Open Thread: We Are Not Here For The Farm

Over the last few days there has been some conversation between those in the genealogy field. In Ireland many fear that when Americans show up we are looking to take the family farm. I really dislike a conversation with an us versus them mentality. But that is where we are.

I was told that we, the Americans, need to start this conversation. I am not sure why that is, but I will.

Since the first day I walked into my local Irish center the one thing that is talked about anytime someone discusses going to Ireland is to be careful in what they say and how they act because the locals will think we are there to take the family farm. To claim the birth right of our ancestors who had to flee to survive.

St. John's Catholic Church - Dromagh, County Cork, Ireland. ©Terri O'Connell 2016
St. John’s Catholic Church – Dromagh, County Cork, Ireland.
©Terri O’Connell 2016

My personal experience with this:

When I visited Ireland last fall, I walked the townland where my ancestors lived. When I visited the pub of the golf course that now sits on a majority of the townland. When I told the gentleman why I was in the area, the first thing they asked was “you’re not here to talk the golf course are you?” I laughed it off and told them I only wanted the last whole. In return they laughed and knew I was just looking around.

Any other place I visited welcomed me back home when they asked if my ancestors were from Ireland. Why is it just the local area that has this fear?

The reality of it is this, we do not want the farm or any other piece of property. We just want to connect with our ancestors (and maybe a cousin or two). We want to see the port our ancestors left from, walk the land they lived on, visit the churches they were married in and baptized their children in. But most of all, we want to connect with our ancestors. We do that when we can accomplish these simple things.

I ask each of you to share this with you friends in Ireland (genealogists, local genealogical societies and historical societies as well). I would love to have a discussion on this and see what we can do to change the views. It can be done, but we need to take the steps to do so.



Similar Posts


  1. How interesting. I had no idea that was a fear! I was never asked that, but maybe because I established a relationship with a few cousins (who lived in Ireland) a year before my trip. And when I got there, they showed me around, including to the Cahillfamily farm which is still owned by our family. However, I’m not going to lie. The farm my Cahill grandfather was born on (the Guiney farm, the farm of his mother’s family) is owned by an absentee farmer who lives in America. And my American cousins and I do fantasize about buying it!

    1. Kathleen,

      Thanks for reading and commenting. It would be wonderful to go back and have a piece of property that you purchased, that also once belonged in the family. I am so glad you made cousin connections before you went, I am sure your trip was amazing.

      1. I did trespass on the property (which is worked on by daily employees) and take a few bricks from the original (and now abandoned) farm.

  2. I wonder why they think a foreigner could take their land from them. If the land was left and taken over with no property transfer, that would have been decades ago and reclaiming land that was abandoned should not be possible in a court of law. Have the Irish seen this happen to a neighbor, to lose their land to a foreigner? Is there an Irish law that allows this? If so, then the Irish need to work to change that law. Please pass my questions back to the group that started this discussion. I am sincerely curious why they have this fear.

    1. Debbe, I would think it has to do with all the country has been through. But, I am an American taking a stab at it. I have no clue if it has ever happened, but that would be good to find out. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. If I find out anything more, I will let you know.

  3. As someone born in Ireland, who has spent time helping others locate their Irish roots, I can say that this is not a sentiment I have come across in Ireland, nor have I heard others speak of it. I hope this is just an unfortunate response.
    My own rural relations have always been happy to see distant “new” American relations.

    1. Jill, thanks for reading and commenting. Though some have given me a bit of a hard time for this post, I am glad I wrote it because I am finding more people who tell me they do not feel that way. We in America and glad to make the cousin connections in Ireland (one day I hope to do that).

  4. My parents…..Curry/Fitzpatrick (2 Gen Americans) visted Ireland ( Cork ) every year for 19 years until their health declined. I and my siblings have been there times as well. We all have spent countless hours going through genealogical and parish records, etc. I’m happy to say that not once did anyone, distant relative or not, ever question our motives. As a lawyer, I can assure you “land or homestead” claims by someone removed by two or more generations would be an extremely rare event and would have no basis in law or equity once an estate is settled.

    1. Patrick, thanks for reading and commenting. Also for providing a legal perspective on this. I honestly did not get that feeling in Ireland (except for the men in the pub, but when I made a joke we all laughed it off). I do have Irish people continually telling me that the Irish do not trust those not born in Ireland.

  5. This may stem from when a lot of our relations had to emigrate, the eldest in the family would not have to go as they would inherit the farm etc, so the rest, maybe up to eight siblings would emigrate. This eldest would work the land with little to show for it but the love of the land and the work and the livestock he would buid into it over the years. Usually a lot of these men remained unmarried. Then maybe a nearby nephew would start helping him out on the farm and in turn he would inherit the farm. Legal paperwork on all this might not exist as the people left behind would still consider that legally it all belongs to the eldest who went to America and was never heard of again. Then up pops these grandchildren of the eldest who find their roots and get all excited about coming home and seeing the homestead. So the nephew and his childten are terrified that they will want to stake a claim to the farm and as a lot of passing on of land was done on a spit and a handshake at a fair day….then you can see their worry. When returning to Ireland maybe just refer to the homestead as the place my father came from or my mother came from. Hope thats helpful

    1. Maura, thanks for sharing that with all of us. It makes perfect sense. I just cannot see someone doing this today. Maybe a generation or two ago. Personally, I am the third generation to be born in the US. I could never see doing something like that.

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, I appreciate it.

  6. This happened in my family. My ancestor did go back to successfully reclaim the family farm, so there may be historic validity to the fear.

    1. Elle, how long ago was that? Like I replied to Maura, I’m third generation to be born here. I cannot see doing this today. However if we are talking a one or two generation relative doing it.

      Thanks for stopping by, reading and commenting.

  7. I am not expecting to meet anyone I am related to. My family has been in the US since the 1700s so that would be difficult, at best.

    What I am looking for is some idea of who I am and why I am the way I am. I am always fascinated by programs like “Who Do You Think You Are” and “Finding Your Roots”. It is amazing how the people in the show find out they are just like ancestors they never even knew existed. Do traits and talents actually get passed down or inherited from someone you never even met? Why am I drawn to certain things for no apparent reason?

    1. Kelly,

      I have found some of my Irish cousins, but it’s on this side of the pond. Plus, my family came here after the famine.

      I definitely believe that as we research we learn so much, not always about ourselves…sometimes our parents or other family members. I know I have read records and thought, “I get it.”

      As for the talents and similarities being passed down. I definitely think they are. My first ‘real’ job was for a company that made boxes. My Great grandfather and his father both worked in paper mills. You need the paper to make the boxes. There are other things I have seen and heard about family members that I see in others today.

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. I appreciate it!

  8. Thanks Terri…it’s a conversation worth having as it’s easy to imagine the anxieties that visits by the diaspora (not just US) may generate. I was very lucky that the owner of the family farm showed me around, walked the land with me and was astounded by what I had discovered about the family (technically he was not a relation). I was thrilled and thanked him in my Family History book. Interestingly when I return to Bavaria I do get the feeling that the shutters come down for me….descendants of other, poorer, families are welcomed with open arms.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.