While growing up in Rhode Island, I was regaled with stories from my uncles of past adventures. There was my Uncle Pete, who as a city police lieutenant in the 1920’s and ‘30’s, told me of fighting the mob on Federal Hill and of men with feet cemented into dinghies and then dumped in Narragansett Bay.
I always had this sense of being Irish, whatever that was. My mother said we were “mutts,” something that I later learned was common among Irish-Americans, who wanted to hide their non-WASP heritage. Not being Irish and Catholic made for an easier time getting a job.
An so, while I imagined the adventures of family members in North America, I yearned to know about the brave people who had made the sacrifice to come to America and give us a better life.
As I learned over the years, it is not an easy task when the people you seek were refugees from hate and famine. They arrived in ill health, without funds, illiterate and in some cases not even English speakers. To discover their story it became necessary to learn everything I could about the society from which they fled Ireland and the community that became their home in Rhode Island. I embrace it as a duty to their memory.
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