- Books, Literature, and Writing
My Grandparents, What was Their Life Like?
I've always been a bit of a history buff. A few months ago, while browsing through records on ancestory.com, I found a U.S. census record from the late 1800s that listed an address for my great-grandparents in New York City. Naturally, I tried to find the address on google maps but the address no longer exists. That made me sort of melancholy, it would have been nice to learn more about the place my paternal grandfather lived as a child.
My grandfather was the first of his siblings born in the U.S., the older three were all born in Ireland. My great-grandparents immigrated here some time between 1883 and 1885 from Cork, Ireland. My grandfather was born in 1886. He married young and had 16 children, with my father being the youngest child.
Have you ever seen the movie "Gangs of New York" with Leonardo DiCaprio? The movie takes place in Amsterdam, New York in the 1860s. The movie portrays life there as being pretty rough with a constant threat of pickpockets on the street, fighting everywhere and it seems as though folks had to be on constant alert for dangers from muggers, murderers and other mayhem.
Well, I saw this movie again recently and while watching it, I couldn't help thinking of my great-grandparents and wondering what life was like for them back in the day. Yes, I realize the movie isn't in New York City where they lived, but I'm sure the similarities between the two cities were such that it wouldn't be unreasonable to imagine that life for my grandparents was much like the portrayals in the movie. I know that during the time period, the Irish people were treated horribly. They were beaten, robbed or killed simply because they were Irish. It wasn't safe for them to go about daily life without the constant threat of danger. I realize that chances are slim that they actually lived as the movie portrayed, but at the same time, many things in the movie were historically correct. I feel blessed that they simply survived so I can be here today!
After watching the movie, I looked at photos online taken in that time period and in the general area. A picture says a thousand words and I did a lot of reflecting on life while looking through them. I have one picture of my great-grandparents from Ireland, although I'm not certain where the photo was taken. I also have several photos of my paternal grandmother but, unfortunately I have only one of my grandfather. He passed away a few years before I was born but my grandmother lived until the mid 1970s when I was 10 or 12 years old. I'm grateful I was able to have her in my life even if it was for a very brief time.