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Welcome to my kitchen!  Clear yourself a spot and pull up a seat around the table.  I hope you don't mind the papers, I've been writing a letter to the next generation in my family.  I was inspired today by Cookiebear's diary about the lessons of the Irish Potato Famine and have decided to write a bit of my own family's history down for the next generation, starting with one of my great-grandfathers.  Care to take a look?  Pour a Guiness or a hot Irish Coffee and follow me below the jump.

Let's start with Pop. Pop was born in Chicago in September of 1866.  His parents were Thomas and Mary Ellen Flaherty.  Mary Ellen’s maiden name was also Flaherty, and they were both born in a tiny village called Croom in County Limerick, in the west of Ireland.  Now Flaherty is not an uncommon name in Ireland , and in fact there were kings (probably what we would now call warlords or chieftains) named Flaherty going well back into the middle ages. It is, however, not a common name in Limerick, and around 1840 – 1850 there were only twelve reported Flaherty families in Limerick – of course people had many more children in those days, so twelve families could have accounted for plenty of Flahertys.

The fathers of Thomas and Mary Ellen were both named Thomas Flaherty, but apparently they were not so closely related as to present an impediment to the marriage, (but I’m getting ahead of myself.) Thomas Flaherty, the father of Thomas, was married to a woman named Margaret McNamara.  Thomas Flaherty, the father of Mary Ellen, was married to Anne or Anastasia Leahy.  We know this because baptismal records from the Church in Croom show the baptism of your great-great grandfather in 1837, and also show the baptism of a child of Thomas Flaherty and Margaret McNamara also in the 1830s.  It appears that Mary Ellen was a little older than her husband, as her birth does not appear on the records from the 1837-1846. A common diminuitive of the name Ellen was "Nellie" and perhaps she was named for the ballad Nell Flaherty's Drake, which put a curse on those who murdered the Irish patriot Robert Emmett.

If you study western history, you will learn that in the late 1840s there was a great famine in Ireland.  Actually, it wasn’t a famine at all, but a huge case of a blight which destroyed the potato crop.  The Irish, who for the most part were living as tenant farmers on land overseen by British landlords, relied on the potato crop for their subsistence.  Other crops, perceived as more valuable in the marketplace, were shipped back to England.  (If you wish to learn more some day, I recommend a book called The Great Hunger.)  The long and short of it is that the Irish were left to starve, - the news reports at the time had many of them literally eating grass like so many sheep - and then, because they had nothing to sell and could not pay the landlords, were evicted from their homes.  This was generally accomplished by the local militia coming and actually destroying the homes, which were simple structures with dirt floors and thatched roofs, by force or by fire.  It was a brutal undertaking.

Naturally under these circumstances, people were desperate.  We don’t really know what happened to Thomas and Anne, or to Thomas and Margaret, but we do know that at the end of the 1840s there was a Thomas Flaherty convicted of the theft of a cow in the court at Rathkeale, Limerick, very near to Croom.  Whether it was one of your great-great grandfathers I cannot say, but as there were only twelve Flaherty families in the County, and at least two were headed by men named Thomas, it’s a distinct possibility that this was a relation of yours.  That unfortunate Flaherty was sentenced by the Court to seven years "transportation" which meant being shipped to Australia, away from his family, for forced labor (probably never to return).  This was how the Brits built the infrastructure in their colonies – on the backs of poor Irish, convicted of offenses which were the natural outcropping of their economic desperation.  Indeed, I’ve learned that there is at least one family in New Zealand today that traces its roots back to the Croom, Limerick Flahertys.

What we do know is that young Thomas, at the age of fourteen, which would have been about 1851, left his parents’ village in Ireland to seek his fortune in the new world. As far as we know, he came alone, but it’s not impossible he had a brother or companion with him.  I don’t know what ship he was on, or where he left from, but we do know that at the time there was a tremendous imbalance of trade, and the US, at the beginning of the industrial revolution, was a major exporter and not nearly as much of an importer.  (My, how times have changed!)  So when the sailing ships got to Europe and were unloaded, there was not enough weight being loaded upon them to safely make the return voyage.  Enterprising businessmen created the travel industry by advertising passage in the "steerage" portion of the boats – basically the cargo hold.  Desperate Irish gladly scraped together whatever they could to pay for the privilege of weighing the boats safely down into the water.  Often they would find themselves locked below so that they could not riot or mutiny.  In short, but for the shackles, the conditions weren’t much better than for the slaves who had made the passage up to just a few years earlier.

The usual length of the trip was six weeks.  Young Thomas’ ship was not so lucky, however, and was blown far off course.  While I don’t know the details, he did later tell his children that the crossing took fourteen weeks.  As you can imagine, the provisions had been long depleted and things were worse than grim.  Many people died, their remains anonymously interred in the icy North Atlantic.  Eventually, however, the boat and its human cargo made their way to the east coast, where the American ports would not permit a landing of such a sorry lot.  Finally, the hapless little vessel was permitted to land in Canada, where it’s sick, starving and destitute survivors, filthy and suffering no doubt from malnutrition and every form of parasite, were left to find their way in the world.  If there had been anyone expecting Thomas’ arrival in the states, they had surely long since given him up for lost.

