Monday, March 17, 2008

Irish Roots

They say everyone's a bit Irish on St. Patty's Day. When I was growing up, I never thought of myself as Irish, and I didn't acknowledge any ancestry. Even with my keen interest in genealogy, I never recorded or acknowledged my grandmother's Irish heritage until adulthood.

I think there's a reason for this, a family mystery or omission of some sort. But I can't confirm it completely.

My grandmother's mother-- Mary Margaret Lowe, was born in Rathkeale, Ballinvirick, Ireland, in Limerick County in 1886. That I'm sure of. On the birth certificate, her mother's name is listed as Katherine Kennedy and her father's name was John Lowe. When my great grandmother was quite a young woman, (16/17) she emigrated to from Limerick to New Brunswick, Canada circa 1902. She did not emigrate with any relatives or friends as far as I know.

Mary Margaret later got married to my great grandfather, Henry Raymond Downing, and lived in St. John's, Newfoundland. He was a Newfoundlander. She later emigrated to the United States and lived in Chelsea, Massachusetts for the rest of her life (1954).

My grandmother always talked about her family, and told me many stories. Oddly enough, my grandmother never mentioned her mother talking about Ireland. That's partly why I never knew I was Irish. In fact, my great grandmother never talked about her parents or possible siblings in Ireland. She never talked about her life there, or sent any correspondence. This seems curious. During those days, especially in Ireland, it seems odd not to have any siblings or cousins.

My great grandmother also married a Protestant--- another oddity about her and very controversial for those times. (No doubt the area of Ireland she was born was Catholic)

My guess is that my great grandmother, Mary Margaret Lowe, was born out of wedlock and/or her mother Katherine married a Protestant (John Lowe). If she was born out of wedlock, perhaps Mary Margaret was taken from her mother and put into an orphanage. Or if her mother were too young, perhaps she was raised by others. In either case, it's possible her mother was excommunicated from the Catholic Church. I'm assuming my ancestors in Limerick would be Catholic. Perhaps my great grandmother never mentioned her mother because she never knew her. Later in life, my great grandmother left Ireland as soon as she could, married a Protestant, and raised her children as Protestants.

I'd say it's a good guess, but I do not know. These kinds of truths would not be discussed in 'those days.' But it's a 'family history mystery,' which I'll look into.

1 comment:

Captain Kulig said...

What a beautiful woman she was! Those Catholics always get a bad rap! Very sad that she was not remembered by your relatives...