Green beer and other traditions

Long Black Veil

Even though I don’t drink green beer, or indeed ANY beer, I find it necessary to note St. Patrick’s Day. As I’ve mentioned, I’m at least a quarter Irish. As Ancestry refines its processes, I become MORE Irish, 28%, in fact, as opposed to 19% Nigerian. 

This means, of course, that my mother’s father’s mother, Margaret Collins Williams (1865-1931), and her still unidentified parents, even if they were wholly Irish, are not my only ancestors from the Emerald Isle. I must have OTHER ancestors to find, including on my father’s side. Parent 1 is my mom, and Parent 2 is my dad. 

The Census Bureau is always useful in noting holidays, and this one is no exception. “Originally a religious holiday to honor St. Patrick, who introduced Christianity to Ireland in the 5th century, St. Patrick’s Day has evolved into a celebration of all things Irish.” 

Six years ago, I noted a group called The Burns Sisters out of Ithaca, NY. I was fascinated by them because their late father, John, was the mayor of Binghamton when I was growing up. He and his wife had twelve kids. Here are Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral and Prayer Of St. Francis.


I was very fond of the group The Chieftains. Kelly wrote about them a few times, including this farewell to Paddy Moloney. He links to other videos as well.

 But I decided to get really lazy and found something called Best of The Chieftains 2017, which has a YouTube chain of several videos. It includes most of the tracks from a 1995 album called Long Black Veil, which I love, and several from Irish Heartbeat, an album with Van Morrison that someone used to play in my office back in the day.  And there are a bunch of other songs. Did I mention that there were 250 videos?

Finally, I found this loud, raucous cut called Irish Blessing by a group called JOETOWN. 

Professional Irishman

Malachy McCourt, “who fled a melancholic childhood in Ireland for America, where he applied his blarney and brogue to become something of a professional Irishman as a thespian, a barkeep and a best-selling memoirist, died… in Manhattan. He was 92…

“In 1952, when he was 20, the Brooklyn-born Mr. McCourt reunited with New York.

“He embarked from Ireland with a ticket paid for with $200 in savings sent by his older brother, Frank McCourt, who had emigrated earlier and was working as a public school English teacher.” 

Lydster: the grown-up stuff

American Community Survey

My daughter is experiencing the grown-up stuff.

About a week after returning to college, she received in the mail at home what I assumed was a jury summons. After texting her for permission – something I needed to do with my now-adult progeny – I discovered I was correct.

I called the number on the form and spoke to the very understanding representative on the other end, explaining my daughter was currently in another state. “No problem.” They’ll contact her again in mid-May.

She was chagrined; she was looking forward to working that summer. (That $40 per day is not very robust.) Of course, she may not be called beyond one day. Incidentally, I haven’t been called for jury duty since 2014, when I wasn’t chosen.


Then, in early October, she got a notification that she was supposed to contact the campus about a letter she got from the US Census. She wondered if it was legit. I asked her if it was about the American Community Survey, and it was.

The ACS “helps local officials, community leaders, and businesses understand the changes taking place in their communities. It is the premier source for detailed population and housing information about our nation.”

The ACS is the source of much of the more granular data the Census releases. Unless one is a Census nerd like I am, people don’t know about it because only a random sampling of people receives it each month.

The letter from the college was delivered to my daughter’s room, directing her to contact a person with Census. I verified that this person worked for the Bureau because that’s what fathers and librarians do.


When we visited our daughter at college in October, her mother and I marveled at the great organization she had implemented in her tiny room. Everything is in its place. At home, her bedroom is… a work in progress.

On her wall at college is this banner. She painted the flags on the cloth, representing her DNA from Ireland, Nigeria, England, Cameroon, Scotland, Benin, et al. The blue flag I did not recognize is a banner for the Bantu people.

I may never leave town again

US Mail (not US male)

I seem to be involved in a lot of stuff for a retired guy. I may never leave town again. The period following my trip to Las Vegas was hectic.

Fri, Sept 29:  I had my annual physical., which my wife took me to. My physician’s office has moved thrice in the past few years because St. Peter’s Health Services/Trinity Health has bounced her around to Delmar, then to Slingerland, and now to Rensselaer (all in the metro but in different directions). The last move would take me an hour to get to and well over an hour to get back by bus, which is how I had gotten to her previous locations. 

Taking a term created by another patient, my doctor declared me welderly, a portmanteau of well and elderly.

My wife had booked a trip to a Wyndham timeshare property in western Massachusetts well before I planned my Las Vegas sojourn. I went with her largely because I wouldn’t otherwise see her.

Sat, Sept 30: In the morning, we returned to Albany to attend the funeral of  Dwight Smith, and I sang in the choir. I learn so much at a funeral, even about people I’ve known for years. Then, my wife returned to Massachusetts with a friend to see a play the next day.


Sun, Oct 1: I went to church. When I got home, I waded through too many emails.

Then, I went to Fort Orange Brewing for a trivia contest, a benefit for Empower Ethiopia. We started slowly, but we were in the upper half of the teams by the second round, and in second place, only two points behind the leaders, after the sixth and penultimate round.

