The point of my 75th birthday trip was to discover my roots in Ireland with the joy of traveling with my Nancy and family, too. The Martins were the family of my great, great grandmother, Catherine.
Catherine Martin was born (and probably lived) in Edenmore, County Donegal in the early 1850’s. She left at 14 in 1865…traveling with her older brother, Hugh, and three sisters to Philadelphia. The potato famine in this area of Ireland was worst in 1846-1850)…around the time of her birth.
In Philadelphia in 1874, she married William Francis Roach, a saddle and harness maker, and lived with him there, bearing 4 children (one of them my grandfather, Charles Lavis Roach – b. 1887).
We find them in the 1880 census, living together (along with Hugh, Theresa, Susan and Margaret Martin) at 248 N. 22nd Street in Philadelphia…near today’s Ben Franklin Parkway and Franklin Institute.
Nancy and I found a guide – Michael Cooper, a Blue Badge from Derry – through Adams and Butler, an Irish travel agency. Michael had studied the genealogy information (found through http://www.timeline.ie) and pin pointed some cemeteries with Martin graves as well as the location of the ancestral 37 acre tenant farm. The property had been rented by Catherine’s father, Denis Martin, and his brother, Michael from at least 1880 and part of the farm remained in the family until 1957.
We toured the territory of east County Donegal where they would have worshipped, gone to market and looked for employment. The towns of Edenmore (their townland), their baptismal church in Killygordon and cemeteries in Ballybofey and Sessiaghoneill were visited on June 14, 2017 by Nancy and me.
The family tenant farm in Edenmore was in close proximity to the following photos.
The cemetery of St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church at Sessiaghoneill showed many Martin graves.
There were some Martin graves at Crossroads Chapel down the road from Ballybofey.
None of my timeline.ie genealogy records agree totally with any of these graves. But, the ones at Sessiaghoneill are in the right area and have some similarities.
In each of the churches, we lit candles and prayed for the Martins who lived here as well as for Catherine, her family and all of the Roachs who have proceeded from this area.
County Donegal is still mainly rural. It is very close to Derry, which (as of 1921) is part of the United Kingdom, but still the main city of this region.
Donegal is part of Ulster province…6 counties of Ulster are UK; 3 are part of the Irish Republic.
It is all wild and beautiful territory with plenty of fresh water lakes and access to the sea nearby. Sheep farming is still a main occupation; tourism for history, genealogy and culture is of growing importance in the economy.
Some of the gravestones are nearly illegible. This one showed us a Martin name merely by touch…right above my feet. We should have brought paper and pencils for “grave-rubbing”.