Wednesday, January 03, 2007

My "Field of Dreams" Moment

Is this Heaven? No, its Iowa.

I expected many different things when I created this blog, however one thing I never expected was a visit from my father. But that's what happened.

My Dad, William S. Foley died in 1968, before I met my wife, before my brother was married, a long time ago. He was a very bright but troubled man. He had a lifelong fight with alcohol addiction. He was a skilled salesman who sold heating systems to many big construction projects in the Saint Louis area. He was not a good husband to my Mom. My brother and I knew he loved us but his troubles also became our problems.

He was born in Carbondale, Illinois in 1909. Went to Embalming School in Chicago, graduating in 1929. He returned to Carbondale, married Helen and they had a daughter Joanie. But that marriage ended in divorce while Joanie was still a little girl. I don't know the reasons for this but I can imagine them. Pop was not a good absentee father. He left the area and moved to Saint Louis. He did not keep up with his daughter Joanie at any time that I am aware. As any daughter would, she no doubt felt a loss, a rejection.

In time, Pop found a second wife, my Mom and they married during World War II. My brother and I were their only children as we came along later in life to them.

Joanie meanwhile, went on to a life of achievement. I knew of her and knew that she was a Professor of English at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. I knew that she married Reid Martin who went on to be Superintendent of Carbondale Schools. But that's all I knew. I may have heard more about her over the years but these were the salient details that I knew, until October 19. That's the day that my Dad visited.

He came in the person of an email from Joanie's daughter, Nancy Gonzenbach. Nancy had been referred to this blog and emailed me. Nancy is my niece, my Dad was her Grand Dad. She wanted to learn more about the family and introduced herself.

William died in 1968 and here I was, nearly 40 years later, looking at a piece of his unresolved life. It was an amazing moment and I can't thank Nancy enough for reaching out to me. I don't expect that I can make up for whatever has happened to Joanie and her family but I can explain some things about my Dad and his problems that led to their hurt.

In the spring, I plan to meet Nancy, her husband Bob and daughter Amy and perhaps her brothers, Michael and Tod (with one D) and Dad Reid as well. Joanie died from lung cancer in 2002. But I think she would be happy to see us meet, too.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Our Land

Our land in Ireland

The above link will take you to a terraserver image from the Globe Explorer satellite of the area around Pilltown, Clashmore, Ardmore and Youghal, County Waterford Ireland.

Those of you anxious to see a picture of the land that the Foleys in Ireland walked on can take a peak. You can make out the fields, demarked by the "patchwork" look. This is because the land is very rocky and as it was cleared, the farmers made rock walls between their fields. This was done centuries ago but still exists across Ireland. William Foley worked as a tenant farmer in these fields from the early 1800s on. He raised his family in these fields, went to church nearby, and ultimately was buried in these fields. I find it fascinating that I can sit at my desk in Davenport, Iowa, USA and see a picture of this land of our William.

In Search of Liam, My New Year's Resolution

With every New Year's Day, many promises are made. This blog is no different than others. I have a new goal for 2007. My goal is to connect our family in Ireland with our family here in the USA, like everyone else. My goal is different in that our family was one of the very earliest families to come to this world, before the Pilgrims.

Liam Foley sailed by pirate ship from Dungarvan Ireland about 1605. His reasons for being on the ship, as a slave, are not honorable. He either broke a law, or was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and was sold into slavery by the lord of the Manor near Dungarvan, County Waterford, for one pound. He sailed with pirates for three or four years. When the ship arrived here in 1608 he reportedly ran away and lived with the Native Americans.

The Mayflower landed several years later and he made acquaintance of the Pilgrims. However, he ran afoul of their religious beliefs. He ran away with a daughter of the Pilgrims and they settled in lower Canada, probably Quebec. They had a family of three sons and two daughters. Their oldest son was William and their second son was Pat.

William had a son named William also. The Junior William married a French woman and had at least three sons. One son returned to France to become a priest: another was killed by an Indian, and one son, Pat, returned to Massachusetts.
(Editor's note: This part of the story is sketchy and the years that passed indicate that there may have been other generations of the family in Canada before their return to the US)

In any event, the Foley who returned to Massachusetts was named Pat. His daughter, Rose, married a man named O'Brien who was a ship builder. The O'Briens built some of the earliest ships for the United States Navy and one of Rose' sons became an Admiral in the Navy.

My New Year's resolution for theis blog is to find some documentary evidence of the early Foleys here in the United States or in Canada. Stay tuned!