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Dave Pattison stands at the tenement block where his great-grandparents Robert and Agnes lived in Scotland before in 1909 heading for the United States.
Dave Pattison stands at the tenement block where his great-grandparents Robert and Agnes lived in Scotland before in 1909 heading for the United States. / Submitted
Pattison's grandparents, Christina and John. They moved to the United States in 1909. / Submitted

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A recent trip to Ireland and Scotland morphed into a successful search to find my roots and heritage.

I enjoyed a tour of learning and discovery through Northern and Southern Ireland that was conducted by Grand Circle Travel. Then I proceeded on my own to Scotland to see and explore some of its famous sights.

However, the highlight of my explorations was finding the places were by paternal grandparents, great grandparents and great-great grandparents had lived in these two countries.

On the trip through Northern Ireland we drove through the small village of Bushmills, famous for its historic distillery, but important to me as the home of my great-great grandparents Marcus and Margaret in the 19th Century.

Later on my trip to Scotland I took a train to Port Glasgow, once one of the largest shipbuilding venues in the world. Upon arrival I walked the short way to the center of town and, with some guidance, located the still existing four story tenement were my great grandparents Robert and Agnes lived after their marriage in 1867. The thrill of that discovery is hard to describe.

I had much greater difficulty finding where my grandparents John and Christina had lived before emigrating to the US in 1909.

The address were they had lived no longer was available. First, upon making an inquiry, a local resident offered to drive me just outside the city were my Grandmother's Cram family had lived.

After that successful find I went to the city hall and a helpful clerk offered to take me upstairs to a musty room to inspect a 19th century map of the town, but unfortunately that didn't reveal any clues.

Next I went to the local library and its librarian offered to take 10 to 15 minutes on her computer to continue the search. Lo and behold, she found the street were by grandparents had left, now with a new name, and let me know most of the tenements had been destroyed.

While their tenement was no longer there, other similar ones remained, and I was able to envision were and how my grandparents had lived. My discoveries were complete and my feelings indescribable.

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My personal discoveries aside, I enjoyed my Irish tour, beginning with visits to Belfast and Londonderry (Derry) in Northern Ireland. Our historian tour guide gave us a full illuminating explanations of the "Troubles" conflict that engulfed and terrorized their citizens a couple of decades ago as Northern Ireland suffered from the clash between those who sought to remain with the British crown and those Irish nationalists who fought to unify the country.

In both cities we explored the divided neighborhoods with murals either supporting the IRA or the British. While peace is now prevailing, the underlying tensions between the two sides remain. Separate schools are maintained for Catholic and Protestant children, which doesn't seem to lead to a permanent solution.

A special place to see in Northern Ireland is the Giant's Causeway, a world heritage site, which is a huge geologic formation of hexagon lava stones that were formed millions of years ago.

My outstanding memory of our bus trip through Ireland was the green-green landscape that stretches for miles in all directions. The mist from frequent rain helps to refresh this lust appearance.

Our Grand Circle trip sought to expose us to Ireland's unique culture. We met with a local working sheep herder; had a home-hosted lunch with a local family; learned about the unique Irish sport of hurling; visited local pottery, handicraft and the famous Waterford Crystal factories; listened to Irish singing in a local pub; and toured the poignant hardship Connemara region were stone fences and thatched roof cottages remain from the Irish who died or left for American during the potato famine.

Special sights included the towering majestic Cliffs of Moher that are the highest in Europe; the stone lava fields of the Burren that resemble a moonscape; the remains of a monastery settlement dating from the 6th century; the Guinness Brewery storehouse in Dublin; and the port in Cobh from which the Titantic departed.

No trip to Ireland is complete without seeing the Blarney Castle and attempting to kiss the stone that gives the "gift of gab". We also visited the Norman castles in Northern Ireland and the Cahir and Kilkenny castles. I also saw the awesome mansions of Kylemore and Muckross.

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The tour included day long journeys to the famous Ring of Kerry and the Dingle peninsula that afforded panoramic views of the Irish countryside and visits to small fishing villages.

We also enjoyed extensive visits to Dublin, Cork, Galway and Killarney, as well as many smaller villages along the way.

I left Ireland to spend 4 days on my ancestral search in Scotland. There I also had the opportunity to walk the many pedestrian streets in the thriving city of Glasgow, and walked the "Royal Mile" in Edinburgh, one of the most dramatic and famous cities in Europe. There I visited the massive Edinburgh Castle and the Holyroodhouse palace associated the Mary Queen of Scots.

One concluding thought. The availability of information about our ancestors is readily available today by computer. I believe anyone would find a search for their roots and past exceptionally rewarding. Give it a try.

TIPS

Most of my trips are booked through Grand Circle Travel or Overseas Adventure Travel of GCT. These are principally designed for seniors although all ages are welcome. GCT specializes in land, river and small ocean voyages. Groups are small, cost about $200 to $300 a day, not including air. They have 44 OAT trips all over the globe, also small. Their phone numbers are 1-800-955-1925 or 1-800-221-2610.

I also book my own tours individually. The computer is your greatest asset. TripAdvisor is a big help. Online booking agents also are helpful. Some online sites will even help you find a local tour guide. Planning ahead prevents mishaps. Anyone mentioning my name (Dave Pattison of Marco Island) when making a reservation with GCT or OAT will receive a $100 credit.

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