Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Finding The Kelly Green Leaves

There are certain days during the year when everyone seems to assume the same nationality for one reason or another. Some people do it because they like the color green, some because they use it as an excuse to drink, and others because they just enjoy the atmosphere of the day. However, for many of us it is an excuse to look deeper into our roots. St. Patrick’s Day is probably the best example of this community participation.

Being Irish was not really something that was a focus for me growing up. In fact, nationality was never really something that was a focus for anyone in my family. We were all born in the United States, our parents were, our grandparents, and our great grandparents so the tether to the boat was quite long. It wasn’t until we really started taking a closer look in recent years (at least for me) that I became more interested and connected to the various heritages that I carry with me.

It started on my dad’s side as I still remember driving down to Virginia in the summer of 1987 and spending the long weekend at the family reunion. This was a little different than the typical reunion that comes to mind as each person in attendance could trace back to the original German/French ancestor that arrived in Philadelphia on 27 October 1764. Good luck trying to figure out how you’re related to each person.

We never knew much about all the other branches on my dad’s side but that has developed substantially over the past decade or so. There is far more than just German blood in that tree as there are lines across various parts of Europe as well as deep native roots her in the United States. However, while there is an assortment of nationalities, there is only a faint touch of Irish blood on that side.

Much of my Irish heritage comes from my mom’s side of the family and, growing up, we were never certain that some of our leaves were a vibrant Kelly green. Once we put a few pieces together and determined that the original surname was McKenna there was little doubt that the family’s arrival in the middle of the 19th century was from Northern Ireland. Tracing your Irish roots back to the potato famine isn’t very unique but at least now we know.  

Like my dad’s side, my mom’s side of the family is also an interesting mix coming from various parts of Europe. And just like the German blood is thick on one side, the Irish blood is thick on the other. Actually, given the tendencies of each, it might be pretty watered down. So have a drink… you may find out one day that you’re Irish. Sláinte!