Monday, March 16, 2015


Thomas, Elizabeth and Mary Forbes

My Forbes ancestry comes from the County of Kilkenny in Ireland.

They lived in a place called the Railyard, in the neighborhood called Moneen Roe, in the village of Clogh, in the town of Castlecomer.

Thanks to Google maps, I can actually see the Forbes home in the map above, the first house on the N 78 road, to the left of the intersection of the N 78 and the road to Moneen Roe.

My folks worked in the coal mines. That part of Ireland was one of the few coal producing areas in the country. That's why it was called the Railyard, as the coal was sent off to Dublin by rail.

My Great Grandfather Thomas

Thomas, my great grandfather, worked in the coal mines of Castlecomer but also across the waters in the coal mines of Newcastle in England, for a time. My aunt in Ireland still has the thick leather knee pads he wore when he knelt inside the mines.

Thomas married Mary Crennan from a nearby village, Mayhora.

Their oldest daughter, Elizabeth, was recruited by nuns in Illinois to join their convent. She was the first to leave Ireland and move to the U.S.

Because vocations were still not enough in the U.S. in the early 1900s, sisters with Irish backgrounds often went back to Ireland to entice young Irish girls from big families with many children to join an American convent. My grandfather's sister Elizabeth was one such young girl. She joined the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception in Peoria, Illinois and was given the religious name Sister Mary Berchmans.

Because of her, two of her brothers, including my grandfather, moved to Illinois. My grandfather was Patrick Forbes, who left Ireland, so it is said, before 1914, trying to escape the British who ruled all of Ireland at the time.

My grandfather was an Irish nationalist and member of the Irish Republican Army, the old one (not the modern one). When he was hunted down by the British, he and his brother Michael fled to the U.S.

Michael settled in Chicago and Patrick (Paddy) lived in Peoria. Paddy changed his name to Walter to sound less Irish. The Irish were looked down on in America back then.

My grand dad Patrick (Walter)

Forbes Home in the 1950s

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