We don’t know how young Thomas spent the next thirteen years or so, but surely he had wits to live by, as that period of time took in the American Civil War, and he no doubt led a difficult and dangerous life. He probably worked laying railroad track, as he made the transition to manhood.  Alone in a strange country, he would have had to grow up very fast indeed.  What we do know is that he eventually found himself in Brooklyn, where he worked in the
Brooklyn Naval Yard and somehow met Mary Ellen (known more commonly as "Nellie")  It is from Nellie, Rob and Jamie, that you get those big brown eyes.  She gave them to Pop, who gave them to your grandmother, and the rest is history.  There is some indication that Tom may have been in the famous "Fighting 69th" of New York, but we've not been able to confirm that any of the Thomas Flahertys were him.

We also don’t really know anything about how Nellie got here, or who she came with, but we do know that she was on the typical career path of the young Irish woman in the US – that is, she was a domestic (servant) in the home of a presumably well-to-do New York family. Most likely, she learned her trade in one of the schools set up by Archbishop "Dagger John" Hughes However they met, they were both probably thrilled to find someone from Croom, and no doubt eagerly shared whatever news from home they could glean.  This, and their common bond of being Irish and Catholic in America, apparently became the building blocks of their love affair, and on July 6, 1864 they were married in St. Patrick’s Church at 285 Willoughby (Kent Ave.,) Brooklyn, New York.  We do know that the parish priest was concerned because of their common last name and village, and demanded proof that they were not so closely related that the marriage would be forbidden by Church law, which is to say, third cousins or less.  Being satisfied by the evidence they produced, which may have included writing back to Croom and waiting many months for an answer to come by ship, the diocese issued its approval and they were finally wed.

Apparently they left Brooklyn almost immediately, as they soon were relocated to Chicago.  If they had scraped together the funds, they probably would have come by train.  The national railroad system was in its infancy, and virtually all railroads had a terminal in Chicago (dramatic foreshadowing of O’Hare as the busiest airport in the world).  They settled in a tenement on the near north side.  It’s still a tenement: Cabrini Green, perhaps the most notorious housing project in the nation, now stands in that part of the city, but all things must pass, and this has finally become valuable real estate, so the projects’ days are numbered.

In time, their marriage was blessed with a son – young Michael Henry Flaherty, born September 29, 1866 .  Now, Irish naming tradition generally provides that the first son would be named for the father’s father, the second son for the father, the third for the mother’s father and then the brothers etc.  Pop, however, was born on the feast of St. Michael the Archangel, and there was apparently a religious motivation in the choice to name him for his patron saint.  The civil war had just ended.  Lincoln had been assassinated, and Andrew Johnson was the president.  Chicago, because it had become the railroad hub, and because it was therefore becoming a transfer point for livestock, shipped from western ranches to eastern markets, was starting to boom.

If you read the papers today, you know that there is much talk about immigration of all kinds, especially the impoverished illegals who are willing to take dangerous chances to get here.  Those at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder are jealous and concerned that immigrants will take their jobs.  Those at the top are happy to exploit the misfortune of others to get cheap labor and increase their profits.  Neither of them, nor those in the middle, want to associate with the newcomers, for fear that their strange ways present a danger to their way of life. Well the same was true in nineteenth century America, only it was the Irish immigrants, not the Hispanics, Asians or Middle Easterners who were the object of suspicion and contempt.  Remember, too, that at that time they were mostly illiterate (the Brits having discouraged, if not forbidden, the education of the Irish), and many of them spoke English as a second language, not a first.  And they practiced a strange religion – Catholicism – which had rituals in yet another foreign tongue – Latin, and was itself grounds for social ostracism. Abraham Lincoln, the Great Emancipator, was known to harbor ill will toward the Irish immigrants, due in part to his political fears that they might be organized as a voting block, even as their labor was harnessed to build the national railroad system and to fight in the Union Army . No doubt you’ve heard the expression "paddy wagon" referring to a police squadrol.  The phrase dates back to this time, and refers to the fact that police cargo consisted primarily of young Irish men, or "Paddys" (short for Padraig, the Irish spelling of Patrick) hauled off to the jails, often for offenses which were the nineteenth century equivalent of a DWB.    In short, the Irish immigrants were regarded as the "scum of the earth" and it was not uncommon in the late nineteenth century for "help wanted" signs to include the bitter coda: No Irish need apply  

As if the derision of the natives is not bad enough, there are always those immigrants who arrive first in a new place and promptly figure out how to win the confidence of those of their people that follow, and then take unscrupulous advantage of them through various forms of trickery.  The Irish who did this were called "Gombeen men" after those who had done the bidding of the landlords in the old country, and they were as predatory as any payday lender.  Young Thomas and Nellie surely found themselves walking in a minefield of potential calamity in what was supposed to have been the promised land.

Be that as it may, fortune smiled a little bit on Thomas, and he found work with the Chicago and Northwestern Railway.  In fact, he was one of the very first Irish immigrants to be hired by the C&NW.  (He must have proved a good worker, because the railroads soon had a large workforce of Irish immigrants)  We don’t know exactly what he did, the census just describes him as a "laborer."  We know he did not work as an engineer or fireman on the trains, nor did he serve as a conductor or trainman on the passenger trains.  Those jobs were all too good for poor paddys.  Most likely his work involved some laying or maintaining track, or possibly warehouse work – loading and unloading.  Whatever it was, it was surely backbreaking physical labor, exposed to the weather year round, and many of his co-workers succumbed to crippling injuries or death on the job. So when you ride a train today, whether the Amtrak or a just a commuter line, remember that you do so by the blood and sweat of your forebears.

