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Irish in Mexico

For Irish Heritage Month, we welcome Cindy A. Medina as our guest blogger. 


Today, you will find many Mexicans with Irish heritage. Much of that also comes from the Irish soldiers who joined the Mexican side and stayed in Mexico during the Mexican-American War.

Mexicans continue to celebrate the Irish because of the Saint Patrick’s Battalion and all the brave men who fought for Mexico. The batallion was under the command of John Riley. The battalion was primarily Irish and German Catholics.

I have the pleasure of working with Dr. Michael Hogan, whose book “Irish Soldiers of Mexico” was the inspiration of the movie” One Man’s Hero” with Tom Berenger in 1999. In the movie Berenger’s stellar performance is highly admired as he portrayed John Riley.

The book is a must read for any American student who wishes to understand our mutual Irish and Mexican history. The movie was romanticized of course, so you will get the best knowledge from the book!


As genealogists understanding the unification between both cultures will help us see why so many Mexicans have Irish roots and help chase the paper trail.

SALUDOS and ERIN GO BRAGH!

http://www.drmichaelhogan.com/

https://www.facebook.com/IrishMex/

Cindy A Medina is genealogist concentrating in Mexico & Spain. She is also a History Activist for New Spain & Mexico, discussing the merge of the Native Americans with the Spaniards in North America to create “el mestizaje”, people of mixed descent like her, who proudly claim their Mexican heritage as well (upon their Independence from Spain). There is a craving of knowing their roots and real history so they can proudly see and promote their ancestors accomplishments in both Mexico and the U.S. 

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The “Luck” of the Irish?

For Irish Heritage Month, we welcome Kristin Wenger as our guest blogger.


We’ve all heard the saying “the luck of the Irish.” Titling this post made me wonder: What’s so “lucky” about the Irish? I decided to research the origins of this familiar phrase and was surprised to discover the following: According to Edward T. O’Donnell, an Associate Professor of History at Holy Cross College and author of “1001 Things Everyone Should Know About Irish American History,” the term is not Irish in origin. “During the gold and silver rush years in the second half of the 19th century, a number of the most famous and successful miners were of Irish and Irish American birth….Over time this association of the Irish with mining fortunes led to the expression ‘luck of the Irish.’ Of course, it carried with it a certain tone of derision, as if to say, only by sheer luck, as opposed to brains, could these fools succeed.”[1]

For more insight into the negative connotation of “the luck of the Irish,” click here.

My Irish Ancestors

Before I began researching my family history, all I knew of my Irish heritage came from my Grandma Lucy. Every St. Patrick’s Day, she told me to make sure that I wore green because her grandmother was “a Kelly” and that made me 1/16 Irish.

Sure enough, when I took a DNA test in 2015, my ethnicity estimate reported about 5% Irish origins, with a range of 0-14%.

Unfortunately, I have no photographs of my Irish immigrant ancestors, however here are the grandparent (Lucy) and great-grandparent (her father, Harry Norbeck) who gave me that Irish DNA.


My research proved that Grandma Lucy was close, but not quite accurate. Records show that three out of four of Harry’s grandparents (my 3x great-grandparents) were Irish immigrants.

All of them arrived in America as teenagers between the years of 1844-1851.[2] They were part of the mass wave of migration precipitated by the Great Famine[3]. After experiencing starvation, they faced an arduous journey across the Atlantic in disease and death-ridden vessels nicknamed “coffin ships.” Those who survived the trip were not welcomed on American shores. They often faced blatant discrimination and struggled to make a living.[4] For an excellent article on their experience with interesting parallels to today’s refugee debate, read here.

Who was Grandmother Kelly?

True to Grandma Lucy’s word, her grandmother was indeed “a Kelly.” However, she was not born in Ireland. I learned that Margaret Kelly was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on 4 February 1858 and was the oldest child of two Irish immigrants: Dominick Kelly and Jane O’Kane.[5] Since Dominick and Jane had each arrived in America with their families separately[6], let’s go back one generation and look at both immigration stories.

