When I was growing up, I didn’t know I had Irish ancestors. Since my family was African American, I focused on my African ancestry. Though I didn’t know anything about her, I daydreamed about the first female in my family line who I was sure had come from somewhere on the African continent. But then I met a great-great aunt, Cleopatra Montgomery, who told me about my third great-grandparents Frances and Theodore. Theodore was an African American man born in Virginia. But Frances was Irish, born in County Cork, Ireland. In the middle of the nineteenth century she’d immigrated to the United States as an indentured servant.
In 2009 I traveled to County Cork, Ireland to see where my third great-grandmother Frances came from. On a blustery day I stood in Cobh Harbor, the point of departure for many people bound for America in the 19th century. I tried to find out more about Frances, what her parents’ names were and the address of the house where she lived as a child in Ireland. I haven’t gotten to the bottom of it yet. But I’ll keep trying.