Browsing Category

Genealogy

Audio, Genealogy

Podcast: A Beginner’s Guide to Irish Genealogy

You’ve just caught the Irish ancestry bug. But there’s so much to know before you start the search for where your people came from—isn’t there?

In the long run, yes, maybe. But if you’re a genealogy newbie, you can start digging up your ancestors—so to speak—with comparatively little knowledge. So says local genealogist Lori Lander Murphy, who is here to answer your questions.

Are we answering every question you could possibly have? Nope. With this audio podcast episode of “Who’s Your Granny,” we’re giving you just enough to begin to explore your roots. In future episodes, there will be more. But for now, sit back, settle in and listen to advice from our genealogy guru.

Editor’s note: All Irish Philly podcasts are now available on iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn and Spotify.

Genealogy

Recipe for a Tasty Irish Christmas

Pannetone Bread and Butter Pudding

Pannetone Bread and Butter Pudding

Margaret Johnson has been cranking out cookbooks about Irish cuisine since 1999. There are nine books in all. If you’ve read them, you know that recipes, while at the heart of it all, really only account for part of the picture.

Eye-catching photos of bustling Irish cities, quaint towns and coastal communities fill every book. Interspersed with the recipes and pictures are neat little vignettes, food for the soul, offering rare insights into Irish culture, customs and history—all, of course, as they relate to food.

Fans of Johnson’s cookbooks know that she’s on a mission to persuade readers—especially Irish Americans—that there is so much more to Irish cooking than lamb stew, soda bread and Dublin coddle. (Not that those aren’t wonderful things.)

Her new book, “Christmas Flavors of Ireland: Celebrating the Festive Season,” might be the prettiest and most scrumptious yet. And that would be saying something. You’ll find everything from savory starters to decadent desserts—and lots in between. Johnson has a lot of friends in the Irish culinary community—and, happily for all us, they’re willing to share their best stuff.

We chatted with Johnson about the Christmas book in particular—with occasional side trips.

Here’s what she had to say.

Q. Could we talk first about the graphics, and you seem to have contributions from many sources. The first photo you see in the book shows Christmas on Dublin’s Grafton Street, with all the lights. Inside, there’s a photo of the front door leading into Johnnie Fox’s Pub in Glencullen, a bright green wreath in the center. One of my favorites is a shot of the Giant’s Causeway, dusted with snow, with wispy clouds in the background. Why is good photography so important to you?

A. A lot of the people like to look at the pictures! I have heard that some people who buy my books never read one recipe. That’s actually how I sold my second cookbook. When I wrote my first book, I was an untested author. They didn’t invest any money in photography. All they used were stock photos that introduced the chapters. If it had photos, I think it would have sold many more. I said to them, you may not know Irish people the way I know them. They think of Ireland as this magical, mysterious place, and they all want to see pictures of them. So I convinced them.

Q. “Christmas Flavors of Ireland” obviously isn’t just about the food. The recipes are at the center of it all, but how much do you think about setting the scene, the context in which these great dishes are presented? What kind if research goes into finding and explaining Celtic holiday traditions that Americans might not be aware of. I’m thinking specifically of December 8, Big Market Day, for one.

A. I was never was aware of Big Fair Day. A friend had written it for an older book, and I asked him for permission to run it again for this book. I do like to put things like that in books. Right now, I’m working on “Favorite Flavors of Ireland.” It’s something of a retrospective. I’m going to take recipes from my previous books, and some new ones, and talk about why they are my favorites, and why those places are my favorites. People are always asking me, ‘So what’s your favorite recipe? What’s your favorite place. Whats your favorite ingredient?’ I thought the word “favorites” can encompass people and places and holidays and things of that sort. So it will be a combination of recipes—and a little more story-telling.

Q. As you approached the Christmas cookbook, were you thinking about changing people’s minds about how the Irish celebrate Christmas through food? It just seems like one more way of making the point that you can’t make assumptions about Irish cooking, that it’s all ham and cabbage. I’m thinking of the recipe for Italian Pannetone Bread and Butter Pudding, for one.

A. Probably 15 or 20 years ago, an Irishman wouldn’t have thought about Pannetone! Chef Sally Luykx presented that recipe about eight or 10 years ago. At that time, people had never heard of Pannetone. It wasn’t what Irish people were thinking about eating. But now, the Irish are very sophisticated in their tastes. Irish-Americans are not. They say, this is not what Irish people eat, but for me this is the whole point. It’s what Irish food is like these days. A lot of Irish-Americans dont want to accept that. They want the sheep and the cows. They think that’s what it’s like.

