Irish Project: the search is still on

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History column

By Ed Coleman

I like to think of it as the Irish Project, the search for the Irish of Kings County. The project was started just over a year ago and is an effort by the Community and Family History Committee of the Kings County Museum to trace Irish families.

As mentioned in this column last year, the main focus of the committee is tracing families that emigrated from Ireland and settled in Kings County during the 1700s and 1800s. I spoke recently to committee member Glenda Bishop and she said their efforts to date generated 27 responses. 

“The project is going well,” Bishop said, “but a lot of research still has to be done.”

I assume that at a future time, a database will be created on the Irish families of Kings County. If you have Irish roots, your ancestors settled in Kings County and you have a story to tell, I urge you to contact the museum so you can be included. Nelson Labor is the chair of the committee and he can be reached via email at genealogy@okcm.ca.

One of the intriguing questions about the Irish that came to Kings County, by the way, is why most of them settled in outlying areas. Were they outcasts and unwelcome? Was religion a factor in why the Irish appear to have been relegated to hardscrabble areas on the North Mountain and far out on the New Ross Road? Is it a fact that most of the good farm land had already been claimed by Planters and Loyalists and as latecomers, there was little left for Irish settlers?

Perhaps some of these questions will be answered after the Community and Family History Committee finishes its Irish project. Glenda Bishop tells me there were many interesting stories in the responses received to date by the committee. What stands out in these tales is that Irish families usually wound up in unsettled places, never or hardly ever on - or even near -  the prime farmlands of Kings County.

Of course, this isn’t true of all the Irish who arrived here. Take Henry Magee, for example. A Loyalist who was chased out of the States when the American Revolution succeeded, Magee became a prominent Kentville businessman. In 1788, Magee built a home, a store and a mill here. In his time, to quote from a Kings County Vignette, Magee was saluted as a “merchants, miller, trader, pawnbroker and friend of the whole community.”

There were few Irishmen like Magee, of course. Most were like my great-grandfather, David Coleman, who, according to family lore, was a rough farmer who scratched out a living on the North Mountain. David was like those other Irish settlers who came here before, during and after the famines in Ireland. Hopefully, once the Irish project of the Community and Family History Committee is completed, the stories of the likes of David Coleman will be recorded for posterity.

Organizations: Community and Family History Committee of the Kings County Museum, Community and Family History Committee, Nelson Labor

Geographic location: Kings, Ireland, North Mountain New Ross Road Kentville

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