American star Mandy Moore was left in tears when she heard a heart-breaking story about one of her Irish ancestors.
The actress and musician was appearing on the genealogy TV show Who Do You Think You Are? – a series which looks into the family histories of celebrities, often with surprising discoveries.
Moore’s grandmother was from Essex, England and she believed that all of her ancestry was English.
However, her journey took her to Cashel, Co. Tipperary where she learned about her Irish roots. Starting with a woman named Mary Flynn – who was her great-great-great-great-grandmother.
Mary lived in a workhouse for the poor with two daughters, Mary and Ellen, while Ireland was still reeling from the devastating effect of the Great Famine.
Mary died when she was just 40 years old and would have been buried in the garden or near the wall of the workhouse with no grave, no funeral and no wake.
The workhouse was knocked down a long time ago, but Moore laid flowers at the site where the building would have stood.
A local historian told her: “They were hell on earth. This was the last resort.”
Moore said: “It’s oddly emotional to feel connected to someone whose name I didn’t even know just a few days ago, I didn’t even know she existed.
“I’m honoured and humbled that I could be a representative of the family to just tell her that she’s not forgotten.”
Mary’s daughter Ellen emigrated to Australia when she was 15 – spending four moths travelling on board the Lady Peel in 1849. She worked as a servant to a government official.
Moore visited the immigration depot that Ellen stayed for three months after arriving from Ireland.
While Ellen was in Australia, she met Englishman Edwin F Barney and the pair married in 1855. They later moved back England where they lived in Edwin’s home town of Wolverhampton.
Moore said: “Ultimately I feel like it was a pretty winning life. Ellen was a survivor, and I think what saw her through was her own determination.”
Take a look at the video below.
Written by Andrew Moore
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