Saturday, September 19, 2009

Family Roots Run Deep

This past Labor Day weekend was an incredible, jam-packed few days with many memories made. The main event of the weekend was the beautiful wedding of Maggie and Mike. As with so many of our family events, cousins came from far and wide to gather together for the wedding. The family member who came the farthest was our new found cousin, Michele Kneafsey O'Sullivan!!!

Our family history from Ireland has been largely un
known. My Aunt Teresa and I went to Ireland in 1978 and tried to find information, but without much luck. On our last day there, we did find Patrick Rice, whose family name was Kneafsey. Kneafsey was the name of my great grandmother, Ellen.

I did not know my great grandmother as she died shortly after I was born in 1949. However, I felt as though I knew her because of all of the wonderful stories I heard about her over the years. I think that our Aunt Teresa must be very much like
her--kind, caring, a deep faith, and seeing the good in so much. Ellen lived to be 96 years old, which was amazing 60 years ago.

Not much was known about her life in Ireland. We knew that she lived in County Mayo. We knew that her last name was Kneafsey, although it was not spelled this way. So many immigrants had their last names misspelled when the entered the United States and did not know how to read or write. I have asked Teresa why we didn't know much and she said she doesn't really know why. I think, and this is just my opinion, that when a young person left Ireland in those days, it had to be almost like a death. The poverty and conditions were so poor that the only choice they had was to start a new life in the U.S. Leaving in 1879 would mean no further communication with family as there were no phones. My great grandmother was also illiterate so writing letters would not be possible. Maybe the only way to get on with a new life was to try to forget the memories and the family left behind. I cannot even imagine this.

Ellen went to live with her sister, Catherine, in Pennsylvania. There she married Matthew Roughan, who came from County Cork. My great grandfather was a miner and they moved to Leadville, Colorado. From Leadville they moved to Bisbee in 1903. My grandparents, Edward and Katherine Scott, moved to Douglas in 1912 from Leadville. My grandfather worked for the railroad.

Ellen lived in Douglas after the death of her husband
and her son. She worked as a midwife there. My mother and her brothers and sisters were so fortunate to have her in their lives and I know that they knew that. I know from the way that they talked about her that they loved her dearly.

A year ago last summer, there was a comment left o
n my blog from Michele Kneafsey O'Sullivan. It was on a post where I had retyped a letter that Teresa wrote to the family soon after our trip to Ireland in 1978. Michele and I connected and we have been in contact through email ever since. It was a post entitled "Thirty Year Old Memories."

I asked Maggie and her mom, Marion, if they would inv
ite Michele to the wedding and they did. We had a wonderful visit and it was so exciting for all of us to actually have this connection that goes so far back. How we are related doesn't matter!! Kneafsey is not a common name and Michele's family is also from County Mayo. There is no doubt in my mind that she is our cousin!! I believe that there is even a family resemblance. One of Marion's granddaughters thought that Michele was her Aunt Teresa Ann!!

We had a wonderful visit and it was so great for everyone to meet her. Sunday, Michele went golfing with all of the young guys in the family. She
was Jeremy's partner and had such nice things to say about him--I agree. I understand that she held her own with all the guys and did quite well.

On Monday, we took her down to see southeastern Arizona. We stopped in Tombstone and then Bisbee. We went to visit the graves of my great g
randparents, Ellen Kneafsey Roughan and Matthew Roughan. We stayed the night at 858 in Douglas so that she could see the family home. We even took her over to Agua Prieta so that she could say she went to Mexico.

Tuesday night we took her to Rustlers' Rooste to eat rattlesnake. There was a storm all around the valley and the view from the restaurant was unbelievable. Michele went back to Ireland on Wednesday after a whirlwind week in Arizona.

There were so many connections--many members of her family in Ireland are educators. Her parents and brother were doctors, as is Michele. Even though Ellen wasn't educated, she was a midwife and delivered many babies in Douglas.

Michele said something that I think is so true. When parents sent their children to the U. S. from Ireland in those days, it was the ultimate gift of love....

I think my mom and in particular my Uncle Matt and cousin John Edward, would have been so thrilled to meet Michele and find out about our roots in Ireland. I know that I am. I am glad to have found our cousin, Michele. She is absolutely delightful!! I look forward to visiting her in Ireland and having her come back to Arizona.

None of this would have happened if I hadn't started blogging--WOW!!

6 remarks:

Anonymous said...

What a story you have shared, Sheila. I am sure many of us of Irish heritage have loved ones who have shown such courage by leaving their mother land and venturing to a new place. Can you just imagine!! They gave us their gift of strength and fortitude which will always be a part of us. We should be so proud and grateful. Am so glad you all were given the opportunity to meet Michele and know the memories of her visit will be forever with you.
I believe Ireland is once again calling your name. Maybe a visit is in order once again.
Love you and Irish blessings to your beautiful family.
Tom and Sandra

velvet brick said...

Your writing is so poignant, Sheila. To think back to what it was like to put your child on a ship heading to the U.S. for a new opportunity...I can't imagine. What a wonderful family lineage all of you share! Michele is an absolute sweetheart of a lady and there is NO DOUBT whatsoever that you are cousins. What a great time she had while visiting her family here!

I'm so glad that you started your blog. I find it hopeful in the story of 'family'. I find it informative. I find it inspirational. And I find it funny. Hmmmm... all the qualities, I do believe, that I find in you. What a wonderful world to be a part of!

Julie said...

Thnak you for sharing this story. I am in awe of your family roots.....and the close family gatherings. You are so fortunate to have this. See good things come from blogging! I know I so enjoy reading your blog.

I also want to say..I LOVE your new picture. Those clods are amazing! I miss them!

Anonymous said...

That was an amazing story to read Sheila. It IS amazing what can happen once you start blogging :)
Love & hugs,

Susie of Arabia said...

Wow, Cheela - I loved reading this post. You are so lucky to know about your roots and family history. What a cool story. The internet has opened up the world to so many possibilities that never existed before. I know that blogging has profoundly changed my life too.

Anonymous said...

What a branch from your family tree with roots of friendship always growing. I'm so glad I glanced at this. Now maybe I'll check out the Norwegian Swedish connections in my family.(I'll hang out at IKEA.:) We did visit the Fins on Steve's side, in FINLAND.
Keep it up,