Category Archives: Ireland

Getting Out There to Learn About the Scots-Irish

Part Two from Finding Help With Your Scots-Irish Line originally appearing in Tracing Your Irish Roots, Moorshead Magazines Ltd., 2012 ©Cindy Thomson.

 How Ireland Can Help Researchers

Family Tree. Tracing your Scots-Irish roots.Tracing a family line back as far as the 17th century might seem daunting, but records do exist. And where better to get help and learn about this group’s culture than a society established for that purpose?

A special school for genealogists researching Northern Ireland roots is offered in conjunction with several Northern Ireland agencies, such as the Ulster Historical Foundation; the University of Ulster; Centre for Migration Studies at the Ulster American Folk Park in Omagh, County Tyrone; and local historical societies. Past participants came from the United States, Canada, New Zealand, The Republic of Ireland, and Northern Ireland, to enjoy a holiday researching with the help of local experts. Billed as “An Activity Holiday with a Difference”, the program stretches over a week and involves local history lectures, research visits to the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, and visits to historical sites. It is these visits to important sites within the homeland of our ancestors that help make this school intriguing to many, but the value of having access to local historians and genealogists should not be underestimated.

Previous students have enjoyed touring Belfast City Hall and Parliament Buildings. They

Tracing Your Scots-Irish Roots, Cindy Thomson

Ulster American Folk Park

also visited historical locations in the countryside, such as Sentry Hill House, and the Ulster American Folk Park and Centre for Migration Studies at Omagh. The Duke of Abercorn gave a personal tour of his home at Barons Court.

[Since this article appeared, I’m not sure the school is still running. But for research assistance options, check this site.]

One benefit is that because this effort is being supported by the University of Ulster, registrants will have access to that university’s library and electronic resources for genealogy research.

Short of making the trip, there are some materials available that can aid your research. Researching Scots-Irish Ancestors by William Roulston, published by the Ulster Historical Foundation, 2005, is said to be the first comprehensive guide for family historians searching for ancestors in 17th and 18th century Ulster.Researching Scots-Irish Ancestors

The society also offers two pocket histories/fold out maps entitled “The Scots in Ulster Surname Map and Pocket History” and “The Plantation of Ulster: The story of the Scots, 1610-1630.” You can order these for only the cost of postage and handling through these links: Surname Map    Plantation of Ulster

An online resource worth plugging your surname into is the Scots in Ulster. I found several hits for Thomson in this database, which could provide some clues for own research.

Closer to Home

In America, researchers should not overlook local organizations where help may be found, such as The Ulster-Scots Society of America, whose stated purpose reads: “The Ulster-Scots Society of America is primarily an educational and social organization committed to the promotion of the Ulster-Scots history and heritage, especially as it pertains to the nearly quarter of a million immigrants who left the north of Ireland (Ulster) during the 18th century and settled in America (often referred to as: The Great Migration).”

The Scotch-Irish Society of the United States of America is another group to check into. From their website: “The Scotch-Irish Society of the United States of America was founded to promote and preserve Scotch-Irish history and culture of America’s Scotch-Irish heritage and to keep alive the esprit de corps of the Scotch-Irish people. Membership in the Society is available to United States citizens, and to legal permanent residents of the United States, who are of Scotch-Irish descent.” The Center publishes issues of the Journal of Scotch-Irish Studies.

[I had more links in the article, but since links are hard to keep up to date, I won’t repeat them all here. If you know of any, please leave them in the comments. And by the way, did anyone else find it amusing that the Scotch-Irish Society used French to describe themselves, or is it just me?]

Tom&Cindy Thomson, Ireland 2010

Our 2010 trip to Ireland, taken at Inch Abbey, County Down, Northern Ireland.

These are just some of the resources available, but by consulting those who have gathered together to promote research and understanding of the Scots-Irish people, you will find like-minded people who can help you along your research journey.

Scots-Irish?

This article first appeared in Tracing Your Irish Ancestors, 2012, Moorshead Magazines Ltd. ©Cindy Thomson

In genealogy research, as in most things in life, it’s helpful to have a guide. That is what magazines such as this one seek to accomplish. But when it comes to real hands-on research, there is no substitute for real, live contacts who have made this work their main occupation. So, if you are among the 22 million Americans, or several million Canadians, who have family lines labeled Ulster-Scot or Scots-Irish, go where the records and events exist.

Who Were the Scots-Irish?

