Welcome (Céad Míle Fáilte!) to Small-leaved Shamrock

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

3rd Annual St. Patrick's Day Blog Parade!

Welcome to the
3rd Annual
St. Patrick's Day
Blog Parade

(otherwise known as the
18th edition of the
Carnival of Irish Heritage and Culture)

If you love the history and culture of Ireland, have Irish ancestry, are an Irish citizen - or just love a parade - you've come to the right place this St. Patrick's Day!  We'll talk Irish genealogy with some articles from those that are seeking their personal roots in Ireland (or helping others trace theirs).  We'll ponder the faith of the Irish people, discuss Irish travel and music, and - last, but not least - take a look at the beloved St. Patrick and his big day: March 17. 

It's great to have you with us for the parade!  Find yourself a spot with a good view and get ready to watch the entries parade by on this, the day of worldwide celebration of the feast of St. Patrick of Ireland!

On Irish roots

“I showed my appreciation of my native land in the usual Irish way:
by getting out of it as soon as I possibly could.”
- George Bernard Shaw

We'll start our parade off with a look at Irish Genealogy.  Donna Moughty warns against believing the fairy tale that "you can't research in Ireland because of the fire".  As a professional genealogist in Florida with a specialty is 19th-century Irish research, Donna presents some very good online resources for Irish genealogy.  Just getting into genealogy or need some fresh how-to reminders?  Take some time to visit the Strategies for Starting Your Family History series on Donna's Genealogy Blog.

Is there anyone among us with Irish heritage who doesn't dream of uncovering a handwritten letter from one of their Irish forebears?  Shauna Hicks of Victoria, Australia has done so (more than once).  She shares a few of these family treasures with us in her article Letters Home – My Irish Families on her blog Shauna Hicks History Enterprises.  Visit her blog to read transcripions of her great-great-grandmother's correspondence to and from her home in Brisbane with family back in County Armagh, Ireland in the early 20th-century. 
Another Australian contributor to our carnival is working on tracing her roots in Ireland, this time in County Tipperary.  In her article Tierneys on Parade - My Irish Heritage, Geniaus shares what she has learned about her ancestors who settled in Dungog, New South Wales, Australia in the early 19th-century, showing a vintage photograph of their family home.  Visit the Geniaus blog for more on her Tierney ancestors and her search for cousins.  (Here's hoping that she and I will discover a connection someday between our Tierneys from Tipperary!)
The lack of personal Irish ancestry didn't stop Donna Pointkouski from joining us in celebration of St. Patrick's Day.  Within her Surname Saturday series she has included an article on the Irish ancestry of her niece who hails from the McGeehan clan.  Visit Donna's Surname Saturday: McGeehan at What's Past is Prologue for an indepth overview of the surname including its history, variations and name distribution, along with some thoughts on her own challenges as she researches her niece's family tree.
A hitching post brought all the way from Ireland and used for a tombstone?  That's one family legend from the Conlin and McGowan families of  Roscommon, Ireland that Jenna shares about on her blog Desperately Seeking Surnames.  Visit the short narrative about these families and learn about their roots in Roscommon, their settlement in Missouri, and one family member who found work on the Panama Canal.
T. Casteel joins our parade Doin' the Happy Jig at the discovery of her first real proof of an ancestor hailing from Ireland.  Visit her blog Tangled Trees to learn what she found while researching her French-Canadian ancestry.

On the faith of the Irish people

“If I have any worth, it is to live my life for God so as to teach these peoples; even though some of them still look down on me.”
- St. Patrick

The celebration of St. Patrick’s Day in Londonderry, New Hampshire calls to mind the many connections that the area has to its sister town in Ireland and its own Irish past.  Within her blog Nutfield Genealogy, Heather Wilkinson Rojo writes about this town in New Hamphire settled by Irish immigrants in 1715 and its modern day connections to Ireland. She includes a photo of a statue of St. Bridget given to the local St. Mark's Catholic Church from their neighbor, the Londonderry Presbyterian Church, in solidarity for their shared Christian faith.

Knowing the faith of our ancestors often provides the key to understanding more about their lives.  In Joan Miller's case, the search for her Kerr ancestors who immigrated to Canada in the mid-19th-century led her to research the Early Irish Methodists during the time of the Great Famine. Visit Joan's blog Luxegen Genealogy and Family History for an introduction to the history of Methodism in Ireland within the context of the potato famine.  I found Joan's excerpts from Irish Methodist Reminiscences particularly compelling, especially the comments of the wife of a minister who began: "Oh! the scenes of filth and wretchedness, hunger, nakedness and disease which my dear husband witnessed and tried to relieve..."