Q. Are you past the point where you’re surprised at what turns up on the Irish menu?

A. Sometimes, I am a little surprised. I think that some of the ideas are a little overdone. They they too hard. Let’s take black pudding, because that comes up a lot. Black pudding is something people have for breakfast, but I’ll find something like black pudding with pineapples on shrimp, or something crazy. A lot of chefs try to be so creative with authentic Irish food that it turns out to be ridiculous. Sometimes they go to extremes to make the point that they’re very sophisticated—to counter the old sterotype of stew and lamb chops. I would never put anything like that in any of my cookbooks.”

Q. Tell me about your dedication. It’s to Carl, your husband, “for his continued indulgence in all things Irish.” I know that he passed away recently of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease).

A. Most of my previous cookbooks, I dedicated to him. I’d say, ‘We’re going back to Ireland,’ and he’d say: ‘Again?’ And then he’d say, ‘Well, OK, if you insist.’ But he would be the first one to have his bag packed. In 2012, we went three times. His mother was Italian, and his father was what they call a “brooding Swede.” At his funeral, I had them play the Phil Coulter’s song, “The Old Man.” You’re supposed to play liturgical music, but they said it would be fine. To say that some people were weeping uncontrollably would be an understatement. Someone told me afterward, he’s the only Swedish-Italian guy who had the most Irish sendoff they’d ever seen.

We thank Margaret Johnson for her continued and support of irishphiladelphia.com—and for her generosity.

If you’ve been waiting for an Irish Christmas recipe to sink your teeth into, here are two:

Pannetone Bread and Butter Pudding

1 lb. Pannettone, or any yeast bread with fruit
4 oz. butter, at room temperature
8 tbsp. lemon curd
5 large eggs
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup granulated sugar
Vanilla ice cream, for serving

  • Preheat the over to 325 degrees. Butter 8 6-ounce ramekins.
  • Cut the Pannetone into 8 slices. Spread each slice with 1 tbsp. of butter, and then spread with the lemon curd. Cut each slice into squares and divide among the ramekins.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream and sugar. Spoon the egg mixture over the bread, and then press down gently. Let the puddings soak for 5 to 10 minutes, and then spoon any remaining egg mixture over the bread to be sure it is soaked.
  • Bake for 30 minutes, or until the puddings are risen and the tops are lightly browned. Remove from the oven, run a long knife around the edge of the ramekins to loosen the puddings, and then transfer to serving plates. Serve with ice cream.

Burren Smoked Salmon on Potato Pancakes

Potato Pancakes

2 large potatoes, cooked and mashed
1 large egg, beaten
1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 to 1/2 cup whole milk
Butter for frying
1/2 pound smoked salmon, cut into 24 1/2-inch-wide strips
1/2 cup sour cream or creme fraiche
Fresh chives for garnish

  • To make pancakes, put the potatoes, egg, flour, baking powder, salt and pepper into a food processor. Pulse 4 to 5 times to blend, and then gradually add enough milk to make a thick, smooth batter.
  • Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Brush the pan with butter. Drop spoonful of batter into the pan and cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until browned and heated through. Repeat with additional butter and remaining batter. Cakes can be served immediately or refrigerated, covered, overnight; reheat in a hot oven.
  • To serve, put a spoonful of sour cream or creme fraiche on top of each pancake. Put a piece of rolled salmon on top, sprinkle with pepper, and garnish with chives.

If you’d like to experience the culinary side of Ireland firsthand, you can join Margaret as she leads a “Flavors of Ireland” tour in October 2014. For full details, visit www.irishcook.com after January 1.

Genealogy, History

Who’s Your Granny?

My great-great grandmother, Susan Virginia Thursday Victoria Ridgeway Riley, and her daughter Pearl Estella Angeline Hazel Riley Parker

My great-great grandmother, Susan Virginia Thursday Victoria Ridgeway Riley, and her daughter Pearl Estella Angeline Hazel Riley Parker

For over two years, I’ve been contemplating this genealogy column. Contemplating it, mind you, not actually writing it. Denise and Jeff have been encouraging it, giving me carte blanche to write about whatever genealogical topic pops into my head—but never pressuring. Dublin and Philadelphia’s own fiddler, Paraic Keane, even unknowingly came up with the title, “Who’s Your Granny?” in a completely unrelated conversation with the Philadelphia Ceili Group’s Anne McNiff; as soon as I heard it, I claimed it in the name of Irish Philadelphia.