Learning about the Scots-Irish with author Cindy ThomsonThese ancestors were Irish, but they were Scottish as well, and perhaps, even English. They are identified as an ethnic group coming from the English-Scottish border to Northern Ireland (Ulster) in the early 17th century.

In the 18th century, many of these people came to America because of economic or religious reasons. To understand this migration, you have to go back to the 17th century, when Scottish and English land-grant owners sought tenants to populate the northern region of Ireland and drive out the native Catholics. The Lowland Scots fit the bill. They were Protestant, mainly Presbyterian, and they spoke English. The down-trodden Lowlanders had suffered endless cattle raid, had, themselves, resorted to such raids because of their poverty, and had lived on infertile, over-farmed land for centuries. The prospect of large, bountiful tenant farms in Ireland, a short jaunt across the Irish Sea, was more than appealing. But as the decades passed, the transplanted Scots because known as dissenters. They did not vow allegiance to the Church of England, detesting tithing to a church they didn’t support, and were governed by the Penal Laws, which oppressed them as well as the Catholics. The British government gave these statues the title: “Law in Ireland for the Suppression of Popery”, but they were commonly known as the Penal Laws and prevented dissenters from voting, bearing arms or serving in the military. Dissenters could not be married, baptized or buried with the assistance of any minister who was not ordained by the official church of the state; thus, their own church sanctions were invalid and illegal.

Inch Abbey. Learn about the Scots Irish with author Cindy Thomson

Inch Abbey, Downpatrick, County Down

Even so, by the time many of these people came to North America in the 18th century, some of the restrictive laws had loosened. The damage had been done, however, and the dissenters were bitter. To further aggravate the situation, when rents came due on many of the farms they lived on, the cost doubled, or more, in a practice called rack-renting. Those who worked in the linen industry also suffered at this time, because the Crown had begun to prevent the Irish from exporting their product anywhere but to England.

Family members who had already ventured to the New World sent back glowing reports about the ample, fertile land. Ship owners dispatched men to Ireland’s countryside peasants to extol the benefits of emigration. While some departed seeking adventure, most Ulster men and women did not want to leave Ireland, but their backs were against the wall. Ireland held no opportunities for these families.

When Did They Come?

Antrim Coast. Scots-Irish with Author Cindy Thomson

Antrim Coast

There were five time periods when the Scots-Irish emigrated in large numbers: 1717-18, when a destructive drought killed crops, the linen industry was crippled and rack-renting prevailed; 1725-29, when continued rack-renting and poverty prompted such a massive departure that even the English Parliament because concerned it might lose the Protestant majority in the area; 1740-41, when a famine struck and letters from relatives living in America were persuasive; 1754-55, the time of a disastrous drought; and 1771-75, when leases on the large estate of the Marquis of Donegal in County Antrim expired and the tenants could not afford to renew them. Years when economic pressures in Ireland were the greatest was when large exoduses occurred. The numbers dropped during the years of the French and Indian Wars (1754-63) and came to a crashing halt at the onset of the American Revolution. The Scots-Irish of the 18th century considered themselves Irish. Many came from families who had lived in Ireland for 150 years. It wasn’t until the Irish immigrants of the 1845-49 potato famine era arrived, that this group began distinguishing themselves as Scots-Irish. Today, the distinction helps researchers identify the group.

Where Did They Settle?

The early Scots-Irish pioneers to America settled in the western part of Pennsylvania where they found the Quakers more to their liking than the Catholics in Maryland or the Anglicans in Virginia. By 1730, the Scots-Irish had made their way into the lush Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, the most western region of the British Colonies. The Scots-Irish, serving as a buffer against the Indians, enjoyed religious freedom because they were virtually ignored by the tidewater Virginians. A large number settled in the area covered today by Augusta and Rockbridge counties.

Always on the move, the Scots-Irish populated the Piedmont country of the Carolinas in the mid-18th century. Many of these settlers were new arrivals from Ulster who found Pennsylvania and Virginia too crowded for their liking and moved southward. Some were previous immigrants, pulling up roots for the second, third or even fourth time.

After the war with England ended in 1783, the Royal Proclamation of 1763, which had declared lands west of the mountains off-limits to white settlers, was ignored. The restless Scots-Irish led the way behind such trailblazers as Daniel Boone.

Come back tomorrow for the rest of the article and learn where to find out more about this immigrant group.

3 Books I’ve Read This Year

Why Just Three?