The O’Kane Family Immigration

The O’Kane family arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1844.[7] Two older daughters (Anna and Margaret) immigrated at a different time, and I originally did not know about them. Tracing Irish females in a large city can be challenging. They all seem to have shared the same few popular first names and then changed surnames upon marriage. How could I be sure I found the right women? Father Dennis O’Kane’s 1876 will was the key because it included the married names of the daughters.[8]


Jane (McCallion) O’Kane predeceased her husband six years before he wrote this will.[9] In the will, Dennis named all of his living children. He left his furniture to my 3x great-grandmother Jane (O’Kane) Kelly. The son who already died (Dennis, Jr.) was a soldier who died in 1867 from wounds he had received in battle.[10]

Several of the other O’Kane men worked as boot fitters in a shoe factory.[11] Like many Irish immigrants, the girls worked as domestic servants in the households of wealthier Philadelphians.[12]

The Kelly Family Immigration

My 3x great-grandfather, Dominick Kelly, age eighteen, arrived in New York City on 27 May 1851 aboard the Lady Hobart. He is listed on the passenger manifest with his father Patrick, and seven siblings.[13] It appears that the mother of the family (and perhaps other siblings) had already died in Ireland.

Patrick and his sons had been farmers in Ireland, almost certainly driven out by the hardships of the famine. Notice how the daughters in their twenties are referred to as “spinsters.”

The Family of Dominick Kelly and Jane O’Kane

Sometime before 1856, Dominick moved to Philadelphia, where he met and married Jane O’Kane. The couple had eight children:

  • Margaret (4 February 1858) [14] She was my great-great grandmother. To Grandma Lucy, she was Grandmother Kelly and the source of her pride in her Irish heritage

A record of Margaret’s baptism (in Latin).

  • Dominick Joseph Jr. (21 Mar 1860) [15]
  • Hugh (3 Feb 1862) [16]
  • Dennis (25 June 1864) [17]
  • William (17 March 1866) [18]
  • John (11 November 1868) [19]
  • Catherine (5 Jan 1873) [20]
  • James (abt 1874) [21]

Of the Catholic faith, Dominick and Jane had their children baptized at St. Patrick’s in Philadelphia. The family lived southwest of center city Philadelphia with addresses including 2137 Federal Street and 2231 Ellsworth Street. Dominick worked as a brickmaker and neither Dominick nor Jane could read and write.[22]

It appears that this family struggled to get by. Perhaps the greatest evidence of their precarious existence was the death of their 13-month-old son Dennis in 1865 from marasmus, a form of severe malnutrition.[23] Although no longer in Ireland, the lingering effects of poverty, discrimination, and lack of education were still impacting this family in absolutely devastating ways.

My great-great grandmother Margaret appears to be one of the “lucky” ones in her sibling group. In addition to the loss of brother Dennis at age one, Hugh died of typhoid fever at age 20, John died of “congestion of the brain” at age 24, and James died at age 33 as a prisoner in the Philadelphia House of Corrections. [24]

Margaret’s parents outlived many of their children. Dominick Kelly, born in Ireland, died on 19 November 1889 in Philadelphia. Jane (O’Kane) Kelly, also born in Ireland, died on 1 August 1911. Both are buried in Old Cathedral Catholic Cemetery, along with several of their children.[25]


Margaret Kelly, the oldest child of these two Irish immigrants, went on to marry Harry Norbeck (Sr.) and give birth to eleven children, one of whom was my great-grandfather Harry Norbeck (Jr.)[26]

Although I lack photographs, heirlooms, or stories from my Irish immigrant ancestors, I do have one photograph of my great-grandfather Harry which I think carries on a part of their experience. After fleeing the Irish famine, Dominick Kelly worked as a brickmaker in Philadelphia for the rest of his life.[27] Here is Dominick’s grandson (and my great-grandfather) Harry Norbeck with a brick fireplace that he built in the backyard of his daughter Lucy’s home at 1915 Park Plaza, Lancaster, Pennsylvania in the 1950s.