And, now, with the most Irish of all days just a little over a week away, it is finally time. Welcome to the first official genealogy column of Irish Philly.

Last week I made my first trip to the Philadelphia Archives, down on Chestnut Street between 9th and 10th. It’s a place I’ve been meaning to venture into for a very long time, but it was a talk by my friend and genealogist Deborah Large Fox that finally got me in the building. The topic was “Grandma Was a What?” and focused on collecting and preserving family stories. Although the lecture was for a general audience, the subject could have been created for Irish family research. Who is better at telling stories and passing them down than the Irish? It was the stories I heard as a child about my Riley ancestors that first got me hooked on genealogy—great-great grandfather Samuel Riley fought for both sides in the Civil War, starting out for the South, getting captured by the North, escaping and returning to the South…and then after it was all over, receiving two pensions, one from the Union and one from the Confederacy.

And, as Deb Fox pointed out, “Every family story has a nugget of truth.” My great-great grandfather did indeed file for pensions from both the North and the South, but the truth was a little more complicated, and less glorified, than the story. I found Samuel’s Virginia pension file online at the Library of Virginia’s Civil War Guide.  And then, a few years later, while searching Ancestry.com, I found that a Samuel Riley, living in Virginia, had filed for a Union pension and cited a Pennsylvania unit. Using the information from that source, I went to the National Archives Military Records, and sent away for those records. Included in the file was a letter written by his daughter Eugenia stating that “he was with Co. B. 4th Pa Cavalry But a short time before he was wounded he is not able to get about now with 9 nine children all too small to help them self & a sick wife I would be so glad if you would use your influence in the pension office he deserted the Rebel Army & joind the U.S. Army & the people here won’t have a thing to do with him.”

Apparently, Samuel went off to join the 4th Pa Cavalry of his own volition, and was branded a deserter when he returned to Virginia after the war. Many times, the story is a prettier version of the truth, which is the tricky part about genealogy. Every family has skeletons, and when you start digging around in the family bones, you never know what’s going to fall out. When preserving the family record, both the stories and the records have a place.

“Documentation is the cure for a lot of genealogical ills…attribute the story. At least you have the source listed,” Deb explained. “Are records more reliable than stories? Records can create the same whisper down the lane effect. It’s keeping your sources, noting them down, being a skeptic—but you can be a skeptic and still enjoy the stories.”

And when you record the family stories, decide what your purpose is and who your audience will be. Is it for yourself, or for your descendants? Members of the public or living family members? This can make a difference even in the format you choose to use to preserve the history. There are many options out there now beyond just the published narrative. Many researchers set up websites, and encourage input from other branches of the family. Others make DVDs or photo books.

It’s still a complicated business when it comes to revealing an ugly family secret. I have found more than a few in my research—all a matter of public record—and while I strongly believe that the truth should be told, that there is healing in getting it out there all these generations later, I do think it’s important to be sensitive to anyone still living who may be personally affected by having a not-so-long-hidden secret unveiled.

Deb’s talk at the Archives was part of their Friday Genealogy Open House series, and this is a great way to meet up with other researchers. Visitors are encouraged to bring a lunch, and several people I talked to had taken the train in to Philly, which eliminated the cost and problem of finding parking. For more information, check out their website: Philadelphia Archives: Friday Genealogy Open Houses. And now that I’ve finally made it inside, I’m planning many more return visits to finally get to the bottom of my own Philadelphia ancestors’ mysteries.

For more great information, check out Deborah Large Fox’s genealogy blogs: Help! The Faerie Folk Hid My Ancestors! and her newest, Spilling the Family Beans.

Genealogy

Who’s Your Granny?

My great-great grandmother, Susan Virginia Thursday Victoria Ridgeway Riley, and her daughter Pearl Estella Angeline Hazel Riley Parker

My great-great grandmother, Susan Virginia Thursday Victoria Ridgeway Riley, and her daughter Pearl Estella Angeline Hazel Riley Parker

For over two years, I’ve been contemplating this genealogy column. Contemplating it, mind you, not actually writing it. Denise and Jeff have been encouraging it, giving me carte blanche to write about whatever genealogical topic pops into my head—but never pressuring. Dublin and Philadelphia’s own fiddler, Paraic Keane, even unknowingly came up with the title, “Who’s Your Granny?” in a completely unrelated conversation with the Philadelphia Ceili Group’s Anne McNiff; as soon as I heard it, I claimed it in the name of Irish Philadelphia.

