Bridget Shallue was just 52, barely older than I am now and already a widow, when she said goodbye to Ireland in 1852 with her grown children...chased away by the potato famine, I'm sure. If she ever returned, it isn't mentioned in the family lore.
Accompanied by two daughters and two sons, Bridget arrived in Quebec, traveled to New York, and finally settled in Wisconsin in 1856. One daughter died on the passage from Ireland and was buried at sea. Two older sons chose Australia over America to begin their new life. I doubt if she ever saw them again; her goodbye to those sons was probably as final and heartbreaking as her goodbye to her home, her homeland and her husband Thomas's grave... he had died just a few years before, at age 45. And then the added heartbreak of watching a daughter's lifeless body disappear into the ocean...heartbreak I just can't imagine.
My own Tom Shallue and I found all of this out shortly after we were married, by talking to relatives and researching in libraries. We traced his family back to Ennistyman, County Clare...to that first Tom's grave, but that was as far as we could go. There was no Internet twenty-five years ago, no Ancestry.com, and we couldn't afford a trip over to do our own research or to hire a professional to do it for us.
It hit me that I knew more about the Shallue history than my Wilson's, so I have focused my genealogical fervor on that line and other branches of my family since then...for example, my great-great grandfather George, memoir writer and protagonist of my book-in-progress.
But today is St. Patrick's Day and my thoughts are green...drawn toward the Shallue family and Ireland. Tom and I dream of traveling there one day, visiting the places that are only names on a map to us right now. The photo above isn't the final resting place of a direct descendant...it was taken by an aunt or cousin on a visit to Ireland several years ago...but it's no doubt a relative because every Shallue is related. There just aren't that many! Even these very names...James, Margaret and Denis Shallue...are echoed on tombstones across the ocean in America.
The Australian Shallues have always been a mystery to the American branch. Rumor had it those brothers got on the wrong boat...they went to Australia totally by accident! The funny thing is, the American and Australian Shallues have connected on Facebook, of all places, but I have yet to ask any of them if there is any truth to the rumor.
I think that's going to be my mission on this St. Patrick's Day...track down the truth behind the story...find out how and why those brothers ended up in Australia.
My other St. Patrick's Day mission will be more traditional - celebrating with friends! The very Irish Monahans are throwing their annual St. Paddy's Day party this evening. There will be Guiness and Irish music and way too much corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, Irish soda bread, and no telling what else to eat...
Here's wishing all of you a happy St. Patrick's Day, too!
May you never want for more.
May Irish angels rest their wings right beside your door.