We don’t know how big a man Thomas was, but Pop stood about 5’9 or 5’10, and was not regarded as a small man in his day.  Thomas, with his limited diet primarily of potatoes and cabbage as a child was probably smaller – likely not more than 5’6 or 5’7.  The one existing photo suggests a wiry build.  At the time it was taken he was an older man and with a balding head and just a wispy beard, looking something like the "Smith Brothers" on the cough drop boxes.

In short order the Flahertys were blessed with more children, and by 1871, they were a family of five. Margaret, born circa 1868, and named for Nellie’s mother and little Thomas, born circa 1870.  As their family grew, so did the city.  Chicago then was not like you think of it now.  In fact, much of what is now the city was originally built on a swamp.  There were no sidewalks, but walkways had to be constructed to keep people’s feet out of the mud – and so they were, out of wooden planks.  Each builder put in his own sidewalk, not necessarily level with his neighbor, and there were so many stairs from lot to lot that it was sometimes referred to as "the city of ups and downs." The streets, too, were made of wooden planks. Finally, the vast majority of houses were built of wood in a manner known as the "balloon frame" construction.

On October 8th of that year, just after Pop’s fifth birthday, and a long, hot, dry summer, disaster struck the city.  There had been no rain for three weeks, and the wooden streets and sidewalks were covered with the dry, dead leaves that had fallen from the trees that still grew everywhere in the city. The fire began as a spark on the south side of the city, but rapidly consumed the wooden buildings and sidewalks and worked its way north.  Strong winds whipped the flames ever farther northward, and it became apparent to those on the north side in the tenement where the Flahertys lived that they, too, would soon be imperiled.

Because the river lay between the fiery south side and the near north, there was a little time, and they made a decision to attempt to save some of their worldly goods.  Thomas, and probably most of his neighbors, worked furiously to dig in the soil behind the house and bury their meager belongings – mostly furniture – with dirt in the hopes that they could be spared from the fire. (Perhaps this was a technique he’d learned watching the soon-to-be evicted in Ireland trying to save their possessions.)  We know the buried furniture story to be true because one table was left with a leg standing above the earth, and that leg was burned flush to the ground. (That table remained in Pop’s house probably until after the WWII.)  Some Chicagoans who had the money made their way to the C&NW and crammed into the last trains fleeing northwest towards Wisconsin.

Within a few hours, however, it became apparent that there was no more time for possessions, and that the young parents must act swiftly to save themselves and their children.  As a railroad worker, Thomas knew that the Chicago Avenue roundhouse on Goose Island where it might be safe.  He and Nellie grabbed the children and ran several blocks to the bridge.  According to Pop, Nellie, who was five months pregnant at the time, carried baby Thomas in her arms during the whole terrifying journey, as they dragged young Michael and his toddler sister Margaret along.  Imagine Nellie’s heart pounding as she and Thomas reached the bridge, with their small children crying and hanging on for dear life.  What anxious thoughts must have raced through their minds as they ran?  How could they protect their little ones from this unthinkable peril? Had they escaped certain starvation in Ireland and the possibility of a watery grave in the Atlantic only to perish in a conflagration worse than any fire and brimstone preached in church?  She tripped on the bridge and broke a bone in her leg, but in her desperation to escape the blaze, with Tom's help she pulled herself up and continued on the leg, a run which would hobble her for the rest of her days.

According to Pop, by the time they reached the bridge, it had become clear to those on the island side that they dared not leave that wooden bridge connected to the fiery mainland side of the river, and Tom and Nellie had barely made it across before the bridge was drawn up, with those behind left to face the inferno now raging north of the river. "The sky" as Pop later described it, "was all one red blaze."  One of Pop’s more gruesome memories involved seeing a little girl whose hair had caught fire, running but unable to escape the flames that had overtaken her.  The haunting events made such an impression upon Pop that he could still describe it in detail, ninety years after the fact.

We don't have any idea exactly what dishes young Tom may have eaten in Ireland before the blight, but quite possibly his mother prepared colcannon, as it was made from those items that had been easily obtainable. Like most Irish food, it's not complicated.

Colcannon
Four boiled potatoes
One small head of cabbage, chopped
One leek or yellow onion, chopped
Salt and Pepper
Lots of butter

Boil the potatoes until not quite-fork tender, then slice as to fry. Place in well-buttered skillet with chopped cabbage and onion, adding butter generously as you fry until the cabbage and onion are thoroughly wilted and the potatoes have begun to crisp.  Add salt and pepper to taste. There are versions of this dish in which the potatoes are mashed with a bit of milk, but I like mine crispy.

There's a "taste" of my family history, why don't you tell me about yours? When did your kin get here?  What part of the arc of history did they travel?  And did they bring any good food with them?

Originally posted to My Blue Period on Sun Mar 11, 2007 at 04:52 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I just got back from Ireland yesterday... (10+ / 0-)

    and I must say that the Irish are some of the kindest and friendliest people I have ever met. I was in Dublin and found them to be the most approachable of all the Europeans I met.

    Sorry that this is not relevant to your diary, but I just thought I'd say it.