And, now, with the most Irish of all days just a little over a week away, it is finally time. Welcome to the first official genealogy column of Irish Philly.

Last week I made my first trip to the Philadelphia Archives, down on Chestnut Street between 9th and 10th. It’s a place I’ve been meaning to venture into for a very long time, but it was a talk by my friend and genealogist Deborah Large Fox that finally got me in the building. The topic was “Grandma Was a What?” and focused on collecting and preserving family stories. Although the lecture was for a general audience, the subject could have been created for Irish family research. Who is better at telling stories and passing them down than the Irish? It was the stories I heard as a child about my Riley ancestors that first got me hooked on genealogy—great-great grandfather Samuel Riley fought for both sides in the Civil War, starting out for the South, getting captured by the North, escaping and returning to the South…and then after it was all over, receiving two pensions, one from the Union and one from the Confederacy.

And, as Deb Fox pointed out, “Every family story has a nugget of truth.” My great-great grandfather did indeed file for pensions from both the North and the South, but the truth was a little more complicated, and less glorified, than the story. I found Samuel’s Virginia pension file online at the Library of Virginia’s Civil War Guide.  And then, a few years later, while searching Ancestry.com, I found that a Samuel Riley, living in Virginia, had filed for a Union pension and cited a Pennsylvania unit. Using the information from that source, I went to the National Archives Military Records, and sent away for those records. Included in the file was a letter written by his daughter Eugenia stating that “he was with Co. B. 4th Pa Cavalry But a short time before he was wounded he is not able to get about now with 9 nine children all too small to help them self & a sick wife I would be so glad if you would use your influence in the pension office he deserted the Rebel Army & joind the U.S. Army & the people here won’t have a thing to do with him.”

Apparently, Samuel went off to join the 4th Pa Cavalry of his own volition, and was branded a deserter when he returned to Virginia after the war. Many times, the story is a prettier version of the truth, which is the tricky part about genealogy. Every family has skeletons, and when you start digging around in the family bones, you never know what’s going to fall out. When preserving the family record, both the stories and the records have a place.

“Documentation is the cure for a lot of genealogical ills…attribute the story. At least you have the source listed,” Deb explained. “Are records more reliable than stories? Records can create the same whisper down the lane effect. It’s keeping your sources, noting them down, being a skeptic—but you can be a skeptic and still enjoy the stories.”

And when you record the family stories, decide what your purpose is and who your audience will be. Is it for yourself, or for your descendants? Members of the public or living family members? This can make a difference even in the format you choose to use to preserve the history. There are many options out there now beyond just the published narrative. Many researchers set up websites, and encourage input from other branches of the family. Others make DVDs or photo books.

It’s still a complicated business when it comes to revealing an ugly family secret. I have found more than a few in my research—all a matter of public record—and while I strongly believe that the truth should be told, that there is healing in getting it out there all these generations later, I do think it’s important to be sensitive to anyone still living who may be personally affected by having a not-so-long-hidden secret unveiled.

Deb’s talk at the Archives was part of their Friday Genealogy Open House series, and this is a great way to meet up with other researchers. Visitors are encouraged to bring a lunch, and several people I talked to had taken the train in to Philly, which eliminated the cost and problem of finding parking. For more information, check out their website: Philadelphia Archives: Friday Genealogy Open Houses. And now that I’ve finally made it inside, I’m planning many more return visits to finally get to the bottom of my own Philadelphia ancestors’ mysteries.

For more great information, check out Deborah Large Fox’s genealogy blogs: Help! The Faerie Folk Hid My Ancestors! and her newest, Spilling the Family Beans.

Genealogy, News, People

A Final Farewell to John Ruddy

Frank and Bill Watson are joined by a third piper at the gravesite in Ardara, Donegal. Photo courtesy of Donegal News.

Frank and Bill Watson are joined by a third piper at the gravesite in Ardara, Donegal. Photo courtesy of Donegal News.

By Harry Walsh in Ardara
Reprinted with permission of the Donegal News

DONEGAL man John Ruddy was buried in Ardara on Saturday afternoon, 181 years after he was believed to have been murdered at Duffy’s Cut, 20 miles west of Philadelphia.

