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Sunday, March 13, 2016

Kiss me I'm Irish--sort of

Well, at least I thought I was. Growing up, when I asked about family history for a school project, my parents told me I was a true American Heinz-57, but mostly English (about half), Irish (somewhere close to a quarter) and French (something like another quarter.) The bits that were left were Scottish, Dutch, maybe some German and some Native American. Nobody knew what tribe, but my mother's maiden name was Rook, which is a small crow-like bird, so there was some family rumour that it was Anglicized from the Crow tribe. Which is totally improbable because the Crow are a western tribe and the furthest west the Rooks got (until the last 50 years or so) was Indiana. y. We know at least parts of our family had been in the US since before the revolution, while my father's family had been in Newfoundland since the 1600s. Somehow, or other, I always picked the Irish to focus on. I don't know why.  Maybe a St. Patrick's day party at school or watching the Irish Rovers on TV every week. (We lived close enough to the Canadian border to pick up Canadian TV.)

My husband on the other hand, consider himself mostly English and Scots, along with German and Dutch. His Dutch ancestors came over on the Mayflower--but the second trip. His great grandmother was born in Chicago to German parents and his paternal grandmother came over from the English-Scottish borderlands as a child. He's always identified with that bit, loving his McKee (MacKay variant) tartan and kilting up at any excuse. He assumed Pape was English, since it's pronounced that way (PAYP), perhaps originally of Franco-English origin since Pape (pronounced PAP) is French for Pope.

In these modern computer times, it's so easy to find where we went wrong. My mother's Irish ancestor by the name of McCurdy was most likely Scottish, from a clan with strong ties to the Stewart throne. Pape turns out to be a German name too--My husband's grandfather was pure German, making him at least 5/8 German, and only maybe 1/4 Scots, once you add in the Dutch and English. Rook may have been Anglicized from a German name as well, making me more German than I'd ever thought. And if there IS any Native American blood in me, (my mother and grandfather sure looked it,) it's probably Cherokee from somewhere around Kentucky.

So does any of this newfound information change my St. Patrick's day plans?

Nope. My grandfather belonged to the Orangemen's lodge in Newfoundland, so even what Irish I can claim isn't green. But according to my dad (91 now) on St. Patrick's day, all the Orangemen would wear green and party with the best of them--as would the French or English in town. Why? For the same reason most Americans do. Why waste a perfectly good excuse for a party? I'm not saying this lightly. To some I know, this day is sacred. To the rest of us, though, I think it's become more of a celebration of spring than anything else.

The truth is, without DNA proof, most of us have mysteries in our backgrounds. So to those of you who treat it as a holy day, I wish you a fine and lovely time, with all the historic meaning you could ever desire. And to those who get drunk on green beer and make asses of themselves, please don't drive. To the rest of us, who likely fall somewhere in between... here's a toast:

May the roof above you never fall in. And may those beneath it never fall out. Slainte.


Cara Marsi said...

Hi, Cindy. Interesting family history you have. I'm 100% Italian and always wanted to be like most Americans with a Heinz 57 variety of DNA.My husband and I had our DNA tested last year. We're both mainly Mediterranean with a dash of West Asian (both) and Eastern European (hubs). In our 20's we partied hard on St. Paddy's Day. Why not? We grew up on pasta, and neither of us had had corned beef and cabbage until our adult years. Now, I make corned beef and cabbage every year at this time. Making it today in fact.

jean hart stewart said...

Love family histories and yours is very interesting, Cindy. I'm mostly English and German, my mother's family mostly German, and my father's mostly English. He was a direct descendant of the John Hart who signed the Declaration of Independence for New Jersey. That John Hart was interesting, losing his farm, his wife, and three of his children while he was in hiding from the British, who put a price on his head. He was not well educated, but so honest his neighbors kept electing him to local offices. Being a Signer ruined his life but he kept trying to help his neighbors and was well respected. I'd love to have my DNA tested. Who knows what else is in that kind of vegetable soup?

Paris said...

What a great family history! I will use any excuse to party, so this Italian/Welsh/Croatian/Polish person is going to be enjoying corned beef and cabbage this St. Patrick's Day. I may even get crazy and make Irish Soda Bread. We are a melting pot that loves to celebrate culture with food:)

Melissa Keir said...

Great post! My family is a mix too. English/Welsh/Romanian/Swiss here. My family always thought we were Austrian/Hungarian but actually we found out that while our family lived there for a while, we were originally from Romania. Now I get to enjoy some Vampire blood too! Would it be a letdown to find out for sure? Yes, but I'm proud of my family history and have enjoyed celebrating the history!

May your day be filled with rainbows!

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