Xx is for – Crossroads

Crossroads always jumps into my mind when sighting an X. Following that I’m flooded with wonderful memories of “foraging” through the “backblocks” of Corofin, County Clare, Ireland in 1995 and asking the locals if they have any family memories of my Great Great Grandmother, Susan Kelleher, who immigrated to South Australia in 1855.

In this post to the Gould “Family History Through the Alphabet” Challenge I’ll be sharing the delight of my first experience in receiving directions when it is landmarks, and not street names, one needs to follow. Added to that is my fascination with the history, and folkelore, of Crossroads which began with my love of historical fiction. Maybe you’d like to join me in this trip down “memory lane” and onwards…


Documentary evidence clearly shows that my GGGrandmother’s father is Patrick Kelleher, from the Parish of Ennistymon in County Clare, Ireland and so it was the countryside between Corofin and Ennistymon that Sean suggested I “forage”. As an aside, “fossick” is the word I’d use to describe this behaviour, which was an added fascination.

My Ancestral Homeland in County Clare. (c)C.A.Crout-Habel.2012.

So, I learned that you need to look out for Crossroads coming up, which often happens quite quickly, in those narrow country lanes.  Fortunately the warning is usually signposted.

Crossroad Ahead! (c)C.A.Crout-Habel.2012.

With the first Crossroad looming ahead, I’m trying to remember whether I turn right… or left? Don’t panic, Catherine.  Phew!!! the memory came back just in time.  Now I need to watch out for the BIG tree on the right and then turn right at the next Crossroad, after passing that tree.

Here ’tis… turn right! (c)C.A.Crout-Habel.2012.

OK… doing good. Just keep going, and when you can’t go any further turn right again and look out for the “Tall White House”. They might be able to tell you about your Kellehers.

The Tall White House, County Clare, Ireland. (c)C.A.Crout-Habel.2012.

As it turned out, was a bit of a “wild goose chase” but lots of fun anyway… so no worries. 


Can’t remember when I first discovered that “bad people” were buried at Crossroads. What I do remember is that when, many moons ago, a member of my birth family advised that our “Crout” name meant “Dweller at the Cross” I just about laughed my head off with the thought that my Ancestors gained their “moniker” by living where the reprobates of society were interred. Have to say that I’m a bit disappointed at not being able to find any evidence that this is where my family name originated.

Guess that shows my sense of humour and lack of concern about any “nasties” likely to turn up when researching Ancestry. More importantly it has encouraged me to investigate this matter of burials, hangings and superstitions in regard to Crossroads and have to say that I’m enthralled.

Crossroads by Martin Lieberman

Research has shown that the hanging of criminals happened in public places. Sometimes these hangings occurred in the middle of town, sometimes on the main road leading in and also at Crossroads. The bodies were left to rot and remained on public display to act as a deterrent.

Historically, burial at Crossroads was the way of disposing of executed criminals and those who suicided, as well as witches. Suicides were, at one time, considered to be “self murder”, a criminal act, and was punishable by witholding normal burial rites.

Crossroad Gibbet

Burying the undesirable elements of society at Crossroads to act as a deterrent is but one example. Others view this practice as simply being the next best burying-places to consecrated ground. Some suggest that, because the ancient Teutonic/ German groups often built their altars at Crossroads and since human sacrifices (especially of criminals) formed part of the ritual, these spots then became regarded as execution grounds.

It seems that superstition may also have played a part in choosing Crossroads for the burying of suicides. Folk belief often held that these people could rise, at some time, and return to wreak havoc on their living relations and associates. Burying them at Crossroads was believed to reduce the likelihood of this happening.

Added to this is the multitude of Folklore which describes a human meeting with a “faerie” at a Crossroad and needing to make a decision. A situation every single one of us face at various times in our lives… do we turn right, left, move on ahead???

Before finishing, I do need to share the folkelore surrounding the death of Kitty Jay, believed to have suicided in Dartmoor, Devon in the South West of England in the late 18C.

The Grave of Kitty Jay – Wikipedia

The site of Kitty’s Crossroad burial has become a well-known landmark and is best described in this beautiful Folk Song by Keith Munday.  Just click on the link below.


Enough from me … If you want to delve deeper into these issues just check out the info below.


Copyright © 2012. C.A.Crout-Habel.    

14 thoughts on “Xx is for – Crossroads

    • Hope you enjoyed careening around the “backblocks” County Clare with me Kerryn 🙂 … Was lots of fun and met some of the most charming of people who did their very best to help with my quest.

  1. A clever approach to X Catherine. I especially enjoyed your story of Irish back roads… I love those crossroads where all the signs point to the same village 🙂 Our daughter has a rule “when in doubt, go left”. It’s a surprisingly good strategy (>50%)

    • Reminds me how much I loved/laughed at various road signs when travelling overseas. e.g. In beautiful Ireland we were always being warned that their were “Slow Children” ahead 🙂 … In Seattle, USA, a sign loomed up advising of “High Pedestrians”… I immediately looked up thinking there must have been an ovehead pedestrian crossing and my daughter was thinking the area must have been full of “dope heads”… HA HA HA…
      On our return, discovered there are heaps of “weird” signs in Oz too 😀

  2. Peter still tqlks about the B&B owner who said “Knockina? My firend … lives at Kockina. If I could be remembering where she lives I could tell you where Kockina is”. Kid you not! Or me asking an old lady where Ballykelly townland was (abt 1 mile away) and being told she went there once decades before (admittedly it was up a “goat track”). All those whimsical Irish moments!

    • Oh yes… I agree 🙂 Will never forget my first few hours in Corofin and an old lady coming up and saying… “So, you’d be lookin’ for ye roots then?” I nodded in agreement and was stunned when she then said, “You got the look o’ the Kellehers about ye. Not the Kellehers from here but the Kellehers from Ennistymon”. I hadn’t yet told anyone of my family connections but, after researching,the Heritage Centre advised that most likely my Kellehers were those from… “The Parish of Ennistymon”. Phew, blow me away!!!…

  3. I love the topic you’ve chosen Crossroads is applicable to family history in so many ways. And your journey through Ireland asking for directions reminded me of a trip to NZ with their signage, and locals giving directions. 😉

    • Thanks Alona… glad you enjoyed it 🙂 Am remembering that, in Dublin, folks were SO helpful and would often not only give detailed instructions to get to a destination but equally as detailed advice as to how to return. Similarities & also difference, in cultures, is always a delight to me.

  4. Pingback: Family History Through the Alphabet – X is for … | Genealogy & History News

  5. I really enjoyed your post. How wonderful that you were able to go to Ireland. What a wonderful experience it must have been. It is on my ‘bucket list” of places to go.

    • Was amazing Sharon. That was in 1994 and only happened cos I was teaching in Seattle, USA, and went with my daughter to Dublin to join my daughter-in-law/love at an education conference. To my surprise, and my daughter’s amazement, I broke into tears as the wheels hit the runway and all I could blubber was “I’m home”. On returning to Oz, I just had to go back to make sure that it was not in my imagination. 🙂 …

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