A Letter from Ireland:
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Do You See Yourself as Irish?

Céad Míle Fáilte – and welcome to your Letter from Ireland. It’s a lovely Autumnal morning – a great colour in the trees, the birds are singing again and a there’s crispness in the air on either side of the day.

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O’Neill – One of the Great Surnames of Ireland – Found all over the world!

I do hope you are keeping well wherever you are today. I’m sticking to the water from the well this morning – seems to suit the time of year! So, I hope you’ll have a cup of whatever you fancy yourself and join me for today’s letter.

When I am travelling in Ireland and someone asks “Where are you from?” –  the answer expected is almost always the county you live in or grew up in. Nowadays, we have a strong affinity to our county. It’s only when I travel abroad, I start to think of myself as Irish – do you know what I mean? How about you – do you have an Irish identity?

How Do You See Yourself?

Over on our Facebook page (facebook.com/youririshheritage), I asked the question: “How do you see yourself? Irish-American? Australian? British? Anglo-Irish? Canadian?

The reason I asked was related to an article on Irish Central with the headline “Why do people in Ireland not consider an Irish American to be Irish?” It was written by a second-generation Irish man who returned often as a boy to Ireland to be with his cousins. He saw himself as Irish – his cousins thought he was a “Yank”.

Annie Moore Statue, Cobh, County Cork

Annie Moore and her family – First arrivals at Ellis Island.

And I must admit, I do hear different versions of this question a lot! In fact, we received a lot of comments on that Facebook post including the following by our good friend Pamela Murungi:

“… reading this almost makes me feel that if that is truly how Ireland born Irish view us Irish Americans, perhaps I don’t want to see Ireland quite so badly. Seeing Ireland has been a lifelong dream, not an easy thing to consider abandoning. But you see, I’ve just enough German stubbornness to get defensive about not being considered Irish, and I’d want to enjoy my time in my ancestral country not listen to how I’m not Irish…. which would be sure to get my Irish up.”

Now, you try and tell me that that lady is not Irish! First, Pamela, when the time comes to visit Ireland – you let me know if anyone is doubting your Irishness and I will deal with them personally. However, I think you’ll be in there before me!

In Island of Tribes and Townlands. 

In Ireland, we never really had a “United” Kingdom. It was a land of different tribes (called Tuatha) and tribal lands for many centuries. That sense of being “Irish” (and proud of it) only really came to the fore with the Gaelic revival in the late 1800s.

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Farmhouses on the Beara Peninsula, County Cork.

It was the local place that you came that formed your identity – your extended family and the local landmarks said as much as you needed to know about who you were. With the rise of British dominance came an awareness that being Irish (and Irish Catholic) was quite a negative thing. It meant poor land, subsistence living and a lack of opportunity.

After the terrible time of the famine – and the subsequent decades of emigration – the Irish abroad often found that this negative view of the Irish traveled with them. It was hard to shake. Many of our ancestors embraced the fresh start that a new nation offered – if not to them, then at least for their children.

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The Town of Queenstown (Cobh) – Point of Departure for so many Irish Emigrants.

But they always carried those Irish qualities with them – and sometimes shared them freely. Down the years, accents changed, cultures intermarried and life got better – sometimes good enough to return to live in Ireland (like my own parents), or sometimes to visit cousins and relatives who met them with the full range of open arms to indifference.

I guess I would summarise by saying that “Irishness” was never about borders. This has become so true over the last 150 years as the worldwide Irish ancestry population swelled to 60 million and beyond. Irishness has always been about immediate and extended family, an attitude of never giving up, a sense of decency to those around you and a love of music, stories and sharing the simple things in life.

So, if like Pamela, you are concerned that your “Irishness” may be questioned when you meet a Irish-born native – remember to look them in the eye and show them your Irish attitude. It will happen a lot less than you imagine – but remember that it’s their “labeling” problem, not yours.

Just remember that you are – and always will be – one of our own.

That’s it for this week. As always, do leave a comment below if you want to share a story, ask a question about your Irish surname or just to say hello!

So, do you see yourself as Irish?

Slán for now – Mike : )

  • Mike Weatherhead says:

    Thank you for this article. I really enjoyed it. I love to learn about my ancestors, why they came to these shores (from Ireland and Scotland), and the struggles they went through. In the US, it seems to be the in thing, these, for certain ethnic groups to claim they are still being harrassed, and “held down.” Nothing could be further from the truth. I had a conversation with a guy, once, who complained about his lot in life. Had a good job, family, all the opportunities I have had. He said his people have been held down by the white man. I gave him a rundown of what my Irish ancestors endured, before, and after arriving in our country. He didn’t have much more to complain about, after that.
    Also, were it not for the influence of the Irish, our country would be an entirely different place.

    I lived in Scotland for two years, when I was younger. I observed the local people’s indifference, upon hearing Americans proclaim their Scottishness. (much like your article pointed out, happening in your country). I suppose this happens in other foreign countries, as well. We Americans get excited about our connection, with the “old world.” But we don’t always receive a warm welcome, from those where our ancestors hailed from. Anyway, great article!

