Friday, March 13, 2009

A Kind Of My Own

When thinking of people to interview this week, I thought it would be interesting to do a little research about my own family history. I am 98 percent Irish, and have a long line of Irish ancenstors. My grandma, Carolyn Connolly Rogers, was happy to talk with me about her grandmother, Mary McSorley, who immigrated to America from Ireland, and the memories she still has of her grandmother from when she was young. Here is what my grandmother was able to share with me about my great, great grandmother.

Mary McSorley came to the United States with her sister, Cassie, where they left their entire family back in Ireland to start a new life in America. Alone, the two girls traveled by boat, Cassie was 12, and Mary was only 10.

Mary grew up in County Armagh, located in Northern Ireland. She was part of a large, but very poor family who could not afford much out of life. They knew their only option for a better life was to pack up and move to America, only knowing of distant relatives in Chicago, Illinois.

After many years, while visiting Canada, Mary met her husband, John Arthur Connolly, another Irish man. She became Mary McSorley Connolly. They settled in Waterloo, Iowa where he started making carriages in the late 1800's.

"My early recollections of her was that she never talked much, and when she did she talked with an Irish brogue." An Irish brogue is an Irish accent that my grandmother said was extremely hard to understand.

In addition, she was very short, heavy set, and would wear silk dresses that would hang to her ankles. "Nobody dressed up then," said Rogers laughing.

Her husband was considered one of the wealthiest men of Norteast Iowa at one time, and although they had much hired help, "Everytime I went to the house, she was always ironing," said Rogers.

Together, they had five children where she was left to take care of them during the day, while John was working at the carriage factory.

At nightime, she would always serve mashed potatoes and "lots of dessert...they love their dessert," said Rogers laughing, adding that her grandmother would read the coffee grounds like a palm reader reads a palm. "She thought she could detect your future by studying your coffee grounds," said Rogers laughing.

"She was involved with our family and loved us very much, but she just wasn't very social," said Rogers. In addition, she worked a lot with the Catholic Church and donated a lot of time with them.

"Her dream was to go back to Ireland, but she never made it back," said Rogers. Although she had the money to go, the means 0f transportation back then were not nearly what they are today. There was no air travel, and the only way was by boat, which to her was not convenient.

After a hard life of living in poverty in Ireland, and coming to America for a new and wonderful life, she passed away after a stroke in the comfort of her own home at the age of 90.

Below is a documentary on Irish immigration to America.

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