I knew that ‘sanguis’ was the Latin word for ‘blood’ so that set me on the trail to the truth. I discovered that those three words referred to the closeness of relationships between different people –‘blood relations’.
Children of the same parents are siblings and in turn their offspring are first cousins and the next generation down are second cousins and so on. For example, third cousins, three times removed, are the 11th degree separated in terms of Consanguinity. Does that make perfect sense?
Maybe because my father died when I was just four and my two grandfathers had died in 1943 and 1951 - maybe growing up without a father figure, I was always curious about who everyone else’s father and grandfather and even great grandfather was!
When I ‘discover’ a cousin heretofore unknown to me, I’m always delighted - even a bit excited - but the reaction from my ‘new’ relation can often be a bit underwhelming! I’ve often made contact with someone whom I worked out, after a deal of research, was maybe a third cousin twice removed, well often they kinda shrug the shoulders with a ‘So what about it?’ expression!
Fair enough, I suppose many people don’t know and couldn’t care less who their first cousins are -never mind the likes of me who might be separated from them by 5 Degrees of Consanguinity, and sure each to his own.
Mam used say I got that from my (Grand) Aunt Lizzie though she died the year I was born. By all accounts she was like a genealogical encyclopedia and knew the seed, breed and generation of nearly everyone in the seven parishes around here - and she had all that knowledge in her head.
You know, people say to me: ‘God, John, you’ve a great head to remember all that information’, whereas the opposite is the case - I’ve forgotten twice more than I can recall. I do, however, make a habit with nearly 40 years of writing down anything I hear that might be of interest later. A lot of it might be somebody saying at a wake or a wedding ‘I heard my grandfather saying one time that...’.
My maternal granny Nora Twomey died when I was 14 but I often heard her talk of her O’Brien and Neville cousins in Youghal. It turned out the O’Briens were blood relations of her late husband, my grandfather. The Nevilles, on the other hand, were her own kith and kin.
In Lourdes in 2007 I heard a voice calling me ‘cousin’ - it was the late Mary Neville, her mother was an O’Leary from Leamlara and her grandmother a McCarthy - my grandmother was born Nora McCarthy from the same parish so Mary and me were third cousins.
We traced the full family tree below in the room over Neville’s Drapery shop a few months later. My grandmother’s sister Bridgid -we called her Auntie Ciss - was married to the famous hurler Jamesey Kelleher, and one of their brothers Tim was grandfather of another brilliant All-Ireland winner with Cork, Timmy McCarthy from Castlelyons.
Back in the early 1950s, an Irish priest, Fr John Ring, was driving along a track in the dusty outback in Australia. Through the dust cloud he saw a man standing as if seeking a spin. He stopped and the stranger sat in.
Now, in Australia, apparently journeys of several hundred miles were and are commonplace and Fr Ring was on such a trip. His passenger seemed bound for nowhere in particular and was just happy to get a lift. As on any journey driver and passenger struck up a conversation.
Though Fr Ring had been ministering Down Under for several years he still recognised the Irish accent of the traveler. On enquiring whereabouts in the Emerald Isle he was from, ‘County Cork’ came the reply. “Same as myself,” replied Fr John, “and where in Cork exactly?” “You’d hardly know it, a small little village, Rathcormac.” Fr Ring exclaimed: “That’s where I’m from too – what part of Rathcormac?” “It’s called Bride Street.” Fr Ring stopped the car, declaring: “was born there too, I’m from the Public House, Ring’s Cross.”
The passenger was a Cosgrove from the Forge at the outskirts of Rathcormac village - one of 13 children born to John and Hanorah Cosgrove. He’d been in Australia with years, long before Fr Ring was ordained.
Fr Ring later was elevated to the title of Monsignor. He often returned to Rathcomac on holidays. He died in Australia and is buried near Coonamble. His mother and my great grandmother were two Murphy sisters so I’d be a first cousin twice removed of Monsignor Ring.
Just lately, from another relation - a double third cousin - I got an amazing collection of old pictures. Amongst them was one of Mrs Nora Murphy, my great, great grandmother. She was born in 1826 and died aged 75 in 1891 – this woman was the grandmother of Fr Ring.
Two other cousins on this line are Cork hurlers Seanie Barry of the 1966 ‘famine-ending’ All Ireland winning team and present day player, Youghal’s Bill Cooper.
I pride myself that I have a lot of cousins - hundreds that I know - but shure, in comparison with Miriam I’m only in the ha’penny place as she has 1.6 million what they call ‘followers’ and has had over 93 million ‘likes’ on this new phenomenon called Tik Tok. Apparently, it’s the latest of the so called social media thingamajigs.
If I’d only known about Miriam’s fame earlier this summer, ‘twould have come in handy when I was trying to sell the big bales of hay above in the Bottom Bog - surely some of that 1.6 million are farmers needing hay for the winter! I could have put an ad up on the Tik or the Tok: “Good quality hay for sale, Bartlemy area, contact Miriam’s cousin John- no offer refused”!
My great grandfather Dan McCarthy was a brother of Miriam’s great, great grandfather James McCarthy, so that makes us third cousins once removed, that’ fairly close in my mind!
My father’s mother was a Scanlan and we can go back to about 1770 with her tree. A cousin on that side was the late Fr Niall O Brien ,the Columban Father who was one of the falsely imprisoned ‘Negros Nine’ in the Phillipines.
Oh yes, my great grandfather, Daniel Arnold, had a brother Patrick who, ‘the old people’ said, went to Australia before 1900. I ‘looked’ for him or his possible ancestors about 30 years ago but when I found 200 Patrick Arnolds in the Phone Book ‘Down Under’ I gave up that search!
Another thing that’s a bit bothersome is trying to explain to people the difference between being ‘related’ or being ’connected’ to someone; ach sin sceal eile for another day.
PS, Miriam, I still have that hay for sale!