Being Irish in America

Steve held close to his heart his family’s connection to Ireland. It is an interesting aspect of the Irish in America that Steve, like others of his generation who were several generations removed from Ireland, felt that being Irish defined who they were. Possibly, it had to do with the identity it gave them. Saying that you were Irish was comparable to claiming membership in a distinct fraternity with a common tradition, secret rituals, and assured friendships wherever you found a fellow member of the Irish diaspora. The Irish gloried in their family, their neighborhood, and their love of the language. For Steve, it granted him entrée into the big leagues, where many young men of Irish descent were entering the American mainstream.

Steve Hannagan: Prince of the Press Agents and Titan of Modern Public Relations by Michael K. Townsley

 

Irish Female Shamans

When Auntie Shea came from Ireland, she only spoke Gaelic . She found her way to Bloody Plank Road by going from firehouse to firehouse and asking directions. ( She apparently discovered that at least one fireman was a recent Irish immigrant, who spoke Gaelic, or they could point to someone in the community familiar with Gaelic.)

Steve’s family saw their Auntie Shea as more than a relative; she embodied the sense of place , stories , magic , religious fervor, aphorisms, and arcane powers of Ireland. It seemed that only women of Irish descent had these powers, which may have come from Viking lore or Druidic traditions. She knew how to apply the secret knowledge to keep the evil spirits at bay and was rarely baffled by anything, whether it was tragic or comic , that could knock someone’s life off course. She seemed to always have a ready explanation to cover good , sad , or bad news ; and in Irish neighborhoods , there was a surfeit of the latter two. As anyone familiar with these Irish female shamans knows , they can deal with anything . There was always a pinch of salt to be thrown , a saying that fit the moment, or an appropriate prayer to beseech guardian angels or the saints to help in time of need .

Steve Hannagan: Prince of the Press Agents and Titan of Modern Public Relations by Michael K. Townsley

 

Irish Immigration

When Steve was born , his mother , Johanna Enright Hannagan , was forty – one , and his father was forty – three . Johanna was a short , cheery woman of ample proportions with a loving personality . Her parents came directly from Ireland , but their ancestry in Ireland is not available. This is typical of many Irish immigrants who left their country behind and never talked about their life in Ireland, what county they lived in, and what they did when they arrived in the States. It is often a mystery of how or why immigrants like Johanna Hannagan’s parents traveled from the East Coast to places like Lafayette . This mystery of the trek to a river town in Indiana is also true for the Hannagan ancestors .

Steve Hannagan: Prince of the Press Agents and Titan of Modern Public Relations by Michael K. Townsley

 

History: French Canadian Immigration

I am going to tell you as well as I can the story of the French Canadian textile worker; what brought him here; how he came, lived, worked, played and suffered until he was recognized as a patriotic, useful and respected citizen, no longer a ‘frog’ and ‘pea soup eater,’ a despised Canuck. And it’s the story of all the French Canadians who settled in New England mill towns. The picture of one French Canadian textile worker and the picture of another are just as much alike as deux gouttes d’eau, or, as we have learned to say in English, like two peas in a pod.

French Canadian Textile Worker, U.S. Work Projects Administration, Federal Writers’ Project, Library of Congress, a Narrative by Lemay, Philippe (Author) and Pare, Louis (Reporter), series: Folklore Project, Life Histories, 1936-39, MSS55715: BOX A718

Crucial Storytelling

Quote

Amazon.com

We had been taught not to look back. We had been trained to disconnect from family and our homelands. We had swapped our stories for a dream. To survive we need to find, and then share, our interlinking stories.

White Birch, Red Hawthorn: A Memoir by Nora Murphy

 

Racism in the Midwest

The following article is created from (and inspired by) a collection of answers to questions originally posted to Quora.

Racism and Narcissism

People who perpetrate hate crimes do so based solely on their own interpretation of race. If the perpetrator hates community X and you are a member of community Y but, according to the perpetrator’s definition of X, you ‘look like x’ then you will experience the full brunt of hate crimes committed by the perpetrator against community X. In other words, when faced with race-based crime, ‘race’ is defined by the perpetrator’s perceptions.

