Insight Q&A: Ireland Reaching Out
Irish volunteers are eager to help welcome the diaspora back home
Ireland Reaching Out is a voluntary organization that is dear to our hearts here at CIE Tours. Through their website at IrelandXO.com, they enable dedicated volunteers in Ireland to help connect people of Irish heritage with their place of origin in Ireland.
We asked Communications Manager Laura Colleran to explain more about the organization, and how they can help people around the world connect with their heritage.
CIE Tours: Tell us a little bit about Ireland Reaching Out
Laura: If there is one thing Irish people are proud of, it’s knowing every nook and cranny of their local community, as well as the names of the people who have lived there, past and present. 10 years ago, Ireland Reaching Out was founded to tap into this amazing resource of local knowledge, and to use it to help people descended from Ireland to reconnect with their ancestors’ place of origin and the people currently living there.
CIE Tours: How can IrelandXO.com help someone who’s just starting to look for their ancestors?
Laura: Today, we have a volunteer network that covers the whole of the Island of Ireland, that offers a completely free family history guidance service to anyone seeking to learn more about their Irish ancestry. The connections happen through the website IrelandXO.com, a unique online portal that hosts a message board for over 2,500 local communities in Ireland. Membership is completely free and every member has a unique dashboard where they can upload their own ancestors and share them with the IrelandXO community.
Many members decide to make the journey to Ireland after finding local connections, and when they do, Ireland Reaching Out volunteers are there to meet them and show them around the locality, and to introduce them to living relatives if they can be found.
CIE Tours: Could you share an example of someone who was able to find relatives with IrelandXO’s help?
Laura: IrelandXO member Barbara Sharkey’s great-great-grandparents emigrated to New York City from County Offaly in Ireland. She posted a query on the IrelandXO message board and connected with local volunteer Margaret Hensey. When she visited in 2019, thanks to Margaret’s help, she was able to meet with her fourth cousins, and enjoyed a few drinks with them in the local pub in Birr. [Read more about Barbara's story, and learn more about the family connections IrelandXO's volunteers have helped make.]
CIE Tours: What do you find most meaningful about the work you do?
Laura: Imagine that for every person living in Ireland an estimated 16 others of Irish ancestry live abroad! Letting people know that they are valued members of our global diaspora and that there is a welcome waiting for them, should they decide to visit, is hugely important. Our homes were once the homes of so many people who had no choice but to emigrate. Welcoming their descendants back today is a privilege for every Irish community.
CIE Tours: Who are your volunteers? Why do you think they are such enthusiastic helpers?
Laura: They are from all walks of life; retired teachers, historical society members; local shopkeepers; radio hosts. Our volunteers are people who are proud of their local community and want to help those descended from the area to rediscover their family connections. They are incredibly generous with their time and local knowledge. Making new friends from around the world, and seeing descendants from their local communities make the journey home is all the reward they ask.
CIE Tours: How can people get started?
Laura: We have a lot of resources to help people research their family history and also to document their own connections with the area. We invite all our members to add their ancestors to our IrelandXO Chronicles, so that they can be counted as having connections with the locality, even if those ancestors left many years ago. This also helps other members who are researching family in the area. The big goal is to document every person who ever lived and left Ireland. So far we have more than 15,000 ancestors documented!
Here are a few ways to get started:
- Visit the IrelandXO homepage
- Join the IrelandXO Community
- Ask question and search for surnames on the IrelandXO Message Board
- Check out some great family history resources
- Add your ancestors to the Ancestor Database!