  • Maghie says:

    Thank you Mike. I’m busy writing my family history. The Russell, Dwyer, Ryan, & Bourke’s came from Ar Drom Ban (Drombane Tipperary). and settled in Koroit Victoria Australia about 1857. Love reading anything to do with Ireland and it’s people as I’m still trying to understand the Irish ways and what happened in Ireland before my people left.

  • Peggy says:

    I feel I am an American of Irish descent. I have a large Irish family and always lived in an Irish neighborhood. I never felt not Irish. Yet, I do not feel Irish American. My Grandparents were Irish American the way I see it.

    Peggy

  • Debbie says:

    Nice article. My grandparents always instilled a sense of pride in all of us because we come from Irish ancestry. It wasn’t until recently that I discovered that the Irish born Irish really don’t like the American Irish very much. I wanted–once–to see where my people came from but, after verbal insults from strangers in Ireland on line, I think it would be best if I just stay here. I wouldn’t want to figure out Euros to dollars for bail

    • Mike says:

      Ha Ha Debbie – I like that last sentence. Believe me, there are all sorts of “funny people” online whom you should take no notice of! Mike.

      • lori says:

        oh my I felt very welcome in Ireland my grandmother was a burke Irish people were very friendly on our visit and I felt loved americans… you really should visit and go out away from town and tourist- I did and knocked on doors and pretended I was lost. was very welcomed.

  • Mary Taylor Alaga says:

    Thank you for this particular letter. I read the article you refer to and I had the same feelings as the Irish-American woman you quoted. Except that I have been to Ireland a number of times and every time it is better than the last. I’ll be there again this summer. Typically I refer to myself as Irish-American, sometimes I refer to myself as “fourth-generation-Irish-Catholic-American-from Chicago. (Depends upon the situation).
    The last time we were in Ireland, we drove and found a great bread and breakfast place in Cork that overlooked Old head. We got to know the proprietors and ended up staying there four days instead of the one day as we originally planned. It was mostly locals who came by the pub in the evening and we got to know, drink and sing with them. They called us “the Yanks”. We took it as the fun it was intended to be. We knew we were accepted when one of the owners, scolded my husband for drinking one of the local beers. “Whatcha wanna drink that crap for when we’ve got perfectly good Guiness or Murphys. I love Ireland. (I’ve got more stories about our trip to Ireland. You’ll probably get sick of them.)

  • Pauleen Cass says:

    I was asked this very question in Clare by 4th cousins “do you think of yourself as Irish or Australian?” I looked at them like they’d lost the plot and answered definitively “Australian”. I love visiting Ireland…and Scotland, England and Germany…where my ancestors came from, but I am not a Scots-Australian etc either.

    To my mind only my first emigrant ancestors could lay claim to being Irish-Australians or German-Australians.

    My Irish ancestry is well represented: Clare, Wicklow, Wexford, Offaly, Kildare and and an as yet unknown county.

    Perhaps the question should be reversed: how would people feel if some Irish claimed themselves to be Canadian Irish etc.

    • Mike says:

      You sound like a straight-talking Australian alright, Pauleen! Nice reversal question there at the end. Mike.

    • Kerrie says:

      You definitely nailed it from the Australian point of view. Yes, I was born an O’Brien but I go back to at least before my great grandfather before Ireland is truly present. That makes me an Aussie with Irish ancestry. The concept of IrishAustralian would give rise to the premise that there was somewhere in Ireland I could touch and say “used to be mine/ours”. Having said that, I am hoping to visit next year and am researching the family history to find out from where our twig of the O’Brien tree we did originate. Have a great day

  • Rob Hepburn says:

    Genetically I’m 76% Irish and I’m 2nd generation
    Irish born in the USA. To me, that makes me
    ‘Irish American’. How ever in ‘Truth’ all people
    of European descent were ‘Planted here’ in
    America by the ‘British’ and other European
    Empires; just like indigenous Ireland was planted
    with English and Scottish colonists. I believe that
    in a ‘Spiritual Sense’ the only ‘True’ Americans
    are ‘Native Americans’ by blood or adoption. Genetically I’m all of 1% Native American but
    it is the spiritual source of my identification as
    Irish American.

  • Dona Cullen Stucker says:

    Just recently found your site. Love the information. I’m 50% Irish and 50% Norwegian, but born in USA. Recently had our family tree researched and discovered our Norwegian ancestors travel as norseman to Ireland and Scotland, royalty in the Isle of Man. Hoping that reading your weekly letters shed lite on some of these current findings. Your warrior letter helped and deciding how to describe me as Irish American or Irish/Norse American is now up in the air.