Going back even farther into Ireland's history, Katie O. of You Are Where You Came From reminds us that St. Patrick is not the only saintly figure held in great esteem by the Irish people.  She shares a paper she wrote examining the native and Christian motifs in Medieval Irish Hagiography (that's a fancy word for the biographies of saints or venerated persons).  Based on readings of The Life of Senan, Son of Gerrgenn and The Life of Ciaran of Clonmacnois (taken from a 15th-century manuscript), Katie offers a scholarly look at the legendary genealogies, lives and influences of these heroes of Ireland.

On St. Patrick, the Irish and Ireland

“I've always liked it here. Part of me is Irish. . . .
My family comes from the west coast, so whenever I come to Ireland
I get a wee tingling in my heart that I'm where I belong.”
- Billy Connolly (Scottish Actor)

It's funny how Irish Pride sometimes wells up in us for surprising reasons.  In Terri O'Connell's case, it was her German grandmother that encouraged her love of her own Irish heritage each St. Patrick's Day when she was young. Stop by Finding Our Ancestors for Terri's childhood March 17 memories in Chicago including a "cute little green polyester pant suit".
Wearin' O' The Green and St Patrick's Day Tradition is alive within the family of Frances Ellsworth (a.k.a. Hummer) as she shares on her blog Branching Out Through the Years. Stop by to view a collage of her favorite St. Patty's Day family photos and read about her fondness for St. Patrick because of the legendary way he ran the snakes out of Ireland.

The shamrock has long been a beloved symbol of Ireland and St. Patrick.  On her blog Celtic Voices Cindy Thomson muses about its probable use by St. Patrick as a tool to explain the Trinity to the Irish people. Visit Cindy's Did St. Patrick Really Use the Shamrock to Prove a Point? and also her article The Shamrock for more on this well-known native Irish greenery.

What would a St. Patrick's Day party be without Irish music?  Kerry Dexter of Music Road has some recommendations for us.  As Kerry wrote in a previous article, the music of Ireland "goes back centuries, and is still sung, and is still vital. Music about the substance of life is a tradition which continues with today’s musicians as well..."  Visit her blog for the scoop on some of the modern Irish musicians that she enjoys most.

How could we celebrate this very Irish holiday without our thoughts turning back to Ireland itself?  We all have images of Ireland that stir our imaginations, whether we have visited the island or not.  If you do have a trip in your future, you may do well to take some advice from Corey of the Wandering Educators blog.  His article Spots the Tourists Miss in Ireland highlights not-so-well-known destinations in Ireland that are worth working into the itinerary.

If you can't make it to the Emerald Isle, why not plan a visit to a place outside of Ireland with a little bit of Irish history?  One such place is located in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, as Eyelyn Yvonne Theriault explains on her blog A Canadian Family.  Visit The Irish And The Queen Victoria Bridge to see a vintage postcard of the Victoria bridge and read about its tie to a special memorial designed by Irish Quebeckers to commemorate their own.

I hope you've enjoyed this 3rd annual edition of the Small-leaved Shamrock St. Patrick's Day Blog Parade!  Many thanks to all of our contributors. If you just can't get enough St. Patrick's Day reading, make a visit over to the 2008 and 2009 editions of the parade. 

This year's edition was particularly challenging for me to complete thanks to the wee one in my care and the other activities of my family (including this week's Irish dance performances).  If you enjoyed reading, please take the time to leave a comment or send an email.  I'd love to hear your thoughts and suggestions. 

The topic for the upcoming 19th edition of the Carnival of Irish Heritage and Culture (in honor of U.S. National Poetry Month 2010) is Poetry!  Read details about the Small-leaved Shamrock Poetry Party on the Carnival of Irish Heritage and Culture blog. Deadline for this upcoming edition is Monday, April 26, 2010

In the spirit of Irish poetry (which spans from the serious ballad to the silly limerick), here's a traditional Irish "blessing" (if you can call it that!) to take with you on your way:

May those who love us love us,
and those who do not love us,
may God turn their hearts,
and if He cannot turn their hearts
may He turn their ankles
that we may know them by their limping.

