In the next nine articles, we’ll be stepping away from adoption and looking at the nine European countries where my roots come from. Some of them with a good percentage, others with just a teensy amount. How is this connected to adoption?
Until the creation of Family Tree DNA, by CEO Bennett Greenspan, who I interviewed in January 2017, closed adoptees were denied our heritage. We could not know if we are German or Irish or Choctaw, etc. State governments, adoption agencies, and biological family who didn’t care about their family member’s rights but only wanted to see them gone to keep up the white picket fence image, discriminated and discriminate adoptees in a multitude of ways, this being one of them.
Exploring my roots, which I can now trace back thousands of years, has left me feeling proud of my ancestors, and others I am connected to through heritage. To have something in common when it comes to religion, folklore, traditions, beliefs, land, etc. This is something non-adoptees take for granted. Of course, there are always late discovery adoptees; older people who learn late in life they were adopted in which case their actual heritage or heritages can likely change.
But what about people not adopted who don’t know their heritage? Here is the difference. Prior to the creation of Family Tree DNA, in which Bennett created this with adoptees primarily in mind, non-adoptees who didn’t know their heritage could ask around. If their own parents didn’t know there was at least a guess. If their parents had no clue, they could ask extended family members. Of course, having no clue is actually a sign they might have been or might be adoptees. There was a time when telling people you were adopted or your child was adopted was seen as bad. Now, this isn’t necessarily meaning someone whose parent says they have no clue is adopted.
Take my adoptive Mom for example. She always thought she was 100% Polish. When she was a little girl, her grandma told her that they were not 100% Polish but everyone just laughed at her. My Mom tested and found out she is not 100% Polish, although she has a lot of Polish in her.
Closed adoptees are not able to ask around. This is why ancestral testing is so important, and because it’s the links back to our people, our lands, and our families.
So, without further ado The History of Ireland and the Irish People.
Up until about 10,000 bc most of Ireland was covered in ice. Sea levels were lower and Ireland, along with Great Britain, was connected to continental Europe. By 16,000 bc the sea levels rose and Ireland separated from Britain. The earliest humans arrived to Ireland 10,500 bc and communities formed as early as 8000 bc. They lived as hunter gatherers for four thousand years. About 4,000 bc cattle and sheep started to be domesticated, grains grown, and large timber buildings and stone monuments built. The first farm in Ireland (or Great Britain) dates from 4350 bc in County Kerry. In Tyrawley it’s believed the oldest extensive field system in the world exists.
The Bronze Age vastly changed people’s lives and started around 2500 bc. The wheel, harnessing oxen, weaving textiles, skillfull metalworking, brooches and torcs were invented. By the late Bronze Age the pre-Irish traded through the seas with tribes in Britain, western France, Spain, and Portugal (using modern names).
How Celtic Ireland was started is debated. We do know it emerged in the Iron Age. One theory says the Celts invaded Ireland four separate times. The Priteni, the Belgae, the Laighin, and the Gaels, the four tribes being from modern Britain and France. The second, newer theory back by archaelogists, is that Celtic languages and culture arrived in Ireland because of cultural diffusion. Historical linguists disagree. In 2012, a study of Irish men’s Y chromosome was done finding out 84% of Irish men have the R1b chromosome which dates back to 2500 bc in Iberia.
The Roman Empire, the mightiest empire of the ancient world, was never able to take over Ireland. The Romans referred to Ireland as Scotia. Ptolemy, the great geographer and mathematician, said sixteen nations inhabited Ireland in 100 AD.
From 100 AD to 600 AD these kingdoms went to war with each other. In the beginning of the 7th century a high king of Ireland emerged. People considered this high king to be a living god. The first high king in legend is said to be Sláine mac Dela (mac meaning “son of”). High kings ruled Ireland until 1198 AD. The most famous of these high kings is Brian Boru who ruled 1002-1014 AD. In the early medaieval times, a high king had to look perfect, so when Congal Cáech was supposedly blinded by bees he had to step down. Truthfully, high kings likely started in the 600s AD, but legend says they did in ancient times long before the Roman empire. Each region had a king that took orders from the high king who ruled from the Hill of Tara.