  • Kim says:

    My heritage is heavily weighted on the Irish side over the Scottish side, however the wrinkle in the sheets on the Irish side is that one half of the equation was native Irish Catholic and the other side were originally English arriving in Ireland along with Cromwell to take over the territory. That ended abruptly in the early 1800s when they fled the wave of Irish reclamation. However 200 years count for something and I value that connection. I was in Ireland briefly a couple of years ago and hope to return for a more extensive visit in the future. I loved the country and the people!

  • Joyce Dwiggins says:

    I really enjoyed the piece. My Aunt researched our roots and found MANY Irish in the limbs of our family tree. I identify as an American with an Irish heritage. Our family name was Clark and O’Cleary.

  • David Kruczynski says:

    A very good article Mike. my great gran came over in the 1800’s. She never told her family why she left and what town she lived in only that she was 13 and came over with an aunt on the voyage. She was a determined woman and provided for her family even getting a summer home by the sea in Maine(It probably reminded her of where she lived in county Clare). I have always had a yearning to return to Ireland someday to seek out my Irish roots and maybe sit in on one of the famous Se’suins in Doolin. Thank you

  • Thanks for that article Mike. I didn’t discover my Irish connection until after my dad had passed away and I decided to start doing my family genealogy. Turns out there was a family secret and that celebrating our Irish roots wasn’t too keen an idea back then. My 4 th GGF came with family in tow to upper Canada in 1824. They were church of Ireland people ( possibly Anglo-Irish) at least on his side and left before the famine. They were like most of the Irish who rented/owned a small plot of land and mostly destiute and left Ireland as conscripted farmers. This meant they came to populate a place in order to prevent the Americans from possibly attempting another 1812 invasion. I’ve narrowed their place of origin to in and around Kilkenny with the help of my cousin here in Canada who has done the bulk of our research. Having said all that, I still desire to visit this country of origin and don’t expect to be acknowledged as a fellow Irishman even with the historical baggage that is attached to my family history. I understand the concept in your story from my wife’s family. She is a first generation Canadian born of Italian heritage. She has a connection to her parents homeland which is very close, but when we have gone there, she and her sister are and will be viewed as Americans even though they are Canadians. The family ties are strong as long as their aunt and uncle are alive and one of their cousins still holds the relationship of famiglia important despite distance and cultural differences. Interestingly, those local identifications you spoke are also much the same Italy. The national concept is a relatively new one and an individual there is more likely to identify as of a town/city, province, or region as opposed to the country itself. Language itself is still dialectical when one knows the person they are talking to and standardize with strangers. In Italy they have multiple layers of dialect by town, province, and region. In Calabria, there are three official Calabrese dialects in addition to standardized Italian. Imagine if the Irish language had not been almost wiped out and Ireland would be even more like Italy in its regionalism. Still, I found you article very interesting and informative Mike. Thanks again.

  • Felicia says:

    I’m 75% Dutch and 15% Irish. My grandmother was born and raised in Ireland, she is from co. Kerry Fenit. But came to the netherlands when she was 18 for love. She married a dutch guy and lives in the netherlands for over 50 years now. My mother and grandmother raides me together so i am part raised as an irish girl. She thaught me the irish maners and way of living so that makes me feel irish and im proud of my irish heritage. In the netherlands our family counts 8 people but the rest of my family lives in ireland. My point is, im dutch-irish and i am very proud to have irish blood and irish family 🙂

    Our family name is Quirke. I think it used to be O’Quirke, but we use just Quirke 🙂

  • Peg Kelly Scullion says:

    All 4 of my grandparents were born in Ireland. I have always felt like I was Irish. I was raised knowing all about Ireland, learning to do Irish step dancing, sing Irish songs and listen to the stories. I have been to Ireland 7 times and have never wanted to leave. I always felt “at home” there. Can’t wait to go back again. My grandmother (the only one of my grandparents that I knew) instilled in me a love of Ireland that is endless.

  • Kelley says:

    My maiden name is HURLEY. My Papa was first generation born in The US from Ireland, well him n my great aunt. My great grandparents came from Waterford. My grandpa was born in 1909 in Seattle WA. He died in 1989 in SeattleWashington. I am a proud 3rd generation Irish American, along w the English I have from my moms side.

  • Melanie says:

    I am proud of my Irish Catholic roots. I still have cousin in Ireland who own the pub where my great grandfather was born in Upperchurch. Many of my family has visited there and it’s my dream to do the same! Yes, I am American, but Ireland is in my heart!

  • James Gallagher says:

    I love the saying : ” Canadian, Made with Irish parts” . I always use that saying when describing my lineage. The feedback I have gotten by Irish immigrants, visitors and while spending time in the Emerald Isle has always been positive. Especially when I tell them of my visits to areas that are not deemed ” Typical Tourist area ”

    What seems to grind Irish citizens gears are foreigners calling themselves Irish but are 4th gen and never step foot there. I have to admit it grinds mine also. (Save St-Patrick’s day ,,, everybody is Irish then :p)

    Irish are a proud people and appreciate our passion for our lineage and wanting to keep traditions alive across the pond. We should be proud of our Nationality as well and make sure we do not borrow from them.

