In March, Portlanders, Mainers, and New Englanders by the score celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day. Throughout the year, however, there is consistent and creative interest in the Irish history of this region. Here in the Portland Room, where we preserve and provide access to the Library’s Special Collections, we welcome researchers of social history and genealogy- from all cultures, with great interest in the city’s Irish presence. Here are a few gems to commemorate the feast day of Saint Patrick:
The Book of Maine Irish is a handmade, hand-calligraphed book that lists many of the prominent names of Maine Irish families. Notice the Celtic knotting around the periphery of the leather-tooled book cover.
These spritely Portland students were photographed in 1960.
A portion of the historically Irish West End, with Saint Dominic’s Parish, at the lower left foreground. Right of the image area of the photo is the Gorham’s Corner area, where world-famous cinema director John Ford grew up. His father owned Feeney’s Grocery Store, on Center Street. There is a statue of John Ford at the western point of Gorham’s Corner.
Accompanying the above photo, showing Saint Dominic’s Parish, in the West End, here is the link to the Maine Irish Heritage Center, which is housed in the church building now.
Gorham’s Corner in 1945, when it was dubbed George W. Sullivan Square to commemorate a World War II casualty. The Honor Roll in the neighborhood included many Irish names, and it was displayed nearby.
Baking bread, under the watchful eyes of Saint Patrick, in 1954. Note the shamrocks and the Aer Lingus emblem above the statue!
Whether it’s 1961 or 2011, singing Too-Ra-Loo-Ra is never out of style.
Here are two locally-written books in the Library on the topic of Irish History.
And, finally, on this Saint Patrick’s Day… keep your eyes open- you never know who might be sitting next to you reading the Portland Press Herald !!
Among our most popular queries here in the Portland Room- whether by phone, by e-mail, and certainly in person- are genealogical questions. People research their family roots for many reasons, discovering anew while searching historic depths. Sometimes the search begins with a family story- or an old photo. Are there names? Dates? Places? Is there something in the picture that helps place it (such as the church wall inscription in the picture below).
Norwegian family wedding in Portland, 1938.
Family researchers can apply tools that include printed books and serials, as well as electronic databases. The printed genealogical materials in the Portland Room are focused on the Portland area. The databases reach further afield. Here are a few of the tools that are used here on a daily basis:
Printed books and serials specializing in Maine and Portland. This category includes microfilmed Portland newspapers reaching back to the late 18th century and filmed Maine State Vital Records reaching up to 1955.
An example of a Portland City Directory. Notice the jobs of the people listed are indicated with their names and addresses. Any “cordwainers” in the family?
Ancestry.com is available at any computer inside the Library. This is a set of databases that has numerous search capabilities. Great place to start.
Heritage Quest is another set of databases which includes a US Census search. Heritage Quest can be accessed from home, with your Portland Public Library card barcode number.
Additional genealogy web site links here.