Thursday, March 17, 2011


I remember several conversations - very brief conversations - with my father about having Irish ancestry and heritage. Once when my sister was in high school she came downstairs on St. Patrick's Day wearing orange. My father, sitting at the breakfast table, commented that the orange was a good choice because we weren't Catholic, but then we weren't Irish, either, so why bother wearing orange or green. Then he quipped, "Well, everyone's Irish on St. Patrick's Day."

Other comments from my father about possible Irish heritage were brief and definitive.
"Noooo," said my father, "we're not Irish. Our Doyles came from England."
"NO! No, we're not Irish."

Though I thought being Irish would be fun, not being Irish didn't really bother me. But imagine my surprise when, a few years after my father's death, I received a letter from his mother's sister, Brendice Gerner Davis, with the following statement about her own mother, Elvira Bartley Gerner: "My mother was Scotch Irish and had that Irish wit."

Whoa! What?!! Irish!??? We have Irish ancestors?!!!! It was on my father's mother's side of the family, the family with which he had little contact growing up. How would he have known that several generations back one of his greats came to America from Ireland? If the Doyle side of the family were traced a few more generations we would probably find Irish ancestors, too. In fact, one of my cousins is confident that we would.

To add a bit more humor to this post, Bernd Biege wrote an article, "The Irish Vernacular - Idioms and Phrases or: How to Make Sense of the Irish," in which he includes the following definition:
Yes and No
Irish does not really have a definite "yes", neither a final "no". This explains the abhorrence with which the use of these words is treated. They are avoided as far as possible. Only if pressed a clear answer might be given - the implication always being that both "yes" and "no" are in a state of flux and synonymous with "well, maybe, we'll see".
I guess that suggests how far my father was from his Irish roots when he so emphatically said, "No! We're not Irish! "

Happy Saint Patrick's Day to you!


  1. A fun St. Paddy's day post.

    BTW, one of my scots ancestor-relative married into a German family, then into Irish --- and now they are as Irish as can be --- also with the name of Doyle.

  2. I hope you find some Doyles from way back when. There are loads of them in Ireland, esp. Dublin. My mom's lifelong best friend was a Dublin Doyle named Martha.

    My Irish dad was big on "well maybe" and "we'll see"; it seemed he never wanted to disappoint.


  3. Yes indeed - he had the heritage and just didn't know it.

  4. Nancy,
    I loved this post -- but I didn't post a comment. Then I read your comment on my blog. I'm taking you up on your suggestion. I'm going to post on blog2print. You may want to check it out later.

  5. Nancy,
    I did a post on Blog2Print.

  6. Fun post. I remember a lot of "we'll see" growing up so maybe the Irish is coming back.

    I wore both orange and green yesterday. I don't discriminate.

  7. Hi Nancy,
    I have nominated your blog for an Award, One Lovely Blog because you do have a lovely blog. I hope you enjoy the award.
    Take the button from my site and add it to yours. Check out the rules at the link below. I think 7 blogs is enough.
    Have fun.


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