(Ban-ock-tee na fay-lah paw-rig ur-iv)

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Irish women in America: Our grandmothers' stories

I have observed that in various branches of my family the daughters often have had better collections of family photographs, heirlooms and keepsakes than the sons. To me (the eager family historian looking for clues to the lives of my ancestors several generations back) these collections have been a treasure trove of information: drawers and boxes full of items giving me glimpses into a history that would otherwise have been lost.

Agnes (Donnelly) Cowhey's portrait and vanity set

I have appreciated collections saved lovingly by dear great aunts and beloved grandmothers (and sometimes not so much saved lovingly as just stored deep enough down so as not to become the victim of the trash can!). I have often wished that the men in the family had the same interest in collecting - or that I could find the long lost women relations who did collect items for that side of the family.

These wishes can only go back so far, however. I know for a fact that the chances of finding a photograph of a family member taken in the 19th century get slimmer and slimmer the further back I go with my family tree. And what are the odds that family letters or mementos, even if they were saved by a nostalgic great-aunt, would have survived the wear and tear of more than a century?

So, sadly, for the stories of the lives of many of my family members over a century ago, I must turn to government documents and other records (when I can find them). More often than not, these focus on the male members of the family. Information on the lives of the women in my family is often harder to come by.

That's where works of social history come in. Pondering the lives of many of the women who came before me, I was looking for insights into the world of Irish immigrant women in America when I came across an interesting list of titles. As far back as 1996, Helen Fallon compiled and placed on the web a list of books dealing with 19th-century Irish emigrant women. Her assortment of annotated bibliographical references includes not only full books dealing with Irish emigrant women, but references to specific chapters of interest in more general volumes.

Here are a few titles that I plan to look further into:

Irish Women and Irish Migration edited by Patrick O'Sullivan - Two chapters of particular interest to women's history include Dymphna McLoughlin's essay Superfluous and Unwanted Deadweight: The Emigration of 19th-century Pauper Women and Miller, Doyle and Kelleher's For Love & Liberty: Irish Women, Migration and Domesticity in Ireland and America, 1815-1920.

Ourselves Alone: Women's Emigration from Ireland 1885-1920 by Janet Nolan - According to Fallon's annotated bibliography, the book includes descripions of the life of Irish women in the United States during this period.

The Irish in America: A Guide to the Literature and Manuscript Collections by Patrick Blessing - This resource includes twelve pages of sources focused on women in addition to many pages of other interesting topics on Irish-American history.

Erin's Daughters in America by Hasia Diner - This is a book that I had actually begun to read but had not yet finished. Diner's book, which attempts to cover many aspects of the lives of Irish-American women, often negatively focuses on the failures of the Irish but is interesting reading.

Immigrant Women in the United States: A Selectively Annotated Multidisciplinary Bibliography by Donna Gabaccia - A reference work for serious students of women's history, this book's country of origin index lists over 200 entries for Ireland.

Check out Helen Fallon's full annotated bibliography entitled The Emigration of Irish Women in the Nineteenth Century.

Another book not noted on the list that I found while searching for Irish women's history is Women in Ireland 1800-1919: A Documentary History. Using actual letters and documents of the time period (the kind I would like to discover handed down in my family) the book gives a glimpse into the world and lives of Irish women within the last two centuries.

In light of my search for the stories of my great-grandmothers and mothers many generations back I particularly enjoyed reading the admonishments to women written by Margaret Cusack (known as the Nun of Kenmare) as reprinted in Women in Ireland 1800-1918. She wrote in 1874:
"...Every mother is forming the future generation,...every mother is affixing her stamp and seal to the society which will be when she perhaps has gone to her account.
It is an awful thing to think how far we can control and influence the destinies of an entire race, of a race preparing for its future life.
Mothers! arise in the greatness of your power, in the splendour of your strength, and be the regenerators of the world. You have in your hands the making or marring of immortal destinies; do not, I beg you, be content with anything less."
In this month with its focus both on Irish-American heritage and women's history, Small-leaved Shamrock remembers and honors the life of each daughter of Erin who has gone before us and "affixed her stamp and seal" on her society and her family.

Though I may never learn the details of the life stories of many of my women ancestors, I know that they will always be a part of me and that their influence on the history of my family has helped to make me who I am today.

Have additional suggested reading that might open our eyes to the lives and times of the women in our Irish family trees? Please post a comment or send an email to Small-leaved Shamrock.

This article was originally published on March 10, 2008.  It has been reposted here in honor of women's history month.


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