The brehons acted as lawyers enforcing the Behon laws. The Brehon laws, although adapted over time, kept the Irish in line until the late 1600s. Canon law made some definite changes as Christianity permeated Ireland. The Brehon law showed an Irish caste system. A lot was about property law, rights, and duties. Brehon law stated women were equal to men, and women could be brehon lawyers. Still, the Irish were patriarchal. In 697, a Christian law tried to raise the status of Irish women. Either way, Irish women overall had it a lot better than women in continental Europe at the time. Marriage laws were incredibly complicated. Divorce laws stated one could divorce if impotent, her husband was homosexual, or if her husband hit her and left a mark. Unfortunately, under westerm Catholic church law women were banned from giving testimony.
In 431 AD, Bishop Palladius entered Ireland to Christianize it before Saint Patrick. Patrick arrived in 432 AD. Saint Patrick was born in northwest England. As a teenager, he was kidnapped by Irish pirates and sold into slavery in Ireland. In his twenties, after walking hundreds of miles, he stowed away on a boat and went back to England. He returned, an older man, when he became a bishop to Christianize the Irish. The Druid religion collapsed because of them although not everyone at the time became Christian and many were burnt alive for not converting, not by Palladius or Patrick, but in centuries after. Christianity brought Ireland a demand for sculptures, metalworking, and manuscript illuminations none more famous in the world than the Book of Kells which can be viewed today in Trinity College Dublin’s Old Library.
In the 9th century, the gruesome Vikings invaded Ireland, raiding towns and monasteries killing everyone in sight. Warfare was going on between the Irish during Viking invasions as well. However, it is the Vikings that established: Dublin, Limerick, Waterford, Wexford, and Cork.
On May 1, 1169 Welsh and Norman troops landed in modern day Wexford County led by the famous archer Richard de Clare of Kent, England. In 1171, King Henry II of France, with blood ties to England, arrived in Ireland to see how well the “taking over Ireland” was going. In 1175 Irish kings were pushed to accept Henry as their own overlord in the Treaty of Windsor which was supported by the Church’s 1155 Papal Bull Laudabiliter issued by Pope Adrian IV for Henry to take over Ireland so that Ireland’s financial and administration would be integrated into the Roman Church. The bull could be a forgery though.
Slowly through the late 1100s and through the 1200s the Brehonic laws died out and the fuedal system came about. Ireland had a Parliament by 1297.
Irish elites and Norman elites married, but the Norman settlements in Ireland dwindled because of the Bubonic Plague. The Irish parliament wanted to preserve Irish blood and so in 1367 they passed the Statues of Kilkenney which demanded English subjects speak only English and follow English laws and customs. The success paid off and eventually (although with some Norman influence) Irish culture and language grew.
In 1542 the misogynstic, head chopping wives, Henry VIII, called himself King of Ireland and the Tudors took over most of Ireland. By the beginning of the 1600s England ruled Ireland completely as Irish earls fled to mainland Europe and the Irish lost Tyrone’s Rebellion. Occurring during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, she sent more troops into Ireland to crush the rebellion (18,000 men) than into any other battle or war in her times. During this time, the English and Scottish took over farmlands in southern, central, and especially northern Ireland (modern day North Ireland), but not so much western and eastern Ireland. One could call this time Irish genocide as 20,000 Irish soldiers died on the battlefield protecting their beloved Ireland and 200,000 Irish (many women and children). Another 50,000 were sent to be indentured servants in the West Indies. The Catholics (men) were deprieved of equal rights and could no longer sit in Parliament. In 1740, a famine hit that starved 1/8th the population. Charities and the wealthy did what they could to help as many as possible. In 1782, Ireland won back her legislative independence. In 1803, Robert Emmott tried and failed to rebel against England and make Ireland entirely free. He was only 25 when he was captured. Emmett’s attorney was bought, but McNally’s assistant Peter Burrows refused to be bought and tried his best to defend Emmett. Emmett’s speech before his sentence is one of the most famous. On September 20, 1803 he was hanged, drawn, and quartered. He is hailed a hero with a stamp made of him in 1953.