    I am proud of being French Canadian (I reside in Quebec) and I am close to my roots.

  • Val. says:

    Hi Mike, I am an author who writes about the amazing lives of my Irish ancestors. When I do my book signing events, I always take my map of Ireland with me and display it nearby and you would be taken aback by the amount of people who come up and engage me in conversation about their family. Some can go back as far as Cromwell and some only know the tales of their forebears via an ancient granny, but I am always fascinated to hear their stories and we look on the map together and see the origins of their surname and coat of arms. I love the fact that my forbears were Irish and feel close to their characters as I write about them. Have a look at my titles on amazon.

  • Val. says:

    Sorry, I forgot to say, my author name is Vivienne Dockerty.

  • Jessica says:

    I’ve always wanted to go to Ireland.. I’ve always been drawn to it. I’ve known for years do have Irish in my blood but I’m not sure of the details on my heritage. I know Davenport and St. Andrews are large parts of my family. I can only hope some day I will be able to travel to Ireland, a place I would love to consider as being a second home.

  • Christine says:

    I have been to Ireland and Northern Ireland. My father’s family is from Cork and my mother’s is from Derry. Everyone has been lovely. I was told by a shop owner in Ballycastle that he didn’t know I was American until I spoke, because I look like everyone in the county. I can’t wait to visit again. My family didn’t leave by choice, which I know is the case for a lot of emigrants. Everyone I met was more than friendly and helpful while I chased down my family history. The rest of the world could take lessons in hospitality from the Irish.

  • Randy Keegan says:

    I have been to Ireland several times and have always been treated great. My last name is Keegan very old name in Ireland. The first time I went I felt I belonged there,hard to explain the feeling. These people on line do not represent people there. I tell everybody most friendly place on the planet.

  • Mary says:

    Here’s my to cents (from a person whose ancestors happened to go to Russia instead of America). I think that one’s identity is really heavily influenced by personal and family experience. The thing is that some cultures very really non-inclusive and tend to enforce segregation rather than evolve towards the melting pot principle. That had made my family very culturally distinct and, in turn, helped preserve our ethnic identity. Ethnicity is still crucial in non-inclusive societies, because no matter how you try to fit in, you never fully belong.

    I identify as half Irish half Jewish, though culturally I’m much more Irish than Jewish (and I’m Roman Catholic). But do add “diaspora Irish” when talking to Irish-born Irish, because I understand how this could be a tricky matter, and I’m perfectly okay with that.

    But I get very defensive when someone tries to label me “Russian”. I’ve had my fair share of chauvinism and prejustice because of not being Russian. So I guess it just sounds to me in some other way if compared to how “Irish-American” would sound to a person born and raised in America.

  • J.Patrick W. Dunlop says:

    My folks raised us to be proud of our Irish heritage. We have been in Canada for generations but acknowledge our ancestors (Kealey, Murphy, Fahey, O’Callaghan, McCartin, Fenning, Daley, Hoban, McEvoy, Guilfoyle). And we do like our Bushmills!

  • Pam says:

    I was just to Ireland for the first time last summer. I was concerned about this issue, and relieved to find it not a problem at all. Five of my eight sets of great great grandparents left Ireland in 1847 and emigrated to Prince Edward Island, Canada, with many other Irish folk. So right down to my parents every one married someone who was of Irish descent (except that one Scottish fella in my Dad’s family). Being on an island, living in a rural area they held long to the old ways, the accent, the cultural tics and lore of Ireland. My grand parents moved to Boston in the early 20th century, where I was born and grew up in a neighborhood full of Canadian Irish immigrants and immigrants from Ireland. We always identified as Irish. A few years ago, after reading a story about people in Ireland being put off by members of the diaspora who identify as Irish, I had my DNA tested, and I have about the same amount of ancient Irish DNA as a native born Irish person. Yes I was born in the USA and I am an American, but I am as Irish as anyone ( by cultural heritage, descent and DNA) in Ireland and have no reluctance to say so. Thanks for the terrific article!

  • Shay says:

    Thanks Mike, for putting it out there how I think most of us feel (not born in Ireland) in the back of our minds. I’m 5th generation Canadian and never felt “as Irish” as if I’d have been born there, yet I consider myself more Irish than American born Irish. I’m not really sure why, except that in America they consider it to be a melting pot and there is much more opportunity to blend with other cultures. In my particular case, most of my relatives came from Cork County (Scotland on my moms side) and the very many different families settled communities on the Maritime shores that are very similar to Ireland, in their farming and fishing cultures. Even naming the villages after Irish ones; “New Bandon, Youghall, etc. So most of these families married other Irish- like moving a piece of Irish shore over here. And all of my great great grandparents left just before the famine, plus were too far South to receive much oppression from the British. That is where I feel “less” Irish- because my roots have no part of that struggle. But after reading your letter I realize that that is actually only a recent part of Irish heritage when you look at the big scheme of things. It has been my life long dream to go to Ireland, as it seems most of us do looking for that connection, though I’ve always anticipated that I would be considered an outsider when I do. It’s as though those of us not born there have grown up without our father, and we need to go back to find out more about who we really are. I still envy the Irish who were able to stay and survived all the hardships. I hope they know we do realize that and have a lot of pride because of them.

