I think it might be better to keep my opinion of Donald Trump to myself but I have to say that he seems to have awoken something in the Irish diaspora in the United States when he targeted ’emigrants’/ ‘immigrants’ . These words seem to have resonated with Irish descendants who had long ago half forgotten about their original ancestor who arrived in the nineteenth century.
I can’t say for certain that it is the new man in the White House that has woken this sleeping giant but something has. In the past two months, I have been inundated with requests to trace grandparents, great grandparents and great great grandparents of Kerry people. Large numbers of these enquirers are already booked to visit the county this year or plan to do so. And the expressions being used are similar – their admiration for people who took the decision to leave home and travel to unknown destinations, where they did not get a great welcome. Their appetite for hard work while persevering in a society that looked down on them, enabled their children to get a better life and education which in turn inspired the next generation to do even better. There is a discernable emotional tie for the present diaspora with their Kerry ancestors.
So to help the enquirers, who have little or no knowledge of life as lived in Kerry in the 1800s, could I give a few short pointers:
- To explain records in Kerry in the 19th century – nobody had two ‘christian’ or first names. They only took on the second name when they emigrated (to the US or Canada) and found that it was the ‘done thing’. The traditional naming pattern was adhered to in my experience nine times out of ten. The eldest son was usually named for the father’s father. The second son was usually named for the mother’s father and their third son named for the father. The first daughter was usually named for the monther’s mother.
- Irish people in the 19th Century and before, were not very cognisant of their correct birth dates. So all indications (from Census, Naturalisation, Death Certificates) are only approximate. Compulsory civil registration of births, marriages & deaths began in 1864, prior to this, we are relying on baptismal records, if available.There is also the problem that as a result of the general religious restrictions and the Penal Laws from the late 16th century to the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829, it was difficult and dangerous for priests to keep and/or maintain records. As a result only a small number of parish registers survive of baptisms and marriages before 1820. The urban parishes of Tralee, Killarney and Listowel have the earlier records – some from 1792 and others not available until after 1870
- It is very important for descndants to compile as much information as possible from home. Check all US census records since the earliest date you think your ancestor arrived. Log all of these including names of spouse, children, ages, address locations, occupation etc. In the 1900 US Federal Census there are two very valuable questions to take note of – ‘How long are you in the US’? and ‘How long are you married’?
- The most valuable piece of information you can acquire from any US record is the marriage record of your ancestor. This might not tell you which townland he/she emigrated from but it will definitely tell you the county and most valuable of all – the father’s name of the groom and bride.
With the information above, you are now on much more solid ground to actually find the family of your Kerry ancestor’ and we can even on many occasions find the actual field/location that your ancestor’s family occupied in the 1850s