Last month I went to Cork with my parents, which sounds like a simple holiday plan. Not when your car is a Mini Cooper and three of the family are 6 foot or over! I almost expected to see a stray arm or leg hanging out of the window, but we uncurled everyone to visit the rock of Cashel on the way so the journey wasn’t too bad. The reason we’d chosen Cork was because we’d discovered my mum’s great uncle Henry and his daughter Eileen were buried there. My mum has been working on her family tree for as long as I can remember, and wanted to complete the missing information before she gets so old she can’t remember (her words, not mine!) Since her computer skills only extend to Level 1 of Tetris I did some internet searching for her.
All we knew of my great great uncle was that he’d been a travelling salesman and had married a lady called Elizabeth Perry from Cork. She had passed away when their children Eileen and Frank were little so they had gone to live with their granny and auntie in Cork. Henry then retired to Cork and lived there the rest of his life. I was a little sceptical that we would find out any information because he died during the Irish civil war and we didn’t know if the records would have survived or been complete. Initial searches through online burial records from Cork cemeteries didn’t find anything, so I emailed the Cork County Council cemeteries department with names and dates of death. I wasn’t expecting to hear any positive news back, so was delighted to receive an email two days later with details of the cemetery and plot numbers. As the cemetery was only a 5 minute drive from our guesthouse we visited the first morning. When we asked the office supervisor for directions to the plots he insisted on walking us down to them, telling us about the history of the cemetery on the way, which was lovely.
The grave was a double plot and as well as Henry it had details of his wife’s family. My mum was really pleased that Henry’s son, Frank was mentioned on the headstone as he was killed in action during the First World War and is buried in France. We were intrigued that there was no mention of Eileen, Henry’s daughter on the headstone, even though there was space on the back of the headstone and the Perry headstone had members of the family noted on the back. We’ve guessed that this is because Eileen was the last survivor of the family in Ireland and so no-one thought to update the headstone. If we hadn’t had the email with the plot number we wouldn’t have even known she was buried there, which got me thinking about other families that this might have happened to.Whilst researching our trip to Cork I’d checked out a map of Cork to see where the Perry family’s house was and which cemeteries were nearby. When I was younger I remember spending the day in Highgate Cemetery searching for another member of the family’s gravestone, so had almost resigned myself to being the weird family that spends their leisure time looking round cemeteries for graves! Luckily it was obvious from the 1911 census that the family were Church of Ireland and they only lived down the road from St Anne’s cathedral, of the Bells of Shandon fame. During a ride on the hop on hop off bus I surprised my parents by hopping off at the St Anne’s stop. When I showed my mum the war memorial on the wall of the church with Frank’s name on it her face lit up, and she got her photograph taken beside it, and was really excited about being in her great uncle’s church that the family attended.
Then we visited St Finbarre’s cathedral, which is a beautiful Gothic Anglican cathedral, while we were looking around I noticed there was also a memorial to the Great War with Frank’s name on it and they had a beautiful wooden carved box with the Great War Roll of Honour in it with the names of the soldiers who fell. We spoke to a lovely lady, Norma, who was able to get the Roll of Honour opened to Frank’s page, which was an honour. The Roll was handwritten in colourful calligraphy, with beautiful illustrations at the bottom of each page and I was able to take some photographs of the page for the family tree.
The last destination on our family finding trip was the house that the family used to live in, this was really easy to find at the top of a huge hill with lovely views over the city. it was very grand, we knew the family were well off because the census showed a servant living in the house, but didn’t imagine a house this attractive.