The Fairytale Continues

Relatives welcome home their loved ones

You really know Christmas is fast approaching in Ireland when Fairytale of New York begins playing on the radio. This quintessentially modern Irish Christmas carol encapsulates the loneliness of the emigrant experience, even though Ireland itself is never mentioned – it doesn’t have to be.

The song became a somewhat unlikely instant classic when it was first released in 1987 and its popularity has never waned since.

In essence, it captures the melancholy of lost youth, wasted opportunity and longing – not the usual wholesome themes people usually associate with yuletide tunes. It was first performed by the London-Irish band, The Pogues, with Kirsty McColl sharing the lead vocals alongside Shane McGowan, who co-wrote it with Jem Finer.

The scene for the ballad is 1940s New York – when Sinatra was singing; cars were big as bars; and there were rivers of gold – but it is shot-through with a uniquely Irish feel.

The singer, languishing in a cell – probably for being drunk and disorderly – reminisces about a romantic but strife-torn relationship that seems an awful lot greener from the perspective of his prison cell.

“It was Christmas Eve babe,

In the drunk tank,

An old man said to me: ‘won’t see another one’,

And then he sang a song,

The Rare Old Mountain Dew,

I turned my face away and dreamed about you”

The pathetic figure cast into a police cell on Christmas Eve elicits popular sympathy probably because so many Irish emigrants tend to feel the loss of home particularly badly at this time of year.

This is the most emotional of times when even the hardest-bitten are entitled to become dewy-eyed. Ireland also has so many returned emigrants who know what it is to miss Christmas at home (even if the reality can sometimes be very far from the idyll).

The song – like many true Irish ballads – never lets the truth get in the way of a good story. The chorus recalls “The boys of the NYPD choir still singing Galway Bay” when in fact the closest the force had to a choir was a pipe band. Incidentally, when that band was recruited to play on the video to accompany the song it transpired it did not know the air to Galway Bay and so famously mouthed a slowed-down version of the Mickey Mouse theme instead!

It goes without saying that the emigrant experience is far from universal and, mercifully, relatively few people find themselves in the kind of bleak situation which spawned Fairytale of New York.

However, over-indulgence was and still is for many people a time-honoured way of numbing the pain of separation. While the vast majority of Irish people have never spent Christmas Eve in a drunk tank but there is a sense of solidarity, sympathy and understanding for the poor wretch who finds himself in this situation. There is an element of:  ‘there but for the grace of God go I’ about it.

Christmases past tend to evoke the most vivid of memories for emigrants. Ireland rarely enjoys picture-perfect white Christmases and society has undoubtedly changed beyond all recognition over the past few decades but in essence this season remains frozen in time.

It is a time for catching up with old friends, meeting long-lost relations, visiting graveyards, remembering those less fortunate than ourselves and sparing a thought for those who cannot be here with us.

This season is particularly exciting for those many emigrants who are now preparing to return home.  The era of relatively cheap air travel makes this much more doable than it was for those who went before them – particularly the many who journeyed to the New World, never to see their homeland again.

Perhaps you are thinking of presenting the special gift of a Certificate of Irish Heritage to a family member, friend or loved one this Christmas? If so, why not ask them to share their Christmas stories – we would love to hear from them.