    Obama? '08? Oh yea!

    by Skulnick on Sun Mar 11, 2007 at 06:10:22 PM PDT

  •  mmm delicious recipe (6+ / 0-)

    I'm always a fan of food diaries.

    toss candy, not bombs

    by tosscandy on Sun Mar 11, 2007 at 06:12:32 PM PDT

  •  What a wonderful.. (7+ / 0-)

    ...family history! Somewhere I heard that Chicago has the greatest number of Irish outside of Ireland.
    My father's mother's family were German - his father (my paternal grandfather) is a bit of a mystery, because my grandmother never spoke of him.  All I know is that shortly after my father's birth, the Census information lists my grandmother as a "widow" living with her infant son and her sister.  My grandmother was teaching school then, and being a "widow" was probably much more socially acceptable than being a single mother.
     On my mother's side, her father was second-generation Irish from County Roscommon.  His surname, Niles, was shortened on Ellis Island from "Nillegheagh" (pronounced "nilla-hay" in Irish, and my spelling is an approximation of the original - any Irish speakers are welcome to correct me!).
     I visit Ireland at least every two or three years - a small country that has a pretty small population, so most folks are connected one way or another.  And they are among the most hospitable, kind people in the world.  My favorite part of Ireland is the West - around Croom, but Dingle, Connemara.  I need to go back soon.

    In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act. - George Orwell

    by drchelo on Sun Mar 11, 2007 at 06:13:16 PM PDT

  •  Boston Irish here. (6+ / 0-)

    My genes are in this country as a result of the potato problem.  

    Well, that, and my uncle was doing genealogy research at one point and found out that a certain one of our rogue ancestors seems to have had to flee the country after having a few too many Banns read for him and the local young women, none of which seems to have led to an actual marriage....hmmm....

    I swear I could live on potatoes.  I think I come from people who did run better on those.  It freaks out the carb-nuts, but I do feel better if I have had a potato in my day.

  •  Easter Rising (4+ / 0-)

    My family stayed in Ireland until the 1900's. I don't know how they survived The Starvation.
    My mother's father was a member of the IRA and took part in the 1916 Easter Rising. He had a bakery in Templemoore (today it is a hardware store) but had to flee when the Englished learned of his involvement in the Rising. He came to America to avoid the noose.

    I know very little of my father's side. I suspect they were violent criminals because my father's side of the family had very violent men. The Chicago Mob of the 1950's actually knew my father and were afraid of him.

  •  Love me... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ahianne, marykk

    ...some Colcannon.  Yummm.

    "If there were a Pulitzer Prize for blogging, then Firedoglake would win it in a walk."~David Ehrenstein

    by Caldonia on Sun Mar 11, 2007 at 06:28:15 PM PDT

  •  Eastern European Jewish Immigrants (5+ / 0-)

    who came to Baltimore around the turn of the century. Food was, of course, an act of love and a sign of health.  

    My Grandmother, born around 1875, tried to trick me to eat one more bite.  "This one is for Bubba," she would say, so I opened my mouth and took it in.  Then she said, "This piece is for Mommy.."

    I might have been six, but I could see where this was going. So, I stopped it before all of my relatives had been conscripted in service of keeping me from starving.

    Now, an old codger, whose metabolism has declined, only wishes I could eat like I did in those old days. But that waist line keeps growing, and it's not a sign of prosperity anymore, just moral failure.

    How far we've come!

    •  When you come from starvation (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      paul2port, AmericanRiverCanyon, crose

      Food is all those things and more.  And those old country "poverty food" dishes are every bit as satisfying as the best nouvelle cuisine - especially if you can share them with loved ones.  What did she feed you?

      If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

      by marykk on Sun Mar 11, 2007 at 06:38:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  What she fed me? (4+ / 0-)

        Can't really remember.

        It was one of those row houses in North Baltimore, after they had moved up from Pratt street which was the first stop for immigrants.

        It was a large kitchen, with a table where we took most of our meals. My mother had moved to a gyuisha "that's gentile" neighborhood in Washington, so she came "home" every weekend to be with her sister and mother.

        This was during the War, WWII when Union Station was crowded with G.I's about to be sent to perhaps their last destination.  I guess all kids are fussed over by adults.  But I can't help feeling that those young men looked at this child with a special affection.  Knowing  that there was a good chance they would never live to have their own little boy to love.

        I felt something.  Perhaps something still lives on from those young men who gave everything to protect me.

  •  What a nice way (6+ / 0-)

    to get a jump on the St. Patrick's Day celebrations next Saturday.

    Not just the drinking, but the marching of proud Irish-Americans in parades across the country.

    I'm marching in Albany, NY, as an adjutant for our division.

    Though there are drunks all around our parade, and the main adjutant duty is to keep them out of it, the parade itself is a celebration of Irish heritage -- dancers, pipe bands, proud Irish-Americans, and, in our division, a relatively new Gaelic sports group.

    My family has, alas, not passed on such amazing, human detail of what it was like to emigrate here from Ireland in the 19th century.

    Yours is a wonderful American family story. Thanks for sharing here, though I'm sure your kids, nieces and nephews will appreciate it a lot more than Kossacks will.

    The Republicans want to cut YOUR Social Security benefits.

    by devtob on Sun Mar 11, 2007 at 06:40:07 PM PDT

    •  Until I started this project (8+ / 0-)

      I thought they just got off the boats, hung the lace curtains and went straight to Mass.  The reason I do this is political as much as anything else.  Our own time on earth is so short, but the themes of humanity are timeless, and if our own generation is on the upside of history, the next may not be.  For that reason, we should never forget where we came from.

      If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

      by marykk on Sun Mar 11, 2007 at 06:43:46 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Life in NYC in the 1860s was full of stories (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        marykk

        You had the draft riots (depicted in "Gangs of New York") and the rise of Boss Tweed's political machine, and Irish Americans figured heavily in both.