Ruddy, from Inishowen,was among a group of 57 Irish labourers were who sailed from Derry on the John Stamp in June 1832. Within five weeks of arriving, all had perished.

On Saturday afternoon, he was accorded honours denied during his short, cruel life as his remains were interred following a poignant burial ceremony conducted by Canon Austin Laverty, Parish Priest, Ardara.

The casket was carried to its final resting place by Earl Schandelmeier, a Historian at Immaculata University, which was the driving force behind the Duffy’s Cut project, accompanied by three pipers in kilts. They were closely followed by Sadie Ruddy, who lives in Portnoo, and her first cousins James and Bernard Ruddy from Quigley’s Point, all three of whom are direct descendants of the deceased.

Canon Laverty told those assembled that “this brings a form of closure to a sad and shameful chapter of American history and re-enforced how desperate times were in this country at the beginning of the nineteenth century.”

Looking out across the graveyard towards Loughros Bay and the Atlantic Ocean beyond, Canon Laverty noted that Slieve Tooey – visible in the distance – was possibly the last piece of Ireland that Mr Ruddy and those who left Derry in 1832 saw through the mists of their tears.

“In a strange way it’s appropriate that his mortal remains are laid here to rest in his native county,” Canon Laverty said.

Prof William Watson of the history department at Immaculata who spearheaded the research and excavation with his twin brother Frank Watson were then joined be fellow piper Tom Connors to play Amazing Grace.

Speaking afterwards a clearly emotional Mr Schandelmeier said that he had been overwhelmed by the whole project.

“This has gone from being something which was on a piece of paper, and time spent looking through the archives, to finding a guy whom we are able to bring back to his homeland today.

“Lots of things happened to allow that to happen – it was almost synchronisity. Things were lined up and it was as if he was almost delivered to us.

“The body we excavated had a one in a million anomaly. There are not a million Ruddys and there are not a million people in Donegal, and here’s a Ruddy and he has it and two of his aunts have it and they also have a story in the family of a guy coming over to the US in the 1830s, working on the rail road and vanishing. What are the odds of that? How could it not be him? It’s been truly miraculous and, as a result, today was incredibly moving,” he said.

“This is history which has been brought to life. It’s not just black and white any more. He has a face, teeth, we’ve uncovered the instruments he ate with – he’s a human being.
“Sad events like this happen every day all over the world. People die unnecessarily – their memories are lost and no one cares. It’s great to be able to give him some dignity – if it’s 181 year ago or if it was yesterday,” he said.

Philadelphia-Columbus railway

The story starts in 1828, when Irishman Philip Duffy won a contract to build Mile 59 of the Philadelphia-Columbus railway.

Mr Duffy enlisted “a sturdy looking band of the sons of Erin”, according to an 1829 newspaper article. The men moved heavy clay, stones and shale from the top of a hill to an adjacent valley, hence the name Duffy’s Cut. They were poor, Irish-speaking Catholics who would have been paid “$10 to $15 a month, with a miserable lodging, and a large allowance for whiskey” according to a British historian of the time.

Cholera broke out and the workers’ camp was quarantined. Some escaped but returned because the surrounding affluent Scotch-Irish population refused to help them.

“Of all the places in the world, this was the worst place for them to be,” Prof Watson explained. “They were expendable. Because they were recently arrived Irishmen, they were assumed to be the cause of the epidemic. It was anti-Catholic, anti-Irish prejudice; white-on-white racism.”

Prof Watson learned of the story in 2002, when he found a secret report that had been kept by his grandfather, an assistant to the president of the Pennsylvania Rail road.
In 2005, excavations near the Amtrak line unearthed old glass buttons, crockery and a clay pipe stamped with an Irish harp – “the oldest example of Irish nationalism in North America”, says Prof Watson.

Four more years passed, and the project enlisted the help of a geologist armed with a ground-penetrating radar. The first remains, those of John Ruddy, were discovered.
Mr Ruddy never grew an upper right first molar, a rare genetic defect. When the find was reported in Ireland, two dozen members of the Ruddy family contacted Watson. One of them, William Ruddy, travelled to Pennsylvania to give a DNA sample.

Prof Watson says “hundreds and hundreds, probably thousands” of Irishmen died building US rail roads and canals.

“The doors are opening slowly” to excavate the bones of the other 51 victims from Amtrak and private property at Duffy’s Cut.

Immaculata University is establishing an institute to explore at least six more mass graves in Pennsylvania and neighbouring states.

