Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Irish Roots

My birthfather was a Greek immigrant. My birthmother was a Philadelphia Quaker. My mother's family is Pennsylvania German and English. My father's family is Pennsylvania German and Irish. Dad's Irish grandfather's family came to the US during one of the famines. That gives me exactly zero Irish pedigree. However, I will tell you I found out a few years ago that my maiden name has such a bawdy connotation in Irish slang that were I to be introduced in a pub in Ireland or Northern Ireland I'd be assured of getting a date quickly. Were I to assure potential suitors I live up to the family name a brawl may well break out. At the very least I'd likely never have to buy my own drinks. Aye, that'll be Jameson's please as I don't fancy Guinness. This bit of information comes directly from two different pals, one born and raised in Belfast, the other from County Kerry. What, you may ask, has this got to do with anything? Truthfully, not much, but it means you're going to get some meandering ruminations on the family history today.

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.


Desmond Jones said...

Ah, yess. . .

My own Irish roots, such as they are, come thru my birth-father. His father was of Northern-Irish ancestry; I know my birth-grandfather was Catholic, but I don't think his family was. He came to Michigan during the Depression, having left Mississippi, where the family had been since leaving Ireland sometime between 1840-50. The earliest American members of that clan were saloon-keepers, but in a generation or two, they were 'pillars of the town'.

B-father's mother was Norwegian, which makes my birth-paternal ancestry somewhat of a 'unique' mixture, almost as much fun as yours. . .

My B-mother's ancestry is nearly identical to my (adoptive) father's - a mix of New England Yankees and pre-Revolutionary Germans from New York and Pennsylvania. My stepmother's family is all English/Scottish, by way of Canada, with just enough German thrown in to make things interesting. And of course, my 'first mother' was German-German.

Genealogy is certainly a fascinating hobby, isn't it? And all the moreso when the adoptees get loose in it. . . ;)

S said...

You look just like Mom-mom!!! So does Calypso.
So now I am completely confused, is Mom-mom your "blood" grandma or adopted one?

Giggles about your last name. I'm not saying it!!!!
My dads side o the family came from Scotland, but before that Ireland, and before that, RennyBA country!

We got around.
Top O' th' Mornin' to you, lassie!

G-Man said...

Tom and Jerry?

My relatives name were Beanie and Cecil!!

lime said...

desmond, yes, we adoptees add our own weird spin on the whole thing ;)

s, all my family is the family that adopted me so any physical resemblance is purely coincidental. one of mom-mom's high school friends though used to remark about how much she thought i looked like my grandmother.

desmond and s, you guys do realize the vikings did a lot of invading of ireland don't you?

gman, LOL, i never thought of the tom and jerry thing!

Suldog said...

Good crack, as they say in Irish pubs (and, no, that has nothing to do with sex.)

I'll be dropping you a line later today, concerning this and other things.

Craver Vii said...

How neat that you could get all that historical info and pictures. I got to see some old stuff in my parents' "vault" a couple weeks ago, but it didn't go back very far.

lime said...

suldog, LOL, nothign to do with a form of rock cocaine either i presume

craver, ah, glad you had a chance to delve into family archives too.

mssolitaire said...

What a wonderful heritage! :)

I have some irish in my heritage but I'm not too sure exactly how far it goes back... LOL. Oh but the drinking of green beer and guiness and jameson can provide hours of stories... far too sordid to tell here :)

Moannie said...

As far as I am aware I am English through and through-though there is some question of who exactly was my mother's father[family chinese whispers say an Earl] But on their father's side my children have French, English, Italian and a drop of Jewish blood coursing though their veins. [Imagine...an unbroken line back to the first upright man]

citizen of the world said...

Great old family photos. I thought everyone is Irish today.

Beach Bum said...

And I hope you'll entertain me with a bit of your own delightful madness...

You have read enough at my site to know I was very close to my uncles that have passed away as well as my one surviving uncle, Uncle George.
One of my great-great grandmothers was a full blooded Cherokee Indian but her blood has been deluded through the generations. In other words my family are down right pale people with mostly English and German blood.
Except Uncle George who hit the jackpot and got all the Native American genes. During one of our family vacations up in Cherokee, North Carolina sometime in the early 70's I was acting like a brat and ran off. Uncle George was the first that found me, threw me over his shoulder while I screamed. I caused such a commotion a busy-body white lady thought I was being kidnapped by an Indian. A couple of real Cherokees thought white people were hassling my uncle. Long story short I about caused a riot with a deputy sheriff having to calm everyone down.
I got a huge spanking once back at the campground we were staying at.

lime said...

mssolitaire, i hear the green fairy flies in fresno too and makes for good stories ;)

moannie, all the intermingling is so interesting isn't it?

citizen, aye lassie ;)

beach bum, that is QUITE a story. I can just imagine the scene. no wonder you recall the paddling! hooo-eeee! thanks for sharing that bit of family lore.

snowelf said...

I really have no Irish roots either, but I do enjoy a good story!! :)
Now I want to go to an Irish bar with you just to defend your honor. ;)


Diesel said...

I have no Irish in me either. I'm all Dutch. The uncoolest ethnicity ever.

Palm Springs Savant said...

What a wonderful post Lime. I truly enjoyed reading about your family history.

Jazz said...

I'm as un-irish as they come. French from both sides. Of course, being from Quebec city, I know lots of Irish orphans ended up there at some point and were adopted by Québecsois families, so who knows what's mixed in.

Jocelyn said...

You always get me with these family connections posts...especially when they're speckled with amazing photos.

disa said...