Tuesday, March 16, 2010

His Irish Eyes Weren't Smiling

It's the time of the year when we celebrate our Irish heritage and I have plenty of it. 

My mom claimed Irish heritage through the Donaldsons.  My dad always made fun of her.  I think he bought into the stereotype that the Irish are drunks.  The rest of us didn't care, though.  We were proud to have Irish heritage.  My dad said that his father, James Quincy Davis, always told him the Davises were Welsh.

Very early in my research, I learned of Robert Hamilton, my fifth great-grandfather through my paternal grandmother, Jennie Esther Ballein.  Robert Hamilton was born in Ireland in 1760.  He came to America shortly before the Revolutionary War and served in that war.   I told my dad he had Irish blood and he promptly told me that only the male line (i.e., the Davises) counted when determining one's cultural heritage.

I will always remember the day that changed my dad's life.  I was sitting at a microfilm viewer looking for my great-great grandfather Isaac Davis in the 1880 census.  The entry under his father's birthplace was illegible, but it sure didn't look like Wales.  I examined it closely.  It appeared to begin with an I.   Could it be?  I printed the census record so I could present my dad with evidence that his great-great grandfather, Samuel Davis, was born in Ireland.  The 1850 census also indicates that Samuel was born in Ireland.

My dad still wasn't convinced.  My grandpa was still alive at that time and I overheard my dad on the phone telling him in a rather condescending manner that I told him the Davises were Irish.  This was followed by a long pause.  The next thing my dad said was "But you always said we were Welsh!"  So, grandpa verified my dad's Irish heritage.  I took every opportunity to bring up his previous comment that only the male line counted when determining one's heritage.

It took my dad a little time to accept his Irish roots.  It became a little more difficult when I told my mom that even though she has Irish roots, they weren't though the Scottish Donaldsons.  There's an irony!  She didn't make fun of him, though.  She was sort of bummed.

We were always sure to help him celebrate his Irish heritage.  We bought him buttons proclaiming his Irishness, Irish cupcakes, and a shamrock plant.  He resisted at first, but finally came to appreciate his Irish heritage.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!


My dad embracing his Irish heritage

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