"After years of research I knew it was time to go back to Ireland to find what i have been looking for. I still had a few pieces of the puzzle I needed to put together to hopefully find a cottage and a small 6 acre farm my great great grandparents bought in 1886. Home of the O'Keeffe's in Frenchpark, Roscommon. I recently connected with cousins that were living in Avoca,Wicklow - after numerous phone calls, emails, letters and picture exchanges I knew I would be making a stop in Wicklow. I knew it would be looking for a needle in a haystack since my GG grandfather had passed in 1925 and no one had lived in Roscommon since. My trip was 85 years later and a lot had changed in Ireland new homes, roads and towns. My first stop was Dublin: a few stops at the National Library, went to research death records to the Land Deed record department. Armed with my research I was lucky enough to track down the lot number and possible location in Frenchparlk Roscommon. Leaving Dubin to Wicklow to meet my cousins we spent 2 days with. They couldn't locate the cottage of farm in previous years that they had tried.
As we left for Roscommon I knew it would be a long shot to actually find the land my family had farmed and called home. The more research you have the better chance you may have to find someone who can help you locate what you are looking for. After many stops in Roscommon I had met a cab driver Matt who told me to get the information I had and he would take me to the area and meet another man who might be able to help. It was pouring and Matt drove me to Leggatinty, Frenchpark, Roscommon and told me to get out and knock on your mans door. I said, "my mans door, I don't know this guy". He said he may be able to help. As I knocked on the door to no answer a car was pulling down the driveway of the farm. He rolled down his window and asked what I wanted. After standing in the rain and explaining I had come about 3,500 miles to find the home of my GG Grandparents, as he looked at me soaking wet in the cold pouring rain, he asked me if I brought long pants and why I wasn't wearing them. Then said, "get in before you die of pneumonia". He asked me what was my GG Grandparents names? I told him James and Anne and he blurts out O'Keeffe? I asked, "yes, do you know where they lived". He said, "I do, get in and i will take you there. They were neighbors to my family along with their cousins that lived next door". I mentioned the McDermotts and he said yes.
He drove me to a piece of land and told me how the ruins of the cottage had only caved in a few years ago. The land overgrown with heavy brush and sticker bushes. I stood and looked when he said to me, "I can tell by the look on your face you didn't come here to stand on the road and look, you want to get in there don't you?" I told him yes as we both started to climb through the heavy brush, stickers and mud as it continued to pour. He showed me where the walls of the cottage were as I dug through all the thatch and pulled out a stone from the cottage and the picture I had of them standing in front of the cottage in 1886. About 124 years after the O'Keeffes bought this farm this land this dirt.
All the research had paid off and I had finally come home. As we stood there I asked Padraig if he knew where they had been buried since all these years I couldn't locate any records. He told me he would take me there. Drove around the corner and we got out at Kilcorkey Cemetery where James and Anne O'Keeffe had been laid to rest. No markers as they were poor farmers and a shoemaker. Anyone who has ever researched their roots knows that every step every lead every clue brings you closer to the past. Hoping to find a new piece of the puzzle I can honestly tell you finding a piece of dirt had never meant so much to me. This story had many more ups and downs over the years, but information is the key. The more you know the better shot you have of finding what you are looking for. I was lucky to find a guy that knew the local names or where to find someone who might know more information than he did.
I still have the stone I pulled from the wall of the cottage ruins 6 years later its still growing moss. --ROB H.
A Genealogical Journey to Ireland