Growing Up Irish

My earliest childhood memories are vivid recollections of countless remarks of us being Irish. Long before I understood what that meant, it became ingrained in me as part of who I was. When old enough to start asking questions, I discovered my Grandmother’s maiden name was Kelly, which for me just confirmed our “Irishness.” Unfortunately, my questions stopped there.

Fast forward to the late 1990s when I began researching my family tree, regrettably after everyone had passed away. Based on my mother’s routine comments, I expected to find not too distant ancestors who were “off the boat” from Ireland. Twenty years ago, long before DNA testing and the internet we know today were available, research meant a trip to the archives or sending away for vital records via snail-mail. Two key findings would come to light as my research progressed; both were very surprising. First, my Irish ancestors came over around the time of the great famine, about 1850, and second that I had strong German roots. After growing up Irish, I was taken aback by now being German and wondered why no one in my family had ever mentioned it. After letting this new identity sink in, I embraced it by attempting to make Sauerbraten (which was not at all successful but driven by my Irish tenacity, I kept trying until I got it right : )

What I still hold near and dear to my heart is the pride and strong Irish identity I’ve inherited. Regardless of how long ago my Irish immigrant ancestors came over, most over a hundred years before I was born, I’ve always felt a deep connection to Ireland. I’ve been lucky enough to visit Ireland twice, once with my husband and two children to the west coast and a second trip to Dublin with a visit to the National Archives of Ireland. I had more determination than research experience back then and I still laugh when I think of the excitement of being in the Archives and asking them to help me find ancestors named Kelly. I certainly had a much better chance of success in making Sauerbraten then I did narrowing down my Kelly Clan with so little information to go on. Lessons learned!

Times have changed, and now DNA can bring so much more information to light as we search for our ancestors. On, their Community History links my family to the southern area of Munster, Ireland, described as the perfect hiding place for rebels and outlaws. I love that and I wear it like a badge of honor.

Now blessed with four beautiful grandchildren, I have photos of each of them on their first St. Patrick’s day that I look at every day and now as I write. It’s never too early to make sure they all know that they are Irish (and of course German) and Grandma reminds them all the time.

Taking pride in all the ethnic puzzle pieces that make us who we are, those we know of and those yet to be discovered. ~Happy St. Patrick’s Day to All ~


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