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History Corner By Pat Ross & Fran Snead


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March 04, 2008
Let’s celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day by learning a little about the Saint himself and about the holiday for the Irish. Many of our patrons have Irish ancestors and many others want to have a bit of the Irish in their blood. I have two ancestors who came from Ireland in the 1750s and have often wondered what caused these ancestors to come to America during this time period, how they managed crossing the ocean, and how they came to find their new home in North Carolina. Research at the Historical Center will certainly help you to find some of this information.

Once a pagan, Saint Patrick is one of the saints widely known today. He was born in Wales ca. 385/390 AD. The Christian saint’s feast day was held on the date of the saint’s death and Saint Patrick died between 461/464 in County Down, Ireland.

The Saint Patrick’s Day custom came to America in 1737 and on March 17th each year since, we have celebrated the Irish on that day. Today tradition is continued with the wearing of the green, eating Irish food, sharing Irish folklore about leprechauns and the shamrock, even to getting to pinch those who are not wearing the green!

Here is a Timeline for Ireland taken from “Family Tree Magazine”:
432. St.Patrick travels to Ireland, according to legend
795. First Viking raids on Ireland
841. Norse set up permanent encampment at Dublin
1171. Irish Kings submit to British King Henry II
1607. Flight of the Irish Earls sees exile of Ulster’s Gaelic aristocracy
1609 Plantation of Ulster colonizies land with people from England and the Scottish lowlands
1649. Oliver Cromwell massacres Irish townspeople in Drogheda
1652. Cromwellian Settlement results in confiscation of Catholics’ land
1691. Penal law bans Catholics from membership in Parliament
1737. Boston’s Charitable Irish Society holds first St. Patrick’s Day parade in the United States
1741. Weather-related famine results in widespread deaths
1759. Sir Arthur Guinness takes over a brewery at St.James’ Gate
1801. Great Britain and Ireland unite
1816. Potato crop failure contributes to famine and typhus epidemic
1821 Potato crops fail in Munster and Connaught
1832 Asiatic cholera in Belfast and Dublin spreads throughout Ireland until the next year
1845 Potato blight leads to massive crop failure and emigration
1848. Patrick Kennedy, great grandfather of President John F. Kennedy, leaves for America
1849. Potato Famine draws to a close
1879. Irish “mini-famine” causes food shortage
1882. Author James Joyce is born in Dublin
1887. Gaelic Athletic Association holds first All-Ireland Hurling Championship
1916. Irish Republicans stage Easter Rising for independence from Britain
1921. Anglo-Irish Treaty establishes the Irish Free State
1923. Irish Civil War ends
1923. Poet William Butler Yeats wins the Nobel prize for literature
1937. Constitution abolishes the Irish Free State and establishes Eire
1949. Eire becomes the Republic of Ireland

Check our website at www.brrl.lib.va.us and in the search box put Ireland, then click on Historical Center. You will see what books that we have at the Center on Ireland and the Irish peoples. We also have a Family History Resource File, Family Search, “British Isles Vital Records Index: England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales” that will help you find registers of births and marriages and christening records from Ireland, over 1,133, 204 births and christenings and 98,793 marriages. We have Ancestry.Com and Heritage Quest to also help our patrons.

Come visit us, begin your ancestral journey and maybe it will lead you back to Ireland!

Pat Ross

“The Roots that make Us One are Stronger than the Branches that Divide Us.” Author Unknown








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