Featured story at IrishCentral, Aug. 12, 2021

Jannet L. Walsh
Aug. 12, 2021
Murdock, Minnesota

View story at IrishCentral

I’m excited to announce my story Become your family’s storyteller, Seanchaí, by starting your genealogy hunt published Aug. 12, 2021 at IrishCentral.

My story includes numerous resources for searching for your Irish roots before heading to Ireland. Many of the tips are free, no cost., and might apply to your ancestors, Irish or not! This story is part of IrishCentral Storytellers platform.

IrishCentral features stories related to Ireland, such as news, history, travel, culture and more. Their audience includes Irish Americans and the Irish Diaspora. Headquarters is located in New York City, and also have an office in Dublin, Ireland. Learn more about IrishCentral at their website’s About page.

Story is featured in the Roots, Immigration and Irish American sections, Aug. 12, 2021, IrishCentral, and on the homepage, Aug. 16, 2021.

View story at IrishCentral
Story featured on home page of IrishCenter, Aug. 16, 2021. View story
View story at IrishCentral

What’s your Irish family story? Start searching for your Irish roots now!

Best wishes, Jannet L. Walsh

About the writerJannet L. Walsh, of Murdock, Minnesota, is a photographer, writer, and educator. She is the author of forthcoming creative nonfiction quest narrative Higgledy-Piggledy Stones: Family Stories from Ireland and Minnesota, scheduled publication is 2022 by Shanti Arts Publishing.  Follow Walsh on Facebook and Twitter.

Isle Royale National Park 2021

By Jannet L. Walsh
Sept. 22, 2021
Murdock, Minnesota

Jannet L. Walsh at Washington Creek Campsite Shelter 6, Pink Lady Slipper shelter, Isle Royale National Park, Aug. 29, 2021. Photo by Jannet L. Walsh. ©2021, All Rights Reserved.


I’m just back from the Good Place, or Minong, located in the middle of Lake Superior.

Just off the North Shore of Lake Superior near Grand Portage, Minnesota, not far from the Canadian border, there’s an island humans have been visiting for about the last 4,500 years. Minong, meaning the Good Place in the Ojibwa language, is an ancient name for Isle Royale, an archipelago, and part of the ancestral land of the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, commonly known as the Grand Portage Anishinaabe, or Ojibwe.

Video – I’ve created a video to share my experience. I estimate I had about 10 to 12 encounters with moose, all cows and calves, no bulls, during my visit to Isle Royale. Learn more about Isle Royale National Park at the National Park Service website.

I was camping and hiking at Isle Royale National Park, Michigan, a wilderness island, Aug. 25-31, 2021. I took the Voyageur II ferry from Grand Portage, Minnesota, to Windigo, the nearest location of the island to Minnesota. I spent my days writing, photographing and exploring nature, especially enjoying visits with resident moose. As all good things must come to and end, I returned to the mainland glad to stand firmly on the shores of Lake Superior in Grand Portage.

Learn more about the American Indian heritage and culture, and Minong at the National Park Service website, or at the official website of Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.

Morning moose visitor – Here a moose visits campsite 6 at Washington Creek campsite, Windigo, just after 7 a.m. Aug. 27, 2021, Isle Royale National Park. Photo by Jannet L. Walsh. ©2021, All Rights Reserved.

2016 Isle Royale video and blog – Here’s a link to my blog and video from 2016 at my teaching website.

Best wishes,


About the writerJannet L. Walsh, of Murdock, Minnesota, is a photographer, writer, and educator. She is the author of forthcoming creative nonfiction quest narrative Higgledy-Piggledy Stones: Family Stories from Ireland and Minnesota, scheduled publication is 2022 by Shanti Arts Publishing.  Follow Walsh on Facebook and Twitter.

Be the family storyteller, Seanchaí

Jumpstart your Irish roots search now

Olive Horgan, left, and Jannet L. Walsh driving to the train station in Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland, June 1, 2018.

By Jannet L. Walsh
Aug. 4, 2021
Murdock, Minnesota

Curiosity and the luck of the Irish are absolutes when setting out to explore your ancestor’s origins.

But that’s just the beginning. Recalling family stories, trips to Ireland, a family photograph – all played an incredible role in understanding my Irish ancestors.

However, I didn’t know this at the time.

Although one hundred percent American – with mixtures of German, Prussian, Luxembourgian, Scottish and Canadian – I now carry the torch in discovering and understanding my family ancestors.

