The Irish in America


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Reminder: St. Patrick’s Day Giveaway!

Just a friendly reminder to enter our St. Patrick’s Day Giveaway by 11:59pm EDT tomorrow, March 17th. The winner will be announced Wednesday, March 19th. Simply answer the Listowel trivia question below, fill in your contact information, and hit the submit button.

But first, take a look at what people have to say about the prize, a signed copy of Vincent Carmody’s Listowel – Snapshots of an Irish Market Town 1850-1950:

“A beautifully designed and executed book, wherein the discards of history are put on parade to become a treasure throve of insight into the life of an Irish Market town. Listowel is transfigured; If space allows movement; place is pause at every turn of a page.”     Dr. Patrick J. O’ Connor

“That Vincent Carmody’s Listowel, Snapshots of an Irish Market town is evocative and beautiful is not surprising, but it is also an artful history. Concisely and lucidly told, it is a mosaic of faces and the telling artifacts of everyday life.”    Richard White, Professor of American History, Stanford University

“This book is about more than the shops and the pubs. It is a reminder of the transience of life, of the way that humans move on but a streetscape remains. Beautifully presented, it will appeal to anyone from North Kerry and should give other towns reason to wish they had someone who would do the same for them.”    Frank O’Shea, Irish Echo 

Listowel (courtesy of Vincent Carmody)

Listowel (courtesy of Vincent Carmody)

Good Luck!


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Listowel Letters

After Vincent Carmody contacted me and told me a bit about Listowel, County Kerry, I became intrigued by the town, its history, and its place in the story of the Irish in America.  I wanted to learn more, so naturally I took to the internet.

Listowel (courtesy of Vincent Carmody)

Listowel (courtesy of Vincent Carmody)

I was thrilled to stumble upon The Gleasure Letters blog. There is little I enjoy more than a nice collection of emigrant letters, and what better way to get to know the history of a town than through first-hand accounts? I admit, I am rather jealous of Ben Naylor, who publishes the blog with his wife, Kathleen. Ben’s family had no idea these letters existed until an uncle passed away, leaving a trunk containing the letters behind. I don’t think I am the only person engaged in family history research for whom such a discovery is a dream come true!

A description of the collection, taken from The Gleasure Letters blog:

Full transcriptions of hundreds of letters from 1897-1955. Letters are from the Gleasures of Listowel, Ireland to Frank Gleasure in Massachusetts and from Frank’s son George Gleasure (killed in D-Day) to his father during World War II.

I urge you to browse around The Gleasure Letters – you will look up at the clock and wonder how two hours could have passed. Ben and Kathleen have done all the hard work for us in transcribing the letters. You get to sit back, read, and enjoy, without getting hung up on words because of the fancy (or illegible) script. Thanks to Ben for his generosity in allowing us a glimpse into the history of the Irish in America, through his family’s experiences.

Mary Cogan is the author of the Listowel Connections blog, “…a personal take on Listowel, Co. Kerry. I am writing for anyone anywhere with a Listowel connection but especially for sons and daughters of Listowel who find themselves far from home.” Mary’s most recent post is a remarkable series of photographs she took while on her morning walk through Listowel.

In October of last year, Ben and Kathleen Naylor paid a visit to Listowel and saw many of the places mentioned in The Gleasure Letters. Mary documented their visit in a post on her blog – click here. Ben and Kathleen were treated to a tour of Listowel from Vincent Carmody, author of Listowel – Snapshots of an Irish Market Town 1850-1950. You could be treated to a copy of the book when you enter our St. Patrick’s Day giveaway – details announced next week.

  • Click here for more on Gleasure letters and photographs.
  • Click here to get to know Listowel native Kathy Buckley, twentieth-century culinary sensation.
  • Click here to learn about a Chicago man with Listowel roots who made his mark in politics, Elmer Walsh.


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Irish Savannah in Pictures

Irish Savannah (1)

Just in time for the Savannah Irish Festival this weekend, Arcadia Publishing released it’s newest pictorial history, Irish Savannah, by Sheila Counihan Winders earlier this week. Irish Savannah is for sale online at arcadiapublishing.com and folks in Savannah can pick it up at local retailers.

Take a look at what the publisher has to say about this exciting new book and its author…

CLICK HERE to open the pdf of the press release.

Irish Savannah joins more than twenty volumes in Arcadia’s series highlighting the contribution and impact of the Irish on communities throughout the United States. And you know what’s really great about these books? The pictures! If you are like me and you can’t get enough of old photographs and the history of Irish America, then you have hit the jackpot with Arcadia’s Irish series. Click here to get started building your collection. (Psst…it looks like you can get 20% off when you sign up for their newsletter.)

Congratulations to Sheila Counihan Winders and the lovely city of Savannah!


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Pride & Place Pictures of Ireland + A Special Offer Just For You!

Old House in Mayo Mountains - photo courtesy of Pride&Place Pictures of Ireland

Old House in Mayo Mountains – photo courtesy of Pride & Place Pictures of Ireland

It is my pleasure to introduce you to an exciting new venture – Pride & Place Pictures of Ireland. Now, this is a fantastic idea!

