The Irish in America


A Candle for Louie

Waterford's Gold Coast (photo Regan McCormack)

Waterford’s Gold Coast (photo Regan McCormack)

Regan and I looked forward to our visit to County Waterford last September. On previous trips to Ireland we had visited Lismore and Ardmore in Waterford, but didn’t tour the rest of the county. Our real introduction to Waterford came during the past year, through the entertaining tweets from Dungarvan’s Waterford County Museum. The museum shares beautiful photographs and historical items from their collection on Twitter. Regan and I were eager to see Dungarvan and the museum in person, as well as explore more of County Waterford.

But when we arrived in Dungarvan, the sightseeing would have to wait. Regan and I had to attend to some business.

Our dad’s good friend Lou Bader passed away on June 27, 2012. Louie and Dad played a lot of golf together, which probably says it all about their relationship. Louie shared my dad’s competitive streak and sense of humor, as well as his love for a few hours spent on the golf course. But there was something else the two men shared.

About fifteen years ago, my dad began to explore his family history. He traced his roots back to Ballyedmond, County Laois, and found cousins living on the farm his grandfather left in the late 1880s. Louie had also been researching his family tree and had learned about his Irish grandfather through his mother’s stories.

Dungarvan (2)

Dungarvan Street (photo by Regan McCormack)

I wish I could say that Louie and my dad discovered they shared a grandfather –  that would make a great story! No, Louie and my dad only shared similar questions about their  family history and the wish to find out where they came from. Both men  researched their family trees, traveled to their grandfathers’ birthplaces in Ireland, and made lasting connections with their Irish cousins. Several trips followed for Louie, my dad, and their families.

In light of our autumn trip to Ireland, Dad asked Regan and I to do him a favor and deliver Louie’s memorial card to his cousin in Dungarvan. This was an “old-school” request and my dad’s directions (“Stop in at the cleaners in town and ask for Anne-Marie”) only added to the feeling that we were characters in a Victorian novel. But of course, anything for Louie. He was a good man and a great friend to my dad.

Louie’s maternal grandfather, Matthew O’Rourke, was born in 1869, the youngest son of Patrick and Margaret. The O’Rourke family lived in the townland of Carrigcastle, near the village of Ballylaneen, about five miles from Dungarvan, County Waterford. In her delightful memoir, Love and Oatmeal (2006), Louie’s mother, Madeline O’Rourke Bader, lovingly recounts when she would ask her father why he left Ireland and moved to Saint Paul, Minnesota. A smile came over his face when he told her his sister-in-law encouraged him to go to America. Madeline writes in the memoir:

The way he smiled when he said that, though, always made me think there was something more to the story. A few years ago when I visited Ireland for the first time and saw how beautiful the land he left behind is, I understood a little better that his smile must have covered up a lot of pain and longing. (Love and Oatmeal, p.4)

Anne-Marie wasn’t in at the cleaners, but Mary told us how sad they all were when they heard of Louie’s passing this summer. She said how much they enjoyed his frequent telephone calls (just to check in with his Irish cousins), as well as his visits to Dungarvan. In a few short years Louie had made an impact on his Irish relatives. They really missed him.

Regan and I decided we needed to do something special for Louie, so we found the little church in Ballylaneen where his grandfather was baptized, lit a candle and said a prayer. We thought of Louie and all the O’Rourkes – the ones who stayed in Ireland, those who emigrated, and the few who made it back.

St. Anne's Church - Ballylaneen, Waterford

St. Anne’s Church – Ballylaneen, Waterford (photo Regan McCormack)

For more information about Dungarvan and Waterford County history, please visit Waterford County Museum. Click here to read about the new Dungarvan guide book.


One of the Foleys: What do you think?

Unidentified from the Foley family collection

Several years ago, my mother received a trio of photographs from her cousin Lorna.  Lorna knew that two of the photos were her great-grandparents (see below), but she had no idea about the identity of the woman pictured above.  All that Lorna could offer was, “Well, I am sure she’s one of the Foleys…”

Do you think she could be this guy’s mother?

Patrick T. Foley

This is my great-great-grandfather Patrick Foley who arrived in America in 1864.  He came from Kilmichael Parish, County Cork and settled in Fisherville, New Hampshire before heading West to Clontarf, Minnesota in the late 1870s.