My father Martin J. Walsh Jr. was the first torch carrier. In the mid-1970s, he described that we were part of a what he referred to as “Archbishop John Ireland’s people.” That is, they were assigned to settle in rural De Graff, Minnesota, about three miles west from Murdock, a century before. De Graff was the first in a series of Ireland’s efforts to resettle 4,000 Catholic families in west central and southwestern Minnesota. This I learned from the 1985 St. Bridget Catholic Church, located in De Graff, application for historic places, now part of the National Park Service National Register of Historic Places.  My family and other early settlers “proved up” their farmlands to become U.S. citizens. This also required them to renounce ties to their old worlds in Ireland, Canada, and other lands. Descendants of these setters, myself included, continue to live and work in rural Swift County, Minnesota. 

My father was our family storyteller, in Irish it’s Seanchaí (sounds like shawnakee).Aside from being a great father, perhaps that was among his most important duties in life.  Now I’m taking over the job, splicing together our family’s Irish roots.  Obituaries and documents fill his 1940s suitcase, albeit needing to be to be organized and details recorded.

Photo Martin J. Walsh Jr, of Murdock Minnesota, Kodachrome, removed from mount for scanning: Information written on slide: Marty Walsh, Seaside, south of Belfast, May 1953.. Photo provided by Paul M. Walsh.  View more from 1953 trip to Ireland.

About 2010 I left Florida for my home state of Minnesota to care for elderly family members. Out of curiosity I launched my own Irish genealogy project. The project then became an obsession — and then a quest — to put together the pieces of my family’s history in Minnesota and Ireland.  The result is a nonfiction book, Higgledy-Piggledy Stones: Family Stories from Ireland and Minnesota., It is scheduled for publication in 2022 by Shanti Arts Publishing.  I never set out to write a book. However it is the natural result of discovering stories about my family that were lost or untold for some 200 years. Through travel and guided research, I was able to find very specific origins of my family in County Kerry near Killarney town, dating back to about 1820s.

How to start Irish genealogy search?

  • Starting place – First, start at home with your family.  Perhaps one or more family members have picked up the touch to gather family records, family trees, documents and stories.  In most cases, this person will appreciate you reaching out to them to share, or meet with you in person, if possible. Look for photos, letters, birth, marriage, death, military, church or religious documents and more to tell your story.
  • Interview family elders – Act quickly to interview and record stories of your elderly family members, in person or online. Prepare a list of questions related to childhood, their home growing up, parents and grandparents, immigration and citizenship, holidays, special events and more.  If possible, take photos the day of the interview, along with an audio recording or video.  Shortly after interview, transcribe or write out the answers — it is too easy to lose audio or video files, then your history is gone forever.  Be proactive and make notes when interviewing family members; that will make transcribing the interview go faster.  Try to collect any historical photos, or make copies, and ask about family documents, religious artifacts, including the family Bible, as it’s often used as a historical family record book of births, marriages, deaths, and so.
  • Local, state museums – Next, continue to search locally, or places your family lived or established their roots in the United States, Canada or other locations.  Start with the county museum, library or courthouse. You might find records with which to begin your search at little or no cost.  I spent a lot of time at the Swift County Museum in Benson, Minnesota, uncovering some of my father’s documents he had shared in the 1970s; as well as U.S. Citizenship papers, old newspapers and more.  I also researched at the Minnesota Historical Society, uncovering documents related to my family as settlers in Stillwater, Minnesota.   This list of state archives can jumpstart your search.
  • National Archives – Another great resource is the National Archives in Washington, DC.  Either online or in person you can search genealogy, immigration, census, naturalization, military, and more research topics. My family found Civil War letters written from battlefield to family back home in Minnesota.
  • Family tree, charts – The National Archives also has great references for creating your own family tree, such as ancestral chart, family group, charts for kids and more.
  • Homestead documents – If your ancestors were farmers in the United States, it’s likely they were homesteaders. That meant they had about five years to prove up their farmland before receiving a patent to own the land. Search documents at the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management website, listed by state and counties. Homestead National Monument can also help you with your search, website and contact. A few park rangers from Homestead helped me online and by phone.
  • Online genealogy websites –  Ancestry has both paid and free subscriptions.  I started with a paid subscription, but now have it free.  This is a great way to connect with other family members with established family trees.  I also have a free subscription to FamilySearch, recently finding marriage records dating back to 1857 of great-great grandparents originally from Ireland living in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. I haven’t yet explored the paid version of this service, but really liked I was able to find documents quickly using the extensive databases.
  • Online newspapers – I’ve used a paid version of Newspapers.com, helpful to search historical newspapers. There’s also Irish Newspaper Archives for searching historical newspapers from Ireland.  Your local and state historical societies, libraries, school, college or more might access to historic newspapers you can inquire about searching. 
  • Irish church documentsIrishGenealogy.ie, free, is the site I found most of my Irish ancestor’s baptism and marriage records.  You can search church documents (Roman Catholic, Church of Ireland, Presbyterian), along with civil records, and more, run by the Irish Department of Tourism, Culture and Art.
  • Griffith’s Valuation –  Griffith’s Valuation, the first full-scale valuation for property in Ireland, overseen by Richard Griffith, published 1847-1864.  It is one of the most important surviving 19th century gynecological sources for Ireland. I used this to search for specific locations in Ireland, called townlands, where my family lived and worked in County Kerry.  Here’s a list of townlands and counties in Ireland.
  • Irish Census – The National Archives of Ireland has census records for 1901 and 1911, and fragments from 1821-51.  I used the census to research locations my family was associated with in Ireland.
  • Cemeteries – Visit cemeteries your family is associated with locally, or in Ireland.  Make notes, take photos, and even make a sketch how to find the graves of your ancestors.  For poor people in Ireland before the 1820s, or even after, it’s possible only a pile of rocks marks your ancestors grave, although you could get lucky and find a marked gravesite if your family was wealthy, part of the gentry class. Church and cemetery caretakers can be a resource for maps and records related to your ancestors.  Search military graves, and Find A Grave for searching for family graves.  
  • County libraries in Ireland – A county library in Ireland helped me with my genealogy search, at no cost.  Look for the county most associated with your family in Ireland, and ask for help.  Visit Libraries Ireland website and search for the county most associated with your family’s ancestors.
  • National Library, Dublin – The National Library in Dublin offers free genealogy advisory serves, online and in person. They also offer free access to subscription sites, you can inquire about. I visited the National Library more than once during my search.
  • Cobh Heritage Centre – The Cobh Heritage Centre, located in Cobh, County Cork, formerly called Queenstown.  Over three million Irish immigrated from Cobh Harbour, searching for new lives, or escaping the Great Famine.  I visited Cobh in 2019, and hired genealogist Christy Keating to help me tell the story of my ancestors’ exile from Ireland, an extremely rewarding and professional service.
  • Hire a professional genealogist – If you are thinking about hiring a professional genealogist, there’s a few things to consider.  Susan Riley, Ph.D., genealogist from Minnesota, put together a list of suggestions for hiring a genealogist.  Riley’s recommendations include:  Check out the person’s website; determine the genealogist’s credentials and experience; ask for work samples; insist on a written contract establishing goals, price of research, timetable; meet using video conferencing, such as Zoom, to clarify everything; and start a small, inexpensive project to see if the geologist is reliable.