Basically so that I can talk more about books in a later blog post! I’ve read more than these, but I’m behind in my self-imposed Goodreads challenge. The truth is, I’ve given up on several books this year, so if you count partial reads, I’m beyond my challenge. I know that people feel differently on the topic of whether or not to finish a book that you’ve already invested time in, but for me I’m not going to stick with a book that doesn’t grab me–especially if it irritates me. (Another topic for another post!)

So I thought I’d pick a few that I did enjoy and showcase them.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

Have I mentioned that I love historical fiction? Since this one was a best-seller, I decided to give it a try. Rich in detail surrounding the Chinese and Japanese communities in Seattle and California both during WWII and in the 1980s, this book had a mystery to be solved and a character’s heart that needed healing. Loved it!Hotel_on_the_Corner_of_Bitter_and_Sweet_cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd

My reading list usually contains a few books by Irish authors. I’ve found some really wonderful stories from over the pond. This one is set during the troubles when teenage Fergus and his uncle discover a bog buried in a bog. This happens from time to time in Ireland because bogs preserve history. With the mystery of how this child was murdered back in ancient times, Fergus’s brother protesting his political imprisonment by starvation, and his unlikely friendship with a British boarder guard, the story kept me enthralled. Highly recommended.

bog child

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Widow of Gettysburg by Jocelyn Green

After visiting Gettysburg I wanted to learn more about how the battles affected the small population of townspeople. This book was just the thing. Not at all easy to read about, but realistic and compelling. As Liberty Holloway endures trial after trial, she also learns something about herself and her ability to care for everyone no matter their race or political conviction. But that is nothing compared to what she learns about the mother she’d never known, and a history she had no idea she was a part of. It’s also a love story, and a story about compassion, which is welcome considering the horrific subject.

The Widow of Gettysburg

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you read any of these novels? I would love to hear what you thought!

We’re Connected by Stories

Defining Our Attachment

“…it’s our stories that tell us who we are. Our parents’ and grandparents’ stories are unique to each of us, to which we have an irrefutable attachment.”

This quote came from this blog post. It speaks the truth, I believe.  This is the sum of why I started researching my roots. We are all searching, I believe, for a connection to each other and to God. Stories connect us. Even hearing the stories of someone not blood-related to you brings you closer to that person and that person’s struggles and triumphs.

How Stories are Collected

The post I linked to above is about a family business in Manhattan. There is another story about a family Clarke's photo by Cindy Thomsonbusiness that I have not stopped thinking about since I heard it. This one takes place on the other side of the pond, in the west of Ireland in a town called Ballina. The town, on the River Moy, is known for salmon. Clarke’s Salmon Smokery in downtown Ballina, which Jackie Clarke opened in 1945, is now run by his sons. The story about Jackie Clarke met my attention because I’ve visited Ballina and even eaten smoked salmon in one of the pubs there. (Truth be told my husband and I ate smoked salmon almost everywhere we went in Ireland and even had it in the airport before we flew home because you’re not allowed to take it with you!)

A Collector of History

Jackie Clarke, apparently, was a collector of items of historical significance. When he died in 2000 he left a floor of his house stuffed with items:

It is the most important private collection of Irish history material in public hands, comprising over 100,000 items spanning 400 years. It includes artefacts associated with Theobald Wolfe Tone; letters from Michael Collins, Douglas Hyde, Michael Davitt and O’Donovan Rossa. It also contains rare books, proclamations, posters, political cartoons, pamphlets, handbills, works by Sir John Lavery, maps, hunger strike material and personal items from Leaders of the 1916 Rising.–www.clarkecollection.ie

From the Jackie Clarke Collection

from http://www.clarkecollection.ie/Collection/

His wife donated the collection in 2005, and much of it is on display in a former bank building in town. This museum opened after my visit so I didn’t get to see it, but it started me thinking about the importance one man collecting history can have. How much of what he kept might have been lost had he not done it? I imagine a good bit. Lots of people keep mementoes, pictures, and items related to their own personal histories. But Jackie Clarke must have felt connected to his community and his country when he stowed away all the stuff he did. I can’t imagine why he didn’t share it in his lifetime. Apparently even his family didn’t know the extent of his collection. Perhaps he thought he was the only interested, but of course that wasn’t true.

My mother has stashed away items, particularly newspaper articles, when she felt they would be of historical significance in the future. She has nothing like the Clarke Collection, but she probably shares Jackie Clarke’s convictions. So much is digital now that there is little need to keep everything, but organizing it is still important so future generations can feel connected to their past. What do you think? Are you a collector?

The past connects us in important ways but only if we are able to hear the stories.

