Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Going Home

We just learned that some family members will be traveling to Ireland this spring! My first thought was of course excitement for them. Swift on its heels came: “Clifden, Connemara, County Galway!” We know that many of the branches of our family tree stretch back to Ireland - for eight surnames we know their place of birth was Ireland. But for only one person, Winifred, my Great Great Grandmother, do we know that she was born in the town of Clifden. We also know that her mother, Margaret, my Great Great Great Grandmother, was born in the larger environs of Connemara. But so far, for all my other Irish ancestors, all we know is they were born in “Ireland”.

It is also true that when Kate, a member of the next generation, travels to Ireland in a couple of months, she will be the first member of our immediate family ever to return. For five generations, not since Margaret and Winifred came over, none of us have gone home to Ireland. Because we know what patch of earth one of our loved ones, Winifred, sprang from, not just the vastness of “Ireland”, Clifden is the place with a name to which we resonate. Likewise, on my father’s side, we know that my Great Grandparents were born in Glasgow, Scotland. So it is to Glasgow, more than all of Scotland, to which we relate.

It may seem odd to call it “going home”. But I grew up as “Irish American’; as “Irish Catholic”. Even the Scottish branches of the family most likely trace their roots back across the Irish Sea and into Ireland. So knowing how deep and broad our connection is to Ireland, wherever Kate visits, she will be going home for all of us. Especially for Margaret, Winifred, James, Delia, Catharine, Patrick, Bridget and Thomas who were all born in Ireland; who made that great leap of faith to journey to America and who are all buried here.


Nana Fi said...

It is amazing how even though one is not born in that country it pulls one so and you identify with it on so many levels. My Mother's names was Winifred and one of her sisters was Margret(Meg). My Mum was born in Glasgow too and my Dad in Edinburgh. I love all things Scottish hence the bagpipes at Wendy's wedding. Fiona xx

Kate said...

I hope we get to visit everywhere!
We have about 8 or 9 full days, so we should get to see a ton. I cannot wait!

Nicole said...

I've never been to any of my ancestral homelands (for a variety of reasons; on my mother's side, I think going to those places would hurt too much).

But I have been to Rome, and I have to say that it was tremendously moving.

Romanians think of Rome (well, the Roman Empire) as the source of our language (and at least some of our ancestors). I wasn't anticipating feeling about Rome the way I did, like it was coming back home in a very real way.

I asked a Romanian I know, who's also been to Rome, whether he felt the same way when he went there, and he said he thought most Romanians did.

Pink Granite said...

Hi Fiona -
The bag pipes alone call out to and pull on ones heart and soul.
I love to think that back in the 1800s our relatives knew each other. And here we are, you in South Africa and me in the US and we're communicating through the magic of the internet! Very cool.

Hi Kate -
It sounds like such a wonderful trip! Anywhere you go you could be rubbing elbows with our distant cousins and walking where our ancestors walked. Remember to lift a glass to them all, from all of us!

Hi Nicole -
It is so interesting how these other places call to us. Your trip to Rome sounds so powerful. Please forgive my ignorance, but because of its distance from Italy, I had never made the connection between Romania and Rome or the Roman Empire.

Chuck has never gone back to any of the places where his family came from. It too would be very painful. Even just trying to trace their movements via genealogical records, ships' manifests and census records can often be emotionally draining.
- Lee

Roo said...

Lee - well we have the Irish and Scottish thing in common ;o)

We have had a very good programme on the tv over here for a while, taking celebrities and tracing their roots. One particular one that springs to mind was Ainsley Harriot, a black TV chef we have. Tracing his roots back to distant isles, he found one half of the family where slaves, and the other where slave owners!

The genealogy trail can be so interesting and bring many surprises, so here's hoping you have a great time Kate. Oh, and have a pint of the black stuff for me ;o)Sláinte

Pink Granite said...

Hi Roo -
I'm betting that when we go back far enough we're going to discover we're cousins of some order of magnitude or another!

They've been running a series on PBS hosted by Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. called "Faces of America". And NBC just began airing a series called "Who Do You Think you Are" which sounds very much like the show you described. Both have been fascinating!

You can count on Kate to enjoy herself! And, after seeing the pics from her trip to South America, I can't wait to see her photographs of Ireland!
- Lee