“Hiring an accredited genealogist is great, but I, for example, do not have that credential.  I am a former college professor with a Ph.D. and decades of research experience who has turned to genealogical work.  In that transition process, I had to study genealogy and I continue to educate myself through books, webinars, and more to stay up-to-date,” said Riley. 

Riley suggests clients should look for a genealogist who is a member of the relevant organizations, such as the Association of Professional Genealogists, APG, but that is no guarantee of quality.  The APG does not monitor its members.  She thinks in the coming years groups like the APG will begin insisting on credentials and perhaps monitoring its members for compliance with its code of ethics, but the profession is not there yet.

Get organized, get started
No matter if you plan do the research yourself, or hire a genealogist, do keep a notebook to record your research and finding, print out digital documents to keep organized and safe when your computer crashes. Date your work and document your sources. It’s much easier to do so at the onset rather than have to go back and figure it out.

Ready for Ireland?
Do as much research as possible before heading to Ireland.  The more you know beforehand,  the easier it will be to find potentially more details about your ancestors, and create more stories to share for generations to come.  I encourage you to be your family’s storyteller, Seanchaí!

About the writerJannet L. Walsh, of Murdock, Minnesota, is a photographer, writer, and educator. She is the author of forthcoming creative nonfiction quest narrative Higgledy-Piggledy Stones: Family Stories from Ireland and Minnesota, scheduled publication is 2022 by Shanti Arts Publishing.  Follow Walsh on Facebook and Twitter.

Jannet L. Walsh writes book on Minnesota and Irish Family History

Higgledy-Piggledy Stones scheduled for 2022 release, Shanti Arts Publishing

Jannet L. Walsh, of Murdock, Minnesota, poses in front of Crosstown Cottage, near Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland, June 1, 2018, before heading to the railway station in Killarney. Walsh spent most of May 2018 living in the historic cottage researching and writing about her family’s Irish roots, connecting with local Irish culture and people. Photo by Olive Horgan.

By Jannet L. Walsh
July 26, 2021

Murdock, Minnesota – I’m excited to announce my forthcoming book, a creative nonfiction quest narrative Higgledy-Piggledy Stones: Family Stories from Ireland and Minnesota about my Minnesota and Irish heritage. Scheduled publication is 2022 by Shanti Arts Publishing, of Brunswick, Maine, a specialized press publisher of poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction. 

This will be my first book, and can’t be more excited to work with Shanti Arts Publishing!  From signing the contact to publishing and on my shelf, the journey will be about 18 months — perhaps less.  I’ll certainly be learning along the way before holding a book in my hands.

