tv [untitled] April 8, 2011 12:00am-12:30am PDT
histories of your family lives. we have spoken in advanced of today's conversation. it's clear to me you pursued the stories of your families histories for decades through genealogical work and writing and reflection. i'm wondering if can describe how you dot work you do and where the seeds of your curiousity, how they were planted and want compelled you to do this work. >> i would say that i was have much inspired since i lived in san francisco, california. we are a country of immigrants. in san francisco in particular, we have so many first generation americans. my husband is just became an american citizen a couple of
months ago. i have friendlieds who are first generation from vietnam. palestine, israel. mexico, as i watch them struggling with their cultural identities and trying to maintain the identities and have the respect as the american citizens they are in this country, it got me to thinking about my family heritage and thinking about how history really does repeat itself. because i know that my people want through these same issues in the famine times when they came. and i thought to myself, why are not more of these stories being told? we need to collect these stories. i am at an age where my parents and their cousins, their
siblings, they are getting close end of their life. one of the main ways i collect my information is through oral history i knew time was on the essense. there were stories that would be lost if i didn't collect these stories immediately. and that's what i embarked upon doing. >> i grew up in brooklyn, new york. my experience was landing by birth into an urban town land. my family, my mother is first generation i'm second generation. my grand mother lived in the apartment building with us. i had aunts upstairs. another aunt lived close by. pretty much 4 days a week my great uncle would come in and visit all of these people my
uncle, my grand mother and so forth, all were from a town land called outside of robin. when i was growing up i would hear the names. and they would conjure the sense of another world i was no longer a part of but was connected to. i think the -- i came to the brink of this sort of, you know, really quest gradualy by hearing the names. the other experience i had when i was growing up is music in my grand mother's house. my grand mother live on the first floor of the apartment building the door was open. everyone in the apartment building stopped there after work. they would stop for a drink and play polka, not polka, poker. and lynched to john gibbons play
an accordion on his wooden leg. you had the sense of people having come over if not in mass by a great number to this other place with a kind of echo of that place being transposed into the world that became my world. so that of my mother's side of the family. my father's side was more mysterious. over time i heard stories of lost aunts and saint john >> new found land which is not where they are from and a deeper echo further back. i had my grandfather's passport from 1918, you could smell the must on it. all of the mysterious presences were there. my father's side was a mystery which we will get to eventually. and the third component is
similar to what margaret was talking about. i irish american. i didn't know what a pure american was. none of my friends were pure americans. a lot of my friends were lebanese and from syria. i had yewish and irish american friends. all of our identities were mixed. my sense of being american was being in a mix of things. >> margaret could you also reflect in a prior conversation you talked about your father had a sense of where he came from and it was a little more difficult for your mom to articulate that? >> sure. mother's side is irish american
my father come from a different heritage. he is a genealogy. he traced his family all the way back to the times when they moved from spain to a region of france. that's where his family came from as peasants in 1850. and for generations, his family members had been going back to this place to visit their distant cousins. they knew exactly where it was. i was thinking that was a year after my irish american family came here. why don't my irish american family know this information.
i want to try to find out what it is. i didn't know at that time what i was undertaking. i heard it said with irish american it's not genealogy it's archaeology. i found out about that later. it's exciting to hear the nuts and bolts experience of discovery. and at the same time i know i heard from both of you that a very spiritual and unmeasurable experience happens of people come alive in the histories of your family's lives. i was wondering if you could bring alive for the audience the individuals or characters of your family's history and also if you can both reflect on this point that daniel's making of the importance in going to the lands and seeing what is there. what that experience was like for you personally.
>> i thought i would read a bit at this point. i think this is a good point for that for me. and so you will hear a little bit of what my writings been like in this experience when i went to ireland for the first time in january of 2007. i was actually lucky enough to find a man in his late 80's who lived in the same area that my family had lived in the 1800's who had been the oral historyian for the area and was able to know that my family had been there and i was able to confirm that with actually in the records, in the library. and so i will read a couple of pages. seems like the right time to introduce this. >> where we from in require land, mom?
she replay plied. my father says the lacies are from tip rare the name of a city in require land, mom, which is it? is how the hell do i know. all i know is it's a long way to tib rary ♪it's a long way to go. then she told me, your father and i went to ireland but we didn't go to tibrare. this is the extent of the family history passed on to me about my irish american ancestory a song written in england in world war one perhaps written as a means to recruit the irish into the british military. i am the first person in my family to locate and travel to the town where we came from in ireland. it turns out that the town is only 60 miles southwest of the
dublin airport. place my family lived is 75 miles from dublin. it is 2007 and i'm sitting in the tibrare studies department in the library in require land looking for books and reading the microfilm of every county tibrare daily nurl from january first 1847 through december 31st 1849. i'm looking for family history and in particular one ancestor who disapeered between 1848 and 1849. james lacy. from what i read in these local newspapers is looks like the people's history of require land during the great hunger, my people's history, was never record indeed books. nor barely mentioned in any newspapers. you will only find mention of the local people if something unusual happened. the librarian tells me.
