Wednesday, March 18, 2009

as far as i'm concerned it's a fact we're not irish, though i married into irish, so to speak, and it wouldn't bother me if i were to find out that we had some irish ancestors that i didn't know about. but i don't count it if someone who is scottish for example happens to be born in ireland; we could call him irish but no more than i could call my son korean, who was born in korea. my sister had told a lady at work that maybe we were irish because of an old pig story, but i set her straight on what i knew about the pig story, which i'll tell right now, to the best of my ability, based on a torn and tattered piece of paper that i have had in my pocket since last july when i was at my parents' house.

now to set the record straight, one could go right back to that house, open up the books, and find the same information only probably more accurately, so don't take this as gospel truth. i copied it; i folded it up; i was unable to throw it away; i carried it around for months. here it is, torn & in my hand. take it for what it's worth.

it's an old family story that a couple of boys stole a pig, ran away, and somehow ended up in america. the best i could get from my research, there were seven brothers, at least three of which ended up in the usa; they were sons of william and mary wallace of ayrshire scotland; the sons, john, james, and william, and possibly hugh (who ended up in south carolina, possibly), lived near prestwick scotland, inland; here was mentioned the following phrases: east of the island of bute; along the firth of clyde; from ayr northward near prestwick. john was first to come to the usa, but his son, robert, was actually born in ireland in 1796. robert, who married margaret hendrickson, had a son james jamieson wallace who was a doctor and was my grandfather's grandfather, or my great great grandfather. j.j. wallace was a third son and a doctor. his son j.c. (john crawford) wallace was my grandfather's father; he had a son jack, or j.c. junior, but my grandfather, james jackson wallace, decided not to be a doctor, left pennsylvania, and moved out to iowa in the early 1900's.

so how they got from ayrshire, scotland to pennsylvania: 3 or 4 boys appropriated a pig in scotland. they pulled their boat out of the bushes on the shore and went to ireland. they had an uncle living in donegal county and they think maybe these boys went there. did they take the pig? who knows, it probably wasn't a large boat. the first wallaces came to carlisle, pa, but didn't stay; though he was married and had a son, william, his wife died; he went back to ireland and married a crawford (and here's where the paper is torn) where robert was born; in fact six were born in donegal county (near londonderry?)- it's not clear to me if there was a large community of scots here, or just an uncle, or neither. robert was a baby, but they moved to the usa again, this time to cecil county maryland, and from there to butler county pennsylvania, where, as we now know, there is a place called wallace run, lots of wallaces, a history of wallaces. many wallaces followed john here to butler county (not to say even that he was the first); by the time my grandfather came along (he was born in pa, i'm pretty sure) wallace run was a well-established place and his aunt lived on wallace street (maybe?) in new castle, pa.

now all this tends to obscure the details of the pig. my sister seemed to think we were from theiving low-down, trailer trash stock, though i may be exaggerating her words, but she also wrote it down to the leverett side, when in fact it was the wallace side; i, on the other hand, had ascribed it to dire poverty, not necessarily immoral, something people do when they have no options, no way to get work or a place to live. and, i had heard that such stories were common in the scotland of late-18th century; the land was owned up by the rich; jobs and money were scarce; any excuse they could find to kick people off the land, even native people, but out-of-work people, they took; once in ireland, where things were friendlier, maybe, but not necessarily easier, it looked, to them, easier to cross a whole wide ocean, and get a place to live, than to go back across a narrow strait and face the kind of life those boys had left. so, i wasn't especially harsh on my ancestors, even if the story was true, which it probably is.

but that's different entirely from calling them irish, or calling us irish. even northern ireland (scot) irish, who have been there many generations, will never be called irish by the other irish (now what do i know really, maybe nothing)- and probably don't call themselves irish, though this may have softened- and so, keeping this in mind, i always say scot-irish maybe, when asked if i'm irish. our family was there, on that irish island, for maybe a generation, where one of us was born and then moved on west to pennsylvania.

now it so happens though, that 'wallace' is a scottish word for 'welsh', so chances are very likely that some ancestor somewhere did some traveling around that little archipelago, and so, to tell the truth, i think that whole thing about separation of the peoples, are you welsh, are you scottish, are you irish, etc., may be a little overrated. there are, for example, all these women in the genealogy who are not very carefully documented; at least i didn't document them, though in some cases some people did, and they actually brought up the children, yet, how far back they went, who knows, and if they were irish or not, or their mothers, who knows. and it doesn't take very long before you lose the trail and you figure, it all kind of runs together.

but it's interesting, how you can take a family legend, and put it on the table, and it might look entirely different to the feasters at the table. and, 1/365 irish, is a good thing to remember- because it's like your birthday, it's really all in your head. if you want to celebrate your connection, just take it. there's some mighty good music back there, in all those different languages.


Anonymous bruce said...

It wasn't me. Oink. But I might of stole a cookie from the cookie jar a time or two.

11:15 AM  

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