiving the Certificate of Irish Heritage.  It’s wonderful that the Irish government extends a welcome to their brothers and sisters who grew up in foreign countries.  I’m truly thankful for this opportunity to represent the legacy of my ancestors and acknowledge the arduous journey from their homeland of Ireland to the promising nation of America”

Olivia is currently studing for a MA in Music Performance and Musicology in NUI Maynonth

James G. Mohan, Missouri, USA

James G. Mohan

James G. Mohan from St Louis, Missouri was the winner of a Framed Certificate of Irish Heritage through our facebook page G Mohan proudly holds his Certificate of Irish Heritage image

“Every year my family and my wife’s family proudly display our Irish roots by marching in the annual Ancient Order of Hibernians Saint Patrick’s Day Parade on March 17, in Saint Louis. This year will be our 29th year. On the Mohan side our grandpa…rents (Mohan and McTigue) came over from Ireland in the early 20th Century. (For me the same is true for my mother’s side-Durkin and Sheerin-who immigrated to the USA about the same time). My wife ancestors (McDermott-Halley) came over in the 19th Century. March 17th gives us a chance to celebrate our Irish history and culture.”

On receiving his Certificate James added “I was really excited when I opened the package and saw the certificate. I must say it is beautiful and that is not just my opinion, it was the opinion of my family and friends that have seen it as well.Right now we are trying to figure out the best place to display it in our home.”