  • Susan McGoldrick says:

    The article really does make me think why I associate myself so much with being Irish-American when in fact, I really could just as easily say I am German-American as there is almost as much German in my family tree. It would seem the Irish liked to marry the Germans in American! LOL I even have a touch of Welsh but we don’t speak of that or my Pop would roll in his grave! Irish was the identity we were given at birth. My grandfather was proud of his very Irish mother and almost seemed to ignore the fact his wife was born to a German and an Welsh woman. I heard stories growing up of how the Protestant side of the family was spit at by the Irish Catholic side…literally. But yet my cousins (who are happen to have an Italian mother) and my siblings and I consider ourselves Irish. I even know the exact plot of land my earliest maternal Irish ancestor farmed outside of Boyle!

  • Annie says:

    The majority of my maternal & paternal ancestors were Irish, but I’m a red, white &blue American. I love my Irish roots, & am proud of all those who came before me. When I was in Ireland everyone made me feel welcome. The thing that made me feel really good though, was the fact that people kept asking me for directions. When I told them that I couldn’t help them, they all said I “looked so Irish”. Loved that!

  • Mary Ann says:

    Shhh… don’t tell anybody, but I’m actually more French than Irish, with a lot of other European blood thrown in. I’m also four generations removed from Ireland, with my great-great grandfather arriving in NY around 1860. But with a maiden name of McDonald, six brothers and sisters, and a lifetime of Catholic school I have always considered myself Irish. I have been to Ireland twice, and never met anyone who was anything less than friendly. The Irish are the most welcoming hosts a tourist could ever hope to find. Even if the schoolgirls did giggle at my attempt to say hello in Gaeilge. I hope someday to go back.

  • Susan says:

    All I know is… my mom was a Gorman ( she past away when I was 2 years old) so I can not ask her any questions. My aunt gave me some names but just up to Thomas Gorman who was born 1872 and married a Lady Josephine Larrson or Lawson? from Sweden. and the only Gorman’s I know ended up in Conn. USA but the 1880’s census only reads that Thomas parents were from Northern Ireland. His father was Henry abt. 1835and mom Hanora abt.1835 ( don’t her last name. Can you please shed some light on this family of Gorman’s. I have been working on the family for over 5 years. Thanks for all your wife land you do on this web site. I enjoy the letters you send out all the time. I live in Missouri USA and have never been Ireland but I have a few friends who have … and they say it is beautiful!!!! the people were friendly. Some of your flowers are real big! Thanks for taking the time to read a this and I want to wish you and your wife a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS!
    here is one for you… I’m part Italian, Swedish, Irish and who knows what else? born in Spain and live in USA. One of my daughters was born on St. Patrick’s Day!
    Susan

  • Judith says:

    My Grandmother immigrated from Ireland in 1904 on the SS Columbia. She had the most beautiful Irish brogue. Once as a Registered Nurse, I was caring for a gentleman who asked me if I was Irish. I replied yes. He said he could tell “for I had the map of Ireland written all over my face”. Since I was still very young and without wrinkles, I took it as a compliment and knew it must be true!!

  • Mary Anne Elizabeth says:

    My dream is to visit Leitrim Ireland one day. I am 50% Irish and I have always felt connected to my ancestry. I may not look Irish, nobody has ever mistaken me for even Irish American. One day I will visit and enjoy discovering this beautiful place. ☘☘☘

  • MarDee says:

    When I was growing up, my Dad was always telling me about Ireland …he’d never been there but ALL of his relatives came from there. In 2014 my oldest daughter & their youngest daughter took me over —first time for me and in honor of my dad. I have never felt SO at home anywhere, not even in my own living room, as I did over there. Most of my ancestors were farmers & fishermen from Co. Donegal. When we in Donegal, I was standing by the river that goes by Donegal Castle. Suddenly, I felt that I was totally surrounded by my ancestors — all welcoming me “home”. Such a strange, yet wonderful feeling. I was home. Thank you for your letters and information on this wonderful place that I feel is my home — even though it’s thousands of miles from where I actually live.

  • Denis Hearn says:

    Born in Ireland living in the U.S.

  • Neil Savage says:

    I know very little about my Irish heritage. II am only 1/8 Irish, the rest English, German and ??? I know my great grandmother Sullivan came from TheRing of Kerry, a place that sounded like koo-noo-keen, but I have no idea what that would be in Gaelic. She came to America sometime before 1866, since that is when my grandfather was born.

