Racial Memory

Ok, so tonight, in London, I was introduced to someone from Ireland purely becuase we were both female with red curly hair and both had ancestral claims from Ireland.

Now, I am 5th generation Irish-American born and raised with a high percentage of Irish pride. My father’s family (following the surname) comes from Ardee, Co. Louth.

I thought it was laughable that an English gentleman thought we should meet, purely because we share Irish descent.

But this woman, Theresa, validated a few things for me, and as a daughter of an anthropologist, I couldn’t help but take notice. She validated for me a sense of of what the Irish do to live — through humor, taking the piss, and celebration all at the same time. She validated that when she does go home to Ireland, whether alone or surrounded by friends she always feels at home…the same feeling I took away the last time I visited when I was merely 15 (24 years ago). She validated feeling at home on Irish soil regardless of where she’d been since….

Her parents were born in Ireland.

My Great-Great Grandfather was born in Ireland. In the Parish of Ardee, at the crossroads of Silver Hill. His parents emigrated in 1850 to save an infant, or perhaps because she died, I still don’t know where baby Margaret died, but the children, of which my Great-great grandfather Patrick Morgan is one, emigrated a year later. Once they got settled. Such a burden, such a challenge, such a heart-wrenching choice…I cannot fathom.

I took on the task of sorting out the family history in 1991. 22 years ago. To this day I still do not know what I want to know. Was it baby Margaret that sealed the deal? Did they make it on to the boat with her? Is she buried in Liverpool? For my great-great-great grand-parents to have been willing to leave, yet without the rest of their chidren…to have been willing to wait until the soonest opportunity that they could send them over…what was going on? What could force someone to that level of gravity? That heavy of a choice?

Being so close to my homeland, I will get there, and I hope to find some clue. There are still several in that parish of the surnames of my great-great-great grandfather and grandmother….

I can only hope someone remembers. Census records and ships manifests only tell so much. There are many researchers out there who settle for dates and such, however, I want to know WHY. Because the first time I went to Ireland, I felt at home, and it was familiar so much that my heart ached. And I was 15 at the time, and had no idea of any facts….and I can’t help but need to know — WHY.

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