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Posts Tagged ‘Irish History’

Magen David

You know you are maturing when people start saying, “You have sure seen a lot of changes in your lifetime!”  I’ve not experienced as much change as my Dad did; he lived from 1896 to 1998, and throughout his lifetime he maintained a fervent interest in new inventions and rapidly expanding technology.  He would have LOVED this current cyber-age—especially the phone/cameras as photography was one of his many passions.

Of all the changes I can recall, perhaps the one I find most astounding is the research and discoveries wrapped up in three letters:  DNA.  What follows in this entry may be so boring to so many readers, that I seriously doubt it will get many “hits”.  Nonetheless, since it is of interest to me, I will continue:

I grew up in a genealogy-conscious family.*  My Mom and my maternal Grandma Kate did extensive research on their Scottish Covenant heritage.  They were descended from Campbells of Argyll and Luckeys from the Scottish Borders—sent by the English Crown to colonize Northern Ireland and make it Protestant.  Those Scots-Irish came to the new world in the late 1600s.

My paternal grandfather’s ancestors came from Switzerland in the early 1700s, and settled in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in that German speaking community known as “Pennsylvania Dutch”.  My paternal grandmother Rose’s people escaped religious discrimination in Alsace-Lorraine, and migrated to Michigan in the mid 1800s.

So I grew up with basically 4-5 nationalities to claim pertaining to the surnames we have on record:  Scottish Celts,  probably some real Celtic Irish, German Swiss, and ancestors from Alsace-Lorraine—-with a combination of German and French given the surnames we have on record.

Then there was an undocumented report—that we also had a Jewish heritage, via my Grandma Rose.  Over the years I have cherished this “rumor”, as the Jewish people and (since 1948) the Israeli nation are among my greatest loves.

Even though Joe records our TV news broadcasts each day so that we don’t have to sit through commercials, I couldn’t miss the Ancestry.com ads that raced through our fast-forwarding act.  I ultimately succumbed, ordered the “spit tube”, and mailed a token of my origins to Utah.**  The results nearly blew me away, and have given me a new and refreshing outlook on who I am!

Some insight into the mystery:  Every person’s DNA is unique, and no other human on earth will have the same EXCEPT in the case of identical twins.  If two people are hatched out of the same egg, then as I understand it their DNA will match.  (Proof of how a Master Designer fashioned each egg to be special!)

There are subtle differences between DNA and genealogy.  Genealogy tells us where our people came from.  DNA tells us what is in each person, regardless of what they may or may not know about their ancestors’ countries of origin. 

(Please, if you are a scientist reading this blog, set me—along with other readers—straight if I am incorrect!  My majors were English literature and the French language.  Period.)

Back to my spit test.  The results amazed me on several points.  The expected Scottish Celt simply is not present.  In its place is 13% Viking!***  Now we all know that the Vikings invaded Scotland during the 8th and 9th centuries.  But it wasn’t all rape and pillage.  Some of those feisty blondes and redheads stayed in Scotland to do a number on my Argyll Campbells.  My Mom and Grandma Kate may have had lots of Scottish Celt DNA.  I have none. 

But I have a very good percentage of Irish Celt:  nearly 1/4th of my total DNA.  So the Protestant Northern Scots-Irish paired up with Green Irish either over there or in America.  Having read volumes of documentary on the beleaguered history of the Green Irish, I am delighted to stand with them—albeit as a fundamentalist/Evangelical Protestant.

There is a small amount of English in my DNA as well; I had thought there might be more, due to the plethora of English names which married into the Campbells and Luckeys.  One never knows!

In the DNA report, my paternal German Swiss, German, and French are lumped into one category:  Western European.  In my case this comprises a whopping 39%.  That was predictable.

Now the surprises, the unknowns that have proved my $99.00 Spit Kit investment really exciting and worthwhile:  13% Greek or Italian (where in the world did THAT come from—I LOVE it!) and (are you ready for this, dear reader?) 1% European Jewish.****

How encouraging!  That 1% is not a huge number, but to me it is significant.  The way I understand DNA, even with a small percentage of Jewish I could have had a Jewish great-grandmother, and my father may have had a large amount of Jewish DNA.

Where in the world is this going?  Right back to the photo at the top of the page.  I ordered my Magen David treasure via AMAZON PRIME, before I realized I could actually claim this heritage.  I love God’s chosen people, the Jews.  That’s reason enough to joyfully display the Blue and White on our garage entrance—along with our Stars and Stripes!  And now I have that 1% provenance of shared kinship!

My Superman Joe mounted the Magen David for me, on Resurrection Day weekend!

Margaret L. Been — April, 2017

*Interest in genealogy is a big Wisconsin thing.  We natives tend to say, “I’m Irish” or “I’m Whatever”—as if we had just landed on American soil, specifically on our beloved Wisconsin turf.