“The industrial revolution was made by Irishmen,” says Prof Watson. “Nobody talks about the toll it took on them. We’re looking at the seamy underside of the industrial revolution.”

See the story as it originally appeared in The Donegal News.

Special thanks to Sean Feeny of The Donegal News.

Genealogy, News, People

A Final Farewell to John Ruddy

Frank and Bill Watson are joined by a third piper at the gravesite in Ardara, Donegal. Photo courtesy of Donegal News.

Frank and Bill Watson are joined by a third piper at the gravesite in Ardara, Donegal. Photo courtesy of Donegal News.

By Harry Walsh in Ardara
Reprinted with permission of the Donegal News

DONEGAL man John Ruddy was buried in Ardara on Saturday afternoon, 181 years after he was believed to have been murdered at Duffy’s Cut, 20 miles west of Philadelphia.

Ruddy, from Inishowen,was among a group of 57 Irish labourers were who sailed from Derry on the John Stamp in June 1832. Within five weeks of arriving, all had perished.

On Saturday afternoon, he was accorded honours denied during his short, cruel life as his remains were interred following a poignant burial ceremony conducted by Canon Austin Laverty, Parish Priest, Ardara.

The casket was carried to its final resting place by Earl Schandelmeier, a Historian at Immaculata University, which was the driving force behind the Duffy’s Cut project, accompanied by three pipers in kilts. They were closely followed by Sadie Ruddy, who lives in Portnoo, and her first cousins James and Bernard Ruddy from Quigley’s Point, all three of whom are direct descendants of the deceased.

Canon Laverty told those assembled that “this brings a form of closure to a sad and shameful chapter of American history and re-enforced how desperate times were in this country at the beginning of the nineteenth century.”

Looking out across the graveyard towards Loughros Bay and the Atlantic Ocean beyond, Canon Laverty noted that Slieve Tooey – visible in the distance – was possibly the last piece of Ireland that Mr Ruddy and those who left Derry in 1832 saw through the mists of their tears.

“In a strange way it’s appropriate that his mortal remains are laid here to rest in his native county,” Canon Laverty said.

Prof William Watson of the history department at Immaculata who spearheaded the research and excavation with his twin brother Frank Watson were then joined be fellow piper Tom Connors to play Amazing Grace.

Speaking afterwards a clearly emotional Mr Schandelmeier said that he had been overwhelmed by the whole project.

“This has gone from being something which was on a piece of paper, and time spent looking through the archives, to finding a guy whom we are able to bring back to his homeland today.

“Lots of things happened to allow that to happen – it was almost synchronisity. Things were lined up and it was as if he was almost delivered to us.

“The body we excavated had a one in a million anomaly. There are not a million Ruddys and there are not a million people in Donegal, and here’s a Ruddy and he has it and two of his aunts have it and they also have a story in the family of a guy coming over to the US in the 1830s, working on the rail road and vanishing. What are the odds of that? How could it not be him? It’s been truly miraculous and, as a result, today was incredibly moving,” he said.

“This is history which has been brought to life. It’s not just black and white any more. He has a face, teeth, we’ve uncovered the instruments he ate with – he’s a human being.

“Sad events like this happen every day all over the world. People die unnecessarily – their memories are lost and no one cares. It’s great to be able to give him some dignity – if it’s 181 years ago or if it was yesterday,” he said.

Philadelphia-Columbus railway

The story starts in 1828, when Irishman Philip Duffy won a contract to build Mile 59 of the Philadelphia-Columbus railway.

Mr Duffy enlisted “a sturdy looking band of the sons of Erin”, according to an 1829 newspaper article. The men moved heavy clay, stones and shale from the top of a hill to an adjacent valley, hence the name Duffy’s Cut. They were poor, Irish-speaking Catholics who would have been paid “$10 to $15 a month, with a miserable lodging, and a large allowance for whiskey” according to a British historian of the time.

Cholera broke out and the workers’ camp was quarantined. Some escaped but returned because the surrounding affluent Scotch-Irish population refused to help them.

“Of all the places in the world, this was the worst place for them to be,” Prof Watson explained. “They were expendable. Because they were recently arrived Irishmen, they were assumed to be the cause of the epidemic. It was anti-Catholic, anti-Irish prejudice; white-on-white racism.”