  • Rae says:

    Thanks for the article Mike. I enjoyed it so much. It’s my hearts desire to visit Ireland before I leave this earth. I was born Rae Irene Duffy in 1954 but unfortunately I know very little of my background as I was adopted in Toronto Ontario Canada. But even though I may never know who my family are and where they came from I have always felt a deep connection with my Irish roots. I am hopeful that one day soon I may visit the beautiful shores of Ireland.
    Blessing the Irish, Rae Duffy.

  • I read the article and felt sad that Americans of Irish decent are thought of in that manner. I have visited Ireland several times since 2000 and had wonderful times with lovely people.
    Both my maternal and paternal grandparents came to the U.S. at the turn of the 21st century looking for a new life, not because they wanted to, but because things were so bleak for them in their homeland. Not one ever returned. We were raised to believe that we were lucky to have been born in the U.S. but to never forget our roots, and we haven’t. I personally claim to be an American Catholic of Irish descent, and 100 percent proud of it.

  • About three years ago I met an older Irish woman, she told me I was not Irish. I replied that my last name begged to differ. I am sorry, I have carried the name O’Connell my whole life and have always identified with my Irish heritage.

    This last fall I was finally able to visit Ireland for the first time, the locals were very welcoming and when they asked where I was from and if this was my first visit, I was was welcomed “home” by a few people.

    I sat in a coffee shop in Kanturk, County Cork trying to find the townland my family lived in during the 1850s. I talked with a woman who was from the same townland. She told me I had the right hair color and enough freckles to look as I was Irish. I did not take offense to that. She was saying I fit in.

    I find the locals are a lot nicer about Americans being Irish then those who have recently immigrated to the States.

    Thanks for a great article!

  • Melissa Reilly says:

    I am not of Irish decent, but my husband is. His great-grandfather packed up his wife and children and moved them to America via Canada in the 1920’s. As far as I know the family never made a trip back. My husband proudly proclaims he is second generation American born Irish. We have just one son who is not only proud to be third generation American born Irish but also the only son, of an only son, of an only son. I am proud of my husband’s ancestry and also proudly proclaim that I am Irish by marriage.

  • John Mooney says:

    I am online since 1998 and I have met a lot of people online from Alaska to Florida, who tell me they are “Irish”. i have no problem with this…many have become close friends.
    But Irish-Americans talk in terms of Irish being an ethnic origin….as they say “Italian”, “German”, etc.
    But for centuries, people have wanted to treat “Irish” people as ONLY an ethnic group.
    For centuries, we have had to fight (and sometimes die) to become a nationality….with a place among the nations.
    So as well as being of Irish ethnicity, I am an Irish citizen…and I am the proud holder of a passport.
    Yes some people can have dual nationality….but ultimately our loyalty belongs to one nation.
    So I share my ethnicity with many Americans, Canadians, Argentines, British citizens.
    But I share my citizenship and my rights and responsibilities with my fellow Irish citizens, most of whom were born on the island of Ireland…and those who chose to come and live here and become Irish….many from USA, England, Nigeria,, Syria etc.
    Ultimately being and choosing to be a citizen outranks any ethnicity.

  • Dorothea Tracey-Warren says:

    My ancestry is German, Irish, Dutch and I am proud of all of these ancestors who came to America. The Dutch first (Longendyke), then the Irish (Tracey, Hurley names in the early 1800’s and still not sure of the date or where in Ireland) and then the German side (Germann, Koch, and Tacke in around 1850’s). I am a mix of all these brave people who left their native countries for a better life. So many of us in America are 3rd and 4th or more generations removed from the “native country of family origin’ but darn proud of the blood that runs through our veins. I would love to visit Ireland but it will probably never happen. The most I can do is research and do ancestry for my children and grandchildren…who also have Italian and Slavic heritage from their Dad’ side. So many of us in America are a tossed salad! And proud of every leaf!

  • Patrick Brophy says:

    Loved the post! I am the first born to my Irish parents in Canada. I have been back to where my grandparents were born (Waterford) and stayed in the house where my grandmother was born. I carry the stories, traditions and the fanily history now so i think that makes me Irish!
    I would love to know more about the Brophy and Morrissey family names in Ireland!
    Thanks again

  • Margaret Garratt says:

    For years my family had considered our background as Scottish – until I found an 1841 census which listed my ancestors as having been born in Ireland. With the surname Bruce I have been confused. Just can’t find my ancestral roots from that family.
    4 generations later I am Australian!

  • laci says:

    Loved this because I have always wondered if I did visit Ireland would I’d be treated like a native? Very reassuring thank you 🙂

  • john coughlan says:

    Hi mike
    my father was born in enniscorthy county wexford,i was born in the uk,but now live in ireland,also my mothers father was from wexford,but she again was born in the uk,…..im i irish please could you let me know.

    kind regards
    john f coughlan

  • Molly says:

    When I visited Ireland, it was like going home. I’ve always considered myself mixed nationality by blood (Irish and German mostly), and Irish by heart. When I visited Ireland, I was amazed by the number of natives who asked if I was Irish. They never asked anyone else in my family, and when I asked about it, they said there was just something about me. They could tell.
    I was always a little ashamed to call myself Irish. But that trip solidified it and really made me feel I belonged. I would love to go back someday.

