If you're lucky enough to be Irish, you're lucky enough...

...maybe that's why there's no luck left over when it comes to tracing my Irish roots. I'm half Irish - half on my mom's side, and half on my dad's, and when it comes to tracing my family history roots, none are so frustrating as my Irish roots. Part of the problem is the sheer dearth of Irish records, many of which were intentionally destroyed (why? Why? WHY????) Part of the problem is that the majority of my Irish ancestors came to the United States prior to Ellis Island, when passenger list manifests and naturalization records listed their place of origin simply as "Ireland." As with many other places, you need at the very least a county, and even better, an actual parish or village that your family originated from to have any hope of tracing your Irish roots, and even then, it's a crap shoot. My Gorry and Corr lines were Famine Irish who came over in the 1840s and 1850s - I have a Gorry ancestor Irish death certificate and mentioned in Griffith's land valuation, which gives me specifics - Kells, County Meath. But I haven't been able to trace the Gorrys further than my 4x great grandfather. I actually found my Corrs in a database of Irish immigrants who had bank accounts in New York, but the village in County Cavan that's listed doesn't seem to exist. Most of my Irish came over in the mid-1880s but they're even harder to trace. One is from Cork City, another from Killashee, County Longford, another from Ballingarry, County Limerick...and on all I'm stuck about 3x and 4x great-grandparents. I guess I can't complain too much...that's earlier than a lot of people can get on certain lines. But with brick walls crumbling on many of my German, Danish and American lines, it's frustrating and sad to know that the records for my Irish ancestors just aren't there, and those brick walls will probably always stand.

My grandmother's father was off the boat Irish - in terms of generations, he's my most recent immigrant ancestor. He's my most tangible connection to Ireland, since she knew him, and I knew her. She shared a lot of interesting and helpful information about his family, the Cronins, including a lot of anecdotes about her father, but even she hit a brick wall with her father's family. Even though she knew he was baptized in Dromtarriff, County Cork, and even VISITED the church in Ireland in which he would have been baptized and the cemetery in which his family would have been buried, she still hit a dead end. At least she got a nice trip to Ireland out of it...

There is some hope, though. Ireland's Department of Culture, Heritage and Gaeltacht has put online a bunch of civil and parish records, a lot with images. If you haven't checked out their website, you absolutely should - while there are few Irish records to work with, this department is trying to make available to the public those records that DO exist...and I've found images of death and baptismal records that have been helpful in at least rounding out the picture (addresses, parent occupation).

So maybe the Irish have some luck after all. Tomorrow I will be setting a leprechaun trap with my kids, ages 5 and 2. I haven't had a lot of culture and tradition handed down to me just because most of my immigrant ancestors came so long ago, but in my family, the leprechauns exist, and it's something I share with my kids. Well into her 90s, my grandmother claimed the little people were playing tricks on her in her apartment (maybe it was BECAUSE she was in her 90s that she thought this, but it was always with a twinkle in her eye, that she was joking/not joking...) And I will always be proud of the fact that as an extremely shy young student many years ago I did not even hesitate to correct my teacher who tried to lump leprechauns in with other fairy tale creatures because I KNEW leprechauns are real - my great grandfather saw one when he was growing up in Ireland, and he told my grandmother, who told my mother, who told me, and even though the Irish are known for spinning a good yarn and telling tall tales, I know this story is REAL. We can all use a little magic in our lives, and so tomorrow my kids and I will try to trap a leprechaun, and I'll tell them how their 2x great grandfather saw one when he was a kid...when we can't go any farther back on a line, we can do what we can to keep what we DO know, including the stories, alive for future generations.

Websites used:
Find My Past