Updated: Oct 17, 2019
I have to admit that this is one of my favorite days and today we had perfect weather. The Ulster American Folk Park is located in Omagh in County Tyrone, about 1 hour and 45 minutes from Belfast. The bus picked us up at 8 am at the hotel and we got back about 6 pm. Most Irish researchers reach a point, usually in the early 1800s when records become very limited. You may not be able to find a document with a specific reference to your ancestor. Understanding what was happening at the time and in the place where your ancestor lived gives you important context.
I sometimes refer to the Park as the Plimouth Plantation of Ireland. It was initially funded by the Mellon family, whose homestead is in it's original location. It is now part of National Museums NI. The other homes and structures have been moved from other parts of Ireland, and even the US. As the focus is emigration, you begin in the Old World, move through the Journey into the New World. The first stop is the single room cabin, likely the type of home many of our ancestors would have lived in. You then move into the Forge with demonstrations by the blacksmith, and to the weaver's cottage where the women spin wool and flax into yarn, and the men work the looms. There is a Presbyterian Meeting House, and of course the Mellon home, where you can find the woman of the house busy making oat cakes or farls (and today served with her homemade blackberry jam). Thomas Mellon emigrated from this home in 1818 at the age of 5 with his parents. Other homes include the Campbell home (the landlord) where the sons emigrate to become businessmen in St. Louis. The Hughes home, originally in County Monaghan, was the home of John Joseph Hughes who became the Archbishop of New York and laid the cornerstone of St. Patrick's Cathedral.
Arriving in the town you enter the Quay where the ship awaits to take you to the New World. 150 - 300 passengers would spend 6 - 8 weeks "between decks" with four to a bunk on the long journey. When you leave the ship, you are in America where thatched huts burning peat are exchanged for log cabins burning wood and fields are full of corn and pumpkins.
After lunch in the Cafe, the afternoon was spent in the Mellon Centre for Migration Studies, part of the National Library System on the grounds of the Folk Park. Their collection consists of over 17,000 volumes, approximately 50 periodical titles, a selection of maps and audio visual material and a collection of primary source documents relating to Irish-American emigration (the Irish Emigration Database).
From Ellen Blakeslee "The ladies at the migration center were well versed and very very helpful. They knew where all the information could be found and were very patient with us. We researchers tend to be a wee excitable."
From Janet Eberhardt "The Folk Park was a great venue to visit giving us a sense of what our ancestors may have experienced. They were amazing to have been able to survive. I feel blessed and thankful for my life ,family and friends."