Tuesday, March 17, 2009

When Irish Roots Are Showin'

I’ve always known that my maternal side had deep Irish roots and that from the mother’s maternal line, I’m only the fourth generation to be American-born. What I didn’t know until the past year or so is that I also have Irish roots on my father’s side. So, even though I can’t say much for him, I didn’t want to snub the Irish roots from the other side!

Unfortunately, I don’t have photos to share from that line. That’s due partly because there is a dearth of photos from that side anyway (I barely have photos of my paternal grandparents) and, because part of that line’s arrival pre-date modern photography by at least a century.

As I’ve been digging for my immediate paternal line, I’ve found links that go back six generations or more. One line features an ancestor who left Ireland before 1750. (A family legend I stumbled upon says that he met a soothsayer in the street who told him he would never spend another night in his father’s house. That day, he came upon ships bound for America promising fortunes through trade with the Indians. He boarded and never returned to Ireland.)

Somewhere along the way, he became very ill and a kindly servant girl at the house he was staying at nursed him back to health.

Once he was well, he paid off the indentured servitude of the girl (who was Irish or Scottish, depending on who’s telling the story), and the two were married. One of their daughters would marry my ancestor – a Scotsman’s son – who was supposedly murdered by a marauding Tory in South Carolina around 1780-81. Luckily, those two had a son first – who was probably not more than a toddler when his father was slain – or I wouldn’t be here to write this today. (Because that son had a son who had a daughter who had a son who then had a son that is –in the most minimal way possible— responsible for me.)

To me, that’s one of the most fascinating and humbling factors in genealogy: The idea that if any one person were missing from the tree, you would not only not be you, it’s likely you wouldn’t exist at all. It’s mind-boggling to say the least when you think about how many different people had to get together for any one of us to be here.

So, thank God for the Irish and for the wanderlust that brought them across the pond.

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