Saturday, March 31, 2007


As a child, I always felt deprived. I could see that friends and neighbors had large families that gathered together for special events and holidays. But my own family was very small. I had one set of parents, one sister, older and smarter than I. Far away and infrequently part of my life, I had one living grandfather, 3 aunts, 3 uncles, and 5 cousins.

There was little I could do about this sad situation, but I vowed that when I grew up, I would create my own large family. Thanks to a very understanding husband, I was able to accomplish this, adding a new set of parents, grandparents, 2 more Aunts, and finally 6 children. I was content.

However, my understanding of what a family was changed drastically when I watched the important TV program "Roots." Only then, did I come to understand that I had a long family history buried away somewhere, and that I might be able to discover who my ancestors were. At the time, I was too busy to conduct such a search, but I knew that I would when I could.

Thanks to some information left to me by my mother, I was able to trace my family further back in time than most people interested in family history. Though almost all of my family came from Ireland at one time or another, I was able to locate where they had come from, and even find some living relatives.

For many recreational genealogists, this would be enough information. But I had always enjoyed history, and stopping with just names, dates and location seemed too limiting. I needed to find out how they lived, and what events of history shaped their lives, and sent them away from Ireland.

It was this passion for history that led me to undertake an intensive study of Irish history during the critical events of the 19th century. The final result of this study has resulted in a recently published history of Ulster during this time period. Those who read Dwelling Place of Dragons will understand how valiant their ancestors were, and how desperate times drove them to leave Ireland for new opportunities in other lands. This book is available at

March31, 2007

Friday, March 30, 2007

Peace for Northern Ireland

How wonderful that the first message on my new blog could be about peace in Northern Ireland!! However, it is wise to remember before enthsiasm overwhelms us that peace remains only a possibilility. To transform that possibility into reality will take hard work, commitment, and patience.

I've just returned from a book tour in Northern Ireland which happened to coincide with the election there. Therefore, politics was a frequent subject of conversation. There seemed to be general agreement among the politically savvy that the majority of Nationalist and Unionist voters would be really upset if the moment of peace was wasted. Most felt that this was the first such hopeful moment in the long and painful history of Irish relgious animosity.

There was, however, one other moment of opportunity that I know of. It occurred during the summer of 1830, almost 177 years ago. The leaders of the town of Newry called a meeting to declare religious peace. Speeches were made by the leaders of the Catholic, Presbyterian and Established churches asking their members to extend the "hand of friendship' to friends and neighbors of all religions. They expressed a fervent hope that the Newry Peace would spread throughout the country, that relgious hatred and intolerance would end in Ireland forever.
Sadly the peace movement was soon overwhelmed by events which the Newry leaders could not influence or control. The process by which this tragedy occurred are detailed in my book, Dwelling Place of Dragons. Hopefully this time, peace will prevail.

March 30, 2007