Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Donald Trump's Know-Nothing attitude would have doomed my Famine Irish ancestors

A Thomas Nast cartoon in Harper's Weekly depicts ape-like Irishmen beating up police on St. Patrick's Day 1867.  

Great read from a 1/10/18 article on Irish Central by Cahir O'Doherty: "President Donald Trump would have turned away the Famine Irish just like the Salvadorans."  Go to https://www.irishcentral.com/opinion/cahirodoherty/donald-trump-famine-irish-el-salvador

I don't know much about my great-great grandfather Thomas Shay.

He was Irish, as you might deduce from his last name, born in County Clare.

He left Ireland in the late 1840s (probably 1848) bound for the U.S.

He married Anna Agnes Burns and had three children when they were recorded in the 1850 census as residents of Monroe County, N.Y. By the 1870 census, the Shay family had moved to Iowa and eight children were listed on the rolls.

Thomas died in 1879 and is buried in Johnson County, Iowa.

His first name is my late father's first name and my middle name

My late Aunt Patricia researched these details before the wide use of the Internet and the advent of ancestry.com. She printed out a family tree on a dot-matrix printer. She put the evidence into a memory book for my daughter, born in 1993.

That's what I know. I also have read about anti-Irish sentiment in the mid-19th century. White people feared non-white people, although they were willing to use them as slaves and indentured servants. Strange to think that Irish immigrants were depicted in American papers as unwashed, uncouth bumpkins, or as monkeys and apes. They were Catholic, too, as were their swarthy cousins from Spain, Italy, and Mexico. You know, "Shithole" countries as Trumpists say.

The Know Nothings live. They were out in force last fall in Charlottesville, them and  their vile attitudes and precious tiki torches. They are descendants of the anti-Irish Know Nothings, although I would guess that some of them have Irish or Scots-Irish bloodlines. Scary to think how many Trumpists have Irish surnames. They do not know their history, and they don't care to learn.

Trump's policies may have doomed my Irish ancestors. But who knows -- maybe the Irish Shays would have survived in Ireland and my DNA would have never taken the pathways that eventually led to me. The Shay line would not be in its seventh generation of causing trouble in the U.S.

Immigration can sure be a random thing. You never know where curtailing it or encouraging it will lead. Sometimes you get a Barack Obama.

And sometimes you get a Donald Trump.

A cartoon from the 1850s by the "Know-Nothings" accusing the Irish and German immigrants of negatively affecting an election. From Victoriana Magazine.

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