Irish Family History Specialists

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Who is your inspiration?

Before starting, I looked into my own family history for many years. During this research, I “discovered” an ancestor, who has since become one of my big inspirations: my Great Aunt Kathleen Hassett (born 7 February 1897, Limerick, Ireland; died 6 July 1985, Manchester, England).

In 1909, at age 12, Kathleen and her family moved back to the ancestral home in Knockanean, Co. Clare. At this time it was a very small house on a rural and hilly farm. She went to school here and in 1914 she achieved a first in Irish in her middle Intermediate Certificate. This earned her a scholarship, and from September 1915, Kathleen attended university at UCD (University College Dublin).

This university was founded in 1854 as a Catholic university by cardinal (now saint) John Henry Newman. It was located at St. Stephen’s Green, where three buildings, previously the homes of wealthy Dubliners, where purchased and converted. The university moved to the suburbs in the 1960s, but the original buildings are still owned by the institute and now house MoLi – the Museum of Literature Ireland.

Newman House, orginal home of UCD

Kathleen’s lecturers included Thomas MacDonagh (later one of the seven leaders of the Easter rising), Dr. Douglas Hyde (who would become the first President of Ireland), Mary Kate Ryan (who later married Sean T. O’Kelly, the second President), and Maurice Hayes (a top civil servant who would play a key role in bringing peace to Northern Ireland). And she bought her daily newspaper from Thomas Clarke, who would also be a leader of the Easter Rising.

In March of 1916, Proinnsias Ó Súilleabháin (a teacher and famous Irish language activist) got very interested in her plans for the Easter holiday period and encouraged her to go home to Clare for the break. Kathleen said she preferred to stay to study for her exams which were due to start on 3 June. As a result of this, she was an eyewitness to the events of Easter 1916 in Dublin.

Extract from Kathleen Hassett’s memoirs:

“Easter Sunday came and went, and Easter Monday was bright and clear. As we were taking our places in the dining-room, two fellow-boarders came in with sensational news – they had been going into the General Post Office in O’Connell Street when glass from the windows shattered and fell around them, and armed men began herding customers and counter hands into the street.”

Here is a link to a group of 1916-related postcards collected by my Great Aunt Ka. I organised for them to be donated to the Ephemera Collection of the National Library of Ireland.