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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
Friday, May 24 2002

Places like home - 4

I was surprised to learn as a young man that not all of my peers felt the same affinity to their ancestral homelands that I felt for Ireland, even though some of the grandparents they grew up knowing had come from European old countries. Until recently, our family had only a legendary "knowledge" that our forebears were from Ireland, but it wasn't until the past five years that members of my generation have been able to pinpoint some of those ancestors. Mine is the sixth generation of our branch of Kennedys born in Pennsylvania. Our patriarch, Isaac Kennedy, was apparently born in the Ulster province of Ireland in 1786, immigrated to Ohio, and thence to Juniata County, Pa., where his descendants lived until my Grandpap moved to Blandburg, Cambria County, before 1900.

We have only "circumstantial evidence" that Isaac originated in Ulster, which is now more commonly known as "Northern Ireland," the northeast corner of the island that's still part of the United Kingdom. But evidently he was nominally Protestant all his life; Ulster's population, unlike the rest of Ireland, has a sizeable majority of Protestants. And Isaac's daughter-in-law (my g-g-g-grandmother) is known to have come to Juniata County where she married the first Pennsylvania-born Kennedy in our branch, Johnson Kennedy. She, whose family name was Devin (probably of the same clan as Divins, and possibly Divineys and Devlins), came from County Tyrone, which is definitely in Ulster.

So we now know that our Kennedy line is from Ireland, and another relative by marriage on my mother's line was able to establish that her family, too, originated in Ireland, coming to Pennsylvania in the same generation as Isaac Kennedy. And though we were even less sure of Mother's Irish roots until that was done when I was grown (her family name being "less Irish" than Kennedy), it was from her that I got my first taste of and for Ireland. Irish popular songs like those recorded by Bing Crosby were second only to hymns as her favorites, and though she didn't long to travel as I always have, she did tell me, when I was still pre-school age, that if she could choose any place to visit it would be Ireland. We Baptist/United Brethren had no saints (or, more accurately, believed all Christians were equally saints), but at least for one day a year, Patrick was an exception.

Ireland shares some the best qualities of both Southern California and England as places like home. It has been depicted in dozens of movies (click here for a list of scores of them), so its lush green hills and river valleys look familiar on first seeing. It's generally rated the most friendly foreign destination for American tourists; its accent is even more decipherable than the Britons'; its smalltown and rural lifestyle reminds most American visitors of earlier eras on our side of the pond. Like England, it is steeped in myths, legends, magic, and literary giants. And moreso than any other European country but similar to the United States, Ireland is a country of churchgoing people.

—Webmaster Jon Kennedy

Burma Shavers (continued)
Don't stick your elbow
out too far
or it may go home
in another car.

***Burma Shave***

  —Sent by Wes Hakanen

Thought for the day

You can save yourself a lot of trouble
by not borrowing any.

Author unknown

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