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Finding Famous Ancestors

I think I have seen most episodes of ‘Who Do You Think You Are’, at least the ones this since of the pond.  I spent some time recently catching up with ones that I had missed.  I was intrigued by one in particular – Emma Willis (née Griffiths), a very well known TV presenter in the UK.

In this episode, she is introduced to her 4 times Great Grandfather, Michael Kirwan, a famous Dublin stone mason and sculptor. I had to pause and rewind a few times to take it all in.

You can watch an extract of this episode on YouTube at; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wxIFEMPj-3M

In my own research, which takes in my maternal and paternal Farrell Families and the Taylor history from my husbands family, it’s never finished. I tend to put a huge amount of effort into one side, leave it for a year or so to bring other ones up to speed. So, about 2 years ago, I left the Farrell / Bridgeman / Kirwan family line to the side in around the 1860s. That was until this week when I was struck by the resemblance of Emma Willis story to my own paternal family research.

My own research stopped or paused at the point where I worked with the genealogy researches at Glasnevin Cemetery to help locate the burial place of my Great Great Grandmother Mary Angela Bridgeman (née Farrell) who I had been searching for for about 3 years. I wrote about this is my blog…

Low and behold, Mary Angela is buried with the famous sculptor Michael Kirwan, her maternal Grandfather I believe. I have lots of information and newspaper clippings about Michael Kirwan already. So, the question is… are these Michael Kirwans the same person, a generation apart or a relative. Sounds like I am going to be busy over the next few weeks trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together.

When I went to Glasnevin to visit the grave of my Great Great Grandmother, the workers in the grounds of Glasnevin knew all about Michael Kirwan as he is buried in one of the oldest parts of the cemetery. They said ‘that as he was a famous sculptor, he had a lovely headstone which unfortunately has fallen into disrepair. The worker mentioned that there was a horizontal granite plinth over the grave to prevent graverobbers from stealing the body. As Michael was very well known, this body would have received a high price. How my Great Great Grandmother came to be buried with him and not her son or in the other Bridgeman grave in Glasnevin, I don’t know. But, it was such a relief to find her in a beautiful grave and place some flowers there.

If you are from Dublin or visiting, I recommend taking in a tour of Glasnevin Cemetery when everything opens back up again. The tour takes you on a history lesson of Ireland by tracing the stories of famous people buried there like Daniel O’Connell, Michael Collins, Charles Stuart Parnell and lots of 1916 heros and heroines. It really is fantastic.

https://www.glasnevinmuseum.ie/tours/

The grave of Michael and Mary Angela is shown below.

Grave of Michael Kirwan and Mary Angela Farrell (née Bridgeman)
Inscription states… MAY THE LORD HAVE MERCY ON  THE SOUL OF  MICHAEL KIRWAN, Sculptor, WHO DEPARTED THIS LIFE ON THE 30TH MARCH 1867 AGED 75 YEARS
I KNOW THAT MY REDEEMER LIVETH
AND IN THE LAST DAY I SHALL
RISE OUT OF THE EARTH AND IN
MY FLESH SHALL SEE MY GOD 

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