**A note on the spit test.  If you are inclined to pursue this adventure, remember not to eat, drink, chew, or inhale anything for at least an hour before spitting into the tube.  I didn’t read my directions carefully, and did the test along with my ubiquitous cup of strong coffee which polluted the sample.  (It might have tested out 100% caffeine.)  Anyway, Ancestry.com kindly sent me a new tube, free of additional charge. 

***In our household, that percentage of Viking is a bit of a hoot.  My husband is extremely (and rightfully!) proud of his Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish roots.  The fact that I share these roots is an eye-roller!  

****European Jewish, otherwise known as The Ashkenazim, refers to Jewish people dispersed from their homeland in the Middle East and scattered over Europe during centuries of persecution.

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Every year at this time, since I began blogging, I’ve commemorated Pearl Harbor with a photo of the disaster.  This year, I can’t bring myself to feature the photo.  Recently, whenever I think of Japan I think of the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Necessary from a military standpoint?  Yes!  Unthinkably tragic from a human standpoint?  YES! 

We need to remember history, mainly because we could benefit from learning.  History could provide foresight and wisdom.  But it’s been shown again and again that people do not learn from history.  We may remember history, but we simply play it again.

As Christians, we are commanded to forgive.  Forgiveness is the very core of our faith, and the reason why we are standing here rather than decimated and plowed under by God’s wrath.  Yet there are historical characters whom I cannot forgive in my fallen humanity:  especially Hitler, for his atrocities to God’s people the Jews.  And Stalin. 

And, going way back—Oliver Cromwell.  I read a lot of documentaries on Irish history.  I’m currently experiencing a formidable challenge knowing that I have to forgive the British Empire, not only for its mindless brutality in Ireland but for centuries of power lust and domination in India and Africa.  My husband, always the wit, suggests that I gather up all my English tea and dump it in the harbor a mile from our home.

However when I think England I want to think tea and English country gardens—along with Shakespeare, Jane Austin, Keats, the Brontës, Thomas Hardy, John Galsworthy and other authors too numerous to name.  I want to think our precious English language, and English theatre which (in my opinion) is second to none. 

When I think Russia I want to remember ballet and Tchaikowsky who, tortured as he was in his personal life, left the world a legacy of hauntingly beautiful music.  When I think Germany I want to recall Bach and Beethoven—and the tradition of gemütlichkeit reflected by German Americans in the cultural history of Wisconsin.  When I think Japan I want to focus on centuries of exquisite art traditions:  painting, poetry, gardening.

Every nation on earth has its shame as well as its pride.  Individuals are born sinners.  National shame is sin multiplied.  America is not exempt from national sin.  Just ask the decendants of the Cherokee and other Native Nations who walked the Trail of Tears from the deep South to Oklahoma and points West.  Or ask the descendants of slaves.

There is only One Remedy for sin, and that was accomplished for us at Calvary.  God’s Remedy for sin came to us as a baby, born in a crude and humble manger some 2000 plus years ago.  He is coming again!  “And He shall reign forever and ever!”

Meanwhile I will remember December 7th, 1941.  Remember, but move on!

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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Where can I begin to thank our Lord?  I have nothing but thanksgiving:  for God, and whom He is; for salvation, and the promise of eternal life; for more blessings on earth than I can begin to count—a happy childhood, ongoing cultural opportunities, a precious marriage of almost 59 years, a large and loving family, friends, a sweet dog, fresh air, the beauties of nature, a pleasant and comfortable home, food to eat, clothes to wear, a bed, a plethora of books, and an abundance of creative hobbies.

Where can I begin?  Perhaps with that huge blessing which is not listed above, yet one for which I thank God every single day:  FREEDOM.  With all that is wrong in America, we are still free.  We can publish our views around the world, via the internet—without censorship—at least for now.  We can choose our children’s education.  We can worship in public.  We can read our Bibles and pray in coffee houses and bistros, without fear—at least for now.  We are still free!

I read a lot of historical novels and documentary non-fiction on the subject of Irish history.  Actually I know Irish history nearly as well as I know that of my own country!  As I read, I think over and over:  Lord thank you that, with God’s enabling, my ancestors (many of Scottish and Irish descent) were a part of our American Revolution.  The tenacity of the Irish people, like that of our early Americans, stirs my heart profoundly!  

I thank God that, throughout history, that there have been countless heroes who sacrificed everything they had for the cause of freedom!  And of all those heroes, no other people on earth loom larger in their quest for freedom than God’s chosen people—the Jews.  I’m thankful for American history, Irish history, and for the Jewish people and the nation of Israel.  

Meanwhile although Christians everywhere have inner, spiritual freedom in Jesus Christ, much of the world is still in physical bondage.  I praise the Lord Jesus for His promise to return, and reign on earth as King of kings and Lord of lords.  Someday, hopefully soon, the entire world will be free! 

