The Irish in America


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Winter Reminiscing

Seamus Hora is so kind as to share another lovely poem with The Irish in America. This time he remembers winter evenings of days gone by, the 1950s when all you needed was a radio for company and a turf fire for warmth. Seamus thought there might be a few TIIA readers out there who also remember the “old days” in rural Ireland and might care to reminisce along with him…

Photo courtesy of the fantastic blog - That Curious Love of Green - check it out by clicking on the image.

Photo courtesy of the fantastic blog – That Curious Love of Green – check it out by clicking on the image.

REMINISCING

  

Tonight I am reminiscing

I have turned back the years

Removed the locks from both the doors

And forgot about my fears.

 

Removed the TV from the shelf

And put it out of sight

Replaced it with a radio

Commentating on a fight.

 

Put the mobile phone on silent

Took the handset off the wall

Tonight-The only interruption

Neighbours foot steps in the hall.

 

Reached up to the fuse board

Reversed the on off handle

Got an empty bottle from the press

And placed in it a candle.

 

Replaced the coal and briquettes

With a seasoned wooden log

And a couple sods of well dried turf

Harvest from the local bog.

 

The lid from off the oven

I will heat until just right

Wrap in a woollen sweater

Place in the bed tonight.

 

Stare out through the window

Watch the snowflakes as they fall

Pretend its Christmas Eve again

And Santa’s sure to call.

 

Will I read a passage from the book

Or the rosary instead?

Then go outside – melt a little snow

Before I go to bed.

 

Seamus Hora

Click here to learn more about poet, Seamus Hora, and to read his poem on the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

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Irish Lives Remembered

Great-grandmother Annie Regan with her geese, 1920.

If you have not yet checked out Eileen Munnelly’s genealogy website Irish Lives Remembered, you really should. And I am not just saying this because I wrote an article for the August 2012 issue of the Irish Lives Remembered Genealogy Magazine!

Irish Lives Remembered is a fantastic site for anyone researching their Irish roots. The website says:

Irish Lives Remembered is a FREE to join Genealogy Community to help you locate your Irish ancestors.

Based in Dundalk, County Louth, Ireland, our business is dedicated to preserving the memory of deceased people of Irish heritage globally by providing a social media based Genealogy website and digital magazine.

The site hosts groups and discussion forums for each of the thirty-two Irish counties and additional special interest groups created by members. For example, I joined the groups for each of the counties from which my ancestors originated, as well as a few specialized groups (Irish in Philadelphia, Irish in the NYPD, Irish in New York). I even started my own Irish in America group.

But there is much more to Irish Lives Remembered than discussion forums. What sets Irish Lives Remembered apart from other Irish genealogy sites is the great attention to detail throughout the site, which results in a truly comprehensive approach to Irish genealogy.

The monthly genealogy e-magazine I mentioned earlier contains useful and entertaining information on a diverse selection of Irish genealogy topics. The August issue alone features articles on Irish convicts in Australia, Huguenots in Ireland, and Irish Jewish heritage, in addition to spotlights on Mayo and Antrim.

The Irish Lives Remembered site also features a section devoted to memorials – biographies on influential Irish individuals in history. The memorials include famous writers, activists, musicians, explorers, politicians, and more. Corresponding memorials appear on the group page for their county of origin. Eileen has included a list of upcoming anniversaries and birthday remembrances, which further connects us to Ireland’s history on a very personal level.

Genealogy is about more than filling in the blanks on your family tree with names, dates, and places. It is about remembering our ancestors as individuals, and when we remember them, we honor them. Eileen and Irish Lives Remembered makes doing both a little bit easier and much more enjoyable.

Check out the latest issue of Irish Lives Remembered Genealogy Magazine here. You can also view and download past issues here.

August 2012 Issue: Irish Lives Remembered Genealogy Magazine


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In Loving Memory

On several occasions I have mentioned my great-grandmother Annie Hill Regan and the small collection of photographs and greeting cards she left behind.   Among the mysterious photographs from Manchester England, a photo-pin of a priest, and a charming Christmas card from a sister, are two memorial cards.  Below is the card for her father who passed away the year before Annie came to the United States.

