The Irish in America


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Just around the corner…

Adjacent to cemetery at Erke, County Laois

In less than a month, we leave for a two-week visit to Ireland.  Naturally, I can’t wait.  Although this is my seventh trip to Ireland, I think I am as excited as I was the first time I visited as a sixteen-year-old high school student in 1988.

Quite a bit has changed in the past twenty-three years, and each trip I’ve taken to Ireland has had its own unique flavor.  I have stayed in all types of accommodations (except this one…would love to try it!) and visited nearly every county in the Republic, as well as the North.

On previous trips, there may have been times when we’ve tried to do and see way too much, but not this time.  We are staying in the same place for the entire two weeks, and I am content to remain within a 15-mile radius of our rented house.  I will have everything I love in Ireland in that zone – brown bread, ruins, a good pub (or two), family, farmhouse ice cream, chocolate, a museum, and cows.  Now, the ice cream is a bit outside of the 15-mile zone, but it is still in County Laois.

Can’t wait to see the McCormack relatives.  We will be a few short miles from the farm my great-grandfather left behind when he came to America at the end of the nineteenth century.  My dad has been in touch with more relatives in the area, so he is planning another get-together (read about our first adventure in entertaining back in 2009 here.)  This makes me a little nervous…maybe last time was a case of beginner’s luck?

I am excited for Tuohy’s Bar, and I hope we can make it to the Monday night sing-a-long on our first night in Ireland.  I have never quite mastered the tricks to dealing with that initial day of jet-lag.  I never know if it is best to take a nap at some point and risk not waking up or to power through and nearly fall asleep at dinner.  I don’t want to snooze away my first day in Ireland, nor do I want to be so tired I see double.  Maybe I will actually get some sleep on the plane this time!

A bit of a diversion during the next month or so as we look at some Americans in Ireland, but I will also keep my eye on the Irish in America…


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Emigrant Letters Help Tell the Story

The most frequently searched topic that brings visitors to The Irish in America is emigrant letters, those rich and rare sources of historical and genealogical information.  Over the next week I will explore some internet resources available to those interested in the often elusive emigrant letter.

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania is home to the Curtis Family Collection.  The Curtis family emigrated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from Mountmellick, Queen’s County in waves, from the mid-1830s to the mid-1840s.  The collection includes letters from Ireland to Philadelphia, as well as from Philadelphia to Ireland.  Click here to read theses fascinating letters.  This link will take you to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania’s website and a listing of the letters – once there simply click on the links to open each letter.

Also included in the Curtis Family Collection are several historical documents, including a membership certification to the Saint Patrick’s Beneficial Society of Philadelphia and citizenship papers.  Click here to view all items.

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania has a few other items related to Irish emigration on their website.  The words to eight immigrant ballads are posted, as well as examples of missing emigrant listings found in the Catholic Herald newspaper.

These resources were put together for an education course on ethnic history and settlement of Pennsylvania.  It is an excellent way of teaching this topic using primary sources preserved in their archive.  The collection provides tremendous insight into the lives of Famine-era emigrants to the United States.  Many thanks to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania!

Reading List…

Journey of Hope

Check out this great book by Kerby Miller and Patricia Mulholland Miller titled Journey of Hope: The Story of Irish Immigration to America.  The book utilizes emigrant letters to tell the story of Irish immigrants and includes many photographs.  It is an “interactive book” containing copies of handwritten letters and other reproduced ephemera central to the immigration journey.


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A Photo of the Irish Diaspora in Minnesota

Jim, senior researcher for Archival Solution, writes about how his quest to identify all of the individuals in this photograph has resulted in new discoveries about his family research and new family connections.  He shows how photographs can often serve as catalysts in our research, leading us to dig deeper and develop a richer, more comprehensive understanding of our family’s history.

McCormi(a)ck Family Unites

Aine’s stories on her blog The Irish in America always motivate me to keep working on my own family project. For the past twelve years I have been researching the family of John Cormack who was born at Lochmoe in County Tipperary, Ireland in the last decade of the eighteenth century. According to family tradition he drifted up to Ballyedmond in Queen’s County (now Laois) where he married Catherine Purcell and started a family that would give several sons and daughters to the United States. My study has raised and answered many questions.  Among those was: “What is the reason for the multiple spellings of the family name? Why are there some “McCormicks” and some “McCormacks”? That answer is for another day however.

One of the other long-standing questions involves a picture given to me by a cousin about seven years ago. I knew it was a photo of a family function and there were 107 people in it. Of those I knew the identities of five individuals, including my Grandfather Andrew McCormack and his brother Mike McCormack, always known as our Uncle Mike. Uncle Mike’s wife, Katie Hannon and two of their first cousins were the others that I recognized. Being rather new to family history at that point I set a rather lofty goal for myself.  I decided I would identify all 107 people in the photo.

The picture was taken in July 1946 at the celebration of the 50th wedding anniversary of Phillip J.K. McCormick and his wife Ellen, nee Craven. Phillip was my 1st cousin two times removed.  My Cousin Zack Krueger, Phillip and Ellen’s grandson was very helpful in providing names for many of the faces. Every time I meet or correspond with a relative I pull out my photo and try to jar their memories. As of May 25, 2011 my goal is in sight.  I have identified all but eleven of those pictured. Complicating the process is that there are both McCormick and Craven relatives as well as many friends and neighbors of the family. Another problem is that there are people in the photo that are related to some of my relatives but not related to me. For example out of the fifteen Dalys shown in the photo I am related by blood to about half of them.

A recent meeting with some of my Nugent cousins provided the identity of several more of the celebrants. Researching the faces in the photo has been very rewarding for me. By putting faces on the names many of the McCormicks, Dalys, McDonalds, Burns, Nugents, Peteks, and Kruegers, have become real people and not just names found on old census and church records, as well as birth and death certificates