In 2009 I visited with Father Jerry Cremin of Kilmichael Parish in County Cork. He shared some records he had on my family. Two of my great-great-grandfathers (John Regan and Patrick Foley) left the parish in 1864 and came to the United States. Father Cremin’s descriptions of the history and the landscape of Kilmichael were enlightening and entertaining.
When I saw this search topic that brought someone to The Irish in America – Irish immigrants able to read and write? – I immediately thought of my visit with Father Cremin. Census data from when John Regan settled in the U.S. shows that he was unable to read or write. Father Cremin told me that this was not unusual for a man from Kilmichael in the mid-19th century. He continued to say that John Regan most likely didn’t even speak English, let alone read or write it, when he left Kilmichael.
I am a bit embarrassed admit that I had not even considered that any of my ancestors were Irish speakers, but it stands to reason. Perhaps John Regan never gained command of the English language. “Old Johnny Regan” is remembered by his grandchildren as a somewhat gruff man, who didn’t seem that interested in young children.
Patrick Foley, who also came from Kilmichael, was literate. My grandma always told me that her grandfather Foley received his education in a hedge school in County Cork. In the U.S., Patrick Foley was active in township government and held offices in the Ancient Order of Hibernians and St. Patrick’s Benevolent Society. My grandma seemed proud of her grandfather, but she would say that the Foleys thought they were better than everyone else.
I have a book with Patrick Foley’s name in gold on the cover, O’Halloran’s History of Ireland. I am not sure of the exact origin of the book, but I suspect he acquired it while living in New Hampshire, after emigration. Perhaps it was connected to his participation with the St. Patrick’s Benevolent Society or AOH. Has anyone else seen this book? Let me know by leaving a comment!
Last week a couple more search topics appeared on the list:
- Regan family Kilmichael
- Foley Macroom
I wish the person who searched for these items would have left a comment…maybe we are talking about the same families! Click here to read about the first generation of Foleys and Regans born in the United States.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you all!