Paul Mulligan is an Irish photographer who believes there is something very special about Ireland – its landscapes and seascapes, its villages and people. Paul knows that many people all over the world share this passion for Ireland. Some have emigrated and miss home, while others have memories of an amazing holiday spent in Ireland. There are also those who have never even visited Ireland, but feel an affinity to the place of their ancestor’s birth.

Whatever the case, Paul can bring that special piece of Ireland home to you. From the Pride & Place website:

All over the world there are many Irish exploring their roots or working abroad

It might be very important to you to have a photo of home where you live or work.

What better than a photograph of Ireland that is dear to you and reminds you of home.

Dundalk Bay - courtesy of Pride&Place Pictures of Ireland

Dundalk Bay – courtesy of Pride & Place Pictures of Ireland

There are many photos of Ireland online that you can choose from ,however they tend to be much of the same.

The service we offer is simple and the end product can be amazing for you.We Take the picture you want us to take. You Pick. We Click.

It could be the tree you climbed when you were young, maybe you carved your name on it. It could be the church where you, your parents or grandparents got married. Anything or anywhere specific to you, your memories and roots in Ireland.

Pride & Place Pictures of Ireland is offering The Irish in America readers a special discount – when you contact them, mention the code “irishamerica” to receive 20% off your order! Don’t hesitate to get in touch – Paul would love to hear from you and as he says, “It’s free to talk!”

Don’t know where your ancestor’s came from in Ireland? The Irish in America can help you sort that out – take a look at our Services page for information on hiring us to do some genealogical digging. For a special rate of $35 The Irish in America will complete a general search on the origin of your surname in Ireland. Then, you will have something to go on when you contact Pride & Place. If you wish to go a little deeper, one of our other research packages may be of interest. Click here to send us an email!

House in the Connemara Hills - courtesy of Pride&Place Pictures of Ireland

House in the Connemara Hills – courtesy of Pride & Place Pictures of Ireland

Pride & Place…a great way to remember home, dream of a favorite vacation spot, or honor your ancestors who left Ireland all those years ago. Visit Pride & Place Pictures of Ireland to see more gorgeous photos and for more information.


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New Dungarvan Guide!

Exciting things are happening at the Waterford County Museum.

My sister, Regan, and I were lucky enough to visit Dungarvan this past September. Willie Whelan personally showed us around the Waterford County Museum and brought us on a quick tour of the town. A group of dedicated and talented volunteers make the museum happen, and they are doing a fantastic job. It is truly a gem, and this book is a must-have for anyone interested in Dungarvan or Irish history in general.

Read the press release for :

The Ideal Christmas Gift – Dungarvan: A Historic Guide & Town Trail
Waterford County Museum will launch their new 80 page guide book about Dungarvan on Wednesday 28th November. The guide book content includes a history of Dungarvan, articles on notable local personalities, historic sites in the locality, a town walking trail, numerous full page photos and maps. The book is produced to a very high standard and the museum will arrange shipping worldwide. All profits from the book go the upkeep of the museum.

One of the book’s authors William Fraher said that “I am delighted with the finish and appearance of the book. The larger scale landscape format allows the wonderful photographs from the museum archive to be seen to best advantage. I think it would make an ideal Christmas gift for anyone with relatives or friends living abroad”.

Co-author Willie Whelan stated that “We think this book will be attractive to local history enthusiasts, tourists, locals and school children. It also provides an authoritative basic historical guide to the Dungarvan area.”

Support from Waterford Leader Partnership has enabled the price of the book to be kept at €10 allowing as wide a range of people as possible access to their local history.

Pádraig Ó Cuirrín, President of Waterford County Museum welcomed the launch of the new book and added “I am really delighted that the museum has managed to produce such a quality publication. I would also like to acknowledge the support of the Waterford Leader Partnership in helping fund this book. Without the ongoing support that we receive from the Leader Partnership our work would be much more difficult. Dhéanfadh an leabhar seo bronntanas oiriúnach; go háirithe do cáirde agus gaolta thar lear.”

Dungarvan: A Historic Guide & Town Trail (printed by local company Printmaster) is available to buy in the museum at St. Augustine Street, Dungarvan for €10 or it can be bought on-line via www.waterfordmuseum.ie.

For more information about buying the book contact:
E-mail: history@waterfordmuseum.ie
Website: www.waterfordmuseum.ie
Phone: 058 45960

If you want to learn more about the Waterford County Museum…

1. Follow the Waterford County Museum on Twitter – every day they tweet great photos from their collection. Click here to follow them.

2. Browse around the website – there is a great search engine at the bottom where you chose a time period from the drop-down menu and search for articles about that era…try it out!

3. Get the Town Trail app from iTunes or Google Play for your iPhone (99 cents) or Android (free).


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Ireland is a Small Country

Jim takes a moment to reflect on family, genealogy, and Ireland…

Ireland occupies 27,136 square miles of Mother Earth’s surface. As of 2011 about 4,581,269 people inhabit that area. As a comparison Minnesota, where I live in the United States has about 5,200,000 folks spread over about 86,934 square miles. Just how small was illustrated by an encounter I had on a recent trip to the homeland.

