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Tracing My Irish Roots and Sharing My Recipe for Corned Beef and Cabbage

Muriel Minogue-Vail

I am about 1/4 Dutch, 3/16 German, 3/16 Native American, 1/8 English, 1/8 Scotch, 1/16 Danish, 1/16 Irish and a trace of French.

For years my mom and I have been trying to trace back our family history on her side of the family, but it’s been very tough because records weren’t kept well back in the day.  And in addition to that, there was a lot of anger and bitterness on my grandma’s side of the family and a whole lot of our family history wasn’t kept out of anger.

Things in our family history started to fall apart when my great-great grandfather, Michael T. Minogue was studying to become a priest and decided he didn’t want to be one, so left and became Protestant.  That was a BIG no, no because Michael T. came from an Irish Catholic family.  When Michael T. decided to switch to the Protestant faith, his family wanted nothing to do with him. As a child, my grandma’s dad refused to let her wear green because the green in the Irish flag represents the Catholic faith and he was very bitter about being shunned from the family because his dad decided not to become a priest.

We know that our Minogues came from O’Callaghans Mills, County Clare, Ireland.  We are also pretty sure our family came through Canada before 1850.  The only family that we can tell who came through Ellis Island are the Iversens.  That family included our Aunt Mary and her family who came to America in the 1880’s from Denmark.

A couple things about Aunt Mary from Denmark:

My grandma has special memories of Aunt Mary.  My grandma says Aunt Mary (who was her great-aunt) was a tailorist in Schenectady, New York.  My great-grandfather used to say that Aunt Mary was so straight laced that if she got up in the middle of the night she had to put her girdle on to go to the bathroom.  Aunt Mary’s husband decided he wanted to move to California, so they made the trip from New York to California in a Model T car stopping in Colorado to live for a bit where Native Americans burned down their house.  Aunt Mary’s bonnet survived the fire and we’ve got it to this day.

Through Aunt Mary’s family, we are related to Jens Risom, the creator of Modern Danish furniture. Jens was born in Copenhagen, Denmark on May 8, 1916. His father was a prominent architect, Sven Risom.  In 1939, Jens traveled to New York City to study American design. In 1941, Jens teamed up with entrepreneur Hans Knoll and in 1942, they launched the Hans Knoll Furniture Company with 15 of the 20 pieces in the inaugural “600″ line designed by Jens. Jens was drafted into the Army and served under General Patton.  After completing his service, Jens launched his own business called Jens Risom Design. In the 1950’s his furniture was found in most American homes. Today, Jens lives in Connecticut and wants nothing to do with our family.  Both my mom and I have reached out to him to help us connect the dots in our genealogy, but he has been completely unwilling to assist.

Back to Michael T. Minogue- you know the guy who was going to be a priest but changed his mind.

Michael T. Minogue was my grandma’s grandfather. Michael T.’s father and mother were Michael and Elisabeth Torpey Minague. Yes, Minague. Somewhere down the line the spelling of their last name changed.  Michael and Elizabeth were listed as parents of Michael T.’s brother John Francis Minogue at his marriage to Sophie Wegener in Manhattan, New York on June 12, 1901.

Michael T. Minogue was my great-grandfather’s dad and he passed away sometime in the late 1920’s or 30’s, my grandma isn’t sure.  Michael was full blooded Irish and comes from County Clare, Ireland.  His wife Elisabeth was full blooded Scottish.  Michael and Elisabeth owned a store in Schenectady, New York and lived upstairs.  My grandma remembers visiting the store as a child.  When Michael passed away, my great-grandfather, Carloss moved his mom in with him and his family. Carloss had been attending RPI College, but left to look after his mom and run the family store. Elisabeth wasn’t well and died when my grandma was a year old. Elisabeth’s maiden name was Iverson, but she never knew if her last name was spelled Iverson or Iversen. My great-grandfather, Carloss never knew if his name was spelled Carlos or Carloss.  He also never knew if his birthday was October 30th or 31st so he picked the 31st. It’s hard for me to comprehend how a parent doesn’t tell a child their exact date of birth or correct spelling of their name, but apparently this wasn’t as uncommon back then as one would think.

My great-grandfather Carloss had a sibling who died as a baby.  He also had a sister named Blanche.  Here’s what we know about Blanche and it’s pretty cool:

Blanche married a doctor and was herself the very first female psychologist in the state of New York.  Blanche went to college along with her husband at Syracuse University. Blanche and her husband had two kids.  Alice and Joseph Lee, also known as Joley.  Joley passed away last month.  Alice married a well published doctor named Bertram Katzung who is retired from medicine but still continues to write pharmaceutical books for doctors that Alice edits for him. Dr. Katzung received his M.D. from Syracuse University. Dr. Katzung is also very interested in astronomy as is evident by his website.

When I was a kid I was told that the Minogue family had a castle in County Claire, Ireland.  My grandma isn’t so sure about that anymore. She vaguely remembers being told stories, but can’t remember enough of them to back up the claim. Saying a family has a castle in Ireland is like saying a family has a mansion here.  It’s not really such a big deal because extremely large houses are often called castles in Ireland.

As a kid I was also told that we were descendants of the McCoy family of the Hattfields and McCoys.  We aren’t so sure though because my mom and I keep running into roadblocks when we try to trace our history back.

Apparently there was a major floor or fire; I forget which in County Clare, Ireland that led to the destruction of so many of our family records.  It’s so frustrating to be able to only trace our history back so far.

A few years ago, I tracked down a woman named Áine Minogue, a folk singer from Borrisokane, County Tipperary, Ireland and as far as we can tell, she is related to my family. Áine’s harp has entertained Presidents and Prime Ministers. She is a regular performer at folk festivals and concerts throughout the world. Here’s a video of her performing:

My Corned Beef and Cabbage Recipe

I promised my Facebook friends that I’d share with them my recipe for corned beef and cabbage, a meal I make every year on St. Patrick’s Day.  While my recipe is nothing inventive, it is my favorite way to make this traditional meal:

Ingredients:

  1. 1 corned beef brisket with spice packet
  2. 10 small baby red potatoes, washed, but leave the skins on
  3. 1 onion peeled and roughly chopped
  4. 4 large carrots washed and chopped.
  5. ½ head of cabbage roughly chopped
  6. 6oz beer

Directions:

Place the carrots, potatoes and onion into the bottom of a crock pot.  Place the brisket on top of the veggies and pour the beer over brisket.  Sprinkle the packet of spices on top of the brisket.  Place the cabbage on top of the brisket (this is important because if you put it on the bottom it has a good chance of burning).  Cover and cook for 8-10 hours.

Sláinte!

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