Racism At A Wisconsin Roller Rink

I was in the 7th grade, so it was the 81-82 school year (if my math serves me). All of the girls in the 6th-8th grade classes were going on a field trip with the 6th-8th grade teachers, who were also all-female. It was an official girls-night out! The plan was to go roller skating and out to eat (pizza, if I remember correctly).

I was attending a small private school, so this was a rather small group. The racial makeup of the group was white women, white girls, 1 black girl and me.

We were standing in line at the roller rink, waiting to buy tickets to get into the building, rent our skates and hit the rink. The man selling the tickets leaned out the window. He was a white man with blond hair, angry eyes and one of those no-one-gets-anything-past-me smirks. His eyes fell on the black girl…and me.

His faced twisted in disgust when he looked at the black girl. He stared at me for a long time. He had very angry eyes. He turned to the nearest teacher, pointed to the black girl and said she couldn’t enter the roller rink. No blacks allowed.

Then he stared at me for a long time…again. The other girls physically stepped away. It was an instinctual action on their part. I had no choice but to face this man down, alone. Fear compounded by confusion was tangible. He made another face of disgust. Less twisted but no less ugly, and gave his permission. I could enter.

The teachers looked at each other, clearly stunned, confused and completely at a loss for what to do. One of the teachers volunteered to take the black girl home. The rest put not-real smiles on their faces and returned to ushering the remaining girls into the rink.

I spent the rest of the evening skating with the feeling of eyes glaring at my back. It was just a feeling. I don’t know if I was actually being watched. I also spent most of the evening skating alone. I wasn’t the only one feeling the fear and it directly and negatively affected the experience for everyone involved.

How This Illustrates White Privilege

  • The undeniably white girls got in without question.
  • I got in after uncomfortable scrutiny.
  • The black girl went home.

Midwestern Mores

What the teachers did in this situation was wrong, there is no denying that, but I hold no ill-will towards them. I do not condone the choice they made but my memory of these events is one of floundering not malice – they really and truly did not know what to do.

Having said that, I believe this is an opportunity to explore one of the reasons why racism and antisemitism are so difficult to address in the Midwest: Minnesota Nice.

Mid-westerners are highly non-demonstrative and indirect. People in general, and women in particular, do not make a spectacle of themselves. They do not (generally speaking) address problems in a forthright manner or say mean things to another person’s face. They put on a smile, drop hints, use Midwestern-talk to issue warnings or establish boundaries and talk behind closed doors (or gossip behind your back).

For example, among Midwesterner’s the word ‘different’ is an insult. If someone declares someone or something to be ‘different’ then (make no doubt about it) both an insult and a warning have been issued because you are standing right on the edge of the proverbial line. If a Midwesterner declares someone or something to be ‘weird’ then you have crossed the proverbial line and gone knee deep into the danger zone. For most of the rest of the United States ‘different’ and ‘weird’ barely register as insults, much less warnings.

This lends power to overt racism because people do not know how to handle someone being so…obvious. It also fosters a culture of racism that can be hard to see or define. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say dreadful things in private conversation and…when I called them on it…toss off my concern with comments like “we all know [nasty statement] is true but we’re not going to tell [race/community] that.”

As illustrated by the roller-skating story, some people express overt racism; but (generally speaking) this kind of behavior is discouraged because it is overt. Midwesterners don’t act like that in public. The knee-jerk cultural response to this kind of situation is to find a way to bring things back to acceptable non-demonstrative social behavior. Therefore, these teachers put on their smiles and did what it took to make it appear as though nothing was wrong.

Despite the name, Minnesota Nice is a cultural norm throughout the Midwest. The association with the state of Minnesota is primarily due to the popularity of the National Public Radio program Lake Wobegon Days.

For more information on Midwestern culture and racism see:

What Are You – Really?

adora

This is me in the late 1970s.

