Friday, November 29, 2013

From the Blaskets To Beyond Boston

Understanding migration patterns can sometimes be the key to finding the place of origin in Ireland. Another example of this is the number of Kerry people from the Blasket Islands who settled in Springfield, MA. Indeed, the most 'Irish' section of this city was traditionally the Hungry Hill neighborhood.

Commentary from different sources[1][2] indicates that this migration was probably not famine related, but occurred primarily in the first half of the 20th century. But of course, both push and pull factors would have been evident, with the Blaskets being one of the harshest places in Ireland to eke out a living.

More broadly, the scores of young Kerry-born men living in Springfield in the early 20th century is vividly illustrate by a search in the United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 database.

Earlier this year, the Mass Live news website featured articles about the Irish in Springfield, focusing on how the Hungry Hill area got its name and the launch of a book, From the Great Blasket To America: The Last Memoir by an Islander, by a Blasket man, Michael J. Carney.

This document, prepared by archaeologist Chris Fennell, University of Illinois, provides a useful historical introduction to the Blaskets and a bibliography of sources for those with ancestors from the area.

[1] Fennell, Chris. Tradition and Modernity on Great Blasket Island, Ireland. University of Illinois: unpublished document. Available online at accessed 19 November 2013.
[2] Kelliher, Judith. 'Native Irish speaker Michael Carney, of East Longmeadow, scheduled to release his Blasket Island memoir at national celebration in Ireland'. Available online at accessed 19 November 2013.

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