To me, this photograph of Harry represents a bridge between our immigrant ancestors and the America that we know today, which they literally built. In just three generations, this family transitioned from Dominick, an immigrant fighting for his family’s survival through the back-breaking labor of making bricks to his great-granddaughter Lucille, who could enjoy a brick fireplace in her beautiful suburban backyard.

If you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and the “wearing of the green,” be thankful for the sacrifices and difficult experiences of our Irish ancestors. Because of their indomitable spirit, being Irish in America is now something to celebrate!

Sources:

[1] Angela Tung, “Luck of the Irish is an Old Mining Expression,” Mental Floss (http://mentalfloss.com/article/30236/luck-irish-old-mining-expression : accessed 13 March 2018). See also “Where Does the Term “the Luck of the Irish” Come From?” IrishCentral (https://www.irishcentral.com/roots/history/where-does-the-term-the-luck-of-the-irish-come-from : accessed 13 March 2018).

[2] For Ellen (Clark) Norbeck birthplace and arrival date, see 1900 U.S. census, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania population schedule, Philadelphia, Ward 36 Enumeration District [ED] 933, p. 8-B, dwelling 135, family 136, Ellen Norbeck; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 13 March 2018); citing National Archives microfilm publication T623, roll 1477. For Dominick Kelly arrival date, see “New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957” database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 13 March 2018), entry for Dominick Kelly, age 18, in the family of Patrick Kelly, arrived 27 May 1851; digital image p path > Roll > M237, 1820-1897 > Roll 99 > image 24 of 6887. For Jane O’Kane arrival date, see “U.S. and Canada, Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s,” database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 13 March 2018), entry for Jane O’Kane, age 13, in the family of Jane O’Kane, arrived 1844; citing Raymond D. Adams, An Alphabetical Index to Ulster Emigration to Philadelphia, 1803-1850 (Baltimore : 1992), 75.

[3] “Irish Potato Famine,” History.com (https://www.history.com/topics/irish-potato-famine : accessed 7 March 2018).

[4] Christopher Klein, “When America Despised the Irish: the 19th Century’s Refugee Crisis,” History.com(http://www.history.com/news/when-america-despised-the-irish-the-19th-centurys-refugee-crisis : accessed 7 March 2018).

[5] St. Patrick Parish (Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania), Roman Catholic Baptism Register, p. 114, no. 60, Margarittam [Margaret] Kelly, 10 February 1858; digital image, FindMyPast (https://search.findmypast.com/results/world-records/philadelphia-roman-catholic-parish-baptisms : accessed 13 March 2018). Also, Pennsylvania Department of Health, Certificate of Death no. 83277, Margaret Norbeck 10 September 1931, Philadelphia County; viewed at “Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966,” digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 13 March 2018); citing Series 11.90: Death Certificates 1906 -1966, Record Group 11: Pennsylvania Department of Health, Pennsylvania State Archives, Harrisburg.

[6] For Dominick Kelly arrival date, see “New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957” database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 13 March 2018), entry for Dominick Kelly, age 18, in the family of Patrick Kelly, arrived 27 May 1851; digital image p path > Roll > M237, 1820-1897 > Roll 99 > image 24 of 6887. For Jane O’Kane arrival date, see “U.S. and Canada, Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s,” database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 13 March 2018), entry for Jane O’Kane, age 13, in the family of Jane O’Kane, arrived 1844; citing Raymond D. Adams, An Alphabetical Index to Ulster Emigration to Philadelphia, 1803-1850 (Baltimore, MD : 1992), 75.

[7] Jane O’Kane: Ibid.

[8] “Pennsylvania, Wills and Probate Records, 1683-1993,” database with images Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 13 March 2018), will of Dennis O’Kane, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 9 January 1876; digital image path > Philadelphia > Wills, No 90-135, 1876 > images 140-143 of 439.[9] 1870 U.S. census, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, mortality schedule, page illegible, line 27, Jane O’Kane; accessed via “U.S., Federal Census Mortality Schedules, 1850-1885,” database with images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 13 March 2018); citing NARA microfilm publication M1838, roll 6.