“Yea, many people and strong nations will come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord.”  Zechariah 8:22 

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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April is National Poetry Month.  I’m kicking off an early celebration here at Northern Reflections.  I may feature some of my own poetry as April progresses—but most of all, I want to share lines from some of my most beloved great poets.  Let’s begin!

He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,

Enwrought with gold and silver light,

The blue and the dim and the dark cloths

Of night and light and the half light,

I would spread the cloths under your feet;

But I, being poor, have only my dreams;

I have spread my dreams under your feet;

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

William Butler Yeats—1865-1939

(William Butler Yeats was born in Dublin, and grew up in County Sligo.  His family was Protestant Ascendency, but Yeats’ sympathies and energies were focused on freedom for Ireland.  While his contemporaries fought the bloody battles of those early 20th century years, Yeats was a major player in the Irish literary revival.  He did much to unearth and preserve Irish legendry and lore–most of which had been buried in centuries of British oppression. 

A few summers ago I had the unforgettable experience of hearing an Irish actor, Batt Burns, recite the above poem at Milwaukee’s Irish Fest.  I believe there is no accent on earth more arresting than the Celtic voice—be it Irish, Scottish, or Welsh.) 

Margaret L. Been

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Awhile back I wrote about painting what we know.  “Knowing” doesn’t always mean experiencing first hand.  A person can live in a place, yet not really know or understand it from the inside out.  Conversely, we can read about a locale so intently and intensely that we do indeed “know” it. 

Experience can be shallow, trite, and superficial—while deeply involved reading never is!  Thus we can visit a place for the first time, and feel profoundly “at home”—as if we have always been there.  When Joe and I traveled the back roads of Scotland in a rented car, I was “at home” thanks to a lifetime of hearing and reading about that ancestral land. 

And I know I’ll feel likewise if we ever visit Ireland, pictured above in watercolor ink and rendered from my imagination.  Through ancestral roots* and much reading, Ireland is familiar turf to me.

My Irish-background maternal grandfather, Ambrose Luckey, was the only one of my four grandparents whom I don’t remember.  He died when I was a year old.  But his portrait, along with that of his wife—my Grandma Kate—sits on my piano.  He looks kind, gentle, and a bit melancholy.

Ambrose Luckey was born and raised on a small farm in central Wisconsin where he married my grandmother, Kate Campbell—the daughter of Alexander Campbell, a Congregational preacher in Pine River, Wisconsin.  Their three children, my mother and her two older brothers, were born on that farm.  When Mother was four years old, the family moved to Madison at Grandma Kate’s insistence, so that the children could attend the University of Wisconsin. 

I grew up with the story of how that move to Madison broke Ambrose’s heart.  Although his Irish ancestors had come to America back in the late 1700s, Grandpa Ambrose still had the Irish passion for land. 

Reportedly, Grandpa never did adjust to living on Langdon Street near the busy Madison university.  Grandma Kate kept the family together, by working as a practical nurse and taking in boarders.  I recall childhood visits to the green bungalow where Grandma lived.

I have thought a lot over the years about my unknown Grandfather, and I sense a bond not only from hearing family stories about him but from identification with him.  I understand his temperament, and can imagine his sorrow over losing his beloved lifestyle.

Over the last decade, I’ve read everything I could get my hands on about Ireland.  Two books stand out among the plethora:  THE GREAT HUNGER, a documentary of the potato famine years, by Cecil Woodham Smith—and THE END OF THE HUNT, a well-documented novel of the years from the 1916 EASTER RISING up to the 1930s and the aftermath of the Irish Free State Treaty with Britain and the subsequent Irish Civil War, by Thomas Flanagan.

Much as I love English literature, English bone china, English films, and many other things British, I have no love for English imperial policies of the past. 

Power corrupts, and every nation has its shame.  I’m ashamed of America’s past treatment of blacks and Native Americans.  Nazi Germany stands at the top of the list of horrors, when it comes to “man’s inhumanity to man”. 

Likewise, 700 years of English domination, exploitation, and abject cruelty to the Irish simply cannot be borne with academic complacency.  Although my Irish ancestors settled in the New World over 200 years ago, and even though they were Protestants from Northern Ireland, my heart and soul are inextricably bound to the Irish people—northern and southern!  

I’m eternally thankful that our early Americans had the good sense to dump that tea into Boston Harbor!  And someday I hope to experience the familiar turf of Ireland.  Meanwhile, I’m painting what I know!

*How we need to know our ancestral roots!  Wisconsin natives know where they came from.  In our state, it’s common to hear people say they are Irish, Polish, German, Swedish, Czech, Welsh, or whatever.  This is one of the many reasons I love Wisconsin!

©Margaret L. Been

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