Castle Keep

A keep is a tower used as a dungeon or fortress. Nenagh Castle keep is what is left of many towers that were part of the original castle built in 1216 by Baron Butler. He was given this land by the King of England, who was a Norman king. The castle was built in O’Kennedy territory, John F. Kennedy’s ancestors.

I have been doing a little research on a part of Tipperary, Ireland which was the last known residence of a cousin and the supposed birthplace of my paternal grandparents. The address for the cousin was Ballinamoe New Town Nenagh Tipperary. I couldn’t understand all the names in the address.  Turns out it breaks down to Ballinamoe as townland,  Newtown is a hamlet, part of the barony of Owney and Arra, the civil parish of Youghalarra, Nenagh is the largest town, in the county of Tipperary, in the Provence of Munster. Reading some of the history of baronies and all these other designations has been mind-boggling. Nenagh Castle is a historic site in Tipperary. I once read that my father’s surname Barry was Norman, which now makes sense if this was once Norman territory.

So enough with the history and geography for now and I only skimmed the surface. It has been disheartening to try to trace my father’s family in Ireland. There is no record online of my grandfather’s birth. There was one entry for someone with a similar name to my grandmother but no way for me to verify it was her. The dearth of information could be because some church records have not been digitalized, the Irish revolution that occurred in 1919-1921, and a fire during the Battle of Dublin resulted in archives being lost. Many records may still be in churches, and the only way to find them is to go there. The history of my father’s family in California is easier to trace although I did not find anything about his Uncle Joe and descendants.  I can research newspaper archives in Ireland, but I have to pay a subscription of 30 (pounds) a month, currently $42.45 US. I can pay someone to the do the research for me and that sounds even more expensive. The most recent Irish census information available is from 1911. In that census I did find a name of a girl who could be my cousin but how to verify it? and that person had sisters. I had a letter from my paternal aunt (now deceased) who gave me some names and birthdates. She told me my grandfather had brothers and my grandmother had 3 sisters and one brother. My grandparents emigrated to the US with their baby son in 1902. They lived through the San Francisco earthquake in 1906. My aunt corresponded with the cousin in Ballinamoe. She indicated the family in Ireland probably died out with that cousin but not sure. Two of my paternal grandmother’s sisters emigrated to Canada. Haven’t started looking for them yet.

My mother’s parents came from Canada. My maternal grandmother was born in Scotland. I found a record of my maternal grandparent’s marriage in Nova Scotia and possibly my maternal grandfather’s family of origin. My mother and her sister lost touch with these relatives. It is sad to think about all these people who have disappeared without a trace. It feels like I have lost part of my family all over again.

We should keep more than our towers.


Stream of Consciousness Saturday is hosted by Linda G Hill. The “Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is “picture.” Write about, or theme your post on the first picture you see when you sit down to start writing. You don’t need to describe the picture necessarily–you can even put yourself in it if you’re not already there.”

Featured image of Nenagh Castle by Regina Hill via wikimedia.org

22 thoughts on “Castle Keep

  1. ksbeth

    i never knew what a castle keep was, so good to know. also, i am a kennedy and when in ireland a couple of summers ago, i searched for places where my ancestors had been. i had a few clues, but not much to go on. i did stand in places where my great grandfather had stood and that was pretty powerful

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  2. Michael

    Looking for relatives and information in Ireland is very difficult though I read recently that there are steps being taken to rectify the loss of records, how I am not certain. We had similar issues trying to trace great grand parents and discovering several records of people with the same name as us but we are unable to verify whicjh one is ours. I had a great aunt who went to the US in the 1860s and is lost to us as to what happened to her. My great grandfather fought in the Civil War and afterwards returned to Ireland and then brought his family to Australia, and so here we are.

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    1. Deborah Drucker Post author

      That is quite a history. It is sad when we don’t know what happened to people. My paternal grandmother’s sisters who emigrated to Canada and I do not know anything about them either. I know exactly what you mean about the same names being a problem. That’s amazing about your great-grandfather. 🙂

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      1. Michael

        One of my cousins organised with the US Government to have a plaque made to go on his grave so we had a little ceremony when we placed it on his grave. We know a lot about him and his war record as so much of that has been recorded.

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  3. JoAnna

    One of my editors wrote a book, The Slaves Have Names, in which she documented as many facts as she could from her research on enslaved people, then she wrote about what she imagined their lives might have been like. She made a clear distinction between the facts and speculation. It was very interesting. Somehow, I don’t think our ancestors would mind.

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    1. Deborah Drucker Post author

      The thought did come to me that it could be that many people, all over the world, would not have a record of their ancestors. Especially people who emigrated or people in areas where there were wars. Records would only go back so far. And if you were a common person or peasant there weren’t any records other than in churches. I did appreciate reading my Irish American aunt’s letter again because she described her family life growing up and it sounded happy. My father, her brother, never talked about it very much. He was the baby of the family and his mother died when he was 12 or 13. And I could do research on Tipperary during the years that my grandparents were born and before they emigrated in 1902. So I could get an idea what their early lives might have been like. My aunt said my grandmother had fond memories of Ireland. 🙂

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      1. JoAnna

        Sounds like that letter added a beautiful piece to the puzzle. It’s like detective work but with more heart. Maybe this is one of the reasons why we write. I think it’s really cool that you’re into this. 🙂

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  4. cleemckenzie

    I haven’t tackled my Irish side in Ireland yet. I’ve only gone back to 1800s and Kentucky where my grandmother’s grandfather was a horse breeder. Interesting to find those records. I did go to Switzerland to hunt for my father’s side of the family and found waaaaay too many. It will take me a lifetime to sort out those records. Thanks for the Castle Keep information and I hope you track down that cousin and verify kinship.

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    1. Deborah Drucker Post author

      It is quite a puzzle to go through records and find connections. It is great when a parent’s name is listed on the record of a wedding, birth, or death because then you can make the connections to your family tree. Thank you, C Lee. 🙂

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