The tractor came flying down the narrow Irish roadway, barreling down on my tiny rental car. I would be crushed if not for a slight tilt of the wheel. The tires turn and I live to see another afternoon. On this particular afternoon I was exploring the tiny village of Coon, with its vibrant green grass, bright noon sun and cloudless sky. There’s not much in terms of tourism in Coon, but that not why I was here. I had been sent here on a mission.

Around the same time that I decided to purchase a flight to Ireland for a quick two-week tour in October, I also came across some information from a distant relative. Her interest in genealogy had led her back to a branch of the family tree originating near Kilkenny in Ireland. Previously unaware that I had any Irish heritage, my interest was piqued and I contacted Marg by email prior to departing. It turns out that she has pages and pages of information about the Pooles and Roes, our ancestors who lived in Coon in the 1700s to 1800s. She had even tracked down the church where many of them are buried.

So here I was, alone in a rental car in the middle of rural Ireland. It took me a while to actually find Coon, driving in from Kilkenny. A wrong turn here, a wrong turn there. GPS was useless out here. Was that the church back there? I blinked and missed it. Turn around, go back, and start over. There it is – I had arrived at my destination.

The road entering Coon, Ireland

There’s not much going on in Coon. I saw a grand total 8 people in my time there, all of whom gave me the “he’s not from around here” look that I’m sure they give to every stranger. The town consisted of a school, a few farms, and (appropriately) a pub right next to the church.

Walking from the car was a bit chilly. The October weather was really starting to settle in so the cold was no surprise. It was one of those nice autumn days when the wind is brisk but the sun shines bright without a drop of rain. As I approached the church I immediately spotted the first interesting headstone among rows of old, mossy, faded stones. “To the memory of John Poole, Born 1795, Died 1850”. There was another one, too, “Erected by Owen Brennan of Coon in memory of his beloved daughter Catherine Poole alias Brennan who died Janry 15 1859 aged 26 years”.

It didn’t take long for my nosing around and taking photos to be discovered by the church staff. The groundskeeper was helpful, saying that there were many Pooles and Roes buried here, some with relatives living around Kilkenny. He directed me to two more grave sites, one of which has living relatives in Waterford and one with family in Coon. If I wanted to find out more I would have to access birth certificates and records which Father Wallace could get for me, but unfortunately he wasn’t going to be around all day.

And that’s where I hit the end of the line. Time constraints meant that I wouldn’t be able to meet up with Father Wallace. I wouldn’t be able to dig deeper into my family history in Ireland. I tried the pub to ask around a little more, but it was deserted. This didn’t turn out to be the story of some great family discovery that I had imagined it would be. That’s the way it goes sometimes. I may not have had the opportunity to meet up with long lost relatives, or to make some fantastic discovery about my family history, but I still had the opportunity to experience the place where I came from, if only for a couple hours. Being Coon really did create a sense of home deep down inside. I may not have found exactly what I was looking for, but it was a wonderful experience to look.