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17 March 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day! My Irish Heritage

Sometime during the 1850's my great grandparents, John Hanlon (1831 – 1895) and Catharine Brady (1832 – 1894) made their way to America from Ireland.  How or where they met, and even the port at which they arrived are still a mystery.  One son, Francis William Hanlon (1870 – 1942),  mentions in the 1925 Iowa Census that they marry in New York.
Two other sons mention their parents were married in Wisconsin:
John Hanlon (1863 – 1928)
and Andrew Hanlon (1859 – 1926):


Thank goodness for the 1925 Iowa Census....3 pages of information for every one!  


John and Catharine first show up in Marcy Township, Brookfield, Waukesha County, Wisconsin in the 1860 census with my grandfather, James Clemons and his new baby brother Andrew.  Their journey took them on to unknown places in Illinois, then to Stone City, Jones County,  Iowa before they arrived in Dallas County, Iowa in the 1880s.


My father, James Francis Hanlon (1898-1987), son of James Clemons Hanlon (1857 – 1923) and Mary Cecilia O'Connell (1860 – 1953), was very proud of his Irish heritage.  But he also carried some bitterness for the discrimination he endured in Iowa in the early 1900s.  When he enlisted in the Great War in 1917 he was the corporal in charge of a platoon of black soldiers who went through after a battle to find live shells across the battlefield, a very dangerous occupation.


He told me so often how he remembers seeing Ireland from the ship as they were going to France for the war.  His heart ached for the land his parents had spoken of.


This picture is of Joseph Paul O'Connell (left) (1893-1965), "double cousin" to my father; my aunt Katie, (Mary Catherine Hanlon Burtch, who got YOUNGER every census year! 1891-1975) and on the far right, my father James Francis Hanlon.


After The Great War, Jim Hanlon eventually returned to Des Moines. He would often tell me how he had wanted to be a policeman, but the Des Moines Police, who my father said were all Masons,  would not hire Irishman.


He chose the field of auto and truck mechanics as his profession instead, and along with his cousin Joe O'Connell became very active in the International Association of Machinists in Des Moines.  Joe eventually became the business agent for the area. 


I was born so late in my father's life (he was 55) that my memories are fading.  My aunt Katie lived with us off and on and would desperately try to teach me to dance "the jig".  I could never do it to her liking, however.  As a young child I was curious about our Irish heritage.  I attended a neighborhood Catholic grade school: St. John's Catholic School on 19th and University in Des Moines, Iowa.  Every St. Patrick's day there was a rivalry that emerged with those who wore green and those who wore orange.  While other children might have heard horror stories at camp or at Halloween, my aunt Katie was constantly weaving the tales of our tortured ancestors...how their fingernails were pulled out for political transgressions.  It seemed she took wicked joy in detailing the horrors of this torture.  My father would only nod in saddened agreement.  Unfortunately I never asked which of the ancestors this happened to!


Well, enough sadness...here are some of my favorite  Irish websites:
http://www.emigrant.ie/  :News for the Global Irish Community
http://www.celticcousins.net/irishiniowa/  :  The Irish in Iowa
http://www.irishgenealogy.ie/  :  1.3 million Irish Church Records (see!  they weren't ALL burned to the ground!)
http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~irishancestors/  A variety of links to pursue.


On a final note, my son Nicholas Ryan Webb (1979-2006) dearly loved every drop of Irish blood in his body.  He attended the Anglo American College of Dublin for a couple of years before following his wanderlust elsewhere.  To you my dearest son, I raise a toast.  You will forever be loved and remembered.



Nick at DunLaoighre, Ireland  from his friend Aine

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