Prof Watson learned of the story in 2002, when he found a secret report that had been kept by his grandfather, an assistant to the president of the Pennsylvania Rail road.
In 2005, excavations near the Amtrak line unearthed old glass buttons, crockery and a clay pipe stamped with an Irish harp – “the oldest example of Irish nationalism in North America”, says Prof Watson.

Four more years passed, and the project enlisted the help of a geologist armed with a ground-penetrating radar. The first remains, those of John Ruddy, were discovered.

Mr Ruddy never grew an upper right first molar, a rare genetic defect. When the find was reported in Ireland, two dozen members of the Ruddy family contacted Watson. One of them, William Ruddy, travelled to Pennsylvania to give a DNA sample.

Prof Watson says “hundreds and hundreds, probably thousands” of Irishmen died building US rail roads and canals.

“The doors are opening slowly” to excavate the bones of the other 51 victims from Amtrak and private property at Duffy’s Cut.

Immaculata University is establishing an institute to explore at least six more mass graves in Pennsylvania and neighbouring states.

“The industrial revolution was made by Irishmen,” says Prof Watson. “Nobody talks about the toll it took on them. We’re looking at the seamy underside of the industrial revolution.”

See the story as it originally appeared in The Donegal News.

Special thanks to Sean Feeny of The Donegal News.

Genealogy, History, News

Rest in Peace: John Ruddy

Professor Bill Watson and Vince Gallagher. Gallagher donated the plot in the Donegal cemetery where John Ruddy will be buried on March 2.

Professor Bill Watson and Vince Gallagher. Gallagher donated the plot in the Donegal cemetery where John Ruddy will be buried on March 2.

The remains of John Ruddy, one of 57 Irish railroad workers who died at an area in Malvern known as Duffy’s Cut, will be buried on Saturday, March 2 in a donated grave at Holy Family Church in Ardara, County Donegal, Ireland—181 years after his death.

The remains were shipped to Ireland several weeks ago, said Professor William Watson of Immaculata University who, with his twin brother, Frank, discovered the remains of the victims who may have died of cholera—or were murdered by vigilantes—near a railroad embankment in the woods in East Whiteland Township.

Vincent Gallagher, a businessman and president of the Commodore Barry Club (The Irish Center) in Philadelphia, donated the grave in his family plot. The Watsons had hoped that Ruddy, who was believed to be an 18-year-old from Inishowen, would be buried near his own family, but the DNA tests on the body and a possible family member in Ireland have not been completed.

The remains of six other victims, including one woman, that were recovered from the site were buried in a donated grave in West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Lower Merion last fall. Skulls of several of those victims exhibited signs of violence and a University of Pennsylvania anthropologist confirmed that one was shot through the head. The Watsons have speculated that the seven may have tried to leave the site after the cholera outbreak and were killed to keep them from spreading the disease, which is caused by a bacteria and is usually spread by consuming contaminated food or water.

Work is expected to begin this spring to unearth the rest of the Duffy’s Cut victims who are buried much deeper than the first seven and close to the Amtrak railroad tracks. Following the intervention of US Sen. Robert Casey and other legislators, Amtrak, which originally told the Watsons that it was too dangerous to dig up the remains so close to the tracks, finally gave permission.

The Smithsonian Channel will be airing the documentary, “The Ghosts of Duffy’s Cut,” on March 7 at 8 AM and 5 PM, and again on March 15 at 10 PM.

Genealogy

Of Irish Ancestry? There’s An App for That

viagra cost

m/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/4-Family-Crest1-173×300.jpg” alt=”” width=”173″ height=”300″ />Your iPhone or iPad may bring you even closer to your roots.

Jusst don’t expect miracles from the new Irish Family Ancestry app available at the iTunes store. You’re still going to have to put some elbow grease into your search. At this point, it’s more of an entry level intro to your Irish ancestry.

You just enter your name and some basic information comes up: the history of your family name, the original family mottos, alternate spellings, and the meaning of your name. You’ll also get a family crest, but don’t get excited. Most of those family crests are from families who probably had way more money and prestige than yours did. I don’t believe for a moment that my Foleys, who emigrated to Newfoundland, Canada, to farm and fish, knew any of the Foleys whose crest bears three black fleur de lis. Many of my ancestors couldn’t read or write. Let’s get real here.

So far it contains only 100 names and is only available for iPhone and iPad. Android users are out of luck for the moment.

Check it out on the iTunes website.  It might provide a little respite from checking your Facebook status or playing Words With Friends. It can’t hurt–it’s free.