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Ireland Forever! Erin Go Bragh!

Green Traditional Irish Harp Flag

Surely you weren't thinking that someone so proud of her Irish heritage would let St. Patrick's Day go by without notice? Much less Irish American History Month? Let's see if we can learn something about Ireland besides The Famine, leprechauns, fairies, and four leaf clovers, and perhaps dispel some common misconceptions shall we? And I have included some links to FREE Irish records!

There is an Irish language, not just an Irish accent! An acquaintance once remarked to me upon hearing I was studying it, "It must be hard to get the brogue just right!" Indeed. Some say that there are 32 counties in Ireland and 32 separate accents.

Irish Gaelic (Gaeilge "GWALE - guh")was estimated to be spoken by the majority of the people in Ireland before the Famine per studies done by former Prime Minister Garrett FitzGerald. The use of the language was heavier on the west side of the country and more sparse the closer England was. The language almost died, but is now included in school curriculums. The furthest western side of Ireland is called the "Gaeltacht," where the government recognizes it as the predominant language of the residents.


Speaking of education, when I watched the "Irish Family History is Easy, Seriously!" presentation last week (YouTube link at the

bottom of the page), I learned that Britain

introduced national education in Ireland in the 1830's, decades before they instituted it in their own country. As a result, Irish migrants were better educated and more literate than their English counterparts!

I also learned from that presentation that there is a vast record catalog at the National Library of Ireland, that is indexed and FREE! The link to that is here: If you are feeling nostalgic about scrolling through microfilms, this site is for YOU!

Another free source of Irish records in English (or Gaeilge) is to be found at This one is managed by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sports and Media. I have placed these links again at the bottom of the page for your convenience.

JohnArmagh (shifted & cropped by Rabanus Flavus), CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons
Armagh Cathedral Church of Ireland

Not everyone who lives in Ireland is Catholic. In the 1841 Irish census it was recorded that 38% of the country was NOT Catholic. Several different forms of Protestantism existed in Ireland brought by the Palatines (German), the Huguenots (French), and Quakers (England). The end of the 19th century saw the arrival of Jewish refugees. The Jewish and Quaker populations decreased as most of their membership emigrated further on to America. NOTE: This may be a reason why some of your ancestors from Ireland have an unexpected name!

Why do we wear green on St. Patrick's Day? Green is not the national color of Ireland, it's azure blue! This color was adopted as the color of the Anglo-Irish Order of St. Patrick in the 1780's. The "Wearin' Of The Green" probably harks back to the Irish Rebellion of 1798 and a folk ballad of that name with the lyrics, They are hanging men and women for the wearing of the green."

woman in green hat with shamrocks

Green was the color Society of United Irishmen, a revolutionary group. Modern folklore says that if you wear green on St. Patrick's Day you become invisible to leprechauns!

The Tricolor Irish Flag of green, white and orange, is said to represent three things - the green for the Catholics (probably from the original flag of green with the gold harp), white in the middle representing peace and hope for living in harmony, and the orange for the Protestants (for William of Orange who won the Battle of the Boyne when they got control of Ireland).

Flag of Ireland

Brace yourselves, fellow Americans, corned beef and cabbage is NOT Irish. It is thought to be an adaptation of cabbage and bacon, but just as Chop Suey is not Chinese, they don't know corned beef in Ireland. Take heart! Irish Stew is a real thing, usually made with lamb. Salmon and trout are very common as well as shell fish ("Cockles and mussels, alive, alive oh!"), Boxty (a potato bread, pancake, or dumpling), Shepherd's Pie or Cottage Pie (top crust is mashed potatoes!), and of course, Irish Soda Bread.
Irish Soda Bread

There are few things as delightful as a freshly baked loaf of soda bread! Authentic Irish soda bread doesn't have raisins, or currants, or any other additives. It's a snap to make, and I have found a recipe from the NY Times to share with you:

Yield: 1 loaf, 8 to 12 servings

450 grams all-purpose flour (about 3½ cups)

3 grams fine sea salt (about ½ teaspoon)

4 grams baking soda (about ¾ teaspoon)

1½ cups buttermilk, more as needed

Step 1 Heat oven to 450 degrees. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, salt and baking soda. Make a well in the center and pour in the milk. Using your hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl. The dough should be soft but not wet and sticky.

Step 2 Turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface. Wash and dry your hands. Knead the dough lightly for a few seconds, then pat the dough into a round about 1½ inches thick. Place it on a buttered baking sheet and using a sharp knife, cut a deep cross in the center of the dough reaching out all the way to the sides.

Step 3 Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees, and continue to bake until the top is golden brown and the bottom of the bread sounds hollow when tapped, about 30 minutes longer.

Serve warm, with a huge swipe of butter, or some Irish cheese, and a frosty beverage. For the love of St. Patrick, please don't make it a green beer!

Irish Claddagh Ring

Do you have Irish ancestors too? Have you found them yet? Do you know where they lived? I can't wait to go back now that I know where I come from! Maybe I have cousins!

If you'd like some help with your family research, please send me an email. Always a free quote and initial consultation, and it's just fun to exchange knowledg!.

Happy St. Patrick's day! May peace and plenty bless your world, with joy that long endures, may all life's passing seasons, bring the best to you and yours!


Leslie Ryan

No compensation is received for any references or links. No copyright infringement is intended.


National Library of Ireland:

Reference Links:

Irish Family History is Easy, Seriously! Brian Donovan of FindingMyPast

Maynooth University of Ireland PDF regarding Irish Education:

New York Times Soda Bread recipe Darina Allen adapted by Melissa Clark


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