America Immigration: Irish Family Experience

Figure 1.--

I have read the HBC section on immigration with some interest, partly because of my Irish ancestry. I have visited in Ireland several times, and met some of my cousins there (third or fourth cousins with last names of Guinan or Gorry). Below, however, is a brief outline of our Irish connections.


I think that my mother must have known her Irish grandmother Eliza (my great grandmother) relatively well, since Eliza probably often visited at my mother's house in Chicago. Born in 1820, Eliza immigrated to the United Sttes from Ireland in the late 1840s, presumably during Famine times. She then married and lived with her husband William Warvelle (my great grandfather) in Michigan for some years, and then the couple moved to Kenosha, Wisconsin (just north of Chicago) where their children were born, including my grandfather, George Warvelle. As a young man, my grandfather moved to Chicago some time before the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Later he married and remained in Chicago the rest of his life, becoming a lawyer and law professor at DePaul University.


My mother was 14 when her grandmother Eliza died in 1911, so my mother presumably knew her well. Ironically, although my mother must have thought well of her grandmother, she seldom spoke of her later, possibly because in that era the Irish were not always highly regarded. A few photographs reveal that Eliza was a very stately lady, elegantly coifed and dressed and with a pleasant expression. I suspect that she influenced the upbringing of my mother and her two sisters (who were much older than my mother) and her brother, who was only a few years older. They lived in what was then an elegant row house west of downtown Chicago. Eliza probably had strong views on how her grandchildren should be dressed. Photos of my mother revealed that throughout her childhood, she was kept in beautiful long curls that hung below her waist and wore flowing dresses. Interestingly, some of these early influences seem to have lasted throughout her life. She never cut her hair, for example.


I've sometimes mused on what must have been the contrast between Eliza's life in Ireland before she migrated, and the relative affluence that she enjoyed later in the United States. There are probably similar ancestral histories for many people with Irish ancestry in the United States today.


Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[Return to the Main National Origins page]
[Return to the Main U.S. immigration page]
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Clothing styles] [Countries] [Essays]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Satellite sites] [Tools]
[ Boys' Clothing Home]

Created: 6:57 PM 8/6/2006
Last updated: 6:57 PM 8/6/2006