The Irish in America

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Family Album: Mary Foley’s Birthday

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)



Day Four of Irish American Favorites: Maryn

Newborn Maryn

Newborn Maryn

Today is a special day. My niece, and the first member of the fourth-generation of our branch of the Andy McCormacks in America, turns six-years-old today. The world came to a halt for us on June 4, 2007 when Maryn Eileen McCormack joined the family. We all had new roles – Father, Grandpa, Grandma, Great-Aunt, and Aunts, and immediately Maryn became the sun in our solar system.

Maryn at age one

Maryn at age one

Maryn has always been really cool. She’s never let all the attention and adoration go to her head. Before Maryn started talking, you could just tell she was taking it all in and figuring things out.



Maryn is smart, generous, loving, and inquisitive. She has a mind like a steel trap and an awesome imagination. The storylines of our games of Princess continue from week to week, as the plot develops and characters evolve. Sometimes her younger sister Ainsley and I try to freelance with events in our land of make-believe, but Maryn is always on us to get us back on track and keep to the story.



Maryn is one of my two favorite Irish Americans born in the twenty-first century. It has been a privilege to share the last six years with her and I love to experience her energy and enthusiasm for life. It is amazing to see her grow up, but in this Auntie’s opinion, I wouldn’t mind if she slowed down just a little bit!