If you are looking at this photo and wondering how or why anyone would think I was anything but white – that’s good. Sit with that for a minute.

By Midwestern standards my physical appearance is considered borderline.

Another fact that the average Midwesterner will refuse to discuss: Those who don’t like People of Color (POC) almost invariably include Jewish people in the POC category. Anyone who is considered borderline (like myself) tends to be placed in the ‘Jewish’ category.

Many years ago I learned to never EVER bring up the hate crimes, racist activities or antisemitic actions I witnessed or direly experienced. Since my physical appearance is close enough to acceptable or “real white” (so I’m told) I am allowed to ‘pass’ as white most of the time. During those times when I was dealing with the aftermath of a negative experience I was always told that people are going to do these things to me (teachers and other adults: “Of course they did that!”) but it didn’t count because I’m not really Jewish or a Person of Color (POC).

I guess that makes me target practice. (Lucky me.)

Clearly placing some people into an in-between racial racial category, creates fertile ground for enforcing the particular type of racism that exists in the Midwest. This is done (very effectively) through surprising and terrorizing people who make the mistake of trying to befriend someone whose appearance is borderline. For example:

I was sitting at an outdoor picnic table, taking a lunch break at work, when a coworker sat down beside me and pulled out an envelope of family photos. She started showing them, one-by-one, and commenting on how similar I looked to her relatives. Honestly, she was right, I did look like many of her family members.

A secretary interrupted our pleasant conversation with some nasty commentary about my family lineage, implying both mixed racial heritage and Jewish culture. It was unusually overt for Iowa (where I lived at the time) but it was effective.

The woman with the photos got very nervous and started trying to discretely slip everything back into her purse. After getting everything packed, she made a stuttering denial of my physical similarity to her relatives and left the area as quickly as she could. No, my family isn’t that. No need to look here. she never spoke to me again.

Technically, I could have (and probably should have) reported this experience to my employer’s human resources department, but I was still operating under the belief that I was not allowed to address these things because I’m not ‘really’ a Person of Color (POC) or Jewish. Therefore, I did not have a right to report a problem because the problem couldn’t possibly exist.

Another fact about the Midwest: Violent hate crimes occur with far more regularity than anyone realizes and those crimes are perpetrated against anyone who is considered POC, including those who are perceived as being Jewish. These crimes frequently go unreported, or unrecognized (by the police and other authority figures), so they remain off the official books.

No REALLY…What ARE You?

For those who simply must know my ‘real’ racial identity, feel free to review the genealogy postings on this blog (Genealogy | Adora Myers) and make your own damned decision.

If you decide you hate ‘what I am’ then get in line.

(grumble)

My Immigrant Ancestors: History and Genealogy

Last Sunday I posted the last of my Immigrant Ancestors. Every individual who left their home country to live in the United States has been documented (to the best of my knowledge).

While researching the finer details and filling in gaps of information (to the best of my ability) through Ancestry.com I noticed an interesting trend – my French Canadian/Creole ancestors all left Canada in the late 1800s. Some left with children and babies, which was no small matter during that time. Many settled down in French Canadian/Creole communities with similarly recent French Canadian immigrants, some of whom were blood relation. This made me wonder what, exactly, was happening in Canada during the following years: 1864, 1865, 1869, 1871, 1873. Why were so many people risking everything and moving their entire families into the United States?

A bit of online research led me to resources that clearly differentiate this period from the Great Expulsion that occurred between 1700-1750.

I am a product of the American public school system, which is not known for its lessons in either geography or history (or any other number of topics, depending on where in the USA one might be living). Therefore, I was very surprised to learn that the Great Expulsion occurred at all!

