I would hope that the headline here does not give the wrong impression. Finding a grave in Kerry is not as easy as it may sound in this story. I get numerous requests asking if it is possible to find a grave in various locations in the county and there are two answers really. If it is a grave for a person who died and was buried prior to about 1920, it is problematic. . Descendants who live in other countries now, find that difficult to understand. But we must remember that the majority of 19th century burials were not marked by fine headstones or memorials, a lot of graveyards have become overgrown, what markers exist have been much weathered over the years and are difficult or impossible to decipher.
In essence, unless the person who is buried in a Kerry graveyard in the 19th century, had descendants who lived on in the area and continued to use the grave, later putting up a headstone, then it is next to impossible to positively identify the exact burial place.
For 20th century burials we have a very good free Kerry County Council Burial website Joe Maher also has an excellent site with great images from all graveyards in Kerry. If your ancestor was buried in one of these mostly 20th century graves and has a legible marker/memorial – yes you should find it here. But unfortunately all of our ancestors or their parents did not have these markers.
So to our blog today. It was compiled by Vincent Carmody for Mary Cogan’s Listowel Connection and I would like thank both for allowing me to reproduce it here.
”The name Lars Larsson was first mentioned to me in a conversation that I had with Dotie Cronin, who was an elderly neighbour of ours and an old time family friend. The Cronin family originally lived in thatched cottage in Upr William St., (Listowel).
As I grew up in the late 1940s and 50s, I became aware of two elderly Cronin sisters, Kathy and Dotie, their back yard, which entered into the laneway at the back of our house, was home to fowl of many descriptions, with each species, hens, ducks, bantams and even two geese, having little sheds of their own. Every morning, the back gate would be thrown open and the fowl would be allowed scatter to the four winds, ranging out through the fields, belonging to Chutes, Shanahan and Brodericks at the rear of the street. Broderick’s field skirted the Limerick/Tralee railway track, with countryside on the far side, stretching up to Knockane and Raymonds of Dromin Hill in the far distance. This railway track defined in our young eyes whether one was a townie or from the country. The Cronin birds, then perhaps would have been the last of the free rangers in our urban setting. By early evening when the fowl would have returned like the hunter home from the hills, Dotie, the enumerator, would do a head count. If any failed to return, she would arrive in consternation at our back door, calling out to my mother, “Those wayward bitches of hens don’t know how fine a home they have in Cronins, would Vincent have a look for them”. Most times, the stragglers would be rounded up and a relieved Dotie would present me with a couple of fresh hen eggs.
Doties was a font of knowledge with a great source of local history … One evening she said to me “Did I ever tell you about the man from Sweden?”. So she started “My mother died in 1926, I looked after the house for my father. . Some years later, on a Sunday when my father had gone to a football match, a stranger came to our front door. He was a foreigner, he explained that he had previously contacted my father and arranged for him to put up a memorial gravestone over the resting place of a Swedish man, Lars Larsson who had died in Listowel in 1929.”
This man had visited the cemetery and was happy with the work so he wantd to pay the remainder of the bill. He then paid Dotie, also giving her two half crowns for herself. Before leaving he left an address of a family in Sweden, where he requested Dotie to ask her father to send a receipt for the cash. As I was unaware of the grave, Dotie then told me where the stone was to be found, which I visited out of curiosity.
One fine evening in the mid 1990s, I was coming from Sportsfield, passing the cemetery I went in to visit our family grave. Inside the gate were two heavily laden sports bikes. As I went down the central pathway I was approached by two people, by their style of dress, I guessed that they were the owners of the bikes. They had been looking at the graves. On introducing themselves, they were brother and sister from Sweden, they enquired if I was a local, was I familiar with the various graves, or if not, would the local authority have a record of the graves? I would have a fairly god knowledge of the place so I asked “What particular grave or stone are you looking for”? . They explained that when they were young, they had been on vacation at a relatives home in rural Sweden. One wet day, they had taken refuge in the attic of the house. While up there they came upon an old trunk, opening it, they found old clothes and some letters. Looking through these they found one which was not in Swedish. Taking it downstairs and showing it, it was explained that it came from Ireland and concerned the burial of a relative who had lived in that house and that he had died in a far distant land.