Ireland was passed over by the Industrial Revolution because it didn’t have iron and coal, and because England saw Ireland as its agricultural capital. The Great Famine of 1845 to 1851, when potatoes were blighted, starved a million Irish and another two million left to Canada and the United States, although many never made the voyage across the Atlantic. For decades, civil unrest occurred across Irish. A fifth of Ireland either died or left between 1845 and 1851. The population continued to decline until 1961, with most going to the United States. It wasn’t until 2006, County Leitrim recorded a rise in population since 1841.
Irish nationalism, especially amongst the Catholics, increased in the 19th and 20th centuries. Although Daniel O’Connell couldn’t take his seat in Parliament because was Catholic, he won and eventually convinced the Prime Minister to repeal the discriminatory act towards Catholics. He went head to head with the lawyer William Saurin who discriminated Catholics, and who was the most influential man in Dublin administration 1810s and 1820s. John D’Esterre challenged O’Connell to a duel, and O’Connell killed him. O’Connell suffered likely PTSD from killing a man and leaving his wife and daughter impoverished. D’Esterre’s wife refused regular payments from O’Connell, but did accept her daughter to take them. He paid her 30 years until he died, and mentioned through his life how much that duel haunted him. Debate is up to how much he helped Catholics, and exactly how much discrimination was going on at the time. In fact, I’m not sure if O’Connell was responsible for getting Catholics back in Parliament, but I can say he did play a role.
In 1913, the Ulster Volunteers formed so that Catholics wouldn’t overtake Ireland (then a part of Great Britain). They were terrorists. In 1914 the Irish Volunteers, the Catholic posse formed.
Ireland went to war in WWI, although some Irish wanted to remain neutral. 1916, Easter week, Ireland rose up against British occupation with the National Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army fighting for Irish independence. The leaders were executed by firing squad (15) and hanging (1) May 3rd through May 12th, but their rebellion and execution set off a wave of Irish pride in the people. They were, in order of execution dates, Patrick Pearse age 36, the handsome Thomas MacDonagh age 38, Thomas Clarke age 58, who spent 15 years in English prisons, Joseph Plunkett age 28, William Pearse (Patrick’s brother) age 34, Edward Daly age 25, Michael O’Hanrahan age 39, John MacBride age 47, Éamonn Ceannt age 34, Michael Mallin age 41, Seán Heuston age 25, Con Colbert age 27, Colbert had a no fucks given look if the pic I found was taken when he was a prisoner and was glad to die for the cause, James Connolly age 47, and Seán Mac Diarmada age 33 and also handsome.
In 1919, the Irish gained their independence. The Dáil Éiran (Parliament) was set up in 1919. The Volunteers became the IRA and led a guerilla war in Northern Ireland until 1922. In 1921, it was decided North Ireland would remain part of the United Kingdom.
Through the 1920s and 1940s, the Irish government went through a series of changes. During WWII, Ireland remained neutral, but did offer assistance to the Allies. Still, around 50,000 Irish fought with the British troops. Post WWII, large amounts of Irish left again many for America.
Starting in 1987, Irish economy increased, and the 1990s were a great time. In 2000, Ireland was the 6th richest country. The fun ended 2008. In the early partof this century, the Irish started to leave the Catholic Church, and its numbers have gone down. In 2012, 14% of Irish were unemployed.
Ireland has 32 counties:
Today, 80 million people around the world have Irish heritage. 36 million Americans are Irish American with more learning their Irish ancestry every day.
Ireland is very well known for its Irish step dancing, music, and legends. Nobody in the world has revolutionized Irish dancing more so than Michael Flatley who is Irish American (dual citizenship). Irish music has a lot of rhythm. It also has instruments that are native and special to Ireland such as the bouzouki and the bodhrán. Mischievous, downright naughty fairies, nasty little leprechaun who love gold, banshees, and Finn MacCool and the knowledgeable salmon, merrows and sherries are just some of the creatures out of Irish folklore.
Some famous Irish are: Enya, Colin Farrell, Gabriel Byrnes, and many more playwrights, poets and actors. The fighter Conor McGregor is also hugely popular in Ireland.
So much more can be said on modern Ireland. I hope you have enjoyed this journey on Irish history and her people.