Thursday, March 17, 2011

Celebrating Irish Roots

Contrary to what some people believe, I'm not Italian. :) Yes, my last name is. And so are my husband and children, but I'm 3/4 Irish.

I'm currently writing a novel set in 1913 that includes an Irish family living in Troy, NY (where I was born). In a beautiful moment of serendipity, a relative sent me some genealogy info, and I connected online with a 3rd cousin (from Ireland!) who's shared some lovely photographs.

This is a photo of my grandmother (1879 - 1954) and her family. It was probably taken in Troy. She's standing top left. I don't know the date of the picture, but the little girl in the center, my great Aunt Mamie (who I knew) was born in 1888. So my guess is that the portrait was taken before the turn of the last century.
The young fellow on the bottom of the picture, my great uncle Jeremiah looks a bit like Eddie Munster, don't you think?

Here are some close-ups:

My great grandmother, Mary Gleeson Minehan (1849 - 1923), is actually a year younger than her husband, but she looks awfully old, poor dear.

I guess having eight children in those days really aged you.

This is Edmond Minehan, (1848-1914) my great-grandfather.
He was a skilled laborer, a puddler, for the Burden Iron Company. He separated the pig iron from the good iron. They say if you weren't a good puddler, you weren't a puddler for long because the job would kill you. It was hot, dangerous work. The factory closed for the summer months, and he took the family to Saratoga Springs where he worked at the Saratoga Hotel and gambled at the racetrack. :) My mother said she'd heard he made more money in those three summer months than he did for the nine months he worked in the iron factory.

The older gentleman is my great-great-grandfather, William Gleeson.
He looks a little stern and perhaps a bit sour in the photo. I hope he was a happier chap in person.

My great-grandfather also took his family back to Ireland (where he and his wife were born) for several vacations. Here's a photo of my grandmother, a few of her sisters, and some Irish relatives in Ireland in 1907.
In this picture my grandmother is standing, second from left. My Aunt Mamie, the little girl from the top photo, is standing on the end on the right.

If you look to the left side of the photo you'll see a horse's backside. My father used to point to this picture and say, "That's the horse's ass I always knew was in your mother's family."

In my current novel I'm using names of my relatives and putting my characters in their homes in South Troy. Even though they lived in the city, my great grandparents maintained a small farm located on First Street that backed to the Hudson River. On the block just north of the farm, the houses were side-by-side row homes on little city lots. When my mother was still a child, the city bought the property to build a public school.

Go n-eírí an bóthar leat.

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.


Paula said...

Thanks, Megan. I really enjoyed this!

Jaime Wright said...

Wow! Loved this post! I love family history and so neat you're incorporating it into your next book :)