Or, could the caped woman be this lady’s mother?

Mary Crowley Foley

Mary Crowley married Patrick Foley on November 13, 1869 at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Providence, Rhode Island.  Mary also came from County Cork.  Patrick and Mary’s photographs are tin-types.

I really can’t tell who she is, nor do I know where the photo was taken.  If anyone has input or information regarding these photos, please leave a comment.  I would love to know more about the costume in the first photograph, and if you see any resemblance.

Leave a comment

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


Belle of the Ball

Guest contributor Jim McCormack shows us how family history research can lead us in unexpected directions.  Jim’s research has extended from his direct lineage to learning about the earlier wave of McCorma(i)cks who came to America – the families of his grandfather’s uncles.

One of the fun aspects of family history research is you often get sidetracked by interesting stories or people. A good example involves my study of the family of Patrick McCormick. Patrick was one of my grandfather’s uncles and an early settler in Camden Township, Carver County, Minnesota. Patrick and his wife Catherine Glendon had a total of fourteen children. My search for Andrew Francis, the couple’s sixth child took me from Carver county Minnesota to the mountains of Tuolumne California where he died in 1911.

Andrew McCormick was born in 1864 and was a graduate of the State University Law Department. The promising young attorney was tall, handsome, and athletic.  On July 10th, 1894 Andy was married to the lovely Belle Hagen, the best known and popular young lady in Camden.  Within three years Andrew had uprooted his young family and taken them to the gold fields of California. By Jan 1st 1911 Andrew was dead and Belle was responsible for raising their five children. My search for Andrew (which I will discuss in a later post)and the California branch of the family introduced me to a cousin in California Rosemary Arca. Besides sharing many stories of the family, she graciously shared treasured family photos. Among those were photos of Belle Hagen McCormick, Belle’s mother Ellen Sweeney Hagen and a photo that I think is of Isabella Sweeney Ellen’s mother. Whether it was the similarity with my own mother who was left a widow with young children to rear or all of the feminists in my family or seeing these photos, I began to dig into the Belle Hagen McCormick story.

Ellen Sweeney Hagan - Belle's mother

Isabelle (Belle) was born in 1870 to Ellen Sweeney and Peter Hagen. She was the second of three children born to the couple. According to Peter’s obituary Ellen died in 1874. In the state Census of 1875 Peter and the three girls were living as a family in Carver. By 1880 the three Hagen girls were living with their Grandmother Isabella Sweeney and their father Peter had been committed to the State Hospital in St. Peter, Minnesota. Luckily for Belle she had a loving grandmother to raise her after the two terrible losses of her youth.  One can only speculate on how she was affected by her mother’s death and father’s mental problems. In 1885 Isabelle Hagan was living with Grandma Sweeney with no sign of the other two girls.

Belle Hagen McCormick

Despite these early setbacks Belle apparently adjusted quite well. Prior to her marriage to Andrew, Belle was known as one of the most popular young ladies in the County.  Newspaper accounts of the time described the wedding as almost fairy tale like.  The Norwood Times described “a very impressive ceremony complete with flowers and wreaths decorating the church in Norwood.  The Times reported that the bridesmaids were Misses Margaret McCormick, sister of the groom and Mary E. Hagen of Ft. Snelling, sister of the bride. The groomsmen were Philip McCormick, brother of the groom and Daniel Sharon, a cousin of the groom (and boyhood friend).  After the ceremony a sumptuous repast was served to the family and relatives at the home of Senator Craven.  After their wedding tour the prominent young Chaska attorney and his beautiful wife took rooms in a trendy new addition in Chaska.”The honeymoon apparently did not last long. Within three years Andrew Belle and Lenore their first child had moved to California. By the time Andrew died Jan 1st 1911 the family had grown to five children. Sometime that same year Belle married Lott Walker Savage in Tuolumne. In Oct 1912 their daughter Francis Ellen was born. At some point after 1920 the blended family moved to Oakland where the family remains today.

Ellen Sweeney Hagen grave marker

Peter Hagen grave marker

Grave markers for Belle’s parents, Ellen Sweeney and Peter Hagen.

Please leave a comment if you would like to ask Jim a question.  He will share a bit more about Andrew McCormick in a future post…make sure you check back!