I’ve always loved storytellers. If you could weave a yarn, I could sit and listen. I can’t recall a time when I wasn’t interested in hearing stories about my family – truly. Storytelling and genealogy go hand in hand and I learned from these stories of my family early on I was mostly of hardy English and German stock with a stray 2nd great grandfather and grandmother of French lineage. (This might explain why I sometimes dream I’m speaking in French and even though I don’t know how, I seem to understand the conversations completely!) I even have many, many ancestors I would deem as Colonials. A great deal of my ancestors were born in the American Colonies prior to 1700. I find that simply amazing.
My one shortfall, in my estimation, was that I never had found an Irish immigrant ancestor…never. Americans with Irish ancestry ranked third in the population in 2011 behind 1) German ancestry and 2) African-American ancestry. I had the German ancestry, but no Irish in my tree? Seemed statistically impossible.
Silly as it may seem, I felt alienated during St. Patrick’s Day. Wearing green on that day was more a ploy of a 3rd grade girl to avoid being pinched by some boy in class. I was a pretender to the throne of all things Irish. We didn’t celebrate German holidays. No St. Bertha of Bingen Day to offset St. Paddy’s Day. (Yes, there is a St. Bertha of Bingen. Even though part of my family is from near Bingen, we can’t claim any ancestry to Bertha.)
Prospecting through two of my family lines earlier this winter brought the revelation that I am indeed of Irish descent! Holy Four Leaf Clover! Could it be? There was the first two – John Sprowls of Enniskillen, Fermanagh, Ireland born in 1749 and his wife, appropriately named Elizabeth Love of Ireland. Then Andrew Hendrick Logan of Ulster, Ireland born in 1707. Rosanne Jane Murray born in Ireland in 1780, my 4th great grandmother, popped up soon after. John Riley born in the 1760’s in Ireland came to the forefront. FIVE different ancestors were of Irish descent…F I V E!
By the time you go back to your 6th great grandfather or grandmother, you have had 256 people contribute to your DNA. If my calculations are correct, around 1/3 of 1% of your genetic material comes from any one of those people. Not a large slice of the pie by any imagination, but finding FIVE Irish immigrants who contributed to my DNA means a lot. It means that I can truly proclaim Happy St. Paddy’s Day this year and feel an ownership to the day. It also means I may have a small sliver of the Luck of the Irish in me.
“Eiriin Go Brach” as they say in Gaelic. So raise a glass of green beer to the Sprowls, the Loves, the Logans, the Murrays and Rileys on March 17. You’re never too old to find out you are Irish.