My maternal Grandmother was a Corcoran from Knockaderry in County Kerry.  Knockaderry is just around the corner from the Kerry Airport in Farranfore.  One of thirteen kids, Grandma could not wait to get off the island.  Thankfully, she waited until a few days after the 1911 census!  She emigrated to the United States, settling in Chicago where other family members had already settled.  Somewhere along the line (I haven't a clue where) she met my maternal Grandfather, a Sullivan who was from just ten kilometers away in a little place called Whitegate, near Castlemaine on the way to Dingle.  Whenever and however they first met, they must have shared similar stories of growing up in rural County Kerry in the late 1800's and leaving Ireland for a better life with opportunity in America.  Perhaps that, and their settlement in Chicago, was the bond that brought them together.

My Grandparents hopped a steamer from Liverpool to Ellis Island and then a train to Chicago, arriving in the heyday when Chicago was a booming railroad and stockyard town and becoming the economic center of the American Midwest.  Grandpa got a job driving a streetcar while Grandma worked at Western Electric.  They did not marry (and perhaps they did not meet) until years after their arrival.

To make a long story short, they married, raised four girls, survived Al Capone's Chicago, Prohibition and the Depression, leaving very productive lives until their passing.  They each lived to see their own children grow, marry and move to the suburbs.  I never met my Grandfather.  He passed before my birth.  I did know my Grandmother, but not very well.  Sadly, neither my Grandparents nor my parents conveyed any history, language or fondness for the homeland.  My perception is that my Grandparents could not wait to get out ..... and never looked back.   After all, the Irish Revolution was at hand and things were not very good back home.   Thankfully, each of them returned home at least once, obtaining a United States Passport to ensure their entry back to the USA and to ensure that I would find their records long into the future!

A few years ago I became intrigued with my family history and began my own journey down this heritage trail.  It's been great fun .... especially learning that I could actually become an Irish Citizen by documenting my heritage!  It took a lot of searching of records and a lot of filling out of papers; but I finally did it!  I was determined to get my citizenship even before I set foot "back home" for the first time.  Finally, in 2012, with Irish Passport in hand, I retraced my Grandparents' steps back to each of their communities.  It was quite spiritual to find their plots of land, their churches and their local communities.  Surely they had both worshipped in the churches of their baptism, they had both walked down Inch Beach at some time, visited Tralee or Dingle.  It was quite odd and quite moving for me to return as a tourist to this, the land of their homes.  It was also quite moving to visit the National Library and find actual records of births and marriages back yet another generation.  The internet, microfilm and digital records has made this all so accessible.

For me, this journey has just begun.  I've taken a fondness for my heritage to a new level.  I have strange dreams of relocating back to Ireland.  My Grandparents could not wait to get out, to move on to new opportunities.  I cannot wait to go back, to explore their history and that of deeper ancestors.  I want to learn more about the history, the language and the economy of Ireland.  I'd like to do my own part to enhance the future of the homeland.  Sure we're all in an economic mess all over the world right now ..... but this is a new millennium.  We have technology and tools that make our world so small these days.  It's funny to me that so many people in the world (including my Grandparents) work so hard to attain the freedom's that I take so for granted.  It's funny to me that everybody wants to come to the United States while I cannot wait to get out!  I guess the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, wherever you are!

Take a look at my photographs that I've shared from my first visit "back home".  Maybe it will inspire you to begin or take further your own family research!

If you've got some experience or ideas about how I can make my return to Ireland more permanent, your input is most welcome!  You never know where the right connection will come from these days!  Add me as a friend and "let's talk!"

Views: 309

Tags: Chicago, Diaspora, Genealogy, Kerry, United States

Comment by Ryan O'Rourke on July 23, 2013 at 9:26am

Great piece, Thomas.  I absolutely love reading about people coming back "home" to Ireland and all the emotions that come along with it.

Comment by Gerry Regan on July 23, 2013 at 4:38pm

Thomas, please grace us with more of your observations and experiences. They are like poetry!

Comment by Eamon Loingsigh on July 23, 2013 at 9:40pm

Very nice story Thomas, thank you for sharing. 

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