        "I would define a journalist as someone who brings news to the public."--First Amendment lawyer Martin Garbus.

        by Dump Terry McAuliffe on Sun Mar 11, 2007 at 06:55:12 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Fascinating time (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          crose

          I think Archbishop Hughes is a fascinating character, responsible for so much of the success of the Irish in assimilating, the schools, hospitals, social welfare agencies etc.  A lot of what he did is so consistent with what I see as the message of the Dem. Party that I can never understand an Irishman who's a republican.

          If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

          by marykk on Sun Mar 11, 2007 at 06:58:10 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  The Parade (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      paul2port, marykk, crose

      I come from a small and dismal town, but one day a year it grows from 40,000 to 250,000--The Parade, one hardly need to be more explicit, while there are a half dozen parades in town every year, only St Paddy's is The Parade.

      Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket  

  •  What a really great diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bluebrain, marykk

    you're an excellent storyteller....with such a great story to tell. Thanks for sharing it.

  •  Wonderful diary Marykk! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ahianne, lorzie, crose

    Some of my Irish ancestors lived in Alton Illinois before they came to Canada. My great grandparents were married in Cook county and I was grateful for the records being online.

    Some of my Irish ancestors came to Canada in 1788 from York state, which was later divided into New York and Vermont.

    Some of my Irish ancestors came to Canada directly settling up and down the Ottawa Valley. This group came about the time of the famine.

    My surname is Portuguese so although I'm 3/4 Irish I refer to myself as Celtuguese. In honor of both nationalities I've combined the Portuguese saudade, or longing, with those other things the stereotypical Irish are famous for.

    I'm longing for a whiskey and a fight!

    •  You might be interested in knowing (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      paul2port

      that the Celtic language may have its roots in the Pyranees (did I spell that right), as I understand it it may have some commonalities with the Basque.

      If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

      by marykk on Sun Mar 11, 2007 at 08:42:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Right (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        marykk

        There are many other similarities. Photos of my Portuguese grandfather and my Irish grandfather show the two looked so much alike they could be mistaken for brothers.

        Off-topic but does anyone here have a good source about the Mexican American war? One of those Canadian great, great, great, great grandfathers defied his father and joined the US army to fight in Mexico. I believe his company was garrisoned in Tampico. I'm looking for information about Sylvanus Kelley Thanks and sorry Marykk

        •  Don't know (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          paul2port

          but you might start with the national archives.  I believe they have a military database that could be helpful.  Also www.rootschat.com is a favorite of mine.

          If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

          by marykk on Sun Mar 11, 2007 at 09:05:32 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Nope. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RunawayRose, paul2port, marykk

        The Celtic languages trace to Central Europe, probably being spoken by people of the Hallstatt culture. The later La Tene culture moves many of them further west, and merges with the earliest historic record of Celtic peoples such as the Gauls and Galatians. Where and when the Celts began to differentiate from other Indo-Europeans is speculative. The Basques appear to be a remnant of the speakers of non-Indo-European languages who lived in Europe before the Indo-Europeans got there.

        So OK, I just recently finished rereading In Search of the Indo-Europeans by JP Mallory, so a lot of this is fresh in my head. But the Celtic languages (not the Celtic language, it's a family of languages with at least two major branches) are definitely Indo-European, and Basque isn't.

        Who you gonna call?

        by Ahianne on Sun Mar 11, 2007 at 08:57:11 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  There is some debate (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RunawayRose, marykk

          See:Celtic Heritage in Galicia, Spain

          and Celtiberians

          Geneticists find Celtic links to Spain and Portugal

          The Irish and Scots may be as closely related to the people of Spain and Portugal as the Celts of central Europe, it emerged today.

          Historians have long believed the British Isles were swamped by a massive invasion of Iron Age Celts from central Europe around 500BC.

          But geneticists at Dublin’s Trinity College now claim the Irish and Scots have as much, if not more, in common with the people of north-western Spain.

          Dr Daniel Bradley, genetics lecturer at Trinity College Dublin, said a new study into Celtic origins revealed close affinities with the people of Galicia

          “It’s well known that there are cultural relations between the areas but now this shows there is much more,” Dr Bradley said.

          “We think the links are much older than that of the Iron Age because it also shows affinities with the Basque region – which isn’t a Celtic region.”

          “The links point towards other Celtic nations, in particular Scotland, but they also point to Spain,” he added.

          Historians believed the Celts, originally from the Alpine regions of central Europe invaded the Atlantic islands in a massive migration 2,500 years ago.

          But using DNA samples from people living in Celtic nations and other parts of Europe geneticists at the university have drawn new parallels.

          Dr Bradley said it was possible migrants moved from the Iberian peninsula to Ireland as far back as 6,000 years ago up until 3,000 years ago.

          •  Well, yes (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            RunawayRose

            ..there definitely were Celts in the Iberian peninsula. And populations intermarry, and language and culture are passed around even more easily than genes. What I was arguing against was marykk's linkage of the Celtic languages and the Basque language. Other than maybe a few loan words, the languages aren't related.

            Who you gonna call?

            by Ahianne on Sun Mar 11, 2007 at 09:33:35 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Galacia is south of the Basque region (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              RunawayRose, Ahianne, marykk

              and north of the present Portuguese border. Of course boundaries changed over hundreds of years.

              I read a few more genetic studies after posting. Apparently the Trinity University group has since determined the genetics of the Portuguese and Spanish are closer to those of the Irish than others, including, get this, the Celts!