Pondering the Psalms

Studying the Book of Psalms

There is certainly more than one way, and I’m not saying I’m a Biblical scholar, but I have been thinking about the Psalms as I consider how to better my prayer life. Some time ago I picked up a small booklet by Thomas Merton, Praying the Psalms. A couple of lines I highlighted within:

PrayingthePsalms“The Psalms are not abstract treatises on the divine nature. In them we learn to know God not by analyzing various concepts of His divinity, but by praising and loving Him…being hymns of praise, they only reveal their full meaning to those who use them in order to praise God.”

 

“Nowhere can we be more certain that we are praying with the Holy Spirit than when we pray the Psalms.”

“How does one arrive at such an appreciation of the Psalms?”

“…acquire a habit of reciting them slowly and well…pausing to meditate on the lines which have the deepest meaning for him.”

 

My Pictorial Study of the Psalms

I underlined more, but this gives you an idea of why I have decided to start my study (or more correctly my praying…Merton says focusing on what you can get out of the Psalms makes it about you and not about praising God) with a verse or two from each chapter paired with my photos from Ireland. Here is one:

10496183_783449311697281_6802025673198797557_o

 

How to Follow my Journey in the Psalms

If you’d like to follow me on this exploration, like my page on Facebook and be sure to click “follow” in the upper righthand corner. If you don’t do that, even though you’ve “liked” my page, my posts probably won’t show up in your newsfeed. It’s just how Facebook works. The more you interact (like, share, comment) on my posts, however, the more likely Facebook is to include them in your newsfeed. But to ensure you get them just click “Follow.” Here is the link: http://www.facebook.com/cindyswriting

If you have anything to share about the Psalms and how they’ve affected you, please comment.

New Irish Photo Giveaway

Some many of you liked the photos I shared last month on Facebook and Twitter, that I decided it was time for a giveaway! These are photos from a calendar I made in the past. They are photos I took in Ireland in 2010. See the giveaway below and enter (the more categories you enter the more chances you will have to win!) Please share with your friends! Oh, and the size is 12″ x 9 1/4″, despite what the giveaway seems to say. 🙂

A Voice From Ireland’s Past

Ancestry.com offers immigrant interviews to listen to for free. I could spend all day listening! Here is one with a lady named Lillian Doran Cavanaugh from Ballymore, County Westmeath.

http://ancstry.me/1g4L7RG

 I found this amusing in some spots, such as when she was asked if she knew how her parents met. She says she doesn’t know: “They don’t talk that way over there.”

This may have been Lillian Doran Cavanaugh’s church in Ireland 

Lillian and her sister Peg departed Ireland at Queenstown for America where their uncles awaited them.

At about 27:09 on the recording Lillian talks about her arrival in America.

Gifts for St. Paddy’s Day!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! To celebrate, I would much rather talk about the country and its people than drink in a bar that Americans call an Irish pub. If you feel the same way, or even if you don’t–I don’t mind–I’ve got some things to brighten your day.

Throughout the day I plan to share some of my favorite photographs from Ireland over on my Facebook page. You can find it here: www.facebook.com/cindyswriting (and don’t forget to click the like the button while you’re there.)

And here’s something fun! My friend Corey over at the Irish Fireside is sharing a free ebook of sites to see in Ireland. If you’re not already, you really should be following the Irish Fireside!

Download it at http://irishfireside.com/remarkable/

Reflections on St. Brigid

February 1st is coming, St. Brigid’s Day.

As some of you know, my first novel is titled Brigid of Ireland and it was inspired by the late 5th century-early 6th century patron saint of Ireland Brigid. But why Brigid? How did I get interested in her?

And by the way, if you are looking for a copy, contact me.

Miracles

Have you ever seen one? Experienced one? I know life itself is a miracle and as Leif Enger illustrated so well in his novel Peace Like a River they are all around us all the time if we will only look. St. Brigid, like all venerated saints I suppose, is known for her miracles. She doesn’t just perform them, though, they seem to happen around her whether she notices or not. Take the time she hung her cloak on what she thought was a hook but was really a sunbeam, and it stayed there. Or the way all the butter she gave away from her father’s dairy was just miraculously restored. I see Brigid as not one who invokes these things, asking God to bring about a mighty act, but as one who expects no less because she knows miracles abound. All you have to do is expect to see them.

