Recently, I’ve uncovered more and more roots to my family tree in Ireland.
For me, it starts with my great grandmother, Teresa Neenan. She was a smart, spry, and energetic woman who was a dear part of my early life. We called her “Nanny” and spent a number of holidays with her. I vividly recall images from an Easter she spent in Staunton, Virginia (my parents’ home town).
My great grandmother was born in Astee and christened in Ballybunnion (in Co. Kerry) in 1890. She left Cobh (in Co. Cork) in 1912. Like so many others, my great grandmother left Ireland when times were very hard, and opportunities limited.
Nanny left Ireland as Bridget Neenan and emerged from Ellis Island as Teresa Neenan. (There seems to be a data entry error in the records at Ellis Island, as someone translated the into n into an M somewhere along the way. Fortunately, it’s spelled properly on the wall at Ellis Island.)
In the States, Teresa married “Beppie” O’Mara who owned a taxicab company in Millburn, New Jersey. They had four girls, including my grandmother Alice who was born in 1916. That was a pivotal year in history when Ireland began its final quest for independence….
I visited Cobh recently and saw the breathtaking neo-Gothic cathedral that marks the summit of the town. I have enjoyed my visits to Cobh immensely. It’s amazing to realize that this Fulbright scholarship brought me back to Nanny’s homeland. It’s a land that has become my spiritual home. The welcome I have received here has been inspiring and heartwarming. I hope Nanny would be proud.
My mom and I look forward to visiting our “cousins” in Kerry in May. We’ll get to retrace more of our roots then and meet even more family!