  • TOM ASHE says:

    I DO HAVE AN IRISH PASSPORT PROUD OF IT

  • Marie O'Neill says:

    I’m an O’Neill, I always loved my surname. My dream was always to go to Ireland. I found a whole load of cousins on my Parke side from Leitrim.
    I am looking for O’Neill’s, from Galway..Downey’s, Grafton’s,
    I love love love being Irish, so yes, I see myself “Irish”
    Marie O’Neill

  • John Shanahan says:

    Great blog post Mike. As I read comments from descendants of emigrants such as myself and then the comments about passports & citizenship, I realized the Irishmen who bristle at the thought of Irish emigrants calling themselves Irish were talking apples while we’re talking oranges ( maybe apples & oranges is an American expression).

    Take me, I’m an American. But I’m Irish. The first is my nationality; passport & everything. The second is my people, my history, roots. What shaped my families enormous idiosyncrasies & our family culture. That didn’t happen in America, but Ireland.

    In America, when I ask where is your family from, unusually they don’t say Pennsylvania, but say German, sometimes adding they settled in PA. We are a rootless culture, so see ourselves often in terms of our roots. So yes, I typically say I’m Irish, or perhaps Irish-American. But I’m an American and not an Irishman. We love your country, the land of our ancestors.

  • John Shanahan says:

    That was usually, not unusually.

    Forgot to add that n my one trip to Ireland 30 months ago, In Dublin, I was treated with courtesy although not warmth. When I meandered thru the countryside though, I never came across a more welcoming people. I could hardly pay for any of my drinks wherever I went. One fellow who’d told me he was my Ambassador to his “American friend come back home” even payed for my room at the bar/inn without my knowledge until I checked out. I was overwhelmed.

  • Rachel P says:

    I’m so glad I stumbled upon this article. Seeing others with a similar situation makes me feel at ease. Growing up in an all American family with no information on my ancestry was strange for me, especially watching all of my -dare I say strong blooded- friends have such deeply taught spiritual and moral practices from their ancestral cultures. When I was a teenager I found a strong interest and intuitiveness with celtic and gaelic folklore and it influenced my understanding of the world quite a bit. I believed I was Irish just through my strange connection and aesthetic features, even when my mother told me she believed we were german. Upon research of my family history I found that although I have some Native American and German ties I AM primarily Irish. The disconnect to my heritage has brought me a great deal of sorrow-fearing Irish-born Irish would never accept me as an American-born Irish. Feeling cut off from my roots. I have a deep internal and spiritual desire to connect to my origins-as I think anyone would.Thinking of even visiting Ireland draws tears to my eyes. I understand the prejudice that comes from Irish-born Irish, because growing up American I really didn’t know jack about anything Irish, and I’m sure tourists and disrespectful assumptions from outsiders have played a role in that. Yet I would hope if someone really had a calling in their heart, even as a distant relative, they would be welcomed with open arms from those who could show them the way home. Thank you for this article!

    • Rachel P says:

      To add- I think a huge issue here is that later generation Irish Americans (or any Americans) are not taught a damn thing about their history in school and often at home too, and they are certainly not educated about modern/contemporary Irish culture. Thus they are left to assumptions and appropriation without even being aware it. “American culture” if there even is such a thing given the vast differences even between races and states is not fulfilling on an intellectual, genetic and ancestral level. It doesn’t make sense to label people of a fundamentally multicultural society as a single culture. Why would anyone blatantly disregard their heritage, and why would anyone ever try to make someone else disregard it? I have no interest in only laying claim to what happened after my ancestors emigrated here, and I think it is absurd to assume that what happened before then is not a part of who I am, when my blood and the very cells that make up my body are from a time far before me.

  • My relatives came from County Mayo in 1845 mother and four boys. mothers name unknown and believe father deceased before her coming. I am not able to find her name or what ship she took or where she arrived. Any suggestions where to obtain her name and point of entry to identify her ? Names of boys, John, Patrick, Michael & James McGrayel (McGrael).
    thanks bill

  • Denise Ford says:

    Thank you, Mike, for sharing this article again. It warmed my heart and brought memories of my Irish grandmother and her many stories about her grandparents in Ireland. I have not had the privilege to visit my ancestral homeland as my mother has several times and actually visiting her cousins. Reading these stories has ignited my Irishness again!

  • Robin Maloney says:

    Hi, my first time writing. I liked the article but wonder why the Native Irish don’t like the foreign Irish. By stating yourself of Irish descent it shows pride in the country of your ancestors. You think this is a good thing, to be Irish. Personally, when I was there, I didn’t experience this, but I was a woman traveling alone. Although I did visit Dublin, Belfast and some larger cities, I did go out to the countryside of Lixnaw where my Maloney family came from. I am not 100% Irish, I’m 1/2 Polish and other s, but look Irish enough for a customs official thinking I might just stay . I do have Maloney, McElroy, Irvine, Casseday, McFarland, Dunn, Mc Nutt, Linnehan, Stack, Gorman (of MA), O’Keefe, McDowell lines in my family, Scots Irish as well.

