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Day 7 - Ulster American Folk Park

The Mellon Home

   We couldn’t have asked for a nicer day to head out to Omagh, County Tryone to the Ulster American Folk Park.  This unique heritage park, supported by the Mellon Family, focuses on emigration from Ulster to America.  The museum has some amazing exhibits on life before and after emigration…what was it like for our ancestor to pick up and leave everything and everyone they knew to head out to the unknown.  

   Once you move into the park you find what life was like in 17th and 18th century Ireland.  You visit the two room cottage with a peat fire burning to hear about the food our ancestors ate…for most, potatoes four times a day and if they were lucky, a little buttrmilk to wash it down.  You can visit the weaver’s cottage and see wool spun into yarn; the blacksmith’s forge, and the Presbyterian meeting house.  You arrive at the Mellon home with chickens and geese wandering out front, and learn about the hard oat bread, which would hold for months, allowing the emigrants to take it for food on their long journey.  There is also a Mass house and school house.  Eventually you arrive at the Quay with its small town and purchase your passage, for the princely sum of £5, which for some might represent 6-12 months wages.  

   Depending the the timeframe, the journey could take 10 t0 12 weeks on sailing ships of the 18th and early 19th century, with 200 people in the belly of the ship, four to a bunk.  

   At last you arrive in America and the last part of the park is populated with houses brought from various areas of America…Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Tennessee.  The smell of peat is replaced by the smell of wood burning in the fireplaces and fields of corn and pumpkins.  

   Everyone in the group enjoyed the tour, and after a quick lunch in the café we were welcomed into the Mellon Center for Migration Studies.  Part of the Library System of Northern Ireland, this location is unique because of its location on the museum site, and its focus on migration  from Ireland.  In addition to their 18,000 volumes, they also have file cabinets full of family names in alphabetical order.  These are unpublished sources of family information that people have sent to the Center.  Also at the Center is access to the Irish Emigration Database which contains transcriptions of passenger lists, newspaper articles, letters and other material focused on emigration from Ireland.  Christine and Sarah, the reference librarians were a wonderful help to everyone pulling books that you might not even know to look for!

    The Ulster American Folk Park is about tw0 hours from Belfast but less than an hour from Derry.  If you are going to be visiting Ireland, I’d definitely put it on your list.

© Donna M. Moughty 2007- 2018