So after all these years, the brother and sister, who had found James Cronin’s letter in the attic trunk, now found themselves back in the town where Cronin, the stonemason lived and where their relative Lars Larsson had died in 1929. I found their story amazing. I said “You are lucky, you have just met the only person that knows the whereabouts of the grave and the history behind it.”
When we went to the grave, which is marked by an inscribed flat stone with iron railings, it was covered by thick low branches of a thorn bush, with the stone unreadable. I went across the road to a garage and got a shovel. Returning, I quickly cut away the bush, which allowed the details to be seen,
Lars Larsson, 1872 – 1929. – (It is very weather stained )
So, on that lovely summer’s evening in the 1990s, I stood and heard the visitors recite the Lord’s Prayer in their native tongue. They were delighted to have found the grave of the man which they learned of first, on a page, in a foreign language. I was happy to have been the conduit through which I first learned of the Swede, sitting with Doties many years previously’.
A brilliant story thanks so much for sharing it
What a wonderful story, Kay. And told with such eloquence- must be the Listowel air!
Thanks Rose, I was really taken by it myself & it gives me a great chance to get over to Kerry descendants how difficult it is to find graves of their ancestors – this find was a real freak. And the story of Dotie Cronin & her ‘free range’ hens was icing on the cake.
Wow! What a brilliant story. Just wish we all could be that lucky.
Thank you Kay for sharing it with us.
A story of respect, compassion, loyalty,
integrity and honour.
Wonderful virtues, wonderful story.
Great story! And one of those Genealogical “coincidences” that make me think our ancestors do work some magic no and again from wherever they are. Thank you Kay and also for your book on Finding Karry Ancestors which I got this week.
Kay, my 10 year old daughter and I were out for a walk on a lovely summers eve in Listowel one day ago. After paying respects to my father’s grave we continued on our walk around the graveyard. We happened upon the grave of Lars Larsson but not before stumbling across the grave of one Private Hugh Ireland (another story to be uncovered). Both names stand out, so this morning, on googling ‘Lars Larsson Listowel’, I came across your story, told by Ms Cronin to Vincent, then to Mary and then to you. It is a fascinating story with more to be told, who was Lars Larsson, how did he come to live in Listowel and what occupation did he have?. It is certainly interesting. John
John, you are corect – local history is fascinating and I know you have an interest. Thank you for coming to listen to my talk on the ‘Cows Lawn’. I think, and I stress ‘think’ that Lars Larsson came to Listowel to work on some specialised machines in the Creamery as it then was. It would be really interesting to find out who ‘Private Hugh ireland’ was – not a Listowel name as far as I know.
Kay hi i am still trying to find my grandmothers family and graves. Julia Hogan my grandmother born in Shanavalla around the 15th of April 1883 she had a younger sister Bessie whom i think was Elizabeth 12 children i think and Julia Agnes was 10th or 11th child the place i couldn’t find in 2017 Shanavalla, Arabella i would like to find her siblings and mother Margaret Gainey and Father William Hogan (i think this is his name
No 3 0r 5 Shanavalla are the details i recieved from Kerry LibraryTralee. I did travel there but i came away very confused of the whereabouts of the house.
Mary Josephine, I am out of the country at present until end of next week. I will have a look at this then and see if I can come up with something.
Enjoy reading your blog. Can you enlighten us if we want to travel to Listowel/Tralee but don’t have all the family tree complete yet?
Many of us in America only know info from obituaries and death certificates and a few bits of information from naturalizations (male only info). A search on irishgenealogy.ie has been a little helpful but some of the death info only gives quarterly info for a year.
Are there local places( Churches or libraries) to search or do we have to do all of the legwork in Dublin first?
Can you suggest how to plan a trip if we decided to go to Dublin first???
Mo, no you don’t do the legwork in Dublin – you do it at home in the U.S. where your emigrant ancestor first lived and worked. Every record that you might want is already online – take a look at MyKerryAncestors.com Links & Resources for address of these websites. The only thing you will be missing is local knowledge to put the pieces together. Also I would recommend my book Finding Your Ancestors in Kerry which will give you a background that will help you to understand life as it was in Kerry in the 19th century and what sources are available to you know. My other advice is to get accommodation in a Bed/Breakfast as near as possible to the location that your ancestor left from. As your host in the B & B for advice on who the oldest people might be in the neighbourhood and try and call on these to see if they have any information that will help you in your search/research. Kay