An Irish Tale of…

I’m a little late for St. Patrick’s Day but I have a little Irish tale of beginnings and endings.

Once upon a time, there lived an O’Neill named Thomas and his son Owen. The two men hailed from County Clare but, alas, life on the bonny Isle of Eire was not good. Potato blight and famine cursed the land.

One day, when their pockets were as empty as their stomachs, they decided to leave. Life had to be better somewhere else. So they set off on a long journey to America.

They surely saw many sights new to them, first as they crossed their native soil to an Irish port, then in Liverpool where they boarded the ship IKL, bound for the Land of Plenty, the place where dreams come true.

And so, on 22 March 1851, their new life in America began. They landed in New Orleans, but the surrounding humid delta terrain surely couldn’t have reminded them much of home. So they set out for greener lands… The Midwest.

And it’s here that our beginning ends… at least for Thomas [1], who died in St. Louis, Missouri of cholera just twenty-nine days after arriving in what surely seemed to him to be the end of the rainbow.

Owen [2] kept looking for that pot of gold. Found it, perhaps, in Springfield, Illinois, where he married and settled down.

And, whenever a rainbow lit up a rainy afternoon sky, he perhaps remembered the unfulfilled dreams of his father and the Emerald Island they forever left behind.

Notes & Sources

  1. Little is known about Thomas O’Neill, my 4th-great-grandfather, except that he was born sometime around 1806 and died on 21 April 1851 of cholera [3] in St. Louis, MO. His age is disputed, being listed as 45 on the IKL passenger list and as 47 on the Missouri Death Certificate.
  2. Owen O’Neill, my 3rd-great-grandfather, was just 17 when he left his home for America. In February of 1854, he married Honora Roach in Sangamon County, Illinois. Their daughter, Katie O’Neill O’Brien, was my maternal grandmother’s grandmother.
  3. Cholera was a frequent traveler aboard Immigration Ships.
  4. For more information about County Clare and the Famine

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