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Time Travel in Ireland: Following My Great-Grandfather’s Footsteps

by Moriah Gregory
Time Travel in Ireland: Following My Great-Grandfather's Footsteps | AIFS Study Abroad | Irish Heritage

One of the reasons I decided to study abroad in Ireland was because my ancestors emigrated from the Emerald Isle to the United States.

I wanted to see the land where my family used to live. My great-great-great-grandparents came to the U.S. during the Great Famine in Ireland, which lasted from 1845 to 1852. About a hundred years after my ancestors emigrated from Ireland, my late great-grandfather (Grandpa Keenan) went to visit the country his grandparents came from. While he was in Ireland, he took eight pictures in different locations around the country.

Before I left to study abroad in Ireland, my grandmother gave me the pictures her father had taken while visiting. I did not tell my grandmother this, but I was determined to find the places where my Grandpa Keenan took the photos. Out of the eight she gave me, five were taken in the exact locations where my Grandpa Keenan took his own. The other three were taken in the same city or area but not the exact location.

Photo #1: Aran Islands

I took this picture at the Aran Islands but I unfortunately couldn’t find any donkeys to be in my picture. I took my photo on the Island of Inis Oirr. I am not sure which Island my Grandpa Keenan took his photo so that is why I didn’t consider this photo in the exact location.

Photo #2: Cork City

This photo was also not taken in the exact location in the city of Cork because the streets and buildings in Cork have changed quite a bit in the past sixty years; however, I would say it is pretty close to the exact location.

Photo #3: Blarney Castle

I was able to take this photo in the exact location where my Grandpa Keenan took his. After taking it, I climbed to the top of Blarney Castle and kissed the famous Blarney Stone.

Photo #4: Storefront in Cork City

“Southern Ireland” was the only thing written on the back of this photo (featured at the top of this post) taken by my Grandpa Keenan. I decided to find a storefront in Cork City that had similar colors to the storefront in my Grandpa Keenan’s photo.

Photo #5: Killarney

My Grandpa Keenan took this photo of a thatched roof building in the town of Killarney. The thatched roof building is no longer there but the yellow building next to the thatched roof building in his photo now houses an Indian restaurant. 

Photo #6: Town of Cavan 

Thanks to my Airbnb hosts, I was able to find the exact location of this photo. My generous hosts were fascinated with my project of trying to find the locations of my Grandpa Keenan’s photos and offered to drive me the hour round trip to the town of Cavan. They also helped me figure out that this photo was taken right next to the bus station in Cavan.

Photo #7: People’s Park (Limerick)

This photo was taken in the city I was living in during my time abroad so it was pretty easy to figure out where it was taken. My Irish friends helped me find the specific place in the park where my grandfather took his photo.

Photo #8: Park of Tralee

I took this photo in the exact location thanks to the help of two gardeners in the park. There were lots of changes in the park since my Grandpa Keenan took his photo so it was difficult to figure out where the photo was specifically taken.

I was able to surprise my grandmother all of these photos for Christmas. She was so happy that I went to all the places her father went to. I loved this adventure and challenge to find the places where my Grandpa Keenan took these photos. To travel in Ireland while studying abroad helped me feel connected to my Irish roots.

This post was contributed by Moriah Gregory, who has spent her fall semester studying abroad with AIFS in Limerick, Ireland.

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