Hosted by broadcaster Evelyn O’Rourke, Tar Abhaile is a new and inspirational six part series on TG4 that follows local Irish communities as they welcome people from across the globe in search of their Irish ancestors.
Instead of waiting for people of Irish origin to trace their roots, groups of community volunteers tirelessly work together under the auspice of Ireland Reaching Out (or: Ireland XO) to trace those individuals and families who left their local area throughout the 1800’s and 1900’s. Once they have gathered enough tangible information, they then track down their living descendents and reach out, inviting them back to their spiritual home, to share local knowledge, walk the land of their ancestors, show them their final resting places and where possible, introduce them to long-lost living relatives.
Over six weeks, the audience will be introduced to 12 different Irish descendants and their families, scattered all over the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK, as they travel to Ireland to reconnect with their Irish roots. But first we visit each of them to see where and how they live in their respective homelands, but, more importantly, to find out what motivates them to visit Ireland, their ancestral home. Once they travel over and meet the volunteers who helped them unearth the story of their ancestors, their emotional journey begins.
For the descendants, it proves time and time again to be an extremely moving and humbling experience: as the stories of their forefathers are revealed to them; they walk in the footsteps of their ancestors, visit the homesteads where they lived or bow their heads at their graves… and it often brings a tear to the eye as they gain new insight into their ancestors and they become so much more than just a name on a page. But nothing beats the experience of meeting living relatives, very often cousins they never knew they even had.
What really sets Tar Abhaile apart is that it deals with 'living genealogy', bringing it out of the past and giving it a living present as local communities turn 'sleuth', with emotional family reunions taking place and long-lost relatives discoverd and uncovered.
Ultimately, Tar Abhaile is about real people and their unique stories, their unique journey and their unique connection with Ireland. It pivots on Reconnection, Reunion and Homecoming.
Marsha Thomas from Chicago discovers that her feisty ancestors courageously stood up to their British landlords and Bryan Lynch from Ayr in Australia meets Tony, a family member he never knew he had, but who has some unique information about the ancestors they have in common.
Brenda Cavillin from Ontario, Canada is overcome with emotion when she returns to the home of her ancestors in Tulla, Co. Clare and Blake Dickie, a Chicago native who was adopted as a baby, goes in search of blood relatives.
We meet Julie Evans from Sydney as she discovers how her grandmother’s grandmother ended up on a ship to Australia as a 16-year old girl in 1849 and Angie Mihalicz from Beauval in Canada, who after a long search finds and gets to walk on the land of her Irish ancestors.
Gayle Brosnan from Chandler, Arizona searches to understand why her ancestors fled from Castleisland, Co.Kerry in the early 1800’s and Tom Brosnahan from Auckland, New Zealand explores his dual Maori-Irish heritage as he makes his special ‘hokinga mai’…his return home to the land his grandfather left.
Mike Kelly from Detroit retraces his grandfathers’ steps to his old homestead, surprised to see that the past is still very much in the living present and Bill Corcoran from Tucson, Arizona connects with the relatives he discovered through DNA testing and discovers his ancestors were closely connected with the River Shannon.
Pat Sanderson from Yorkshire comes to Mayo for the first time and gets to know both sides of her ancestors’ family better than she had expected and Chuck Feerick Snr from Virginia, Washington introduces his son Chuck Jnr to his Irish Feerick heritage, as well as to his new Irish cousins.