The Irish in America

Family Album: Mary Foley’s Birthday

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Mary Foley was born on this day, January 2nd, in 1875, in Fisherville, New Hampshire.

Mary Foley (later McMahon) about 1876 (Private Family Collection)

Mary was my great-grandmother. When she was young, she was known as Minnie, and some of her friends called her Bones. Mary’s daughter, and my grandma, said she only ever heard her called Mom or Ma.

I’ve written quite a bit about Minnie (referring to her as Minnie is easiest considering the crowd of Marys who inhabit my family tree!) Check out an article on Ma’s famous spice cake and a birthday tribute for more on Minnie. I also wrote about Minnie and her lifelong best friend, Nellie Regan Byrne. Here’s a photo of Nellie and Minnie:

Nellie and Minnie, about 1900 (Private Family Collection)

When we moved my grandma from her apartment, there were dresser drawers full of neat little bundles of fabric, remnants from decades of sewing projects. Tucked into one of the drawers was an embroidery hoop holding a once-taut piece of muslin. Work had begun on the piece but was interrupted.

Mom could tell by the signature brown stitches that this was Minnie’s handiwork. Was it abandoned when she had to go to the hospital in October of 1945, where she would pass away? It is likely that is why my grandma would hold onto an unfinished embroidery project for nearly sixty years. That’s why Mom and I have kept it for twenty more years. I can picture Minnie smoothing the fabric and tightening the hoop, threading the needle, and eventually slipping the needle through the cotton and setting the work down for the last time.

This is an embroidery pattern that was also floating around in Grandma’s things:

Now, I am off to bake a spice cake. For me, molasses, nutmeg, and cloves combine to create an olfactory time machine. In a couple of hours I will be enjoying an afternoon cup of coffee and a slice of spice cake with Minnie.

Minnie and her children – Clontarf, MN about 1915 (Private Family Collection)

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Author: Aine

I live in Saint Paul, Minnesota. My heritage pretty much covers the map of Ireland: great-great-grandparents from Cork (Crowley, Foley, Regan), a great-great-grandmother from Clare (Quinn), a great-great-grandfather from Fermanagh (McMahon) and his wife's parents from Mayo (McAndrew), a great-grandmother from Connemara (Hannon) married to my great-grandfather from Laois (McCormack), great-grandparents from Sligo (Flannery), and a great-grandmother from Kildare (Hill). All of those people ended up in Minnesota, where my four grandparents were born. Three and four generations after my people left Ireland for America, I retain all Irish heritage. So much for the melting pot...

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