Newgrange and Knowth

Submitted by Dianne Duffy

Several years ago, I had the pleasure of visiting Newgrange and Knowth. I took a bus tour to the site. Newgrange is one of the best examples in Ireland and in Western Europe, of a type of monument known to archaeologists as a passage-grave or passage-tomb. It was constructed around 3200 BC, according to the most reliable Carbon 14 dates available from archaeology. This makes it more than 600 years older than the Giza Pyramids in Egypt, and 1,000 years more ancient than Stonehenge.

If you were looking out the left side of the bus approaching the site, you would miss it as it is high upon a hill and covered with grass. The tour guide led us up to the entrance where she explained the history of the site and theories as to the cravings on the stone in the front.

We walked through narrow hallway, that had wood beams holding back the rock walls from collapse, to get inside. We got to the center of the tomb, which was circular. There were three cubby holes with cravings as well. With 24 people in one place, it was very cramped.

The tour explained how five days a year, at the winter solstice, the sunshine moves through capstone at the entrance, engulfing the center room with light. She demonstrated it by turning off the lights and then turning on another light to replicate the event. Being in a dark place with 24 strangers is not something I recommend, but the demonstration was “Illuminating.”

Admission to the Newgrange chamber for the Winter Solstice sunrise is by lottery, application forms are available at the Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre. About 30,000 applications are submitted annually. In September each year, 50 names are drawn with two places are awarded to each person drawn. 

Focus Ireland

Due to their personal and professional experiences, Club members Jack and Paula O’Neil are very interested in making a connection between SOECC and Focus Ireland, an organization which works on the issue of homelessness in Ireland. A couple of years ago, Jack presented an idea for this connection to the Club’s Board of Directors. He proposed helping a homeless organization in Dublin by donating to its cause. The Board was supportive of the idea, but suggested searching for a group which helps individuals throughout the country. Aided by the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Jack did his research and found a very worthy recipient: Focus Ireland.

Focus Ireland provides 70 services across Ireland and is seeking to expand to meet rising demand. The group’s vision is four-fold: to prevent homelessness, to provide services to those who are homeless, to develop housing opportunities for the poor, and to promote government policies protecting people from becoming homeless. According to the most recent data available, Focus Ireland helped 12,530 people in its FY 2015. That represented a 9% increase over the previous year, much of which resulted from increased demand for services. 90% of donations go directly to services for the homeless. More information on specific programs is available at Focus’s website: FocusIreland.ie.

During the 50/50 raffle on Halfway to St. Patty’s Day,
the Club was able to raise $425!

How can members of SOECC help?
Right now, members can donate through the Club’s website using the Focus Ireland button on the Payments and Donations Page

Read more: Focus Ireland

Tracing Your Irish Roots

There are 35 million people in the United States who embrace Irish ancestry. New services like 23andMe and Ancestry.com have made finding out about your genetic heritage quite popular. You don’t need to use one of these expensive businesses to research your Irish heritage. According to the website, Ireland.com, there are increasing numbers of resources available, both online and from official organizations, to assist you in finding out about your Irish ancestry. These include:

  1. The National Archives, which offers a free, short, personal consultation with professional genealogists.
  2. The General Register Office registers all civil birth, adoption, death, marriage and civil partnerships in the Republic of Ireland. You can get copies of records at its Dublin office or online.
  3. The National Library has a free walk-in advisory service, varied workshops and talks. It also has microfilm copies of most surviving Roman Catholic parish registers.
  4. The Ireland Family History on Facebook page has regular Q & A sessions with genealogy experts.
  5. County Genealogy Centers in many of Ireland’s counties work with volunteers, local historical societies, local clergy and authorities, government agencies and libraries to build a database of genealogical records.
  6. IrishGenealogy.ie is run by the Irish government and brings together church and civil records in one online, searchable and free archive.
  7. Other sources are
    • Public Record Office of Northern Ireland
    • Ulster Historical Foundation
    • Glasnevin Cemetery Museum, and Military Archives
    • The Yarmouth Town Library has a Genealogy Club, which meets on the second Thursday of each month at 6:30 pm at the South Yarmouth Library. Some meetings feature guest speakers, and others are hands-on work sessions. For more information, contact Jane Cain, Library Director.
    • Cape Cod Genealogy Club at http://www.capecodgenealogy.org/
      or visit their office at the Dennis Public Library.