As I pored over the most recent issue of the magazine, an article titled “Claim Your Irish Heritage” caught my eye. Together with the office of the Certificate of Irish Heritage, the magazine is inviting readers to share 200-word stories of how their ancestors arrived in their current country, along with a photo, in order to receive a complimentary certificate celebrating their Irish heritage.
The certificate is an official initiative of the Irish Government to recognize how the descendants of emigrants continue not only to have a strong emotional attachment to the land of their ancestors, but also to value the sense of identity that an Irish ancestry bestows.
My Irish heritage begins with the Corcorans of Curraghroe. Here’s a longer, illustrated version of the story I shared with Ireland of the Welcomes.
My great-great-great-grandfather, Patrick Corcoran, was born in 1828 in Curraghroe, County Roscommon. He and his family lived in a thatched-roofed cottage named “Cloonadra.”
In 1856, Patrick married Mary Gavican, also of County Roscommon. Their first child, Margaret, was born the next year, followed by their son, John, in 1860. The following year, Patrick and Mary decided to leave Curraghroe for the United States. Margaret and John stayed behind in Ireland with other Corcoran family members and joined their parents much later, when they were teenagers.
Patrick and Mary settled in Columbus, where he got a job working for the Pennsylvania Railroad. They lived on the north side of Wayne Street, in the sixth house west of Dennison Avenue. They were parishioners of St. Patrick Catholic Church, connected to the railroad’s Union Station by a mud road known as “Irish Broadway,” which later became Naghten Street.
In 1883, both Patrick and Mary died. The next year, Mariann married Daniel O’Connor, who was born in County Kerry in 1862 and emigrated to Columbus in 1882. They were the parents of Mary, known as Mamie (1885), John (1887), Julia (1890), Charles (1893) and Patrick (1897). This is what Dan looked like.
By the time 40-year-old asthma-suffering Daniel had died of heart disease in 1902, Mariann, young Mamie, and infants John and Patrick had already succumbed to tuberculosis. The two young orphans, Julia and Charlie, were split up. Relatives who lived on Goodale Boulevard said they could only take one of the children, so Charlie went with them. Julia lived with her uncle, Eugene O’Connor, until he died from a gunshot wound he received when he asked a customer in his saloon to pay him for a $10 loan that Eugene had given to him. Then, Julia was brought up by Miss Naomi Baker, a blind lady who ran a boarding house on Poplar Street.
Julia grew up and worked as a milliner until she married John Born in 1910. She had three daughters: my grandmother, Evelyn Jane; Mary Martha; and Rita.
In July 1964, Julia and her granddaughter, my mother Suzanne, visited Curraghroe during a trip to Ireland. There, they met descendants of the Corcorans who stayed behind.
Here are some Corcoran cousins standing outside the home where Patrick Corcoran was born …
The Irish Corcorans were most interested to hear about John Corcoran’s grandson, Lawrence J. Corcoran (1916-2009), who was ordained a priest in 1943 and was named a monsignor in 1957 and a protonotary apostolic in 1995. After serving as an associate pastor at three Columbus parishes and directing the Catholic Charities office of the Diocese of Columbus, Monsignor Corcoran presided over Catholic Charities USA in Washington, DC from 1966 to 1982. He married my parents in 1968 and presided at my grandmother’s funeral Mass in 2005. Here’s Monsignor Corcoran with two more Corcoran cousins who lived in Columbus on the left, and my great-grandparents, Julia and John Born, on the right.Visiting Curraghroe made a big impression on my great-grandmother and my mother. Some of the other places that they visited during their holiday included Dublin, Wicklow, Bray, and finally Glasgow, Scotland. Their trip was even reported on in an article titled “Irish Eyes” in The Columbus Dispatch. The other day, I came across “In Curraghroe,” a poem written by Patrick Devine in 1905. The poem talks about joyous days spent with kind and true folks enjoying Curraghroe’s green fields and fair skies that emigrants like Patrick left behind to “toil and strive ‘neath foreign skies for golden store.” It’s one of the tracks on All the Way Home, an album by Cathy Jordan, a singer from County Roscommon who joined the traditional Irish band Dervish and hosted the “Irish Heartbeat with Dervish” show.