Her Special Cross

St. Brigid is believed to have woven this cross while explaining Jesus’ sacrifice to a dying pagan. That fascinated me because this is not the typical cross we imagine Jesus actually hanging on. This is a special shape attributed only (in Ireland) to St. Brigid. This also enthralled me. Yes, it could have been a pagan symbol that was adapted to Christianity, but I imagine it being something more. Rather than a physical symbol of Good Friday, it’s a storytelling device. She explained about Jesus as she wove it. Perhaps she turned it as she recounted each step of what led up to the crucifixion. Perhaps the number of reeds represented something in the story (I’m not good at math so I’m not going to try to establish a formula or anything.) Perhaps the four points of the cross helped her explain how our sins are forgiven “as far as the east is from the west.”

Consecrated a Bishop

Yes, in the 6th century. The church has tried to explain that away as some kind of error. But women held positions of power in ancient Ireland so it’s not far-fetched. But it is something women today look up to. I once gave a talk to a group of nuns in a retirement home. They were interested in the novel and all, but what they really wanted to know was did I think she was actually a bishop? They loved that! 🙂
St. Brigid’s Consecration by Bishop Mel, mosaic in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh. ©2010CindyThomson

She Was a Slave

We can tend to forget that slavery has been an institution from almost the beginning of time. Like St. Patrick, Brigid was a slave. Patrick had been stolen away from his family, but Brigid was born into it. Her mother was her father’s slave. The fact that shortly after her birth Brigid was separated from her mother is the detail that launched the plot for my novel. But historically slavery was not the worst option for people. You needed to belong to a household to survive back then and you could do that by either being part of the royal family (and there were many, many regional kings at the time,) or being part of the family of gentry who owned property (which meant livestock, not land,) or you could be a slave in one of those households where you had shelter and food. With none of those things (which is the position Brigid found herself in after her father set her free) you had to figure out how to survive in the wilderness. There were some monasteries, but they were scarce at this time, and Brigid remember ended up being Ireland’s first nun, so moving to a convent wasn’t an option at this point in history. This part of the social structure was interesting to me.

She Has Been Nearly Forgotten

In America anyway, and for non Catholics. But even many Catholics don’t know about this saint. As a novelist I love writing about historical figures people forgot about. Keeping legacies alive is what drives me. (Yes, I know there is debate about whether or not Brigid was an actual person. You can debate that among yourselves without me.)
St.Brigid in center. St.Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh. ©2010CindyThomson
So these are the major things that inspired my novel. Anything here new to you?
Happy St. Brigid’s Day to you all!!

Ireland, Yeats, and My Writing Inspiration

Drumcliffe Church built in 1809. Photo ©Cindy Thomson, 2013

When people learn about my visits to Ireland, most ask if I was researching a new book or if going there influenced my writing somehow. I usually don’t have a definitive answer. All my experiences  influence my stories in some way. But, yes, Ireland is inspirational, and so is Ireland’s literary history.
Since my last trip included a stay in Sligo, W.B. Yeats, who spent much of his childhood there and is buried in Drumcliffe, and how the landscape influenced him (and his brother Jack who painted some of Sligo’s scenery) provided inspiration (but what for exactly, I’ve yet to discover!)

Benbulben, County Sligo. Photo © Cindy Thomson, 2013

Graveyard at Drumcliffe. Photo ©Cindy Thomson, 2013.

Over a century before Yeats spent his summers in Sligo, St. Columcille chose the site for one of his monasteries. In the 6th century, Columcille founded Drumcliffe and it has remained a sacred site since. (Although for all I know it was sacred to the pagans before Christianity, as many sites were.) 

Drumcliffe sits in the shadow of the magnificent mountain called Benbulben or Benbulbin (above.) The church that sits there now is of the Church of Ireland, and Yeats’s great grandfather was a rector there. Not too far from the church’s front doors (below, do you see swans? Some of my friends didn’t when they looked at this pic) lies Yeats’s grave. He died in France, but it was his wish (as written in one of his poems) to be buried at the base of Benbulben.

Drumcliffe church doors. Photo ©Cindy Thomson, 2013

 

W.B. Yeats Grave, Drumcliffe. Photo ©Cindy Thomson, 2013. Yeats’s wife is buried there too.

The churchyard is home to a 10th century high cross, and the ruin of a round tower, which dates at least to the 10th century, but perhaps even earlier.

Drumcliffe Round Tower. Photo ©Cindy Thomson, 2013.

Apparently some of the ancient monastery’s tumbledown stones were used to build the new church. I’m fascinated by the fact that for centuries people have come here to worship, celebrate, bury and mourn their dead. Hearts were full or heavy here, over and over. You can almost feel it.