This is the first St. Patrick’s Day I can actually say that. Up to now, I’ve only guessed at the possibility. Being English and French (and we know what sluts the French are), I always figured there had to be some fence-jumping way back when my bloodline was still “across the pond.” Turns out it wasn’t across the pond at all, but just to the north in New Brunswick, Canada.
It was there that my paternal great-grandfather, Daniel Carrigan married Jeannie Baker and spawned a brood of seven daughters, my grandmother, Ellen, among them, born in 1885. On July, 7th, 1902, Daniel and Jeannie would give their first-born, then only 16 years old, to Herbert Martin, 32, in marriage. I would like to believe that Herbert was rich and handsome and offered Ellen a wonderful life, but I have no idea. With the birth of my father, Joseph, in 1907, in Winn, Maine, my family history on my father’s side stops. I never knew my paternal grandparents. I have no idea if they ever even met me. Truth be told, I barely knew my father.
For much of my adult life, my red hair has allowed me to pass for Irish. I always felt like a bit of a fraud, but it got me free beers and a few drunken kisses once a year, so what the hell. But this year, I won’t be flaunting the green or guzzling the suds. I’ll be thinking about Ellen and my Carrigan heritage, and wondering what part of them I carry. Do I have Ellen’s eyes? My great-grandfather’s smile? With no photos, I can only imagine. But at least now I have them in my heart.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day.