Sunday, October 4, 2009

Irish Roots

My great-grandfather, James Casey, immigrated from County Roscommon, Ireland to the U.S. right around 1880.  He settled in the south Chicago neighborhood of Bridgeport, which was heavily Irish and just north of the Union Stockyards.  He went to work on the Illinois Central Railroad as a switchman until one of his arms was torn off.  (Railroading was dangerous work.)  Then he became a one-armed baggage handler.

I have no knowledge of his life in Ireland.  In all probability he was a poor subsistence farmer who followed family members to what he hoped would be a better life.  According to census records, James Casey could read and write English.  Maybe he even frequented bookshops.

The village of Roscommon, with a population of under 4,000, is the principal town of a county with only about 52,000 inhabitants.  (Looking to glean information from the local phone directory, I found about half the population shares the Casey surname.)  As rural as the area is, they have a wonderful bookstore, as does almost every small town in the republic.

- Dave

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