The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Digging for My Roots

Thanks to our dear friends, the Lees, Diane and I will travel to Ireland at the end of the summer. Our friends called to tell us they had a couple of extra tickets to the "Emerald Isle Classic" -- the Navy-Notre Dame football game -- being played in Dublin on September 1st. (That's American football for all you Europeans out there.) Would we like to join them? Well, there was only one reasonable answer to such a question, so I started doing what I enjoy most: planning our two-week trip. Not only will we get to see what I hope will be a Navy victory over a highly favored Notre Dame team, but we'll also spend some time touring the country.

Although I've traveled rather extensively in Europe, I have never been to Ireland, the home of all my ancestors. Indeed, three of my four grandparents were born in Ireland. The family of the fourth, my paternal grandfather, had left Ireland and settled in the United States a generation or so earlier, probably at the time of the potato famine in the 1840s.
My paternal grandparents, c. 1940

My grandfather, however, was born in Canada, accidentally, he claimed, when his parents were visiting family in Quebec. This inadvertent Canadian birth of the son of two American citizens caused him no end of trouble throughout his life, but especially during his Army service in the Spanish-American War and Boxer Rebellion.

Thomas Moran
I barely knew Grandpa. He died when I was only five years old. And I know even less about his side of the family. Tracking down this group of ancestors might be a challenge.

I know more, however, about his wife's family, the Morans. My paternal grandmother died in 1960, having outlived her husband by ten years. She was the only grandparent I knew well. Born in Ireland she came to America as a toddler sometime around 1880 and often spoke to me of the voyage which she swore was on a sailing vessel -- quite the adventure for a small child. I've included a photo of her father, my great grandfather, Thomas Moran -- a rather distinguished looking gent even if his tie is a bit crooked.

My grandmother's family came to the United States from Mullingar in county Westmeath and so I assume I have some distant relatives still living there. My father was able to touch base with a few some years ago, and so I intend to spend several days in Mullingar searching them out. The photo below is of Thomas Moran's brother, Jim Moran, my great, great uncle. He stayed in Mullingar and died years ago at the age of 99.
Jim Moran of Mullingar

I never knew my maternal grandparents who died long before I was born. Interestingly I discovered only recently that both were born in Ireland. I had just assumed they were born in this country, but each listed Ireland as his and her place of birth on my mother's birth certificate. Unfortunately they included no town or county, and my mother never spoke much of her parents.

It would seem, then, that these fairly shallow roots leave me with a genealogical challenge which I will happily pass on to one of my children. My elder son is probably the best candidate since he seems to enjoy this sort of research. He's already dug rather deeply into Dear Diane's family past and uncovered a number of distinguished early American and English forebears.No doubt at some point we'll discover that her family owned my family. Such was the fate of the Irish in times past.

But I will look instead to the future and plan to enjoy this trip with my beautiful wife and wonderful friends.

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1 comment:

  1. I'm not sure anyone would want the headache of owning any of our Irish ancestors - you know how we are. Ta Dia maith.