Annie’s Letter, by Robert Burke (ISBN: 978-0-9539974-6-6 – details here) is the true story of a search for Burke and Collingwood ancestors based on a family letter. It is extraordinary for several reasons, not least of which is the wonderful variety of family members uncovered. Admirals, farmers, surgeons and priests; widows and émigrés; rebels and conservatives; Irish, English, New Zealander and American are all part of the rich family tapestry which is unfolded. But perhaps most extraordinary is the eerie mix of coincidence and chance which assisted the search. The story focuses on the Burke family of Mayo and their extensive connections with Collis, Creagh, Mullay, Blake, Kirwan, Browne, O’Mahony, Collingwood (including Admiral Collingwood who served in the British Navy alongside Nelson) and many others. The author was inspired by a letter written in about 1881 by his great-grandmother, Annie Goodwin Burke, giving various family details. The resulting 20 years of research led him to find ancestors in Ireland, UK, the West Indies, New Zealand and America. What sets it apart, however, are the anecdotes and extraordinary coincidences along the way.
To quote one reviewer (1) “Most of us would never dream of reading a family history if we were not assured that it contained information related to our families…. as I began reading Annie’s Letter, it occurred to me that some genealogy books have been blessed with an over-arching ability to be didactic, inspirational and entertaining simultaneously….. Each of the clues had genuine relevance to the search. This book contains and some powerful reminders that many of our discoveries are the result of good fortune and not necessarily brilliant detective work. Annie’s Letter is the perfect diversion – a chance to step back from our own genealogical brick walls and learn from Robert Burke’s experience. This work paints a vivid picture of Ireland and the United Kingdom of years, decades and centuries past, but relying on modern-day research, communication and travel methods. And if you like to read English the way the language was intended to be written, Annie’s Letter will not disappoint. Burke’s style is both elegant and effective.
(1) Genealogical Research Institute of Virginia – News & Notes
An extract from the letter written by Annie Goodwin