While I have always known a lot about the Italian side of my family tree, my Irish side has remained largely a mystery. Not that I was too concerned about it, since I have long felt closer to my Italian heritage anyway.
Since I started working with the Irish tourism market, I am constantly being asked where my Irish roots lie. It got me thinking and I started doing a bit of research. A cousin (I think) of my dad has done some intensive family history investigation and I got a hold of her results the other day.
It turns out, my great-great-great grandfather, Edward Hill, was born in 1833 in Ardara, Ireland in County Donegal, in the Northwestern corner of the Emerald Isle.
After coming to the US, he was served in the Union Army during the Civil War where he was badly injured in battle near Roanoke Island, N.C. Scenes from the movie, Gangs of New York come to mind, when the Irish poured off the ships and were immediately drafted to fight in the Civil War in exchange for citizenship. Edward lived most of his post-army days in Boston, in a Soldiers home right around the corner from where I used to live.
This is Ardara then…
While we don’t know for sure what spurned Edward to leave Ireland, certainly we can guess. The Potato Famine was raging during that time and created nearly 2 Million refugees to the US, UK, Canada and Australia.
I find it somewhat interesting that my own path in life keeps pushing me towards the paths of my ancestors, like an invisible string pulling me towards history. I went to study abroad in Italy when I was 16, not to be closer to my roots but because it was the only country that would accept students under the age of 18. I started working with Irish tourism not because of any desire to learn more about this culture (though it is an added benefit), but because it is a good job in my field of choice close to home. On the surface it seems coincidental, but on some level further down it feels more like fate, as though it has been bestowed upon me to be the keeper of our family story, our family journey.