[10] “Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JDKJ-96F : 8 March 2018), Dennis O’Kane, 10 Nov 1867; citing Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; FHL microfilm 1,993,916.

[11] 1850 U.S. census, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania population schedule, Moyamensing, Ward 2, p. 257 (stamped), dwelling 352, family 444, Dennis Kane [O’Kane]; digital image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 13 March 2018); citing National Archives microfilm publication M432, roll 809. Also, 1870 U.S. census, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Ward 2 District 6, p.263B (penned), dwelling 1496, family 1676, John Kane in Peter Hagen household]; digital image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 13 March 2018); citing National Archives microfilm publication M593, roll 1388.

[12] Ibid (1850 census: Dennis O’Kane).

[13] “New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957” database with images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 13 March 2018), entry for Dominick Kelly, age 18, in the family of Patrick Kelly, arrived 27 May 1851.

[14] St. Patrick Parish (Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania), Roman Catholic Baptism Register, p. 114, no. 60, Margarittam [Margaret] Kelly, 10 February 1858; digital image, FindMyPast (https://search.findmypast.com/results/world-records/philadelphia-roman-catholic-parish-baptisms : accessed 13 March 2018).

[15] St. Patrick Parish (Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania), Roman Catholic Baptism Register, p. 210, no. 123, Dominicum [Dominick] Kelly, 20 March 1860; digital image, FindMyPast (https://search.findmypast.com/results/world-records/philadelphia-roman-catholic-parish-baptisms : accessed 13 March 2018).

[16] St. Patrick Parish (Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania), Roman Catholic Baptism Register, p. 319, no. 67, Hugonem [Hugh] Kelly, 9 February 1862; digital image, FindMyPast (https://search.findmypast.com/results/world-records/philadelphia-roman-catholic-parish-baptisms : accessed 13 March 2018).

[17] St. Patrick Parish (Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania), Roman Catholic Baptism Register, p. 72, Dionysium [Dennis] Kelly, 3 July 1864; digital image, FindMyPast (https://search.findmypast.com/results/world-records/philadelphia-roman-catholic-parish-baptisms : accessed 13 March 2018).

[18] St. Patrick Parish (Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania), Roman Catholic Baptism Register, p. 156, Gulielmum [William] Kelly, 25 March 1866; digital image, FindMyPast (https://search.findmypast.com/results/world-records/philadelphia-roman-catholic-parish-baptisms : accessed 13 March 2018).

[19] St. Patrick Parish (Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania), Roman Catholic Baptism Register, p. 304, Joannem [John] Kelly, 22 November 1868; digital image, FindMyPast (https://search.findmypast.com/results/world-records/philadelphia-roman-catholic-parish-baptisms : accessed 13 March 2018).

[20] For parents, see Pennsylvania Department of Health, Certificate of Death no. 86879, Catherine V. Gallagher, 6 October 1955, Delaware County; viewed at “Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966,” digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 13 March 2018); citing Series 11.90: Death Certificates 1906 -1966, Record Group 11: Pennsylvania Department of Health, Pennsylvania State Archives, Harrisburg. For January 1873, see 1900 U.S. census, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania population schedule, Philadelphia, Ward 36, Enumeration District [ED] 919, p. 9, dwelling 154, [21] 1880 U.S. census, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania population sche family 154, Katie V. Gallagher; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 13 March 2018); citing National Archives microfilm publication T623, roll 1477.

[21] 1880 U.S. census, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania population schedule, Philadelphia, 1st Ward, Enumeration District (ED) 564, p. 12 (penned), p. 719-D (stamped), dwelling 82, family 98, entry for James Kelly, age 6, in Dominick Kelly household; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 13 March 2018); citing National Archives microfilm publication T9, roll 1185.

[22] Ibid. For Ellsworth Street see, [22] “U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995,” database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 13 March 2018), entry for Jane Kelly (widow of Dominick); path: Pennsylvania > Philadelphia > 1896 > image 518 of 1121.

[23] “Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:J67Z-LJM : 8 March 2018), Dennis Kelly, 03 Aug 1865; citing Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; FHL microfilm 1,987,149.