Relatives welcome home their loved ones

Fáilte Isteach – Welcome In


So, there are probably more than 100 million of you out there? You live all over the globe but are concentrated in big numbers across Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia, Argentina and New Zealand: basically, anywhere you or your forebears could make a living.
You are known as the Irish diaspora, an obscure, joyless term that cannot begin to convey the cultural affinity and sense of identity you feel because of your Irish heritage even if you have never set foot on the island of Ireland itself.
Many of you have recognisably Irish surnames; many do not. Many of you have recognisably Irish forenames; many do not. It doesn’t really matter. Witness St Patrick’s Day across the world: Ireland is a state of mind, rather than a piece of ground.
You don’t need to be born in Ireland to be Irish. Your parents or grandparents don’t even need to have been born here. Yes, it is true these entitle you to citizenship but for most people born elsewhere and proud of their own countries, this isn’t about a passport; it is much more deeply rooted.
You know in your DNA you are Irish, or at least part-Irish, whatever that means. You are treated as such, for good or bad. A common ancestry gives you an identity distinct from the place where you happened to be born. Being Irish stands for something: it brings with it a sense of belonging.
Being Irish is something to be immensely proud of: it is a part of who you are.
In recognition of the bonds between those whose forebears left this island, the Irish Government has created The Certificate of Irish Heritage. This personalised official document is intended to have pride of place in every Irish home or office space across the world.
Appropriately, we are launching our new resource charting the stories of our readers in the week commemorating the assassination of President John F Kennedy – a true son of Ireland who in many ways symbolises what the Certificate is all about.
JFK’s roots were steeped in Irish heritage and tradition on both sides of his family. Everyone in Ireland celebrated his Irishness and his face looked down from many an Irish hearth, even though as a great-grandchild of an original emigrant he would not have been entitled to an Irish passport.
In the coming weeks, months and years we would like to use this site as a platform for you to tell your Irish story. Tell us about your ancestors and their unique tales. We have received numerous interesting contributions to date and we are sure the Irish love of storytelling will ensure there will be far, far more.
We would also love to share any mementoes you might have that are Irish-related. Perhaps your ancestors were in the Irish branches of trade unions or the Ancient Order of Hibernians and there are family stories of their lives, or perhaps they even kept a diary? Or maybe you have a prized family heirloom or batch of letters or old songs about events around emigration that deserve attention?
Please share your stories of Irishness for others to enjoy and for posterity. We will weave them into this site, where they will form a small part of this nation’s rich tapestry. And, of course, please drop back to us from time to time to enjoy our site; the virtual kettle is on the hob.

Please tell us your story and send us a photo of your Irish ancestors if you have one.  We look forward to hearing from you

Heritage Cert becomes Marriage Cert

Orla Brady's Heritage Cert becomes Marriage Cert
Orla Brady receives a Certificate of Irish Heritage

Orla Brady receives a Certificate of Irish Heritage

When Orla Brady came to Kilkenny last week to receive a Certificate of Irish Heritage, the prominent U.S. lawyer had no idea she would also signing up for another official piece of paper.
According to the Kilkenny People newspaper, following the presentation of the Certificate from the local Gathering Committee, her partner Tobias Schroeder took the opportunity to pop the question in the gardens of Rothe House.
As the Carlow/Kilkenny community orchestra played her favourite Mozart pieces, he went on bended knee and asked for her hand in marriage.
Orla’s parents both come from Kilkenny and her mother Anita Hehir was present when her daughter said: “I will”.



Orla Brady's partner Tobias Schroeder pops the question

Orla Brady's partner Tobias Schroeder pops the question

Orla, a frequent visitor to Ireland, practises law at the US Department of Justice in Washington. The Nashville native is extremely proud of her Irish roots and heritage.
The Irish Voice newspaper named her as one of the most influential women of the year in 2010 in recognition of her work on behalf of the seriously injured and the families of victims who lost their lives in aviation disasters and other tragedies.

Orla Brady's Heritage Cert becomes Marriage Cert

Orla Brady's Heritage Cert becomes Marriage Cert

Ireland says welcome home to The Kennedys

Caroline Kennedy being presented with a Certificate of Irish Heritage by Minister for Arts Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan

Caroline Kennedy being presented with a Certificate of Irish Heritage by Minister for Arts Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan

“Growing up in our family, nothing was a greater source of pride than our Irish heritage.”

Caroline Kennedy, daughter of US President John F Kennedy was presented with a Certificate of Irish Heritage by Jimmy Deenihan TD Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht during her visit to the National Library, Dublin today for the launch of the library’s JFK Homecoming multimedia exhibition. Caroline Kennedy is in Ireland as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations of her father’s visit to Ireland in 1963. Guests attending the launch also included Caroline Kennedy’s husband Edwin Schlossberg and their three children, Rose, Tatania and Jack, and former US Ambassador to Ireland Jean Kennedy Smith, together with a number of other Kennedy family members making a special visit to Ireland in this year of the Gathering.

