Are We Irish (or Not)?

Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s day. Growing up (and throughout my teaching career), this day was for the ‘wearin of the green’. I’m guessing that more children wear green to avoid the pinching than to proclaim their Irish roots.

I remember asking mom about our heritage. I don’t remember the exact question, but I’m guessing that I asked if we were Irish. I do remember the first part of her answer: “No, we are Welch.” She had to go on and explain that being Welch meant we came from Wales. Then she expanded and named some other countries (which I don’t remember).

Unfortunately, the paper trail hasn’t led to Wales (yet). I can safely say that for over 200 years, I am American. Prior to that, our lines lead back to England, to the Alsace-Loraine area of Germany, to Scotland and possibly to Ireland.

It is my RALSTON line that may go back to Ireland. My great-great grandfather, Richmond Fisk Hammond’s first wife was Sarah Ellen Ralston. Sarah was the granddaughter of David Franklin Ralston. According to Find a Grave, David Franklin Ralston was born in Ireland.

Since the Ralston surname is of Scottish origin, it is likely that our Ralston line is Scotch-Irish. Scotch-Irish families were Scottish families that settled the Ulster plantation during the time of King James. (The YouTube video, Born Fighting, provides background on Scotch-Irish heritage.)

Thus, the paper trail says we may be Irish – but more likely Scottish people who lived in Ireland for a while.

With DNA ethnicity reports being popular, one might assume that my DNA results would verify Irish blood. Unfortunately, our potential Irish ancestor first appears in my 7th generation of ancestors. Thus, the chances of my getting much ‘Irish blood’ are slim. The article, Where is my Native American DNA helps explain why some ethnicities won’t show up in a DNA test.

So, does my DNA ethnicity report reveal Irish blood? The answer is ‘maybe’. According to Ancestry, there is a ‘low confidence’ that my heritage is 3% Ireland/Scotland/Wales. For one of my brothers, that percentage increases to 9%.

From what I’m learning about the Ulster Scots, I believe that our heritage may be Scotch-Irish (which is basically Scottish by blood, Irish by where living prior to America).

So, will I continue to wear green?

Yes, because I believe that everyone is a ‘wee bit Irish’ on St. Patrick’s day.



Where’s My Irish?

Today is March 17th – St. Patrick’s day. In honor of the day, I was curious about whether I have Irish ancestry. Since my research hasn’t taken me beyond the borders of North America, I really don’t have any Irish lines identified. According to my Ancestry DNA results, my ethnicity % for Ireland is 3%.

DNA Ethnicityscreenshot from

Out of curiosity, I decided to do some simple research on my family names using Ancestry’s tool to discover the meaning of a surname. Below are the surnames from my 5 generation pedigree with their probable origins. (chart printed with Family Tree Maker 2014)

surnames 5 gen

Crawford — Scottish, English and Northern IRISH

Foster — English

Hammond – English

Ralston – Scottish

Currey — Scottish or IRISH

Burke — IRISH, English, Norway,or German

Hutchinson – Northern English

Harding – English

Briles – German

Thompson – English

Ricketts – English

Christy – Scottish / Northern IRISH

Mentzer – German

Minnick – IRISH

Wells – English

Crandall – Scottish

According to Forebears, my Crawford line originated in Scotland: “Local. First assumed by the proprietor of the lands and barony of Crawford, in Lanarkshire, Scotland.”

Even though my Ancestry DNA ethnicity is only 3% IRISH, five of the lines from my 5 generation pedigree could be IRISH. Interestingly, I also have 5 Scottish lines but Scottish isn’t listed as an ethnicity.

A little searching of Ancestry forums revealed why my report doesn’t include my Scottish origins:


So, I’ll find some GREEN to wear today and celebrate my IRISH origins!