It seems everyone is Irish. I mean even Obama has shared a pint with his cousins in Moneygall, Co. Offaly.
I grew up knowing I was predominately Irish and Italian. The idea that you can “be” something else is foreign to a lot of my Irish friends. For the most part the Irish are just….Irish.
But part of being American is about “being” something ‘else.’ One of the great things about America is the diversity of cultures that has shaped a people.
So I always knew to identify myself as an Irish-Italian American. In fact both sets of my grandparents are Irish and Italian. I never really knew much beyond that though. To me Irish-Italian meant never eating store bought tomato sauce and family dinners every Sunday.
Unfortunately for me all my grandparents had passed away before I outgrew my indignant/not giving a shit teenage years and grew into my twenties where part of ‘finding myself’ raised a curiosity into discovering my roots.
Of course this interest in my roots became more about my obsession with moving to Ireland and less about doing any real research into my actual family tree.
I remember hearing stories as I grew up of my family and where we were from. When my parents first came to visit Cork I remember all three of us talking about our heritage and wishing we knew more.
My mother always maintained her great uncle Con had won silver and gold olympic medals in the 1906 olympics which are unfortunately not recognized by the IOC. Other than the occasional wondering where the medals were for some reason we never looked into it.
Olympic fever took over our house throughout the summer of 2012. With the games so close in London we were glued to the television each night. Bragging to the King that there was an actual olympic medalist in my family, he challenged me to more details.
Of course I knew none.
I wasn’t even sure what event my relative had participated in, but I did have a vague memory of seeing it in print several years ago and believed my mother.
Through the power of Google I had more answers within minutes. Not only did did Con Leahy infact win olympic medals, he had his own Wikipedia page! Con was both an impressive athlete, and a true Irishman, protesting his listing as a member of team Great Britain during the 1906 olympics. Sadly I learned that I had missed the 2006 commemoration ceremony of a monument to Con in Limerick.
But that is only the beginning.
By following a simple trail of bread crumbs dropped by Con, my mother’s great uncle through marriage, I was able to find more information about my actual blood line.
Through readily available online documents I soon learned that my mother’s grandfather Daniel Looney, was not only from Cork, but prior to immigrating to the US lived in Cork City on a street I drive every single day on my way to work.
My one regret is that my mother and I stood less than 100 yards from the building he was living in when she visited in 2010. We just didn’t know.
Galvanized by this regret and the irony that I ( like the King) am a true Corkonian (from the north side of the city no less) I have finally committed to uncovering the story of my Irish roots in Cork as well as discovering the Irish roots of my father’s family. To help me get started I have enrolled in a evening class to learn more about genealogy and tracing my roots.
After all these years I hope to finally know more about my Irish background which was quite possibly the foundation to my early obsessions with moving here.
I believe it will be a story worth telling even if only to my own family.