Unpacking Our Cultural Baggage

Black and White Image of people seated on a ship
Emigrants on board a tender ship at the port of Derry (1930s)

What did our ancestors take from home when they emigrated?  Donegal County Council and the Donegal County Heritage Forum have joined with The Heritage Council to find out more about what Donegal people took with them when they emigrated to various parts of the World throughout the centuries.

There has been much media attention over the last number of weeks commemorating the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s visit to Ireland in 1963.  One of the most memorable stories is that of the family bible which Thomas J. Fitzgerald brought with him from Ireland when he emigrated in 1857.  This family bible was used during the swearing-in ceremony of President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration.

Accounts of emigrant experiences such as that of the Kennedys has further inspired Joseph Gallagher, Heritage Officer with Donegal County Council to find out more about what Donegal people took with them when they emigrated from Ireland. “This may include objects such as suitcases, their contents, small household items, tools, religious artefacts and photographs that people took with them at the time of their migration or letters that people sent home,” he said.  “We are also interested in hearing about the imprint that Donegal immigrants left on the landscape of their adopted homeplaces such as houses built in a similar style to those back in Donegal, placenames or graveyard inscriptions which refer to Donegal or also how Donegal people preserved the Irish language in their adopted homeland.  The County Donegal Heritage Office will publish a booklet based on the information that we collect and we are keen to have people contribute their own stories about the items that their family took with them”.

If you would like to share your own family’s story or participate in this wonderful project please contact the County Donegal Heritage Office by e-mail at: heritage@donegalcoco.ie or by telephone at (074) 91 72576 as soon as possible.  For further information, visit the County Donegal Heritage Office website, address below.  You can also hear a recent clip from Highland Radio through this link. http://www.highlandradio.com/2013/07/12/donegal-heritage-council-to-produce-booklet-that-tells-of-emigrant-experiences/