Exploring my family heritage in Northern Ireland


We’ve all got a history. That’s fact.

However, we may not all know our own history.

Do you know where you came from, really?

During my trip to the United Kingdom and Ireland, I knew I had the opportunity to explore a side of my own history – my family history.

That’s how I came to find myself in the small village of Kesh, in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland.


Here is what I knew: My paternal ancestors, the Johnstons, came to NSW, Australia from Northern Ireland in the mid-1800s.

Brothers Robert and Edward Johnston came to Australia on the ship Fitzjames in 1857, before more of the family, including their parents John and Mary, followed them on the ship Alfred in 1860.

Before their migration the family lived in the townland of ‘Feddans’ near Kesh.

I had a bit of trouble tracking down where Feddans was because I didn’t realise that the term ‘townlands’ related to an old-school method of dividing land by church or parish.

However, once I figured that out, I realised how small Feddans was, and felt I had a pretty good chance of using Google Earth to take a look at all the farm houses in the area and find any ones that looked similar to an old photo of the family house I had – and I was correct

So armed with all this info, I headed off to Kesh, stopping for a compulsory photo of the entrance to the village, of course, before jumping back in the car to hunt down said farmhouse.

And find it we did!


Well, at least, I THINK I found the house. What do you think?

Comparison picture below – The top photo is a photo taken from a family history book, the bottom photo I took visiting the house.


I was over the moon to have found what I believe to be the old Johnston farmhouse.

However, no one was home when we knocked knocked on that door, so we didn’t get to find out any more about the house’s history, but I was grateful just to have found it.

Just up the road, we also managed to find the old church that my family attended when they lived there – Tubrid Church.

It was interesting to look at this building and imagine all the family events and milestones that would have been celebrated within this parish.



Wanting to know more about the area that my family had come from, we headed back into the village of Kesh to grab a pint (of course) at the local pub.

We figured a pub was a good place to start to get information about the area.

We were right – while the kind barman didn’t know too much about the Johnston’s, he was able to tell me a lot about the history of Kesh, and show me photos of the old town back from the time my family would have been locals.

That was a pretty cool experience, and I was so grateful to that barman for taking the time to chat to us about it.

I was really happy I was able to have this experience while in Northern Ireland – I was able to get more in touch with my own history and get a feel for where my family had come from.

It actually all fit so well, as I later told my father – the Kesh area is a small town surrounded by farmland, and where my father’s family ended up, in Clunes, NSW, is also a small town surrounded by farmland.

It just felt so ‘right’ for the Johnstons.




Keep your eyes peeled for a blog in the coming weeks as I explore my MATERNAL family history in England!

3 thoughts on “Exploring my family heritage in Northern Ireland

  1. Hi Marnie, I too am related to Robert and Edwards older brotherJohn who remained in the feddan’s home. Johns headstone is found in the graveyard opposite the Tubrid church. I live in Lismore nsw and have also made the journey to Feddan’s in 2014.

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