JILLIAN VAN TURNHOUT NÉE HASSETT is a respected children’s and human rights expert and former Senator in the upper house of the Irish Parliament. Throughout Jillian’s career, in both the private and public sector, her achievements have been recognised including winning the Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award and Politician of the Year Award. Most recently, her work has been recognised by the President of France who awarded her the Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite, the second highest national Order of France.

For over 18 years Jillian has been developing her skills as a genealogist and has researched both her own and her clients’ family histories. Her own story has brought her to all corners of Ireland, the UK and Wisconsin. Jillian is passionate about family history and understands the richness and fulfillment that goes with finding out about your ancestors and their lives. She is now working full time as a genealogist, helping clients discover their Irish ancestry.

Despite the current laws in Ireland presenting a number of roadblocks, Jillian has broken through barriers and assisted former adoptees in tracing their roots. During her time in the Irish Senate, Jillian championed the right of adoptees to have their right to identity firmly established in law.

Jillian has attended genealogy conferences and seminars in Ireland, the UK and USA, including Roots Tech in Salt Lake City, the largest family history event in the world.

Jillian is an AGI Affiliate and a member of the Irish Genealogical Research Society, the Irish Family History Society and the Society of Genealogists.

In the words of Roots author Alex Haley “In all of us there is a hunger, marrow-deep, to know our heritage – to know who we are and where we have come from.”


I have researched my own family for many years. During my 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. In 1914, she achieved a first in Irish in her middle Intermediate Certificate. In September 1915, Kathleen attended university at UCD in St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin where her 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 North Ireland). 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 holiday period, and encouraged her to go home to Clare for the Easter 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 eye witness to the events of Easter 1916 in Dublin.

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.

Jillian van Turnhout, Genealogy.ie