THE American descendants of a baby born aboard the famous Kerry famine ship the 'Jeanie Johnston' returned to Tralee last week to retrace his steps.
Baby Nicholas Johnston O'Reilly was born aboard the original Jeanie Johnston on its maiden voyage from Tralee to Quebec in April 1848. The birth was recorded in the "Tralee Chronicle" newspaper of the time which stated that the baby's parents were Daniel Reilly and Margaret Reilly (nee Foran) from Ballybeggan who named the baby after the ship's owner Nicholas Donovan because of his kindness to them. The child's middle name "Johnston" was taken from the ship.
When the ship was re-built in the late 1990s an exhaustive search was carried out to locate the family's descendants but to no avail. Then a chance encounter in 2011 between John Griffin of Tralee Town Council and Dorothy Titera, an LDS volunteer researcher, in Westlake Ohio, eventually led to the discovery of the child's descendants.
Last week Meghan O'Reilly Fiero, a great grand daughter of Nicholas, her husband Bob and daughter Becky from Connecticut visited Tralee.
They were greeted by the Mayor of Tralee Cllr Pat Hussey and visited places associated with the family Ballybeggan where the family lived prior to their departure on the Jeanie Johnston, St John's Church where Nicholas's parents Daniel and Margaret were married in April 1845 and Blennerville from where the ship departed.
Earlier they had visited the replica "Jeanie Johnston" in Dublin Port. It was their first visit to Ireland but plan to return with other family members. They still have cousins, the Forans, living in Tralee but attempts to locate their Reilly cousins, believed to be originally from Castlemaine, have so far been unsuccessful.
The original Jeanie Johnston carried over 1200 emigrants from all over County Kerry to Baltimore and Quebec between 1848 and 1855 and had the distinction of never losing a passenger.