I knew very little about my family history before 1995, except that they were Irish and Catholic. I recalled only a few things about my paternal grandparents as a child. That my grandfather Lewis Connors raised his eyebrows high and leaned forward excitedly when talking about "clipper ships," and that my grandmother Agatha Kennedy used the word "Grand" often and referred to her ancestors as "Our People" from Harbor Grace. I found a genealogy chart and an essay by my great grand Uncle William Chester Louis Anthony Kennedy (Uncle Lou). The essay detailed nearly 200 years of Kennedy family history and turned my rural peasant story on its head. The Kennedys were very Irish Catholic (mom got that right!) and while I am sure they had potato and cabbage gardens, their occupational history came from the sea. They were mariners with a seafaring tradition that crossed the Atlantic from the Irish Sea to the Grand Banks of Newfoundland and which spanned generations. While it was too late for me to revise my semester paper, I was driven to know my ancestral history as best I could and to share that which I discovered. I am grateful to those who came before me and feel compelled to record their legacy. Although I am not certain I agree with Uncle Lou calling these Kennedys "ordinary" he was right when quoting Thomas Gray's "Elegy in a Country Churchyard"...to describe them with lines 73-76. My favorite stanza begins with line 89 "Ev'n from the tomb the voice of nature cries, Ev'n in our ashes live their wonted fires."
see Thomas Gray archive.
Far from the madding
crowd's ignoble strife,
Their sober wishes never learned to stray;
Along the cool sequestered vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.
Yet even these bones from insult to protect
Some frail memorial still erected nigh,
With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture decked,
Implores the passing tribute of a sigh.
Their name, their years, spelt by the unlettered muse,
The place of fame and elegy supply:
And many a holy text around she strews,
That teach the rustic moralist to die.
For who to dumb Forgetfulness a prey,
This pleasing anxious being e'er resigned,
Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day,
Nor cast one longing lingering look behind?
On some fond breast the parting soul relies,
Some pious drops the closing eye requires;
Ev'n from the tomb the voice of nature cries,
Ev'n in our ashes live their wonted fires.
For thee, who mindful of the unhonoured dead
Dost in these lines their artless tale relate;
If chance, by lonely Contemplation led,
Some kindred spirit shall inquire thy fate,