On the Martin trail

February 15, 2012

Six generations of Martins had worked in his Galway pub, he said, adding that his grandfather’s name was John, his father was Billy, and he had a son named Liam. ‘Well, Billy,’ I replied, ‘I don’t know if we’re related, but my grandfather was Billy, my father’s name was John, and I too have a son named Liam.’

‘Be prepared for setbacks’ is one of the first pieces of advice you’ll get from experienced family researchers. How true, I discovered, as I started to delve into my Martin family history.

In 2004, I went to Christchurch’s Linwood Cemetery where my Irish great-great-grandparents, Michael and Mary Martin (nee Boland), are buried. Thanks to the council’s excellent records, the plot was easy to find in the Catholic section where Michael had been buried in 1895 and Mary five years earlier.

A welcoming sign, but I was looking in the wrong place

I approached the grave site expecting at least a national monument in honour of my forebears. Instead, all I found was an unmarked patch of dry grass and weeds. It seems that on the voyage to New Zealand in 1864, Michael had carved himself a big wooden Celtic cross. His pride and joy had been placed as his headstone. The weather, or vandals, had long since destroyed it. Read the rest of this entry »

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