Irish in Appalachia

On this fine St. Patrick's Day I am sharing a post which I wrote four years ago.  Still very meaningful to me as it affirms the importance of the Irish in Appalachia.  I have been very honored to have the University of Kentucky use these family photographs in their cultural heritage programs.

The Scots-Irish population in the Appalachia region is credited with many things. Hardscrabble people who made a living farming hilly terrain in remote, isolated areas. They influenced our language, religion, music and helped to bring the art of whiskey making to Kentucky.  I, along with many others, are fortunate to call these people my ancestors.



My paternal great-grandparents, James Claude with his wife Fannie.  




The term "Scots-Irish" or "Scotch-Irish" is strictly an American term and not used in the countries of Britain or Ireland. The term does refer to Irish Protestant immigrants from the Ulster region of Ireland that came to America in the 1700's. The majority of these immigrants were descendants of Scottish and English families who had moved to Ireland in the 1600's. Sometimes referred to as "Ulster Irish" or "Ulster Presbyterians", approximately 250,000 migrated during the 18th century.





My grandfather, Lallie. 




The Whiskey Rebellion in 1794 brought some Scots-Irish to Kentucky. In western Pennsylvania whiskey makers rebelled against General Washington over whiskey taxes. 5,000 protesters were put down by a militia which led to a mass migration of Scots-Irish to Kentucky and other territories to avoid taxes on whiskey, which was used as a form of currency.




My maternal great-grandparents, Anna Lee and Lucas.  



NASCAR can trace its roots to the moonshine runners of the Applachian Mountains during prohibition. Bluegrass and Country Music can also trace their roots to the Scots-Irish culture. Bluegrass Music was widespread in the remote mountain sections until WSM radio brought it public in the 1930's with the Grand Old Opry.

One of the things that can really set an Appalachian person apart in a crowd is their dialect. Appalachian speakers often use "a-prefixing". This is a dialect practice that has died out in many other parts of the U.S., but it is still used in Appalachia. A person using this places an "a" in front of certain verbs. For example, "Here she comes a-cryin". People who study dialects think that this likely came from the Gaelic language, originally spoken in Ireland and Scotland. Although, this cannot be proven for certain.

Do you have some Irish history in your family? Chances are you do....even if you don't live in Appalachia. Dig around and do a little research this St. Patrick's Day. You might be pleasantly surprised.


Comments

  1. Do we have Irish? McGivney as in Irish immigrants related to Father McGivney founder of the Knights of Columbus but as for our more close kin they were a rowdy bunch of white lightening makers and cotton farmers. Maybe I should post a piccha, you'd be quite impressed.

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  2. I would love to see that picture!

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  3. My grandparents are from Spital, Ireland.

    btw so glad you reposted missed it the last time. Very interesting!

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  4. Lallie was a looker for sure
    I love that photo of him..it's so candidly sweet

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  5. I am also a proud descendant of the Scots-Irish on my mother's side. Thanks so much for sharing your photos today. Happy St. Patricks Day.
    Hugs,
    Laura

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  6. Great story and a very interesting piece of history: I knew nothing until now about Scots-Irish!

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  7. these are wonderful archival images. very cool to see your irish heritage - a proud and hardworking people. my maternal grandmother's family came from county mayo and settled in colorado.

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  8. Great post Michelle. I love going through my family's old pics. My Grandmother's family was Irish.

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  9. So interesting Michelle -- so glad you reposted this.

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  10. If I do, it would be my brother's wife. Nothing but Hispanic's and Frenchmen on my side.

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  11. Wow -- what a nice family history -- and with great old photographs! Love old family photos and family histories. My paternal side is Irish Catholic. Came in through Canada. They participated in the car manufacturing industry and actually worked for the old man himself -- Henry Ford. Fun to read about families but I know they had hard times too. --- barbara

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  12. I'm not of Irish decent but I do love looking at old family photos. Thanks for sharing yours. Thanks for following me too.

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  13. Loved reading about your heritage, Michelle. My father is from Kentucky and his father, my grandfather, lived there all his life. I don't know if there is any Scots-Irish in there background, but maybe that has something to do with the fact that I have 3 redheaded sons. Thanks for a great St. Patricks Day post.

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  14. Yes indeed. From my maternal grandfathers side of the family...:)

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  15. Nice post. It is an interesting post to read.

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  16. I lOVE this! Our pasts are so important..I don't think we realize how much we take for granted! Wonderful post!

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  17. You are very fortunate to know so much about your family history!

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  18. What great pictures! We sure do have Irish in our family, I've got O'Higgins on one side and Mulligan on another. I was born on St. Patty's day to make it official!

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  19. My grandparents immigrated from Ireland, so I am definitely Irish :) I love that you talk so much about Appalachia, people have the worst ideas about this area, when in reality it is beautiful both in scenery and people!

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  20. Wow Michelle, what a great little history lesson. I am impressed you have all of that history down pat and could share it so nicely. I am very impressed. Those pics look similar to some of my ancestors. Similar era. Mine came from Sweden and Denmark.

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  21. Love the old pics. I do have some Irish ancestry. I even have my great great great grandmothers hand blown glass sot glass that she took a shot of whiskey from each night.

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  22. Wonderful and informative post. My maiden name is Irish, I am a quarter Irish. Although my ancestors which immigrated to Australia in the 1800's were Catholic, they changed to protestant soon after arrival due to some disagreement. They have left a wonderful heritage of hardworking honest folks..

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  23. Milligan here :) My Grandmother always said everybody has bit of Irish buried somewhere.
    Love your history and photos B

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  24. Love the history you shared here and those photos... I love old photos they tell SO much. I hope you had a nice weekend. We did, though I may have just a pinch of Irish I did drink a little green colored wine. I know but it was fun :)

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  25. My mom is all Irish and my dad was all Italian. I loved seeing some of your beloved family photos.

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  26. You are so so fortunate to have these photos and know so much of your ancestry, Michelle.

    Yes, my dad was of Irish ancestry! I believe his ancstors came from Donegal during the potato famine era and settled in Pennsylvania to work in the coal mines.

    I heard on St. patrick's Day that 32 million Americans can trace some of their ancestry back to Ireland. Pretty Impressive!

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  27. Appalachia always sounds rich with history. We don't have any Irish that I recall, in our family tree.

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  28. I do by marriage... and by wannabee!

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  29. Neat! And wonderful old photographs!

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  30. absolutely non irish in our family tree - that i know of.

    although my oldest sister married an irish fireman captain from Chicago...and goodness can he tell stories. ALL. the . TIME.

    kinda like your grandpa Lallie looks like he could too.... ;)

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  31. Goodness, you sure have good-looking ancestors! I also have blood from my great great grandfather McAlister who moved to Oklahoma and married a Cherokee woman. That image of the house with all the daffodils blew me away.. who lives there now? ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

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  32. Love the history and yes, you do have some good looking ancestors! I do enjoy reading your history posts, Michelle! I am half Irish and half Scot, but not protestant, my Scottish half came in the early 1600's to Salem, Mass. So I might have some witches in my past! ha ha! My Irish half came during the potato famine to Novia Scotia, then Boston. Enjoyed this post! xx

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  33. Your grandfather looks like a very happy man!:)
    (He could have been one of Richard Avedon`s models.)

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