William Hill memorial card, 1898 (click to enlarge)

In 2009 I visited Rathmore Churchyard.  I was unable to locate William’s grave, but I suspect it rests hidden in the overgrown grass, somewhere amidst the gravestones of Hill relatives of whom I am not familiar.

Rathmore Churchyard, County Kildare (2009 Regan McCormack)

The other card is for James Hill.  I assume James was a nephew, and one can imagine this loss was felt deeply by the entire family.

James Hill memorial card, 1895 (click to enlarge)

Memorial cards can provide great information to the genealogist or family historian.  In the case of Annie’s father, I knew his name from her birth certificate, but I learned his birth year, date of death, and place of burial only from this memorial card tucked into a stack of old photographs.  But memorial cards can also raise more questions than they answer, and prove to be as frustrating as an album full of unidentified photographs or a postcard with faded text.

Because they are so portable, I am sure a great many memorial cards crossed the Atlantic, mailed to emigrant daughters and sons in America, accompanying letters detailing all the latest news from home.

Share your stories about how items like memorial cards have assisted you in the search for your family history.  Perhaps a memorial card is all that is left to tell of an emigrant relative’s life in America?  I would love to hear your stories, so please, leave a comment!


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There just may be more to the story…

I hesitate to use the term genealogy when I describe my family history research.  Why?  Because I am not very good about the data – filling in family charts with the names and birth dates of distant cousins doesn’t interest me as much as the stories about the people on the chart.  Don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled if my research brings me to a previously unknown relative with family photos, stories, or simply a shared interest in the family history, but when I look at my family tree, I am drawn to the little branches that stop abruptly.  These nubs represent bachelor uncles and spinster aunts, those who married but had no children and those who moved away, never to be heard from again.  They also represent children and young adults whose lives were cut short, leaving behind siblings and parents to remember them.  These are the stories I grew up listening to my grandma tell, and these individuals were mysterious to me and I always wanted to learn more about their lives.

Unfortunately, my attraction to these figures tends to set me up for disappointment as a researcher.  Often the content of the stories my grandma told is all the information there is on the family members.  But sometimes it is possible to flesh out their stories using the myriad of resources available to us today.

My grandma used to tell me about her Aunt Rose who never married and supported herself working in a department store in the city.  Grandma always liked Rose and thought she was very polished and fancy.  A simple search on ancestry.com shed more light on where Rose lived and worked.  She was employed in the millinery department of St. Paul department store (which would explain her appearance to my grandma), and she also worked for a time at the National Biscuit Company.  When I looked at the Clontarf, Minnesota archive I discovered that Rose also worked at a hospital in Iowa and kept current with her insurance policy with the Ladies Auxiliary of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in Clontarf.  She wrote letters to the Auxiliary secretary,  inquiring as to the health of her uncle and said she would be home soon for a few weeks to help care for him.  A little research, together with my grandma’s stories helped to paint a picture of what Rose was like – an independent single woman working to support herself and help her extended family.

Aunt Rose McMahon, with her sister Kate McMahon Mears

When older generations pass away, it often takes the younger people a while to become interested in family stories and history.  During this lag time, details become fuzzy, memories fade, and letters are thrown away.  This is where resources found on the internet can help fill the void and begin to put the pieces back together.  The research I do for my own family history is the same that goes into tracing an Irish relative who emigrated to America.  This broader approach to family history allows us to learn more about our roots and what makes us who we are.

I won’t bore you with all the details, but some other family members who have piqued my interest (and imagination) over the years include Uncle Jackie who fell off the threshing machine and died of tuberculosis of the spine, little Francis who died after eating poisoned plums, and cranky old Aunt Maggie who never married because her boyfriend “snuffed himself out” – he blew out a gas lamp in his hotel room.

These people deserve to be remembered just as much as those who had families and descendants of their own.  There is usually more to a story, something to extend that branch just a bit further.  The same goes for Irish people wondering about a member of their family who “disappeared” to America.  It is not too late to find out what happened to them.

Please check out the Resources page for help on getting started with your own research, or send an email to: aine@archival-solutions.com.  If you would like to hire a professional to help in your search, please visit the Services page for more information.