Here are a few details from the history books…

Great Expulsion (1700-1750)

The British wanted to control Canada and the United States. (In the United States this same period of time is known as the French and English war, the Seven Year War, and/or the French and Indian War.) When they managed to secure control of the eastern edge of Canada they proceeded to forcibly remove all French, French-speaking and Acadian people. This mass forced migration adversely affected large numbers of European, Native Canadian (first nations) and Metis/Creole (mixed) people. The following TheCanadianEncyclopedia.ca quote sums up this terrible event:

“Of some 3,100 Acadians deported after the fall of Louisbourg in 1758, an estimated 1,649 died by drowning or disease, a fatality rate of 53 percent.

Between 1755 and 1763, approximately 10,000 Acadians were deported. They were shipped to many points around the Atlantic. Large numbers were landed in the English colonies, others in France or the Caribbean. Thousands died of disease or starvation in the squalid conditions on board ship. To make matters worse, the inhabitants of the English colonies, who had not been informed of the imminent arrival of disease-ridden refugees, were furious. Many Acadians were forced, like the legendary Evangeline of Longfellow’s poem, to wander interminably in search of loved ones or a home.”

As I read about the Great Expulsion, I couldn’t help but compare it to the forced removal of Native Americans from the southern United States. The following History.com quote about the Trail of Tears makes for a sadly (disturbingly) similar story:

“At the beginning of the 1830s, nearly 125,000 Native Americans lived on millions of acres of land in Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina and Florida–land their ancestors had occupied and cultivated for generations. By the end of the decade, very few natives remained anywhere in the southeastern United States. Working on behalf of white settlers who wanted to grow cotton on the Indians’ land, the federal government forced them to leave their homelands and walk thousands of miles to a specially designated “Indian territory” across the Mississippi River. This difficult and sometimes deadly journey is known as the Trail of Tears.”

Economics, Community, and Religion (1850-1900)

As for the late 1800s, the reasons for migration were more complicated. The Metis/Creole,  French-speaking and Catholic communities were not treated well under the British government. The opportunities for securing land, running a farm or business and/or getting a job were limited at best. People left Canada looking for better wages in the United States and settled in this country with full intention of returning to Canada. Many sent money back to families while living here. Most chose to remain after spending a few years in (comparative) financial security.

In other words, they were financial refugees – not unlike the current financial refugees entering the United States from South American countries (and other places around the globe).

Politics of Settlement

Another key historic event is the removal of Native Americans from the Midwest (during the mid-1800s, this was considered ‘the west’). The US government was aggressively recruiting European people to move into the frontier regions, with the full intention of keeping…and continuing to take…lands from their former inhabitants. Light-skinned French-speaking Canadians were considered to be white European, which meant the opportunities for economic security were greater in the USA than in Canada.

Conclusion?

Personally, I have taken two key lessons from all of this:

  1. Genealogy makes for an excellent history lesson. Being able to connect historic events to the experiences of your ancestors has a way of turning boring and seemingly irrelevant facts into something very personal and (therefore) interesting.
  2. The more things change, the more they stay the same – and/or those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.

My Immigrant Ancestors: Albert and Emma Anderson

This example of Immigration in the USA is taken from my own family tree.

Genealogy is a weird hobby. Information that I thought would be easy to locate and identify is not available through online resources or very difficult to track down; and details that I had not expected to find (ever…at all) randomly turn up.

This couple is an example of people who I expected to find without difficulty. Thus far, they have proven to be strangely absent from all of the usual paperwork (e.g.: census roles, immigration documentation, city directories, etc.).

However, they are the last immigrants within my reasonably immediate family line (e.g.: between me and my great-great-great grandparents). As noted earlier, there are significantly more among those who spent many generations living on the Canadian side of the border, but they require far more research and will have to wait for another time.

The following details are part of research-in-progress. This is the best data currently available to me.