    • Susan says:

      Hi Robin, Do you know where your Gorman Family came from in Ireland?
      Been working on my mom’s side of the family for years. Henry Gorman b. 1835. in Northern Ireland is as far as I have reached. He married a Hanora b. 1835. Hand my 2gr. grandfather Thomas Gorman b. 1872 Conn. USA and he m. a Swedish lady name Josephina C. Larson b. 1871.
      I do not know any other Irish family names that are connected so I have hit a brick wall!
      Susan

      • Robin Maloney says:

        Hi Susan, no, I’m not sure where they came from YET. My Maloneys came from Lixnaw, so I am guessing as there is a relation there I’m thinking they could have come from the came general area, so Cork could be a possibility. Lixnaw is near Listowel, and Tralee in Kerry. I think the Gorman are cousins. If I find anything, I’ll post it here.

  • Mike I really enjoyed your letter. Yes Mike I do feel that I am Irish. I look Irish Even had the Irish colored hair. My Dad Howard Harvey Donaghy Sr. really had the Irish look the coloring. The red hair. the fickles . light skin. All 10 of us children is all colored like our dad. I am really proud to be an Irish man. That Ireland is my home land. I want to get to Ireland some day soon. My g.g.g.grand parents were born in Northern Ireland.The Donaghys. Thank you Mike for writing this nice letter

  • Sherryle Doyle says:

    So glad I came upon your site…..really enjoy it. We were very blessed to visit Ireland a few years ago. Were there for ten days and that was not enough for sure. Loved Dingle and Doyles’. We told by my husband’s aunt that we had to go…….(we are Doyles;) Loved the whole trip. Trinity College ….spent almost a whole day…….we are hoping to return. We are having a difficult time locating Doyle ancestors who were suppose to be from County Cork. Again love the site…..keep up the good work……Sherryle Doyle

    • Mike Collins says:

      Sherryle – thanks for sharing – I know Doyles in Dingle well. We were in Trinity College only last week. Mike.

  • Patti says:

    Loved this. I am Irish American and heard that in Ireland I would not be considered Irish. I must say here in America the Italian Americans and African Americans and Mexican Americans all celebrate their immigrant heritage more than the American side ….the food and traditions are celebrated and passed on so there is a real pride in where their ancestors came from. America is where they were born and live but the motherland is in their blood. Some of us Irish Americans just want to connect with our blood.

  • Erin O'Shaughnessy says:

    I remember reading this letter the first time it was published and feeling that “Yes” I consider myself Irish even though there is a lot of other DNA in me. Now I’m super disappointed to find out that my sister in law is a lot “more Irish” in DNA than I am and she doesn’t really even seem that interested in the fact. So while DNA supports the science, heritage and feelings of being Irish are a lot stronger — at least for me. Visiting Ireland for 12 days last year was just the beginning it’s still on my bucket list to go back…

  • Genny Lynch says:

    This was quite interesting. I grew up thinking I was 50% Irish and 50% German. DNA says I’m 89% Irish and 11% Netherlands. My maiden name was Kuhns – sounds German to me. It was explained Vikings could be responsible. My paternal grandmother was Martha Matilda Garvin. The story says her parents were a priest and nun who left the church, married and settled in Tyrone county as Anglicans. My grandmother was so proud of her Irish heritage and shared ditties, superstitions, and love of Ireland with all her grandchildren. I was the eldest grandchild. When I was eligible to vote Grandma told me, “When in doubt – vote for the Irish (names)” I raised my family in Texas and was fortunate enough to belong to a wonderful Irish-American club called the Harp and Shamrock Society in San Antonio. Our St. Patrick’s Day parade almost always had a dignitary from Ireland as a special guest. Members who could afford to go to Ireland went and reported being treated as family. No matter how many times they visited Ireland they always wanted to return. I longed to be 100% Irish. It was a pleasant surprise to learn I’m at least 89%. I have longed to visit Ireland but it is looking more bleak all the time since I am a widow in my late 70s. My younger sister and her husband recently visited Ireland with their Dallas,TX Anglican church group. At the same time my cousin and her husband visited Ireland with their Catholic church group from Kent, Ohio. They actually met up for one day in Killarney. Both couples had wonderful times. I know it is sinful to be jealous but………….. Genny Lynch

  • […] Starting off with Irish identity, this letter asks if you see yourself as Irish? Click here to read the letter. […]

  • Pete Hoeft says:

    I am unabashedly American of 50% Irish/Scotch and 45% England descent and would love to meet my Irish cousins. Family is family to me, so for those of like mind in Ireland, I’ll be looking you up! Pride in tribe is one thing, but family trumps everything.

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