By Janet Curley
So, after a long period of neglect, my genealogical research decided to take matters into its own hands. It is perhaps no coincidence that on the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Day weekend the fruits of many past efforts converged and I had the pleasure of meeting up with both maternal and paternal cousins, familiar and newly acquainted.
I received an email a couple of weeks ago from a 3rd cousin descendant of Agnes who said she and her daughter thought it would be fun to come to Holyoke for the St. Patrick’s festivities and meet up to talk family history. I suggested that it might be great opportunity for her to meet another Agnes descendant who lived nearby while she was in the area. I was able to coordinate that meeting yesterday morning at a local coffee house. It was great fun to give them a history and how they are related. They were able talk about mutual cousins they had each known separately. They pulled out pictures of grandparents and talked about their growing up. It was terrific to connect these remarkable women. They are smart, fun and have had interesting histories themselves. I am once again thrilled to gain paternal cousins when, throughout my childhood, I had no knowledge of any Curley relatives.
I offered a Curley/Raftery ghost tour to my visiting cousin and her daughter, so off we went to Holyoke. Our first stop was brunch at an Irish breakfast restaurant which happened to also be at a viewing spot for the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Day 10k Road Race. As we were walking into the restaurant, I spied one of my maternal cousins in the parking lot. As I introduced him to my paternal cousins, his many siblings appeared and we had brief reunion with all of them! They were off to purchase libations for a party at their aunt’s house on the race route and we were off to eat, so we parted ways with wishes for a fun day.
After brunch, I drove my cousins to one of the Holyoke cemeteries to see where Agnes and her descendants were buried. On our way we passed all manner of bright green decorations, Irish flags, shamrocks painted on driveways, Holyokers in Irish knit sweaters and…well, Holyokers dressed in literally anything they could wear colored bright, Kelly green. I couldn’t help but wave at one woman in a huge green wig and oversized shamrock shaped sunglasses. Gaudy, but absolutely festive. There is nothing quite like Holyoke during our St. Patrick’s day weekend! At the cemetery, my cousin’s daughter took a quick video of my explanation of who everyone was on the headstone. We talked about the mysteries of Agnes’ life and they talked about knowing a few of the people who shared Agnes’ plot. I started to chauffeur them on to the next cemetery (only family historians would consider this a fun time!), but at each turn we were met with road closures and sprinting runners! As my cousin’s daughter had to return to Eastern Mass for her work, my cousin and I decided to forgo the race festivities downtown and return to my home for a cup of tea to wrap up our visit. We chatted for a while, promised to gather again soon and off she went.
Later on that evening, I was on FaceBook and up popped a message reply to a message I had sent last May to yet another Curley cousin whose acquaintance I had hoped to make. After an apology for the long delay in answering, she said she saw my picture of the mini Curley reunion from that morning and was compelled to finally write back. She sent a message confirming our connections. We chatted a bit and promised to continue by email.
Whew!! What a fascinating day! It reminded me why I got so hooked by genealogy. I had started a search for Curley cousins and my search has been much more fruitful than I ever imagined. It has been very fulfilling to meet some really terrific people and travel back to the ancestral homeland. I have compared notes with other family about their travels to Ireland and their efforts to connect with our history. I feel my connection to family has never been stronger.