DAY 47: Remembering my Irish Immigrants
My three times great-grandfather died 116 years ago today from “cancer of the stomach” (a direct quote from a letter written by his wife to her mother-in-law). Ever since I learned about him and his wife immigrating to America from Ireland, I’ve been fascinated with their story. Part of the mystery stems from the fact that I don’t have specifics on the life they led prior to leaving their homeland. The rumor that was passed down through generations was that Elizabeth came here first and Thomas followed. Elizabeth’s sister and cousin even lived with the family after Thomas died, aiding their loved one who was raising five children under the age of thirteen.
Were they already married? Did they marry when they got here? Did Elizabeth come by herself or with family? Did Thomas also have family here – cousins, aunts, uncles? What did their house look like in 1899? Did they regret leaving Ireland?
I’ve infused some of my fascination with their story into my fictional writings. I fill the void where answers should be with hypotheses and assumptions. What would it be like to leave the placed you’ve always known as home and move to a new country? How would you react once you realize that your presence is not well-received? What traditions would you keep and what would you change?
I ask all of the above and more when writing about my ancestral lineage, because after all, in telling their stories, I gain insight into my own.
Right now I’m intrigued by the following: How did my great-great-great grandmother pen that letter to her mother-in-law when she didn’t know how to write? Who did she dictate the content to? Her eldest son? A neighbor? Her sister? And in not knowing the story as to their emigration, I wonder how cordial her relationship was with Thomas’s mother? Was she being genuine in writing about how much Thomas loved her and his children or were her words purposeful, maliciousness wrapped in politeness?