i read the newspaper so i know that unusual is the polite word for murdered or murderer. why else would a poor person's name apeer in the news? why do i think the newspapers then report differently from today's news? i'm here in ireland reading every paper just in case. i will move ahead. the lacies lived in cottage and palace. in 1848 dozens of families left cottage and the adjoining towns of pad ox, dogs town and palace. i find no mentions of evictions in the newspaper. 731 reported people the largest eviction of a town land in one day happened not 20 miles from cottage and palace in april of
1849. the story had one short paragraph about it in the paper. could it be that most evictions did not make it to the newspaper unless someone died? in the news of january 19th 1848, judith was ejected off a small farm by the landlords james and john parker. she wandered in want without shelter and entered her former abode on the 18th of august last. for this forceable possession shes tried and sentenced to 6 months confinement which punishment of and died of natural causes. eventually i find mention of the easterly of conwell evicting tenants in the near by town land. september 13, 1848 the newspaper
says on monday last the agent of lord kwanwell attended by sheriff, police and bailiff evicted 9 families in 50 souls from the town lands near by. nothing could be more disstressing than to hear the clanking of the embarrass of the cabins mingled with the shrieks of women and children. i switch from reading the newspapers to the books i find james lacy of the books of lectural district of the poor law union. the library has most of the electoral district books for the 1840's. they are beautiful leather bound books with copper writing and calligraphy. the spelling of each name is not consistent from year to year. i find lacy spelled as l. a.
krfrment y. e l. aechlt c. e. y. the books show the records of james lacy up through 1847. there are other tenants on the books. hanly, boshg, ryan, kennedy,llower and hoge an. i examine the rate books people were paying. they paid a tax shillings to the pound. another indicate the tax is paid and another indicate the taxes in arrears. james lacy was paid in full and not in a rears. the tax in 1846 was cut in half from the previous year. the year 1847 shows something else. the people were taxed in may of 1847 and made to pay a 4 fold increase and in october of 1847,
15 times what they were paying in 1846. this amounted to a 900 percent increase in tax in less than a year. still james lacy was paid in full and not in arrears. i show the book to the librarian who knows i am reading papers to look for clearance notices and says, there's your answer now you know why they left. newspaper mentioned the establishment of insolvant commission. in commission states the tax afforded the clearance amongers the most effective means of getting rid of this agricultural population. some landlords were praised as humane for forgiving 3-4 year's rent or accepting what people could pay. these landlords were in the minority and the landlord of cottage where nie family lived was not among them. rate payer
books for 1848 is missing. the book for 1849 is in worse condition than the earlier books. theate book for 1849 is torn and muddy and appears to have blood stains on the pages. as if this book is telling me what happened that awful year. i search for james lacy's name and find it gone along with the other tenant and it is town lands as well. [applause] >> i think on that note i will read a poem, which is my book among other things my quest to discover the family's connection or my connection to that history. and what happens there is the pursuit and the logical seeking after those signs.
those material signs baptismal records and there is happenstance. that's what happened to me once when i went to ireland i staid at a b and b. there are a zillion every other house is a b and b. i hit on the one b and beshgs where the owner said, your last name is to bein i know where all the to beins came to ireland. i said, i'm all ears. this poem goes into that and the last part is a translation from an irish song, the ring. >> i followed the winding coast road back from cove airny moore and her brother cast in branz at the center entrance head of a line at elis island looking as though they a choired dreksz in their own country.
dim passage through american wait and coffinship the figures of a prior generation real to swells and sound effects each swollen in the ache of crossing. my father's ship united states streaming to the harbor, the way it steamed in the narrows below the rising towers of the bridge. above the keys, saint coalmans resided over the dock where my mother's mother waited and my father's forefather disappeared like vermon in the fields they flooded home. i can tell you where the to beins first landed that invited me to the patio in the house glass of whisky regard in luminous in the long twilight. if you drive east on the way to
gonegarvin off to the right you will come on the ring road where there are to beins from norman times. the name [inaudible] into our own name now. i had known history but not the place. so next day driving along the route each village seemed a station on the journey of return. kiely's cross i pursued the paper trail, unwound the breed of names through census and baptism each generation christening the last until it was language on the tongue and the trail trailed to the mists of the unrecorded. now i was tracing a highway to ore gin the potatoes struck
black with blight. metals and we was their faces swollen with fever. stench rising from the evicted burrowed. men like dogs scoured the fields. i saw in one cottage a royal of rats feasting on an infant. no one where i witnessed anything like it not in calcutta. the voiceless children silenced by hunger the bodies burned at night leaving i don't trace. descending the drum hills i turned off the main road following signs and i language lost before i was born. this was land observe the land was renamed and hushed. what was left for me, generations gone. a purfume of smoke freshened my nostrils. pastures reached to the head of the bay.
thick roads where locals greeted with slowly raised hands or a nod of a cap to my car the postcard my eye framed in it's longing. moony's pub where i stopped for a pint and slipped my quest. so, you are a to bein accomodating my english. they're all about here. she showed the photograph with dark hair and features unlike my own but a resemblance of an uncle. what was the ring happened on my chance or grace. why not trace through lost norman crests or track dna to tribes 6,000 years gone from the banks. or further back through each human cell to african eve her grunts are tuning savannahs. i felt the gift shared from the bones later that night in the
crowded room when all the instruments had gone silent and a man rose up shyly alone and sang sean moss one of the singer's songs. beautiful country, i take you to by the black water screens of the beast the thrush and the black bird sings sweetly and the wild deer over the mountains branches with fruits and blossom the and hives with honey. and the corn creek lifts it's cries in the grass. [applause] >> your poem has a sense of place and you mentioned earlier the sensation of going to canada and what it felt like to be in that place in canada and in other opportunities to be in that land in ireland. i wonder if you can reflect and margaret as well, what were the
physical experiences you were having and what was the importance ever going to the place by way of informing your story? >> i don't know if anybody seen there is a series on now on called african-american lives? >> yeah. >> and it remindses me so much of my experience and some of the things that were said that rang through for me are things like, if we don't know where we come from we don't know that we are somebody. it's like, the effects of colonization when -- when our story is taken from us. in when our language is taken and we are disoriented and we come to a