Tuesday, June 5, 2012

An Irish Christmas

This song was written for Norah Barry Conway. For about 9 years, I have been researching my husband's family history. Obviously he's Italian, right? Little known fact...he's actually 50% IRISH. I always say that's what's wrong with him...that, and his Italian grandparents are second cousins...different story for a different day...ANYWAY, Paul's mother is 100% Irish. She's an amazing woman, and I have grown to love her like my own mother.

When I started searching my mother in-law's roots, we didn't know very much. We could only go back a generation or two. We knew the Conways came from Ireland and settled in Manhattan. I found that her grandfather, Edward Conway married Norah Barry in Manchester, England in 1878. That's smack dab in the middle of the Industrial Revolution, in MANCHESTER. Being Irish, I'm sure their plight was not ideal.

Norah and Edward started having children right away. Let me just give you a timeline of events here:

Nov 1878: Married

Nov 1880: Elizabeth born

1883: Edward Jr. born

March 1884: Hannah born

May 1884: Hannah dies at 8 weeks, COD "Exhaustion from improper food and neglect of medical aid"

Let me just take a break here and say how much that breaks my heart. When I received the Death cert in the mail, I have to admit I judged. Until I considered how desperate their situation must have been.

Summer 1884: Edward Sr. immigrates to NYC, arriving Oct 1884

Early 1885: Patrick born which means Norah must have learned she was pregnant after Edward set sail for America.

1885: Norah and her 3 children sail to NYC

17 Aug 1886: Edward Jr. dies at age 3, COD - Croup. My kids have had croup dozens of times. I think of Norah every time I soothe my sick babies and count my blessings.

28 Aug 1886: Patrick dies at age 11 months, COD - Cholera

Only 11 days separate the deaths of these two babies. Unbelievable.

July 1887: they bury an unnamed baby in their family plot in Calvary Cemetery, presumably stillborn

Oct 1889: Agnes born

Feb 1891: Thomas born

Feb 1893: Margaret born

Jun 1894: Edward born...yes, another Edward Jr.

1896: William born

Sep 1897: William dies, COD unknown.

Jan 1898: John born

Apr 1900: Mary born

Feb 1901: Mary dies age 9 months, COD - Acute Bronchitis

Dec 1901: Mary C. Conway born

May 1902: Mary C. dies, COD - unknown

May 1903: Joseph born (my husband's grandfather)

May 1905: Agnes dies age 16, COD - Tuberculosis

1905: Francis born

Jun 1927: John dies age 29, COD - Tuberculosis

Norah states on Joseph's 1903 Birth Record that she had previously had 16 children, of which, only 7 are living. She had one more child after this, putting the total at 18 children. If you count up how many I have accounted for, you'll find we have 3 "missing" children. I can only suppose that those children were born in England. The only way I'll prove that is to travel to the General Registrar's Office in the UK. I'll get there eventually. I WILL find those missing children.

Norah's husband, Edward died first in 1928. Norah followed him in death a few years later in 1932.

I'm not sure how that woman survived all she did. So much loss. She must have been a woman of great faith. She must have trusted in God. I hope she knows how grateful I am for her incredible faith and sacrifice. Had she not had that 17th child, my husband would not be here today.

I don't know how Norah celebrated Christmas. I don't know if she even knew these traditional Irish Carols. This is my gift to her, from my heart. When I think of where she is now, I don't think of heartache. I think of the promise of eternity. I think of her with her sweet babies and her husband, together for eternity. Someday we will meet face to face, and we will pick up our friendship right where we left off.

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