“I think I may have made a connection.” I received this message in my Ancestry.com mailbox on November 18, 2018. It was from my, soon-to-find-out, 2nd cousin, Padraig O’Callaghan, in Ireland. His first email was on October 24th and after a few back-and-forth emails we discovered that we were 2nd cousins…our grandparents were siblings (his grandma/my grandpa). This had all started because we had both done the Ancestry DNA test…and were signed up on the main Ancestry site for updates. (shocker that my results came back 100% Irish ancestry)
To say we were excited would be an understatement and by November 20th we shared our personal emails and continued the conversation, with pictures and documents relating to our families and ancestors. If you’ve read along on this blog, you know I’m a pretty impulsive, jump in, kind of person…so it’s probably no surprise that, after discussing possible dates that would mutually work for us, I booked my flights to Ireland on January 22, 2019, for arrival on June 2nd…with a 10 hour layover in NY to see Austin & Kate and this beauty…
It was, literally, a trip of a lifetime! Padraig and his wife, Grainne, live just outside of Galway and I was flying into Shannon airport at 5:50 am. I told him I’d take a bus to Galway, which is a little over an hour’s drive, and asked where I should get an Airbnb to be close to them. He didn’t hesitate in saying, ” I will collect you at the airport” and “You can stay with us while in Galway.” To say I was stunned is an understatement! I had stayed with my friends (through homeexchange) Gina and Andy in Dublin in 2013, so I’ve experienced the generosity & warmth of the Irish, but this was someone I’d never met! It was a testament to the blind faith and true kindness of the Irish people. We were related and that’s all they needed to know!
We continued to converse back and forth and as the day approached to get on that plane I have to be honest, I had a little anxiety about staying with, what seemed like, complete strangers for three days/nights. What if we didn’t ‘click’? What if it was awkward? I’m sure you’ve already surmised that it was completely the opposite! I walked through customs and out into the arrival area where we quickly spotted one another and immediately hugged! Padraig suggested we sit and have some tea and discuss plans for the day. You know me, I’m game!
I honestly don’t know how to describe the connection I felt towards them within minutes of sitting down for some tea. It was so natural and easy…and I knew that this would be an unforgettable trip. With the time change…it was 9pm the night before here in California….my sister, Mariellen, texted me “Hug the Egans…and have a blast. Enjoy our people….” An hour later, sitting in their car, I texted her back, “So far I LOVE them! Such great, interesting people.” She texted back, “Dad’s smiling in heaven 🍀❤” That is how instantaneously I felt a true connection to my newly-found cousin and his wife.
Padraig had asked if there were any sites or places I wanted to go in the west of Ireland. I had been to Galway and Connemara back in 2013 (beautiful places..you should go), but I mentioned that I hadn’t seen the Cliffs of Moher. I had also mentioned that my grandma, Catherine (Ryan) Egan, had been born in O’Callaghan’s Mills. The plan they came up with was to go straight to the little town of O’Callaghan’s Mills on our way the Cliffs of Moher, then a drive through The Burren (famous for it’s limestone formations and unusual mix of wildflowers), the Burren Perfumery, and finally head to their home.
Pictures, as always, tell the story best….
next 3 pics are of the Burren
So….that’s the introduction to my cousin, his wife and my first day in Ireland. Stay tuned for Part II, Inis Oirr and meeting my extended family.