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Families are fascinating! And I’m not just speaking about family counseling… though those dynamics are thrilling.

Just think about your own family for a second. Where DID you come from? What decisions did your great-grandparents or great-great-great-great-great grandparents make that reset the course for your own life? Imagine where your family members have been. For some, they sailed across the ocean blue. For others, they scraped together funds to go to college – a first for your family. Others married and moved to parts unknown – in a wagon perhaps? What decisions will YOU make to reset your future families’ course? Seriously. Think about it.

For Emily (see Part I) and I, our family’s story began in Donegal, Ireland in 1802. You see, we are cousins – from two different mothers. WHO CAN SAY THAT!!?

Walker ancestral home. Photo taken by my father, Arthur Walker, in 1967. ‘Lisavaddy,’ as it is called, was the home of my great-grandfather, William John Walker, before his family left for America.

My great-great-great grandfather, John Walker, grew up as a landowner/farmer in the northern county of Donegal, Ireland. He lived in a place called Balwoges (Ballywogs) just outside the central city of Donegal. Once upon a time, he fell in love and married a girl named Fanney (1845). She bore him 7 children (my goodness!) – John, Fanney, Mary, Pheobe, Rebecca, Margaret, and – Arthur George (that’s my great-great granddad!). However, as was the case back then (and unfortunately even today), medical knowledge and services were hard to find. Couple that with the reality in Ireland at the time – if you haven’t heard of the Great Famine, Google it – it was a challenge to survive. Hundreds starved, or made that great journey across the ocean blue to immigrate to the US. However, my family stayed and weathered the storm. Unfortunately, my great-great-great grandmother Fanney passed away – cause is unknown – in 1863. However, she was greatly loved by John Walker. She was buried at Killaghtee Cross at St. John’s Point in Dunkineelly. I’ve visited her resting place myself. It is quiet possibly the most fitting place in the whole world – and truth be told, my favorite. The rolling hill floats through pastures to the sea and cliffs below – the epitome of peace.

John Walker was a widow – with plenty of mouths to feed…

So the new widower set out to find a mother for his children. And you think it’s hard to find singles NOW! Thankfully, he didn’t have to search far to find one. It so happened that a cousin of the first Fanney, named – get this – Fanney (or Frances), was so inclined. They married in 1865. She bore 6 children (Oh my!) – Thomas, Alexander, Hamilton, Kate, Richard and Robert (Emily’s line!). Robert eventually moved to the US while his children remained and moved to Northern Ireland. Robert passed away in 1971 (talk about some hardy genes!). If you’ve been doing your math, John Walker had his last child when he was 75… Rod Stewart’s got nothin’ on my family!

My great-great-grandfather, Arthur George, eventually married Isabella Hamilton. They made the decision to strike for more promising futures and sailed their family across the ocean blue to NY in 1896 – via Ellis Island . My great grandfather, William John Walker grew up in the US and married Margaret Goss. They had my grandfather, Arthur Walker. While he passed away when I was about 3 or 4, I do recall is his relaxed demeanor – and never-ending affection towards my grandmother, Loretta. If anything, the Walker men are steadfast, loyal and loving.

My mother and I in 2003 at ‘Lisavaddy.’ It is now owned by a farmer as a barn… but the thing is still standing! We were so excited to find it on a rainy, boggy day! Our trip to Ireland will be one of my greatest memories.

And to think what could have happened between 1802 and 2011 that would have altered that course… interesting?

Best wishes,

Erin

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