Saturday Stories: Losing an Irish Heritage

My great grandmother, Nonny, had an interesting upbringing.  Her mother was Irish.  Her parents came from the area somewhere around Galway.  My great great great grandfather came to the United States during the 1850s, during the height of the potato famine.  They were practicing Roman Catholic.

Nonny’s mother, Mary, had a bad heart.  Maybe she had Rheumatic fever as a child.  We don’t know.  However, we do know that the strain of giving birth to Nonny was too much for her.  She never had any more children and was an invalid for the next thirteen years until her death.   Here is a picture of that little family in front of their home.  See how frail Mary (on the left) looks.

When Mary died, her husband Fred left Nonny with his brother, George.  She spent the rest of her teenage years with that family.   We don’t know exactly what Fred did for the next ten years.  There are rumors that he was a womanizer.  He eventually married again.  This time to another Irish girl, but one from Northern Ireland.
In my grandfather’s family, there weren’t many prejudices, but for some reason, Bumpa had a problem with Catholics.  I never quite understood the problem.  From what I gather about his own family, Nonny, his mother was raised Catholic until she was thirteen.  Then, when she moved into Uncle George’s house, she moved into an Episcopalian family.  She married a man of that faith and all of her children were raised that way.  The Catholic influence just disappeared.  Although it was common knowledge that Nonny’s mom’s family was Irish, no stories or heritage was passed on.  I wonder if her father’s British side (Fred’s parents and older brother were all born in England) was ashamed of the marriage.

Interestingly enough, both sides of my family did that to the Irish.  My dad’s German family erased the Irish marriage to the point of annulment.  Except for my dad’s last name, which is very Irish, there is no other trace of my great great grandfather’s existence in that line.  What a bum rap the Irish got!

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