              •  Which Celts? (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                RunawayRose

                The historic Irish were Celts by language and culture. So were the Scots, the Britons, the Bretons, at least some of the Picts, the Gauls, the Galicians, the Galatians, and I'm sure I've left some out. They presumably have genetic ancestry from the people who colonized the British Isles before any P-Celts or Q-Celts got there, and also the peoples the Celtic language speakers encountered and intermarried with along the way.

                Anyway, we're talking at cross purposes here. You're talking about genetics. I'm talking about language. The people may very well be related. The Celtic languages and the Basque language aren't. I'm a monolingual English speaker (I had 3 years of high school French, but couldn't carry on a conversation in it now; I know a few words in a variety of other languages, including Irish and Hungarian) but that doesn't mean I have Anglo-Saxon ancestors (though odds are there are a few, considering how long the English made nuisances of themselves in Ireland).

                Who you gonna call?

                by Ahianne on Mon Mar 12, 2007 at 10:58:01 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

      •  Basque is (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        paul2port, marykk

        completely unrelated to any known language. It certainly has some words Basque-ized from French, Spanish, Catalan and Languedoc, but it is a mystery still as to where it really originated. Most Celtic tongues,including Manx, Breton and Welsh, have Indo-European roots.

        I am adopted, but my biology is Irish via County Cork and the Starvation, whence the Cohees came to the U.S. through Ellis Island to end up as farmers in Ohio wherein they fought for the Union. Some went west to Wyoming, where my biological father met and married an Elfering ( a Danish or Dutch surname). I wish I knew more, but for reasons that might occur to you, most of the history is lost to me, at least from this side of the Atlantic.

        "He will be irresistably be drawn to big cities, where he will back up sewers, reverse street signs and steal everybody's left shoe." Dr. Jumba Jookeeba

        by crose on Mon Mar 12, 2007 at 12:59:31 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  The Irish side of my family, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RunawayRose, marykk

    ..my mother's side, started arriving just in time for the Civil War. Both of her grandfathers fought for the Union, but I have no idea what units they were in. Patrick O'Mahoney worked as a laborer in southern Indiana until he hurt his back. He then started peddling tea and spices in Indianapolis, eventually working his way up to a stall in the city market. Charles O'Connor was a riverboat gambler; his wife and children lived in Terre Haute.

    My father's family came from Hungary in the early 1900's. They ended up in northeast Ohio, first on a farm in Rome township (where my father was born during a blizzard), later in Barberton. My father went to Purdue on the G.I. Bill after WWII; a classmate of his was one of my mother's brothers.

    Who you gonna call?

    by Ahianne on Sun Mar 11, 2007 at 08:43:19 PM PDT

    •  I have Hoosier too (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RunawayRose, Ahianne

      thought they were all German (Maish - Clinton County) but found a gg-m referred to in a county history book as having been Irish (Barnett).  Probably from the North, tho.  

      If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

      by marykk on Sun Mar 11, 2007 at 08:45:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Irish Experience vs Black Experience with Slavery (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marykk

    1680 African Slavery Legalized.

    A Dutch slave trader exchanged his cargo of Africans for food in 1619. The Africans became indentured servants, similar in legal position to many poor Englishmen who traded several years labor in exchange for passage to America. The popular conception of a racial-based slave system did not develop until the 1680's.   The word slave did not appear in Virginia records until 1656, and statutes defining the status of blacks began to appear casually in the 1660s. The inference was then made that blacks called servants must have had approximately the same status as white indentured servants.  With the success of tobacco planting, African Slavery was legalized in Virginia and Maryland, becoming the foundation of the Southern agrarian economy.

    1865 Amendment XIII. Slavery abolished.

    Proposed by Congress Jan. 31, 1865; ratified Dec. 6, 1865. The amendment, when first proposed by a resolution in Congress, was passed by the Senate, 38 to 6, on Apr. 8, 1864, but was defeated in the House, 95 to 66 on June 15, 1864. On reconsideration by the House, on Jan. 31, 1865, the resolution passed, 119 to 56. It was approved by President Lincoln on Feb. 1, 1865, although the Supreme Court had decided in 1798 that the President has nothing to do with the proposing of amendments to the Constitution, or their adoption.)
    Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
    Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

    1171 Henry the Second Invades Ireland

    Nicholas Breakspeare, (aka. Pope Adrian II) granted Henry the Second [the same king that had Saint Thomas Becket murdered] a papal Bull giving him permission to invade Ireland to save it from itself.  Henry II stated that Ireland’s morals had become corrupt and that religion was almost extinct.  

    In 1394, Richard the Second, put down a rebellion by Irish freedom fighters. By 1395, Richard II forced the Irish barons to pay homage to him in exchange for amnesty.

    In 1641, after nearly 500 years of slavery in their own country, the Irish attempted freedom again.  At this point in history, the Irish were starving while English landlords exported their food.  James Butler led the Irish fight for independence.  In 1649 Oliver Cromwell was assigned the task of putting down the rebellion. Cromwell storms Drogheda on September 12th, and massacres its garrison.   Cromwell then went on to murder thousands of non-combatants, including women and children. After putting down the Irish rebellion, Cromwell sold the few remaining Irish he could find into slavery in the Americas and the West Indies.  The estimated number of Irish sold into slavery was upwards of 80,000.

    1697-1703 a number of Penal Laws are passed by England.  Among the laws are those that strip Irish of the right to own property, vote, or even speak their native language.   The Irish continue to live as slaves in their own country.