Emma W. Erickson and Albert A Anderson

Emma W. Erickson
1885-

  • Birth Location: Sweden
  • Immigration Year: Approx. 1901
  • US Residence: Minneapolis, MN
  • Native Language: Swedish and English
  • Occupation: Housewife
  • Education: Unknown
  • Naturalization Status: Unknown
  • Number of children: At least 2

 

 

Albert A Anderson
1883 – 1949

  • Birth Location: Sweden
  • Immigration Year: Approx. 1901
  • US Residence: Minneapolis, MN
  • Native Language: Swedish and English
  • Occupation: Contractor, Construction, Moulder
  • Education: Unknown
  • Naturalization Status: Unknown
  • Number of children: At least 2

 

My Immigrant Ancestors: Francoise and Jean Venne

This example of Immigration in the USA is taken from my own family tree.

This couple never entered the United States. The Venne family (on my mother’s side) landed in Canada in 1671 and stayed there until 1864. That’s 193 years and 5 generations of Venne men living in Canada prior to entering the USA.

All other French Canadian/Creole branches (on both my mother’s and father’s sides) extend into the 1700 to 1800s – at least. This is the only couple I was able to trace back to a country other than Canada or the United States. Completing the necessary research on the rest will require significantly more time, so they will not be posted in the near future.

That said, the following data is the best currently available. There are many gaps in the information. It is presented as research in progress.

Francoise Manseau (Manseaux) and Jean Baptiste Davoine Voyne (Venne) (Voine) (Vien)

Amazon.com

Francoise Manseau (Manseaux)

Unknown birth and death dates

  • Birth Location: France
  • Immigration Year: 1671
  • Canada Residence: L’Assomption, Lanaudiere Region, Quebec, Canada
  • Native Language: French
  • Occupation: Housewife
  • Education: Unknown
  • Naturalization Status: Unknown
  • Number of children: At least 2

Jean Baptiste Davoine Voyne (Venne) (Voine) (Vien)
1657 – 1736

  • Birth Location: Rennes, Departement d’Ille-et-Vilaine, Bretagne, France
  • Immigration Year: 1671
  • Canada Residence: L’Assomption, Lanaudiere Region, Quebec, Canada
  • Native Language: French
  • Occupation: Unknown
  • Education: Unknown
  • Naturalization Status: Unknown

More details about the Venne family line in Canada can be found on the Claude Dupras website.

My Immigrant Ancestors: Victoire and Jacques Mayotte

This example of Immigration in the USA is taken from my own family tree.

This couple stands as an excellent example of the challenges presented by genealogy.

I have many facts and family legends handed down (verbally) through the Venne family line – these are wonderful when trying to decipher which information applies to your own family tree and which does not.

The Myers side is significantly more murky. I have a few bits and pieces to use when evaluating details, but the limited information is exacerbated by the inconsistency in documented details. Most notably, the names are spelled many different ways. Strangely enough, the spelling variations occurred across location, time and family members. Several of the Mayotte children were buried under last names that differ from both their parents and each other. All of the variations I have found documented are included below.

Because this side of the family requires significantly more investigation, I am providing the following information as an example of best-available and in-progress-research.

 

Victoire LaMois Niguette and Jacques Louis Mayotte

Relationship to me: Great Great Grandparents

Victoire (Victoria, Victory) H LaMois Niguette (Neget, Frechette)
1843-1933

  • Birth Location: Quebec, Canada
  • Immigration Year: 1865
  • US Residence: Taftville, New London, Connecticut
  • Native Languages: French. Unable to speak English (per the 1930 census).
  • Occupation: Housewife
  • Education: No schooling. Possibly illiterate.
  • Naturalization Status: Alien. No evidence naturalization was ever achieved.
  • Number of children: 11

Jacques (James) Louis Mayotte (Mailhot, Myers, Maillotte, Miers, Mayatte)
1832 – 1895

  • Birth Location: Quebec, Canada
  • Immigration Year: 1865
  • US Residence: Taftville, New London, Connecticut
  • Native Languages: French
  • Occupation: Farm hand, Odd Jobs
  • Education: No schooling. Illiterate (per the 1910 census).
  • Naturalization Status: Alien. No evidence naturalization was ever achieved.
  • Number of children: 15 (It appears that he had 4 children when he married Victoire, but no evidence of a previous marriage has been located.)