One of my goals on that trip was to meet the members of the Loughman/Kelly branch of my McCormack family tree. My grandfather’s youngest sibling Johanna McCormack who was born at Ballyedmond, Queens County (now Co. Laois) in 1874 married James Loughman from Killadooley in 1904. For many years Aunt Johanna, as she was called, corresponded with my aunt Nellie McCormack Marrin in Minneapolis. Johanna’s daughter Catherine Loughman, who would later marry Tom Kelly, continued the correspondence with my Aunt Nellie. As part of my search I had acquired several photos taken of family in Ireland when my cousin Eileen Hamm Garding had visited in the mid 1970’s. I had already identified the people in most of the photos. I was however stumped by a photo in which the only two of seven people pictured that I knew were Eileen and our cousin Kate Loughman Kelly. On my second day in Ireland I met Michael Kelly, Kate and Tom Kelly’s oldest son. The way that meeting came about is a story to be told another day. For our purposes today let it suffice to say that Michael was easily able to identify the other people in the mystery photo.

They were Nan Loughman Wall, Kate’s stepsister, Nan’s son Mick, his wife, and their two daughters. The names are only important because of what happened next.

Regan McCormack, Johnny Delaney, and the cup

Two nights later my family and I were attending a victory celebration in a pub in Clogh. It just so happened that the Hurling team from Clogh/Ballacolla had recently won the County Laois Championship. The reason we were at the party is that another cousin Johnny Delaney was the captain and star of the team.

While enjoying the celebration at the pub I was introduced to a fellow named Mick Wall. The name sounded familiar but I could not place it. I do have about 1700 names in my family tree. After a few minutes it started to come to me. I asked him if his parents were Mick and Madge. Sure enough he was the son of the family in the mystery photo that had just been identified two days earlier. Where but in Ireland could a Yank from St. Paul Minnesota be celebrating with the team captained by a cousin in one of the smallest hamlets in the County run into the son of a man on the mystery photo?


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The Proof is in the Picture

“You know, Jim, my brother Paddy met you before. It was in the early Seventies at Nellie Marrin’s home in Minneapolis,” Michael Kelly told my dad one afternoon last month shortly after we arrived in Ireland.

“I don’t think so…he must have me confused with someone else…I really don’t remember that at all,” my dad replied shaking his head.

Regardless of whether Paddy met my dad, I was curious how Paddy Kelly found himself at my grand-aunt Nellie McCormack Marrin’s house in South Minneapolis. I had heard my dad mention the Kelly name when he referenced his genealogy work in recent years, but this was the first time I had met a Kelly.

Paddy and Michael’s mother, Katie Loughman Kelly, was a first cousin of my grandfather Bill McCormack and his sister Nellie McCormack Marrin. This makes my dad, Paddy and Michael second cousins.

Michael shared a number of entertaining stories with us that afternoon. Over the years, he collected stories from his mother Katie, and passed her memories on to us with keen understanding and insight.

Katie considered her American cousins Nellie and Bill “kindred spirits” and enjoyed a life-long correspondence with Nellie. Katie never met Nellie in person, but Bill visited Ireland in 1934-35 and the two of them became good friends.

Michael invited us to dinner the following Sunday. We had a great time at their lovely home. Michael’s wife Moira is known for her culinary and hosting skills and the entire Kelly family was delightful.

Paddy Kelly stopped by and after introductions were made, Michael mentioned to Paddy that my dad didn’t remember meeting him. Paddy stood his ground – indeed they had met – and he went on to tell us how Nellie sat in her rocking chair, closed her eyes and recounted the name of every family on the road from Ballyedmond (County Laois, where her father’s home) to Rathdowney. This was truly a stroll down her father’s memory lane – the families Nellie listed were her father Andy McCormack’s neighbors before leaving for America. Nellie must have heard her father’s litany often enough for her to commit it to her own memory.

Paddy turned to my sister, mom, and me and said that he also met the three of us that day at Nellie’s.

Paddy let us stew a few minutes before pulling out a photograph taken at Nellie Marrin’s in 1972:

Jim, Eileen, Regan, and Aine McCormack - 1972

Sure enough…the four of us posed for a photograph for an Irish cousin (I am the camera-shy one on the right!) We had all met a Kelly before.

I don’t blame my dad for not remembering. After all he was twenty-seven-years-old, busy with his young family and his life.

So often people lament not talking to older relatives about family history or not asking more questions when they were young and there were people still around who could answer them. I say don’t be so hard on yourselves! As young people, most of us don’t care that much about what old people have to say, and sometimes the old people don’t want to talk anyway.

The photograph Paddy produced reminded me of the dozens of old, unidentified photos in my family collection. I think I will begin labelling them all as “cousins” of whichever relative they most closely resemble!

Next time I will take a look at the other side of the family history obstacle – when no one wants to talk about it. When we were in Ireland I finally learned a few things about my grandfather.