    1845-1849 the Irish Potato Famine hit Ireland.  The Irish do not call it a Famine, we call it the Starvation, because England exported food for sale on the European market.  Over one-million Irish starved to death, and another million immigrated to the United States and Canada to escape the starvation.  Because the crops had failed, Irish tenement farmers could not pay their rent.  Hundreds of thousand were evicted and had their cottages burned down so they would not return. A census in 1851 recorded that Ireland has lost a quarter of its total population due, not to the famine, but to the England’s refusal to grant meaningful relief to the Irish.

    Irish lawyer and activist, Daniel O’Connell was great friends with one of America’s foremost leaders of the abolitionist movement, Frederick Douglass. O’Connell and Douglass supported each other’s cause.  Douglass traveled to Ireland to witness the conditions and was shocked to see that the Irish were far worse off than black slaves in America.   In fact, even the Irish in America had it worse than black slaves.  Because slaves were considered valuable property, they were spared the most dangerous tasks.  For example, draining alligator and snake infested swamps for land reclamation in Florida was left to the Irish because they were expendable.

    Slavery was abolished in America in 1865, but Ireland did not escape its slavery until 1922.  And even then, England still has its boot on six counties in the north.

    Blacks only experienced slavery for 185 years.  The Irish were slaves to England for 751 years.  Despite the fact that the Irish suffered slavery for 566 years longer than the blacks, we have never asked England for reparations.

    •  Which is why (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      maryb2004, paul2port, crose

      I go batshit when I see Irish-American bigots.  Jaysus, don't they know where they came from?  Excellent post.  Thank you.

      If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

      by marykk on Sun Mar 11, 2007 at 09:07:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Well that's one way of telling the story (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bluebrain, marykk

      I'm not sure the indenture and slavery of the Irish is exactly the same as that of the Africans, although there are parallels.

      Who cares who suffered most? Let's look forward and make life better for all.

      And if you look at the Scottish clearances up to 90% of the population was moved off the land. An old Mrs. Campbell refused to go and they burned the cottage down around her. I can't find the link right now but one of the saddest documentaries you will ever see is the history of Scotland by the National Trust for Scotland.

  •  Great diary! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marykk, crose

    Your history is a lot like one of my branches.  A very common Irish name (O'Hara) but uncommon in the county they lived in (also Limerick).  They came to the US after the famine though, but came in through New York and ended up in Chicago.  I went to Ireland with my mom  and we took a day to go to the Newcastle West area of Limerick and find family graves.

    We also spent a day at the Famine Museum which was fascinating and sad.

    "So go forth in love and peace -- be kind to dogs -- and vote Democratic." Tom Eagleton

    by maryb2004 on Sun Mar 11, 2007 at 09:04:00 PM PDT

    •  Then I have to ask (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      maryb2004

      the Chicago geography question - What parish?

      If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

      by marykk on Sun Mar 11, 2007 at 09:08:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'll have to ask my mom (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        marykk

        They all lived on the southside -- I think my great-grandparents lived near the University of Chicago.  But I don't know Chicago parishes.  My grandfather worked for the A&P grocery store chain and he was sent to southern illinois/kentucky/missouri area where he met a nice Baptist (gasp!) girl and married her and stayed.  Her baptist parents never really liked him because he was Catholic and he was handsome and, in their opinion, he looked like a gangster.  And he took my grandma to speakeasies during prohibition.  

        For people interested in the famine but who like to read novels instead of non-fiction, I thought My Dream of You by Nuala O'Faolain was very good (but stock up on the kleenex).

        "So go forth in love and peace -- be kind to dogs -- and vote Democratic." Tom Eagleton

        by maryb2004 on Sun Mar 11, 2007 at 09:14:34 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I've not read that (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          maryb2004

          but Paradise Alley by Kevin Baker is a real page-turner.

          If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

          by marykk on Sun Mar 11, 2007 at 09:17:49 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Thanks (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            marykk

            I'll put it on the (ever growing) book list.

            Irish genealogy is fascinating but also somewhat frustrating.  All four of my grandparents had Irish in their background, ranging from my Chicago grandfather who was 100% Irish to my half Irish/half German paternal grandmother.  You finding people with the same names married to each other is not uncommon. One of my great-great grandmothers was widowed three times. Her first two husbands were BOTH named Michael Murphy.  Talk about confusing.  

            "So go forth in love and peace -- be kind to dogs -- and vote Democratic." Tom Eagleton

            by maryb2004 on Sun Mar 11, 2007 at 09:28:15 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Marykk, all four of my grandparents were Irish (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marykk

    Americans--one grandmother was also Nellie (my middle-name is Ellen in her honor).  I've been to Ireland 3 times...it's a fabulous place with warm, witty people.

    I absolutely loved your story.  You have the gift.

    "So go forth in love and peace -- be kind to dogs -- and vote Democratic." --Thomas Eagleton

    by St Louis Woman on Sun Mar 11, 2007 at 09:23:06 PM PDT

  •  Another potato famine story (3+ / 0-)

    the potato blight also struck Sweden and Norway. And began the great emigration from these countries. In percentage terms, the biggest out migrant countries were Ireland, Norway and Sweden. Well over 1/2 the populations of Ireland and Norway left; 1/3 of the Swedes did.

