Erin Go Bragh

My name’s Duncan Campbell from the shire of Argyll
I’ve traveled this country for many’s the mile
I’ve traveled through Ireland, Scotland and all
And the name I go under’s bold Erin-go-bragh
— First verse of a 19th century Scottish song (from Wikipedia)

The buzz in the genealogy community last week was about a new effort to reconstruct many of the records lost in a fire that destroyed the Public Records Office of Ireland in 1922. The records included the Irish censuses of 1821 through 1851 and over half of the Church of Ireland birth/marriage/death registers.

Though most of my mother’s side of the family traces its lineage to Scotland, one of her ancestors, Jane Hannah, was from County Antrim in northern Ireland. The Hannah family came to America in 1835. Records of the family in Ireland prior to their emigration don’t appear to exist and were undoubtedly destroyed in the fire.

There is some hope that traces of their lives may now be resurrected through the “Beyond 2022” initiative, an effort to reconstruct seven centuries of Ireland’s lost history. An informative and entertaining video concerning the initiative is at Trinity College’s “Beyond 2022” web site.

There’s also hope that additional information concerning my wife’s Brown family ancestry will surface. They, too, were from County Antrim.

In the interim, and in sober memorial of our Irish—albeit northern Irish—heritage we’ve bought a case of Guiness stout to toast the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day celebration and cheer on the Beyond 2022 effort. Sláinte!


I Ink, Therefore I Am

I had a nice conversation yesterday with a distant cousin from Kalamazoo. I jotted down notes as he related stories of his grandfather and great-grandfather, and of himself and his family. Two things struck me about the conversation.

First, as he related the stories of his great-grandfather (who crossed the ice-bound St. Clair River as he moved his farm equipment and animals from Canada to Michigan in winter) and his one-armed grandfather (who ran a large farm in the Thumb area of Michigan despite the handicap of having blown his left hand off in a shotgun accident), I realized these are the stories that bring our ancestors to life. They are also the stories that get lost if nobody writes them down. I hope my cousin takes the time to commit the stories to paper. We only know our history – as humans or family – through the writings of our scribes. What’s not captured may as well not have happened. “I ink, therefore I am.”

On the topic of ink, I was taking notes with a fountain pen I’ve had for a few months. The pen is a beauty to hold and behold (a Pelikan M800 in burnt orange) but the darn thing was a terrible writer: hard starting, skipping, dry, and scratchy. Despite multiple cleanings, tunings, and different inks it was still a lousy writer. Yesterday I decided to try yet another ink, and voilà, the pen began writing with the grace and surefootedness of Kristi Yamaguchi. Writing with a fountain pen is like that, it takes trial and error to find a good match between pen and ink, but once they meet, there’s something magical.

My cousin mentioned that he and his wife will soon celebrate their 60th anniversary. I guess people are a lot like pens: if you find the right match everything in life works smoother and looks better. Congrats to him and his wife.