I thought I might share this. Both of my paternal grandparents came from the spot where Cork, Kerry and Limerick meet. Traditionally -- going back to mythical times -- the area was known Sliabh Luachra (The Mount of Rushes). Finn MacCool and his band were said to have hunted there. The actual townlands were Mountcollins (Cnochuileáin or Cnoc Uí Choileáin) and Caherlevoy.
Above, the Paps of Danu, named after the goddess Danu or Anu, this range is on the Cork/Kerry border near Rathmore. Photo by Gerard Lovett from Ireland via Wikimedia Commons.
Though not now a formal Gaeltacht, the area has long been considered a hotbed of Irish language, culture and traditional music. My ancestors were the publicans of Mountcollins, going back at least to An Gorta Mór and probably before. They seem not to have been the poorest of the poor -- those who had no choice but to leave or starve -- but some began to emigrate, nonetheless, around the late 1840s. Most came to Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, though others went to Boston; Lima, Ohio; and Kansas City. They continued to come through the late 1920s. A few came here and returned and a few stayed in Ireland.
Over the years, I've become a fair-to-middling genealogist. Last year, while researching in the 1901 and 1911 censuses (the only ones available), I made an interesting discovery: In 1901, most of the adults in the families responded that they spoke Irish. In 1911, only one of my great-grandfathers, by then in his 70s, claimed to be an Irish speaker. In the intervening decade, it appears that speaking Irish had become a political statement.
Certainly, many Irish nationalists -- often, middle-class Catholics with no background in the language -- had taken up study of the language as a symbol of that nationalism. It appears that, by 1911, very few of my ancestors wished to call attention to their fluency, probably because of the fact that most census takers were the local Royal Irish Constabulary men.
Last fall, at age 62, I began to study Irish, in order to reclaim a piece of my heritage that my ancestors felt they had to leave behind.