The port where my great grandfather set sail for America

The year was 1880 and my great grandfather, Terrence Daniel O’ Sullivan, was leaving the village of Loughfouder, County Kerry Ireland to set sail for America. Family lore tells that all of the O’ Sullivan children departed for the new land from Cobh.  Cobh, translates  into “cove”; and is pronounced the same way. When my great grandfather set sail it was known as Cobh but had several different names over the years, first being known as Cove in 1750. In 1849 it was changed to Queensland the name remained until it was changed back to Cobh in 1922.

On our recent trip to Ireland it was my intention to retrace his footsteps as best possible. We started with a lovely family reunion and then visited the homestead where he was born in 1865.  We then decided to travel to Cobh to see the port from which he emigrated to North America.

Cobh is situated on Great Island, one of three large islands in the Cork Harbor in County Cork, Ireland.  Over 6 million people emigrated from Ireland during the years of 1848-1950. 2.5 million sailed from Cobh making it the single most important port of emigration. Sadly Cobh is also famous for being the last port of call for the RMS Titanic on her tragic voyage. 123 passengers boarded the RMS Titanic on April 11, 1912.

Upon arriving the first thing that drew our attention was the view of the harbor.  Cobh is hilly and descends towards the water. The clean and narrow streets are lined with  brightly colored homes, stores and pubs that face southward towards the waterfront.  The people are exceptionally friendly.  My daughter and I walked up and down the streets and visited the lovely Kennedy Park.  The park was filled with people of all ages and a spectacular display of flowers.

Colleen & Puppy

We ran into a woman with an adorable puppy, just a mutt; but adorable just the same.  She immediately and without hesitation offered her sweet puppy to my daughter to hold.  She happily obliged.

Kennedy Park

The neo-Gothic cathedral of St. Colman is simply stunning.  It is a Roman Catholic cathedral and sits high on a hill overlooking the harbor as if it is protecting the town and the harbor.  The Cathedral is in everyday use for worship and prayer. It took 47 years to complete the building.

A trip to Cobh would not be complete without a visit to the museum to experience “The Queenstown Story”; which walks you through your ancestors emigration from the Great Potato Famine to the 1950’s.  They also chronicle the tragedies of RMS Titanic and Lusitania with several interactive displays.

We thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Cobh.  I could not help but think of Great Grandfather Sullivan and wonder what emotions were running through his head on the day of his journey.  Was he sad, excited…both?  One will never really know I guess.  I spent a lot of time gazing out into the harbor and envisiong him sailing on the ship headed to America.  The picture of the harbor is one that I cherish for it is from this port and this harbor that my line of the O’ Sullivan’s began the journey of a lifetime.

Cork Harbour

Loughfouder, County Kerry, Ireland to Washington, DC

O' Sullivan Homestead

O' Sullivan Homestead

As I shared with you in my previous post I was setting to embark on my journey to Ireland for a family reunion.  One of the highlights of the reunion was a special visit to farm where my great-grandfather Terrence Daniel O’ Sullivan was born. He would drop the O’ from his name when he emigrated to America.   The farm sits on approximately 75 acres in Loughfouder, County Kerry, Ireland.  It is still owned by a direct descendant of Jeremiah born 1861.   It was an emotional journey walking in the same footsteps of my great-grandfather. Stopping several times down the deep descent to dab at the tears welled in my eyes.    I am not sure of the exact age of the home; but was told it was approximately 203 year old.  I do know that Terrance was born in the home in 1865.  While the home has deteriorated you can still enjoy the splendors of the farm and use your imagination to picture and warm and loving home some 200 years ago.The views seem to go on and on – green as far as the eye can see.  You can see livestock from adjoining farms, peat bogs and the glorious mountain ring around County Kerry.  According to the 1900 census Terrence immigrated in 1880; being 15 years of age.  I have never been able to substantiate this as I cannot find any details of his immigration. Someone once told me that when a family member set sail for America they hold an American wake; a metaphor for the departure of emigrants.  Often it was the last time they would ever see their family members alive.  Family lore states that when our ancestors would leave for America they would sew coins in the coats for safe keeping.

The were three rooms that we could access in the house and a flight of stairs that were not safe to climb.  In the kitchen you can see the remnants of the large fireplace where the food was cooked over the open hearth.  The home never had the modern conveniences of the 19th century.


Back of the Sullivan Home

11 children were born to James O’ Sullivan and Mary O’ Connor in this home.  The interior is small and I cannot imagine raising such a large family as the children worn all born close together (1861-1876).

Of the 11 original children the following had direct descendants represent them at the visitation of the homestead: Mary (1863), Edmond (1864) Terrence (1865), Patrick (1869).

It was very moving to see all of the grandchildren, great-grandchildren, great-great grandchildren and great-great-great grandchildren all visit the home as a family unit.  I could feel my great-grandfather smiling down from heaven as he witnessed my father, his grandson, walking through the same door that he did many times as a lad.

Descendants of the O'Sullivan children

Descendants of the O' Sullivan children

View of the Family Farm

View of the Family Farm

Great and Great -Great Grandaughters of Terrence Daniel O'Sullivan

Great and Great -Great Grandaughters of Terrence Daniel O'Sullivan

Ring of Kerry

My great grandfather, Terrence D. Sullivan, was born in 1865 in Loughfouder,Knocknagoshel County Kerry, Ireland. 100 years later I came along. As I prepare for my pilgrimage to the O’ Sullivan reunion and homestead I cannot help but stop and reflect upon the man I know so much, but yet so little about. Terrence Daniel Sullivan, son of James & Mary Connor O’ Sullivan was born in the year 1865. When he was 15 years of age he came to America.

While in America he worked as a harness maker in Washington, DC. It has been passed down thru family lore that he used the famous Irish stitch on the saddles he made.

In 1888, he married Josephine Bridget Fealy.  They would go on to have 9 children total with only three surviving to adulthood; one being my grandmother – Cecilia Sullivan.

I can’t keep my mind from wandering of the genealogical treasures that await in Loughfouder.  Will there be any evidence that my great grandfather once roamed the hills. Perhaps initials carved in the stone wall surrounding the homestead.  Perhaps a note he sent home neatly tucked in the family bible.

I depart in just a few days and  I will share with you my journey back to County Kerry, Ireland for the O’ Sullivan Family reunion.  I can’t help but feel the smiling eye’s of Terrence and Cecilia beaming down upon me.

Terrence O’Sullivan

Terrence O’ Sullivan was born to James and Mary Connor O’Sullivan on May 7th, 1866. The family homestead in Ireland was in Loughfouder, County Kerry. Terrence emigrated to the USA in 1880. He made his home in the District of Columbia and his occupation was a harness maker. He ran a productive business and used the skills of his trade that he learned from his homeland. The quality was enhanced by using the Irish stitch in his harness making. Today you may know it as the flame or bargello stitch. In 1888 Terrence would marry Josephine Bridget Fealy and produce 9 off-springs. Sadly, only three survived to adulthood. Terrence died in 1920. The trade that kept he and his family alive would ultimately take his life after the poisonous prick of a needle.