Chasing family roots to the motherland - Curt Yeomans

So, yeah, I went to Ireland, with some hope of finding out more about my ancestors, and only got a pint of Guinness.

The little, family-history shops that are all over the place are great for telling you some basic information about the background of your last name, but they are not really the places to go for a detailed family history. You need to go to the Clare Heritage & Genealogy Research Centre in Corofin, to find out some of the more exact details.

I thought I'd be able to go to Ireland, and in a few days, get a start on looking into my family's roots. Now, there was one set back before I even went over there. I found out that one branch of the family tree was not from Belfast, as I had heard growing up. It was actually from the opposite side of Northern Ireland, near Londonderry (or Derry, as the anti-British folks call it). I did have a bit of luck, though, because one-half of the Irish side of the family tree comes from County Clare. The genealogist at the Clare Heritage & Genealogy Research Centre has access to records from all over the county, dating back to the early 19th Century.

It all really depends on the town your ancestors come from, and Tulla, one of the towns my forebearers came from, had several old records available, dating as far back as 1810. That would give me some idea of what the Minogue family went through, before my great-grandparents moved to Brooklyn, N.Y., at the dawn of the 20th Century.

However, I was DE-NIED! Well, for the most part that is. Because so many people are interested in tracing their Irish roots, there is a three-month backlog on genealogical requests at the Clare Heritage & Genealogy Research Centre.

I did find the answer to one question -- why did the Minogues in Ireland, become the Mannix's in Brooklyn? It was theorized that, maybe, the name was changed by officials at Ellis Island, when my great-grandparents, Simon and Delia Minogue/Mannix, arrived in this country. Officials at Ellis Island are rumored to have, sometimes, done that when faced with a last name that was difficult for them to spell. Turns out, according to the genealogist at the Clare Heritage & Genealogy Research Centre, Mannix and Minogue are interchangeable last names in County Clare. For example, a male may have the Minogue last name, but his offspring may have the Mannix last name, or he may go between using Mannix and Minogue in official records.

The two names have been so interchangeable over there, that any time either name comes up in a genealogical request, the genealogist has to check records for both. But, with one door closed for now, I turned to one other way of finding information -- a trip to Tulla itself. Tulla, or An Tulach, as it's called in Gaelic, is touted as "The Windswept Hill," on a welcome sign at the outskirts of town. The little town is literally on top of a hill. It has one main drag that everything in town is on. It goes up one side of the hill, and down the opposite side.

Tulla is home to Minogue's Bar, which I had heard a few years back might be owned by distant relatives. As the name suggests, it is owned by people whose last name is Minogue. It's a small, one-room bar. On the walls are pictures of the local hurling team that the bar supports. They don't serve food, only alcohol. Of course, I got a Guinness.

Sadly, however, a trip to Minogue's Bar didn't yield any other clues. The Minogues, who were there, said they had heard vague rumors about having cousins that moved to New York years ago, but they did not know any details.

So, as I sit here in Jonesboro, Ga., I still know almost as little about my family roots as I knew before going to Ireland.

Curt Yeomans covers education for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached via e-mail at cyeomans@news-daily.com.