The Irish in America


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A Wedding and a Funeral

Eighty years ago today my grandparents tied the knot. April 26th, 1941 Agnes McMahon and John Regan were married at Holy Rosary Catholic Church in South Minneapolis, Minnesota. Margaret McMahon Nelson (bride’s sister) and John Foley (bride’s cousin, groom’s good friend) were maid of honor and best man, respectively, and the bride’s niece Rosaleen (Dody) Fuchs was the flower girl.

Photo from private family collection.

The wedding reception was held at Grandma’s house on East 22nd Street in Minneapolis where the McMahon clan had been based for a few years. This house had originally belonged to another John Foley, then later his daughter, Catherine. Grandma’s mother was a Foley, but she always referred to this branch of the Foley family as “shirttail relations,” and brushed it off as a relationship too distant to really consider. But in this age of Ancestry.com and DNA matches, it seems somewhat closer: Grandma’s grandfather Foley and Catherine’s father were first cousins. Both men were immigrants to the USA from Kilmichael, County Cork and lived in Fisherville, New Hampshire before coming to Minnesota. Further connection: John Regan’s grandfather was good friends with Patrick Foley and also came here from Kilmichael.

Wedding cake on dining room chair out in the yard…not something you see too often these days! (Photo from private family collection)

April 26th was also the day of my grandma’s funeral. The year was 2004, sixty-three years after her wedding day and seventeen years ago. I can’t believe seventeen years have passed since that sunny day in April when we said goodbye to her. I know she would have appreciated the coincidence of the two anniversaries. She loved thinking about numbers and playing with dates. She would point out palindrome dates and come up with (often convoluted) tricks for remembering a number for a combination or door entry system. I still remember the code to access her apartment building: 8278. I also remember her trick for remembering these four digits: “The code begins and ends in an 8 and the first two numbers add up to 10 and the second two add up to 15.”

Like I said, convoluted. But I’ve remembered it all of these years. And I think about her every day, not just on April 26th.


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Dodo Scorcese?

It has been a year since I’ve touched this blog. A few projects have brought my attention back to it, and I am ready to pick up the discussion where I left off! It has been a strange, sad year. I am looking forward to getting back to what I like to talk about…The Irish in America.

McMahon and Regan families at Christmas, 1963 (private family collection)

My cousins Fran and Andy recently gave us a copy of an old Super8 home movie taken by my great-aunt Dodo in the 1960s. It includes footage from visits with her sister Margaret in Florida, trips to Northern Minnesota to see her husband’s family, Minnesota snowstorm scenes, my mom’s high school graduation, and numerous family dinners and holiday get-togethers. The film serves as Dodo’s scrapbook; short scenes and snippets forming a record of a few years in her life. It is cool to see people I only ever knew as “oldies” in their younger shells, as well as people I never had the chance to know. They are all in motion – interacting, eating, teasing, rough-housing, and laughing. Family photos like the one above have suddenly come to life!

With my mother’s assistance, we are able to identify the people and places in the movie. I need to figure out a way to record these identifications. The film is digitized, so I am thinking there must be some way to take screenshots and ID the folks appearing in a scene? If anyone out there has suggestions, leave a comment and steer me in the right direction.

St. Malachy Catholic Church in Clontarf, Minnesota (private collection)

My mother and I are getting back into our research and writing on the Irish settlement in Clontarf, Minnesota. We are easing in by writing a history of St. Malachy’s Catholic Church. Once the centerpiece of the Catholic colony in western Minnesota, the parish became part of the St. Isidore the Farmer Area Faith Community a number of years ago and ceased regular services.

This photo is of the second church building, constructed in 1896 to accommodate a growing parish. The first church was built in 1878.

I will write later about a wonderful “discovery” I made last year on Ancestry.com. A few months into the pandemic, a generous woman from Florida united me with a family treasure. Oh, and there is another thing I found out on Ancestry.com. I am not, as I have always believed, 100% Irish. It seems as though a 7% strain of Scottish lineage has crept into the mix. I welcome the diversity, and if I ever figure it all out, I hope to do a future post on DNA and building your family tree.

Have you made any discoveries recently about your family’s roots? Unearthed any new stories about the Irish in America? Share with us by leaving a comment!