I’m a rural Minnesota-based photographer, writer and educator, located in the farming community  of Swift County.  There’s no need for a stop light in Murdock. Everyone knows to move for the plethora of pickups  during planting and harvest season, with tractors, trucks, and grain wagons whizzing past my front steps while heading off to the grain elevator a few blocks away, next to the railway.   Weather is always a topic of conversation, especially pumping gas at Dooley’s, the only store in town, and it’s likely why weather is a part of my writing.

My family was among the first in a series of Catholic colonies established in 1876 by Archbishop John Ireland in De Graff, Minnesota. My ancestors were chosen to be part of the rural community, now Swift County, dedicated as farmers, stewards of the soil and Christian faith.  Early settlers proved up their farmlands to become U.S. citizens, renouncing ties to  Ireland, Canada and other lands. Descendants of these setters continue to live and work in the rural farming community in Swift County, myself included.   

Collection of photos from the family of Jannet L. Walsh.

Research for my manuscript spans more than a decade, starting gradually after my return home to Minnesota in 2010 to care for elderly family members, making at least five trips to Ireland, with four recent trips for research.  The original nonfiction manuscript was part of a Master of Fine Arts thesis program for Creative Writing at Augsburg University, Minneapolis, with the purpose of preparing a manuscript for publication for my 2019 graduation. As a MFA student I  met numerous authors, such as renowned Minnesota author Kao Kalia Yang,  inspiring me to tell my family’s story and heritage, and most importantly, allowing me to ask how she went about her writing.  Howling Bird Press, student publishing house at Augsburg, introduced me to Lisa Van Orman, KateLynn Hibbard, Jean Harper, and many more authors than I can list now, and many of whom were my professors.

Jannet L. Walsh stands on a farm road in Townland Dromkerry, County Kerry, Ireland, December 30, 2018. This farm is a place her Irish ancestors lived and worked before the Great Famine. Photo by Olive Horgan.

In 2010, I returned home to Minnesota after working in Florida.  At this time, I had two elderly family members residing in nursing homes both named Margaret Walsh, an aunt and my mother, for whom I was caring.  The distraction to search my family’s forgotten Minnesota and Irish heritage was welcomed.  I didn’t know the future would include standing one day one a dirt farm road near Killarney town, located in County Kerry, Ireland, at farm associated with my family dating back to at least 1820 or before. With the help of family, friends, archivists and numerous Irish folks I befriended along the way — including sides of roads when I was lost — I put together the best possible story of 200 years of my family’s origin from the island of Ireland, before settling rural Minnesota, part of an Irish Catholic colony established by Archbishop Ireland. We have large Irish crosses in the cemetery, green shamrocks serving as logos, and townships named after Ireland here in Murdock, and Swift County.

On a cold January day in 2011, I found a black and white portrait of my Great-Great Grandmother Ellen Brennen Foley hidden away in a yellowed pillowcase, tucked inside a plastic floral shopping bag, deep in an attic closet at my home in Murdock, population 278. A handwritten card gave hints about the photograph, calling me to immediate active duty as a family historian.

As a little girl I heard about Ireland, especially from my late father Martin J. Walsh Jr., as he is the first known member of our family to visit Ireland, making his trip in 1953. I learned of  the Great Famine, and that my family emigrated to North America, first to Canada and on to the United States, to survive. Like many immigrants, the stories and fine details are missing for many reasons, one being two centuries of forgetting in order to make new lives in the new world. This is where I wanted to play my part in telling our story.

Photo by Martin J. Walsh Jr, of Murdock Minnesota, Kodachrome, removed from mount for scanning. Information written on slide: Dublin, Ireland. near Trinity College. Note the left hand drive. May 1953. Photo provided by Paul M. Walsh. View more from 1953 trip to Ireland.

While visiting Killagha Abbey, not far from Killarney, I walked in the footsteps of ancestors, as I must believe, and Saint Colman (530-606 AD) who was known to have built an earlier monastic foundation on the same site according to historical information at the abbey. A retired Irish school teacher tells me the graves are all higgledy-piggledy, in reference to the disorder of the burial sites with piles of stones marking graves. Prior to about 1820 or so many people had only a stone to mark their graves, no engraving, something reserved for the wealthy or gentry.

I hope you will be interested to follow me on this journey – and the one to come in my first book venture.

ADDITIONAL DETAILS Jannet L. Walsh, of Murdock, Minnesota, is an award-winning photojournalist and photographer with more than 20 years of experience in  still photographs and video. A former employee of The New York Times Company, working at a regional newspaper, Star-Banner, in Ocala, Florida. Nominated for a Chairman’s Award (Chairman of The New York Times Company). I most recently served as assistant professor of strategic communications and multimedia at St. Cloud State University, SCSU.