So off we go to the Emerald Isle and the County of Kildare in the province of Leinster .
Bordering Dublin to the west, it is situated on the edge of the central plain. The county's main features are big open grasslands, lush green pastures and large tracts of ancient bogland-all interspersed with trees and gentle rolling hills. The centre of Ireland's thoroughbred racing industry , horse-mad Kildare is home to the Irish National Stud and boasts several fine racecourses.
Our focus is the south west corner........the town of Athy (a-thigh) and its surrounding townlands.
What is a townland? They are an ancient land unit unique to Ireland and are important for for research because so many records are collected and recorded with the townland as the point of place. They derived from the definition of what defined a family holding or a small community. There are 1242 townlands in County Kildare varying in size from a few acres to several thousand. Boundaries of townlands were expressed in terms of notable natural or man-made features of the landscape, such as hilltops, rivers and streams, walls, or roads, and very often it was these features that became the names of townlands. Not understanding this can make research confusing ................or find oneself driving around in circles looking for a nonexistant town as we did in 2001 looking for Fontstown.
Townlands surrounding Athy which will feature in the family history include - Fontstown, Eagle Hill, Rathconnell, Foxhill, Nurney, Balleyshannon, Moortown......
|River Barrow, Crom Abu Bridge and White's Castle|
The town is named after a 2nd century chieftain Ae, who is said to have been killed on the river crossing, thus giving the town its name "the town by Ae's ford".
We were fortunate that our aimless wandering eventually led us into Athy where we spent a pleasant hour in the local pub (where else!) chatting to the young couple who had no idea where New Zealand and produced an atlas so we could show them. They were happy to provide the directions to the church at Fontstown - about 3k away.
Sadly, the old church where so many of your forebears were baptised and worshiped on Sundays is now only a ruin but the graveyard where they rest is still there and it was a moving experience to read the inscriptions and know we were walking amongst family.
We didn't have the family tree then.............I'd love to go back armed with the information I have now.....maybe, one day!
Now you know where they lived ..............let's meet the family!