I've got an extensive genealogy on my mother's side going all the way back to Germany in the 1600s. On my dad's side it's far more truncated. I've got a bit on his father's side that goes back to the founding of our home town but it contains some gaping holes. On his mother's side I have her maternal ancestry back to the Civil War. Her paternal ancestry is an abrupt beginning with her father, who as I mentioned, immigrated to the US during one of the famines. I have one earlier picture of him as a child in Ireland in one of his school classes with some rather stern looking priests flanking the students. It's extremely faded and hard to pick him out though so you're getting this shot of great grandfather Thomas on the train. I really know very little about him except that he was Irish Catholic, he worked for the railroad from a young age, his family disowned him when he married my German Protestant great grandmother. If that wasn't bad enough he then converted to seal his doom. Because of the family rift this caused my grandmother (Mom-mom) never knew her father's side of the family. She passed on to me a set of cut glass, which includes a butter dish which came from Ireland, and a sugar bowl & creamer which came from her mother's side of the family. She thought there was real irony in the matching items from feuding families.
I know Mom-mom adored her father. Like most little girls she was the apple of her dad's eye she told me. That's her holding her Daddy's hand with her older brother Jerry on the other side. She tells me they were close as children but as he grew he "was always getting in trouble which caused Daddy great difficulty." She never went into much detail as to the nature of the trouble. They lived in the Perth Amboy, New Jersey where her father "had a very good job on the railroad. He made good money." I'm told that as a teen Jerry promised to straighten up if the family moved to Pennsylvania so father gave up the good railroad job and moved the family. That's the extent of my knowledge of the situation but it's interesting to note the mood of the people in the pictures before and after the move. Jerry looks a bit satisfied and Mom-mom looks miserable. She informed me Jerry was not good to his word and very squarely placed the blame for the family's economic suffering on the shoulders of her brother.
Great grandfather is the one on the far left.
Eventually Jerry left the family and moved to California. I know my grandmother never saw her brother after he moved but there are pictures of him from his years on the west coast though none after the late 40's or early 50's. I have one sample of his handwriting from an autograph book and the script on the photos is not his nor is it my grandmother's. It's a curiosity to wonder who sent my grandmother the pictures. Jerry looks elated in nearly every single one of them. I'm only including the one where he doesn't look so happy because it was such a shock to see it the first time. My father doesn't look like either his mother or his father, in my opinion. When I saw this picture of Jerry it stopped me in my tracks because of how much my father resembles him. The hairline and curl, the squint, the posture. Plus, it looks like Jerry is just sort of tolerating having this picture taken....that would be my dad too.
Which brings us to dad, who has had issues with his own brother. They didn't speak for well over a decade, reconciled briefly after their parents both died (and I let them both know it was a crying shame neither one of them could give that gift to their parents while they lived), and now there is no hostility but no real relationship either. My stepmother likes to peg their grudge bearing ways (an my dad's ability to hold a phenomenal amount of alcohol seemingly without effect) on their Irish ancestry. My own brother and I had a period of 7 years when he wanted nothing to do with me (nor with a great many other relatives, all of which has long since resolved). Am I going to blame all this family contention on a particular ethnic heritage? No, but it sure is an odd thing to take note of and filling in some of the gaps in that particular line of ancestry is something I'd like to do.
I will say, if I ever have the chance to share a drink with any of you I'd be glad share a laugh over how a Greek girl wound up with a German name which would cause an uproar in an Irish pub. And I hope you'll entertain me with a bit of your own delightful madness because I do know that one of the delightful bits of Irish culture is sharing the joy in a good story.