Slainte! #sol14

A few years ago, my entire family traveled to Ireland for a week during the summer.  That’s two adults, six kids ranging in age from preteen to adult, and one husband.  It was the first family vacation we had been on together in years and it was precipitated by some genealogy my dad I did.

I’ve always been fascinated by genealogy, and I must have inherited that fascination from my dad.  Since I was in high school we have spent hours scouring ancestry and genealogy websites looking for clues.  As any good Irishman knows, whenever you get to a certain point in Irish records you inevitably get told, “Sorry.  Those records and everything prior to them burned in a church fire”.  It’s the way of the Irish genealogy world.  But we soldiered on, looking for relatives in America and abroad.

For years we hit walls and dead ends.  My great-grandmother was a favorite subject of the searches because we knew she left behind a rather large family when she fled to America as a teenager.  But we never made any headway.

Until one fateful day when my dad called me.  “Check ancestry.com!  Go see the message we got!”

I was briefly confused as I tried to remember what I had posted that might garner a reply.  But a look at our history showed that we had just received a response to a message board posting that I had written almost 3 years earlier.  A message that hadn’t brought us any luck or information in those three years.  Suddenly, a new world opened up as I read the latest reply to a dormant thread.

Re  John Hickey  Born in Cork  Lived in Kildare    Hickey   Family History   Genealogy Message Board   Ancestry.com

 

The message left us stunned.  We did not know that my great-grandmother’s father had another child during his second marriage.  And we soon learned that Ronnie, my great-grandmother’s half-brother, was still living in Ireland!  We were planning a trip there and when the family found out they demanded that we make plans to meet.  We willingly did so.

A few months later, we were in Ireland.  We made plans to meet with my uncle Ronnie, who took the train cross country to see us.  We spent a day driving around the Irish countryside as he showed us where he and my great-grandmother grew up.  We visited the house they lived in, the town they grew up in, and the cemeteries where most of the family is buried.  It was an amazing day and one I will not forget.

Today, on St. Patrick’s Day, I wished my Irish cousins well via Facebook.  Thanks to the magic of the internet, I am now “friends” with family members who never left Ireland.  We chat and stay in touch with each other and share stories.  When I re-shared a photo from that trip to Ireland, my cousin commented and asked when we will be back.  Without ancestry.com and Facebook we would not have forged these connections (and may not have found each other!).

St. Patrick’s Day is a fun holiday but it’s also deeply rooted in my heritage.  I’m proud to be Irish (and Scottish!) and wear my claddaugh necklace with pride.  I own more green than more normal people and you can find Irish blessings and proverbs throughout my house.  But the close-knit family is what makes me truly Irish, and I couldn’t ask for anything more.

Out of Ireland #sol14

20140315-225308.jpgI’m a little bit Irish.  If “a little bit” means almost 100%. And the part of me that isn’t Irish is Scottish.  And those Scots moved to Glasgow from Ireland.  So as you can imagine, I love St. Patrick’s Day.

Chris and I have been to Ireland twice; once to Dublin for a week and once to the Boyne Valley for a week with my entire family.  (If anyone ever needs a place to stay in Ireland we highly recommend Abhainn Lodge.)

We’ve struggled to find our own local Irish pub here in NJ for years.  We’ve tried and enjoyed many places, but nothing managed to capture the ambiance and taste of an authentic Irish pub.  We didn’t have high hopes when we decided to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day early this weekend but I did some research anyway.  We made the decision to try someplace new, a bit out of the way for us in Bordentown.  We ran some errands on the way and ended up at Dubh Linn Square Pub around 3pm.  Figuring we would grab an early dinner before the crowds showed up we were a little surprised to be directed to overflow parking.

For those who don’t know me, I’m also a bit impatient.  “If the wait is long, we’ll just leave,” I told Chris as we walked across the parking lot.  There was a patio area quickly filling up with folks in green, green, and more green.  A band was setting up and kids were getting their faces painted.  But we were pleasantly surprised when we were immediately seated in the upstairs bar.  And the TVs were all tuned to RTE, the Irish television channel!

Chris and I had checked out the menu online beforehand so we were surprised to receive a paper menu.  It turns out the restaurant was serving a streamlined St. Patricks Day Weekend menu.  We later learned they were also using plastic utensils and plates in order to save time.  As we watched the restaurant fill up over the next hour I began to understand why they were using paper/plastic.  That place was going to be rockin’ all night!

The streamlined menu was simple but did include a lot of Irish fare.  I went with the Guinness beef stew and Chris decided to try the chicken boxty, which I remembered seeing in a few pubs in Ireland.  When they brought out our dinners they were on foam plates and it was a little strange.  But all my questions disappeared the moment I tasted the food.

It.was.perfect.

Chris and I practically inhaled our food and decided it was the most authentic Irish fare we’ve found in New Jersey.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen Chris eat as enthusiastically as he did tonight.  As he ate his chicken boxty with whiskey cream sauce he kept telling me that we need to find a recipe immediately so we can make it at home.

As we ate dinner we watched Ireland win the RBS Six Nations Cup (a rugby tournament) and listened to the band downstairs play.  There were bagpipes, Irish step dancers, and lots of folks in green.  It was a fabulous way to kick off the weekend and we can’t wait to go back!

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