    I knew my great grandmother when I was a boy, over 50 years ago. She told me her story. She was born in 1864 in the Swedish Arctic, descendant of Lapps or Sammi. To earn money her father signed on with a copper mining company that sent him to Iron Mountain MI. He wrote back that the art of decent cooking had not yet come to America. And asked that the oldest girl be sent to Michigan so the Swedish miners could have decent food. She told me how she set out on foot when spring came, walking with emigrants to Luleå. Then by ship to Göteborg/Gothenberg where she transfered to another ship. She arrived in Montreal, the nearest port to Northern Europe. Then up the St Lawrence and through the Great Lakes to the UP. So, finally the Swedish miners could eat decent food. She married one of them, and eventually settled in Rockford, IL. Where the winters were mild and sunny. This is 90 miles northwest of Chicago.

    As for food, there is a Swedish sausage made of potatoes; salt pork and potatoes in a link. And my ancestors tended to regard salmon as poor peoples' food.

    Thanks for this wonderful diary.

    •  Thank you (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      paul2port, AmericanRiverCanyon, crose

      My husband, as it happens, is a Dane.  I knew his people came in the second half of the nineteenth century, but did not know the famine impacted Scandinavian migration as well.

      I've been to Rockford many times, btw, and there are still some great Swedish restaurants there.  

      If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

      by marykk on Sun Mar 11, 2007 at 09:40:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, all of Scandanvia was hit by the potato (3+ / 0-)

        blight. Which set in motion a great migration. Whole villages left. On the fringes of north west Europe, the three countries were impacted dreadfully by the blight. And vast migration began. The saying goes that there are 15 million Norwegians in the world, 4 million of them live in Norway. There are probably 60 million Irish, 3 million live in Ireland. Same for the Swedes; more in the USA than in Sweden.

        My last memory of my great grandmother is this. She was in a nursing home. The really out of it patients were tied into chairs around a table. I tried speaking to her but she had lost all her English, after 85 year in Den Nya Världen. In comes an orderly with a cart of laundry fresh from the dryer. He dumps it on the table. Everybody at the table automatically starts folding towels and sheets. Perfectly. And sorting them! Laundry folding seems to be one of the last skills to go.

  •  More immigrant stories (9+ / 0-)

    I like how you touched on anti-Irish and anti-immigrant feelings.

    My dad's family is Irish on both sides, one branch supposedly coming over during the famine -turns out he was one step ahead of a musket ball years after the famine.

    A few years ago (before immigration was in the news as much as it is now) I was at my cousin's house for a cookout. Several of my older relatives were upset about how the old neighborhood their parents grew up in now had a lot of Hispanic families.

    After a particularly vicious "goddamned Puerto Ricans" filled rant, I couldn't take it anymore.

    I jumped in and observed that they were upset about people moving here from a distant island, usually moving in with a brother or uncle who came here first, they don't speak the english too good, the police are always showing up at their apartment, they can't read, they play funny-sounding music too loud, they drink way too much, they are violent, they have too many kids, and they're only good for manual labor if you watch them like a hawk.

    There was general agreement and a grumbled "cockroaches! Like cockroaches!" while I talked. After I finished, I observed how this sounded a hell of a lot like the stories about great-great-Grampa Joe I had been hearing since early childhood.

    The outrage was instant - "it's not the same!" "they live like animals!". Anything I said provoked only red faces and flying spittle.

    It always stuck me as odd that their feelings on this subject would crystallize and become what our ancestors had to struggle to overcome.

  •  Someone may have already (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marykk

    touched on this, but there have been recent findings of bronze-age graves in central Asia wherein the bodies were red-haired and tattooed with facial spirals, and were clothed in decidedly plaid-like woven wool. Subsequent DNA testing links these people to western Europeans of Celtic extraction. We mostly traveled west, we Celts, but some struck out east again, as if the old lands were calling.

    "He will be irresistably be drawn to big cities, where he will back up sewers, reverse street signs and steal everybody's left shoe." Dr. Jumba Jookeeba

    by crose on Mon Mar 12, 2007 at 01:06:24 AM PDT

  •  A little bit of Ireland existed along third ave.. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marykk

    in New York City.  It existed in the mostly Irish bars on every corner from around 50th street all the way up to the eighties, where Yorkvile and the German influence, along with some Eastern European (Hungarian) establishments started to predominate.

    I moved to a rooming house in the late fifties, that was run by an Irish superintendent, and his family who lived in the basement of one of the houses on East 75th street.  The third avenue elevated trains had just been torn down signaling the beginning of the end of these "upscale" tenements, as high rise apartment buildings started to take their place.

    But every night I was lulled to sleep by the strains of songs such as "Irish Soldier Boy" and other soulful evocations of the Irish suffering under the British yoke.  With each hour, with each drink the depth of the feeling increased.

    Slowly these bars, and these working class men were replaced by the new immigrants, not from impoverished lands but from the best universities.   They were called Yuppies, and their culture and value was born not of starvation, but of the American success.

    I caught the last notes of that musical expression of suffering and loneliness that these bars helped to assuage.

    It was really a Golden age for New York, with the prosperity of the post war era, and a coexistance of all the various ethnicities.  Crime was low, with people comfortable to spend the night in the open in central park without fear.  Housing was cheap, and work was plentiful for all.

    And long before the civil rights revolution, the only criteria for getting a job in my industry, which was commercial printing, was that you could do the job, meaning you could help the owner, who was a guy just like you who had started a small company, make his rent, pay his workers and make a profit.

    There was no internet, not even in anyones dreams. So, if late at night, you wanted to share your thoughts, your feelings, your memories, you couldn't do it from your home computer.  You would have to drop in at a bar, put a quarter on a table for a shot, and hope that the person next to you was up for a conversation.

    Along third avenue, you had a pretty good chance of this happening.  

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