In this series of articles, I’ll share what I have uncovered so far about my Scottish, Irish, and Polish lineages and how they all connect. Check out Immigration to America—Lowell, Massachusetts, Scottish Highlanders, and Scottish Lowlanders, for previously posted Ancestral Stories.
I took this photograph when my sister and I took a tour through Ireland and Scotland in 2015. On our fifth day, we traveled to the Cliffs of Moher and spent a couple of hours walking its many paths. I was excited to be here knowing that I was in County Clare, Ireland. This is the county where my maternal grandfather’s mother came from in Ireland. She is my great-grandmother, and for some reason, I feel close to her. She passed on when my mother was five years old.
In my mother’s papers and photographs, I found a letter and a program handout called ‘Ireland—The Emerald Isle”, see below. My grandmother had attended a lecture by this photographer who had visited Ireland. On the front cover of the brochure, my maternal grandmother wrote the words “grandmother” and drew a line to County Clare. She was telling my mother that her paternal grandmother, Delia Pyne, was from County Clare.
My Irish Ancestors
The picture above is a view of my Irish lineage from my ancestry wall. The picture with the couple in it is my great-grandparents, Thomas J. Downes and Delia Pyne, and what I believe to be their wedding day. My great-grandmother is also pictured just slightly above and to the left, twice. My mother told me their marriage was arranged and included a substantial dowry.
My maternal grandfather is the oldest boy in the picture below, standing with his two younger brothers. His name was Thomas W. Downes, and he was born in Lowell, MA. Both his parents came to America to find work in Lowell, MA. The picture at the top was photographed in Ennis, Ireland, and more than likely is one of their mother’s.
My Irish Surnames
- Cotter is a status name from Middle English, a term in the feudal system for a serf or tenant who held a cottage by service rather than rent.
- Downes, Downs, and Down are from the native Gaelic O’Dubhain group located in Counties Clare and Limerick. It also comes from a Gaelic term ‘dubh’ which means black and ‘dun’, which means a low hill.
- Murphy is the most common surname in Ireland. It is a modern form of the ancient Irish name “O’Murchadha,” which means “descendant of sea warrior,” which is a Norse Viking reference.
Murphy’s Law. A rule that states, “If something can go wrong, it will.” This phase is attributed to Edward A. Murphy Jr., an aerospace engineer.
- Pyne is English pre 7th Century, or Old French “pin,” meaning “pine” and was originally the name of those who lived by pine trees.
- Quinn is Irish and comes from the Gaelic ‘Ó’Cuinn’ meaning ‘wisdom’ or ‘chief.’
In the English language, the name of this island is Ireland. However, Ireland’s name is from Irish Gaelic, Éire (Erin), which means something like “abundant land”. This may be the reason the island is called the “Emerald Isle.” Éire is the county name on both its postage stamps and coinage.
Ireland’s history, like many countries, is nothing less than harsh. Ireland has been raided by the Vikings, Spaniards, and the British. The Irish people, young and old, were sold into slavery, indentured servitude, and as warriors.
According to research, religious conflict between the Catholics and Protestants started in 1532 and continued into present times. In 1920 the country was divided into The Republic of Ireland, an independent county, and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom.
The Famine and Holocaust of 1845 saw millions die from starvation, and millions leave Ireland in hopes of a better future. I can’t help but wonder who benefited from these tragic events.
- Arranged Marriage & Dowry
- Manufacturing, Nursing
- Famine, Holocaust & Forced Migration
- Slavery & Indentured Servants
- Spanish DNA
- Surfs, Feudal System
- Viking DNA
- War & Warriors
Through my own experiences, I’ve come to realize that what you fear controls you. I’d add that what you don’t know about yourself more than likely controls you as well.
What do you suspect or don’t want to know is embedded within your genetics?
I’ll close this blog on my Irish Ancestors with the last picture I took on the island of Ireland. We were in Northern Ireland, traveling towards Larne; a seaport market town to board the ferry that would take us to Scotland.
Did you notice anything?
Comments are welcomed and appreciated!