[24] For Hugh, see “Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JDK3-D38 : 9 March 2018), Hugh J. Kelly, 20 Jul 1882; citing Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; FHL microfilm 2,057,182. For John, see “Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JD17-897 : 8 March 2018), John J. Kelly, 02 May 1893; citing death certificate no. 23737, Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; FHL microfilm 1,902,338. For James, see “Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JKQJ-64K : 8 March 2018), James Kelley, 15 May 1912; citing death certificate no. 11977, Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; FHL microfilm 1,421,325.

[25] For Dominick, see Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JKSK-59L : 8 March 2018), Dominic Kelley, 19 Nov 1889; citing Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; FHL microfilm 2,080,243. For Jane, see “Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JD51-7ZQ : 8 March 2018), Jane M. Kelly, 01 Aug 1911; citing certificate no. 19067, Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; FHL microfilm 1,405,440. For burial, see “Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Church and Town Records, 1669-2013,” database with images, entry for Dominick Kelly, 22 November 1889, burial in Cathedral Cemetery; path > PA-Philadelphia > Philadelphia > Roman Catholic > Old Cathedral Catholic Cemetery > image 4383 of 4844.

[26] 1910 U.S. census, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania population schedule, Philadelphia, Ward 41, Enumeration District (ED) 1054, p. 4-A, dwelling 83, family 83, Margaret Norbeck; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 13 March 2018); citing National Archives microfilm publication T624, roll 1411. For Harry with his parents, see 1880 U.S. census, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania population schedule, Philadelphia, 1st Ward, Enumeration District (ED) 23, p. 35 penned, p. 368-C (stamped), dwelling 312, family 335, Harry Norbeck household; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 13 March 2018); citing National Archives microfilm publication T9 , roll 1187.

[27] “Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch

(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JKSK-59L : 8 March 2018), Dominic Kelley, 19 Nov 1889; citing Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; FHL microfilm 2,080,243.


Kristin Wenger is a professional genealogist and educator who is passionate about giving others the gift of experiencing fulfillment and inspiration through discovering, preserving, and sharing their family histories. As a lifelong Lancaster County, Pennsylvania resident, she specializes in Pennsylvania research, particularly Anabaptist groups (Mennonites, Brethren, and Amish) as well as the Moravians, who settled her hometown of Lititz. Find her online at https://www.rootsandwingsresearch.com/.

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OGS Webinar: Build a Custom Keyword List For Your Digital Genealogy Files

On the first Thursday of every month, the Ontario Genealogical Society hosts an education webinar.  This month,  Art Taylor will be presenting a webinar entitled ‘Build a Custom Keyword List For Your Digital Genealogy Files’.   The presentation will begin at 7pm EST on March 7 and registration is required.

Art says: “You may be familiar with the idea of using keywords with your digital images and other documents (WordPerfect documents; MS Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files; PDFs) so you can easily and quickly find one or more specific files when you need them. Is there a convenient existing list you can download and use? For some subjects, yes, there lists available. Some are free while others need to be bought. However, there’s no universally useful list for genealogy files. Why? Each genealogist has unique needs for his or her files. Is there a solution for this barrier? YES! Learn how you can easily build a keyword list for your specific needs, including the names of relevant people, places, and events”

Don’t miss out on this great opportunity:   REGISTER HERE for Thursday’s webinar

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OGS Webinar: Tackling Research Challenges: The Genealogical Proof Standard in Practice

On the first Thursday of every month, the Ontario Genealogical Society hosts an education webinar.  This month, Janice Nickerson will be presenting a webinar entitled ‘Tackling Research Challenges: The Genealogical Proof Standard in Practice’.   The presentation will begin at 7pm EST on February 7 and registration is required.

Janice says: ”
The Genealogical Proof Standard isn’t just a way to measure the reliability of your research after the fact. It’s actually a excellent way to help you work your way through tough research problems. In this lecture, I’ll show you how to apply the GPS to a typical early Ontario research challenge, step by step. “

Don’t miss out on this great opportunity:   REGISTER HERE for Thursday’s webinar

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