The Irish in America


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Books, Books, Books

Some time ago, my dad dropped off a couple of boxes of “Irish books.” He was going through his library – refining his collection – and I told him I’d like to take a look at his cast-offs.

There is a good mix of books: novels, history, golf, biography, music, travel, and poetry. The two boxes would make a great “starter library” for someone interested in Irish and Irish American Studies.

When I started going through the books, I tried to not be offended when I came across books I had given Dad as gifts. They just didn’t make the cut, I guess. When I got to the bottom of the first box, hidden beneath several Morgan Llewelyn paperbacks and Great Golf Courses of Ireland, I couldn’t believe what I saw. How could Dad let go of this gem?!?

This book is just supposed to be on Dad’s bookshelf, I can picture it there, right alongside Alive! by Read, The Poetry of Robert Frost, and What Color is My Parachute? (Honestly, Dad had them arranged better than that, but images of those books are cemented in my memory.) Trinity by Leon Uris was hands down the most widely read book at our South Minneapolis home during the last quarterof the twentieth century. It made the rounds. One look at the state of the book will tell you how much we loved it.

For anyone who has not read Trinity, it is a sweeping tale covering the history of Ireland from Famine to 1916. Uris masterfully weaves the lives of rich, engaging, and complex characters into actual historic events. It is not just Catholic vs. Protestant, or even Irish vs. English, it is about the people who make history. The story draws you in and is so good that you really feel like you come away with an understanding (or at least a beginning of an understanding) of Irish history eventhough it also feels like pure entertainment.

Trinity was my literary introduction to the history of Ireland. It’s been awhile, but I think it is time to read it again. I was twelve and in my early U2-obsessed phase when I first read it. I revisited it often in high school and read it again in my twenties. I guess I’d say it was part of my youth. Time for a more mature perspective.

Read along with me, if you would like! I am going to see if any of the McCormacks want to join in reading as well. But they will have to get their own copies. This one is mine.

Leave a comment and let me know if you will be joining me in reading Leon Uris’ Trinity, or let me know about a book that made its way around your family when you were growing up.

Pick up a used copy of Trinity on eBay or Abe Books or ThriftBooks. Happy reading!


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There’s More to Waterford than Crystal

It is great to see museums, libraries, and archives promoting their collections using social media and the internet. This is particularly exciting for those of us researching our Irish roots.

Earlier I shared the fantastic work of digitizing collection materials happening in Limerick City – at the Library and the Archives – and I told you how much I enjoy @Limerick 1912, the Twitter account for the Local Studies team at the Limerick City Library. I have been equally impressed with the tweets from the folks at the Waterford County Museum. Every day they share several historical photos and facts from their collection. Click here to see what they are tweeting today.

Here are a few examples of the great images @waterfordmuseum has tweeted in recent days: a charming 1950s scene from Ardmore beach, a ship undergoing maintenance in Waterford harbor in 1902, and a 1962 snapshot of a man, his horse and cart, transporting lobster pots.

If you prefer to browse the collection at your own pace, you may search the photos here by photographer, subject, location, or date. The featured “photograph of the week” is accompanied by a brief description of the photo and photographer’s bio. Some photographs are even available for purchase directly from the website.

Of course, the Waterford County Museum has more than just photographs. Visit their website to learn more about other collections, exhibits, and resources. The museum is located in Dungarvan, County Waterford.

The museum tweets got me interested in the history of Waterford, so I took a look around to see what other resources were available on the internet for people interested in County Waterford’s history.

The Waterford County Library has made historic issues of the Dungarvan Leader, the Dungarvan Observer, and several local papers available online. This is a fantastic resource for anyone interested in local Waterford history and can be especially useful for those who trace their roots to the Waterford area. Click here to begin exploring the collection. The library also has other great family history resources including a database of Waterford Death Registers.

The Waterford Archive has collections of family papers, County Council records, the Lismore Estate papers, and Board of Guardians and Workhouse records. These materials are not available online, but for each collection there is an extensive descriptive list available on the website.

Lismore Castle, County Waterford (2009, R. McCormack)

The Lismore Estate Papers look very interesting:

The Lismore Castle Papers contain records on the administration of the estate, including, records on the running of Lismore Castle and Gardens, the Castle Farm, the woods, mountain, Lismore Sawmills and the Blackwater Fishery. The collection also includes detailed records on the tenants of the estate, including, rental books, tenant application books and tenant correspondence. The estate was also involved in a number of major projects in counties Waterford and Cork, such as, the introduction of the railways.

If your ancestors came from the Waterford/Cork area and were farmers, there is a good chance you could find something in this collection about their life before emigration. The staff at the archives asks that you carefully read the descriptive lists before planning a trip to the archive.

This is just a glimpse at what is available in County Waterford for history buffs. Do you trace your family tree to County Waterford? Let me know if you learn something new by taking a look at the Waterford County Library, Archive, and Museum.

Along the Copper Coast…