My Kerry Families
The first county book that I decided to write for the Irish
Families project was on County Kerry, Ireland. In part
for my mothers side of the family. They passed on the
name of that county of origin through several generations.
There were only a few scraps of information that came
down to me, however.
O’Donoughue of the Glen
I had been told that we were “The O’Donaghues of the
Glen”. It was told to my mother by my grandmother.
I did not know that it meant we came from ‘Glenflesk’
County Kerry. My mother also told me that she would
imagine a horse galloping through the glen, and how
beautiful it was - though she nor her mother had ever
been there. That was one ethnic memory that led me to
make the first trip to Ireland. There I found out from
whom I had descended.
I remembered little else, except that when speaking in
San Antonio before an Irish group, my Uncle Jim counted
from one to ten in Irish Gaelic at a language seminar.
I had no idea where that had come from, or that my
grand- mother had taught one of her grand-daughters
how to dance an Irish jig ! Where was I then ? Lost in
America for a few decades while growing up, I think!
Telegraphy and Song
A few stories were passed on about my Donahue
grandfather: he delivered singing telegrams as a boy; was a
telegrapher; almost died in the great flu epidemic; and his
favorite song was The Rising of the Moon.
American Poteen ?
My mother also remembers some funny little spiraling
tubes in the basement where he made ‘root beer’ for
everyone. She first made the comment when she saw a ‘still’
in a tent on the TV program called ‘Mash’. She was serious.
I could not hold back a very loud chuckle or two.
Speak English not Irish
More to the point. She remembered that my Grandpa
would tell visitors in the parlour:
“We are in America now, speak English “
This could be one reason the family quickly assimilated
into the America culture and were so successful. Current
day immigrants might consider that too.
It might also be why I had not heard many of the stories
that I wish I knew about today.
County Kerry Hedge Row
More little secrets that had not been passed on, began to
accumulate as I uncovered my family history. We had a
‘hedge school’ tradition in the family. My ancestor had
been educated in a hedge school in Kerry a long time ago.
This might be one reason the family all got an education
when they came to America - they put a high value on it.
Before I forget the genealogy side of things, we also had
a few legends that did make it through. Cornelius
Donahue and Mary Kelliher had both planned to make
the trip to America. The story gets a little fuzzy here.
One story says that Kelihers parents drowned in the
river shortly before the voyage, so she did not come. But
I have been informed by the Sullivan side of our family
that indeed she did come, but lived apart ?? very interesting.
Now, we know that the O in O’Donaghue, no matter how
you spell the name, means grandson of; or descendant of;
or perhaps ‘follower of’. Well, if you believe in the new
science of DNA, they tell me it shows that the O’Donoghues
of the Glen were not O’Donoughues by blood at all !
I am glad on this point that my Uncles are gone from this
world. For this family, renowned as the ‘Masters of the
Caustic Invective’, descended from Maire Nee Dubh herself,
would give short shrift to such a claim, science aside itself !
I must close now, but two of the books I wrote on Kerry, as
a result of my family ties and family history, are part of the
Irish Families project. I will list them here dedicated to my
aunts and uncles - most long gone, but ne’er forgotten.
Co. Kerry Resources from the Irish Families Project:
1) The Families of County Kerry, Ireland
2) County Kerry, Ireland, Genealogy and Family History Notes.
The Master Book to the Project
with families from all 32 counties of Ireland
3) The Book of Irish Families, great and small.
More About the Irish Families Project:
4) Video about the Irish Families Project
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