Ich am of Irlaunde, Ant of the holy londe of Irlaunde
I'm dedicating this post to my mom.
ICH am of Irlaunde,
Ant of the holy londe
Gode sire, pray ich the,
For of saynte charité,
Come ant daunce wyth me
In Irlaunde. (source: Wikisource)
I didn't grow up in a particularly Irish part of America. I hail from south of Seattle, in Washington State, where most of my friends growing up were of German and/or Scandinavian extraction and I was the only Catholic amongst my friends in primary school. My surname is O'Meara and this, apparently, is a hard surname to both spell and pronounce in the Pacific Northwest. My mom's been asked if her husband is Japanese (Omara) and my dad was once sent a letter to join the Hispanic American society (I have no idea). While my family were aware of and acknowledged our family's past, it wasn't a very big part of our lives. The majority of my Irish ancestors immigrated to America during and shortly after the Famine and therefore we didn't have any living relations in Ireland that we knew of. Neither my parents or grandparents had ever visited Ireland.
When I was in the 5th grade (5th class), my teacher had us do a genealogical project. This, seemingly, kindled a fire in my mom's imagination. A fire which has not gone out. She is the go-to person for any question regarding genealogy in our family. I remember going to the Mormon Library (they keep good records) when I was young to do family research with her. Now, with the internet, she's able to access loads of census etc and has built an amazing family tree which, quite honestly, makes my head spin and eyes cross in trying to understand it. It was also my mom who introduced the term "pedigree collapse" to me.
I didn't inherit my mom's love for genealogy but in reading the books on Irish history she had lying around the house I was....I don't know how to explain it. A passion was lit inside me to live in Ireland. I've known this since I was 10. I can't explain it, it just is. Throughout secondary school and at university I tried to tie in Irish history to whatever school project I was working on. This gave me the reputation of being a bit of a nutter. My sophomore year in uni I transferred to Boston College so I could minor in Irish Studies. I think there are a lot of Irish and/or Celtic studies available now but back in the early-90s there weren't. I tried the patience of my professors. When given a paper to write in American History on an American historical figure, I chose Eamonn de Valera (who wouldn't?!). I also got reprimanded and had to re-write the paper.
For post-graduate school I applied to Trinity, UCD and UCC and was accepted at each one. I was tempted by UCD but in the end Trinity won out. I'm the first person in my family who's ever been able to go (ban for catholics attending Trinity up to 1970 here). And I LOVE living in Ireland. I've been back to the US to work twice since I initially moved here in 1995 and my heart was broken each time. My love affair with this place is the longest love affair of my life. I'm constantly discovering new and exciting aspects of living in this country. And after some years as a recovering historian (If you're interested in my thesis on Gaelic Irish Women and Anglo Irish Women in Late Medieval Ireland which garnered me a Master's Degree from Trinity, please contact me. I also have a paper on O'Meara Family History), I'm finally getting back in the history circuit.
This weekend at the RDS there's a big genealogical event. I have to say, its probably something I could miss and not lose any sleep over. In fairness, I didn't even know it was going on. My mom told me. 7,000 miles away, living on the Pacific Ocean and she knows more about the genealogical events going on here than her daughter, who lives locally. But I'm going to go out of love for my mom and respect for all the genealogical work she's done and is continuing to do. Even though I don't share her passion for it. I'll send her pics and grab literature - anything I think she may be interested in. And for me? I'm looking forward to the historical talks on Saturday re 'Cistercians in Medieval Ireland' and 'Ireland's Necropolis - Glasnevin'.