Presenting the Certificate, Minister Deenihan said “John F Kennedy himself underlined the depth of his feelings for Ireland which he referred to as ‘ not the land of my birth, but it is the land for which I hold the most affection’ Of the millions who left our shores over the centuries, the Kennedy family is certainly one of the most famous of all, and I am honoured on this 50th Anniversary visit to Ireland of her father to present Caroline Kennedy with this special edition Gathering Certificate of Irish Heritage.”

“There was no visit that my father made as president that meant more to him that his visit to Ireland,” Caroline Kennedy said outside the small cottage where her great-great-grandfather was born and where her father sipped tea with relatives half a century ago.


The Obama Girls are officially Irish

We are delighted to announce that the Obama girls’ Malia & Sasha are officially Irish.

The Obamas’ Cousin, Henry Healy from Moneygall, Co. Offaly presented the girls with their very own Certificates of Irish Heritage this morning in the Long Room in Trinity College Library in Dublin.

Henry has said he “was delighted to present the Certificate of Irish Heritage to the Obama girls and even more delighted with their reaction”. He said that Sasha  exclaimed ‘Wow, now I am able to prove that I am even more Irish than some of my friends’ as she clinched the Certificate under her arms.

Malia & Sasha Obama receive their official Certificates of Irish Heritage in the presence of their mother, Michelle, in the historic Long Room at Trinity College, Dublin

Malia & Sasha Obama receive their official Certificates of Irish Heritage in the presence of their mother, Michelle, in the historic Long Room at Trinity College, Dublin




US Actor, Tom Cruise, receives his Certificate of Irish Heritage

Tom Cruise receives his Certificate of Irish Heritage
Tom Cruise honors Irish roots with a Certificate of Irish Heritage

Tom Cruise honours his Irish roots with a Certificate of Irish Heritage, presented to him by Irish Deputy Prime Minister, Eamon Gilmore

Actor Tom Cruise has just received his certificate of Irish Heritage. His great-great grandfather returned from America in 1843 to Co. Westmeath. Cruise’s Irish ancestry stretches back over 800 years, with work by genealogy researchers Eneclann uncovering “knights in the 12th century, rebels in the 17th century and a hero, Patrick Russell-Cruise, who reinstated tenants on his lands in the 19th century following their eviction against his wishes.

Photo and Information from RTE




Happy St. Patrick’s Day from Space

Here’s a marvelous St. Patrick’s Day video tribute from astronaut Cady Coleman on the International Space Station in 2011. She plays two flutes, one a wooden flute from the Chieftains member Matt Molloy and the other a pennywhistle from Chieftans’s Paddy Maloney


Who Do You Think You Are? LIVE – London 24-26 February


The Certificate of Irish Heritage will be attending the world’s biggest family history event – Who Do You Think You Are? LIVE 2012. The show is being held at the Olympia, London between 24 and 26 February.

Come and visit us at stand 622:

  • Each of our Certificate designs and frames will be on display
  • Apply for a Certificate of Irish Heritage for yourself or as a gift for a family member or friend
  • Professional genealogists: find out about our Genealogist Affiliation Programme
  • Enter our WDYTYA? LIVE Prize Draw – and win your own framed Certificate of Irish Heritage!

As well as visiting us at the show, there is much more to see including selection of Irish exhibitors including Roots Ireland, the Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland (sharing a stand with AGRA & ASGRA) and Tourism Ireland. You can also attend one of the many Society of Genealogists Workshops – where you can listen to many speakers, including one of our Affiliated Genealogists, Helen Kelly of APGI. Why not see Larry Lamb, Emilia Fox and Richard Madeley in the Celebrity Theatre!

WDYTYA? LIVE promises to be an exciting and family history packed weekend – we hope to see you there!