"I'm Irish" my Mother always said.  "Where in Ireland did they come from"  I always asked.  "I don't know" my Mother always replied. I have since discovered that this is a very common conversation between the generations.  The more I delved into the History of the Irish in Canada and specifically my family the more I realized that our ancestors had a reason to put the Ireland they loved behind them.  Unfortunately,for those of us who have some kind of Irish bug in our DNA that just won't let the past be buried, they covered their tracks too well.

As I uncovered the generations of my  Grandmother's maternal ancestors in Nova Scotia, I just found Counties and rumors, crumbs but no cookies.  It has taken 10 years and I have now got back 250 years in Canada for all of my Nova Scotia lines revealing that they left Ireland sometime between the 1745 famine and the 1798 rebellion against the English. Back then the records in Nova Scotia were few and far between but I always wondered why there was never any family lore of where in the counties they were from.  A town a village or even a crossroads not even a hint has come to light.

One of the first PBS 'Faces of America' episodes was with Stephen Colbert and his mostly Irish
Family History.  It explained the English business of creating the famine and then profiting from the subsequent business of the removal of the Irish to America.

One scene really struck a chord and explained the mystery for me of the elusiveness of my Irish
Ancestors.  I chose to put this episode on Our Youtube Channel IrishFamilyHistory because of this scene.  At the end of Part 2 Stephen reads his ancestor's oath of allegiance to America when he became a citizen.

"I..do solemnly swear that I do absolutely and entirely renounce all allegiance to any foreign potentate, prince, state or sovereignty whatsoever and particularly to the Queen of Great Britain and Ireland."

I realized at the same moment Stephen did that emotions we now have of Ireland are not the same as our Ancestors when they either chose to or were forced to leave.  I can imagine their love of Ireland had become bittersweet, good memories replaced with images of so much pain and
suffering.  Putting it all out of their minds by not talking about it was probably the only way to move forward with any hope for a better future. (First published on 9/22/11)

Alannah Ryane

NOTES ON THIS BLOGGER:  Alannah Ryane wrote, shot, narrated and edited her own genealogy series "By Her Roots" for for Renowned Genealogist/Author/Producer Megan Smolenyak's Rootstelevision.com who also awarded her a small grant to produce her series.  This series can now be seen on her YouTube Channel.

Views: 581

Tags: Genealogy, Irish, bloggers, faces of america, irish family history, irish famine, irish genealogy, irish history, stephen colbert, the wild geese

Comment by Irish Homeland Photography on April 18, 2013 at 9:53am

Good stuff, Alannah.  Thanks for this.

Comment by Alannah Ryane on April 18, 2013 at 10:49am

PBS removed the original clip from youtube but all of episode 2 that includes the very emotional moment in which Stephen reads the 'oath of allegiance' that his Irish ancestor (who fled Limerick during the famine) signed is here. http://www.pbs.org/wnet/facesofamerica/video/episode-2-becoming-ame... Stephen's 'moment' starts at around 48 minutes in.  

Comment by Alannah Ryane on April 18, 2013 at 11:05am

I have shared my mother's disappointment in finding our her Hayes Grandfather was a poor Liverpool orphan going back generations and not an Irishman from Dublin, an invented identity he clung to his entire life.  Having spent 4 years working on the Canadian farms of Irish settlers in the 1890s from the age of 14 as a British Home Child I believe becoming Irish gave him something of great value.  I have since tried to remind my mother of all the Connors, McGuires, O'Neils, Martins, Hacketts, Sullivans and  McDonalds who all came to Canada from Ireland 250 years ago...but it was a grandfather she never met that had ignited her Irishness and in which she too clung too for 80 years. 

Comment by Gerry Regan on April 18, 2013 at 12:51pm

Very poignant, Alannah. Thank you for sharing this and reminding so many of us how we often derive our sense of self from what we learn of our ancestors, and also how important Irish identity was and remains to so many.

Comment by Patrick J. O'Leary on January 25, 2015 at 11:37am

The first few line at the start, wherein the question was posed:" where in Ireland?" and the response of; " I don't  know. "  strikes home. Probably is the same for many of  descendants located in various parts of the world. It is the same in my family. Sooo many  ' I don't knows'  that it is disheartening.   >>


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