The category of the final question was US Mail. In what decade did the price of a first-class stamp reach double digits, i.e., ten cents or more? I distinctly remember a four-cent purple Lincoln stamp when I was nine or ten, so the 1970s seemed reasonable. (It was March 2, 1974. ) The team in first place bet nothing but said the 1960s. We bet 213 of our 220 points, making sure we’d beat the third-place team if they got it right, and they had bet it all, assuming we were also correct. Janna, Annika, Chuck, and I won. Fist pump!

One thing to another

Mon, Oct 2: I went to Labcorp for fasting bloodwork at 10:30 a.m., the earliest slot I could get.

At 2 p.m., I recorded a five-minute video for the upcoming conference of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society (NYG&BS) about my great-great-grandfather, James Archer. I hope they use it. 

Finally, at 4 p.m., I went to Capital Rep to the Wizard’s Wardrobe Reader’s Theater with my wife. I helped greet the readers and escort them to the “green room,” as it were. At the risk of sounding boastful, I’m pretty good at that.

That evening, the power went off for about five minutes, then three minutes, and finally well over an hour, so I went to bed.

Tues, Oct 3: Finally, the restart of my church’s Tuesday Bible Guys on ZOOM.

Then I had to figure out an introduction of Marina Antropow Cramer, who was doing an author talk at the Albany Public Library about her historically-based fiction books Roads (“When Nazi forces occupy the beautiful coastal city of Yalta, everything changes.”) and Marfa’s River.

Wed, Oct 4: Aside from making pancakes for dinner and watching baseball, I did almost nothing, flipping back and forth between two games.

Sunday Stealing: where love comes from

Chenango River

The Sunday Stealing this week, again from Swap Bot, asks where love comes from.

1. Does love come from the brain, the heart, or elsewhere?
Just this weekend, I saw a story from late June on about the importance of compassion.  In Davis, CA “is a gathering place known as the compassion bench. David Breaux often sat there and dedicated his life to studying and talking about compassion.”
Perhaps one must be intentional about being compassionate, which will change the [metaphoric] heart. Also,  check out this video, which says I Hypothalamus You.

2. Have you ever given a shot?
Sure. Usually whisky. Occasionally, rum, vodka, or a liqueur. Unless this is about an injection, in which case I had to stick my daughter’s Epipen into her leg once.

3. Can you lick your elbow? (Come on, didja try?)
No, and I probably attempted it as a kid. But on the July 25, 2023, episode of the game show JEOPARDY, a contestant did, to the annoyance of some TV audience members.  
Where did I come from?
4. If I was going to be talking to you for 10 minutes, what would be something really interesting you know a little bit about but would like to know more??
My ancestry. I can go back to the 15th century on one line, but can’t find my great-great-grandparents on two others.

5. What do you think of The Sopranos?
I have a Leontyne Price CD. Joan Sutherland and  Renée Fleming probably appear on albums I own. Oh, wait, you mean The Sopranos TV show?  Except for clips during the Emmys, I never saw it except for the last five minutes.

6. Have you ever had a crush on your teacher?  How about your boss?
A high school English teacher was less than a decade older than I was; I think her name was Miss Greene. Definite crush. Boss? No.

7. Have you ever seen a movie in 3D?
One or two, probably most recently The Lorax in 2012. I don’t enjoy it much. 
8. How difficult do you think it is for immigrants to enter your country?
Immigration is fraught in the United States.  This 2021 article from “Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute [a libertarian think tank with which I often disagree] offers nonpartisan facts in response to common myths about immigration.”


MYTH #9: “The United States has the most open immigration policy in the world.” FACT: The annual inflow of immigrants to the United States, as a percentage of our population, is below that of most other rich countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

9. Do you have what it takes to go live in another country, maybe for years, where you don’t speak the language as your first language?
No. And I don’t learn languages easily. Though the French I took a half-century ago was surprisingly useful when I went to France in May. 
10. Have you ever died in your dreams?
I’ve usually been in the back seat of a car falling into a river (often the Chenango River in Binghamton, NY). Water is rushing in through an open window. But dying, I don’t recall happening.

11. What book should our political leaders read and why?
I spent several minutes perusing my bookshelves and yet didn’t pick one. But my wife recommends Listening Is An Act Of Love: A Celebration of American Life from the StoryCorps Project, edited and with an introduction by Dave Isay.

12. What is your favorite glass object?
My Willie Mays drinking glass that I’m pretty sure I got from McDonald’s decades ago. The Say Hey Kid is my all-time favorite baseball player.

13. Do you like to window shop?
Not especially.

14. Are you more likely to buy one really nice expensive outfit or a couple of cheap outfits?
I don’t care much about clothes.

15. If you could, would you wear everything once, throw it out and buy something new?
Why on earth would I want to do that? That would be abhorrent, societally and ecologically.  I’m much more likely to join Buy Nothing

Ancestry’s ethnicity inheritance

Mom is surely Parent 1 recently sent me something called an ethnicity inheritance.

This is very interesting to me. “Ancestry® developed a technology called SideView™ to sort this out using DNA matches. Because a match is usually related to you through only one parent, your matches can help us ‘organize’ the DNA you share with them.

“SideView™ technology powers your ethnicity inheritance—the portions of each region you inherited from each parent. This enables us to provide your ethnicity inheritance without testing your parents (though we don’t know which parent is which).”

I would not be going out on a limb to assume Parent 1 is my mother. Her European ancestry is about half and the vast majority of my Irish heritage. Whereas my father is less than one-third European.

This could, of course, get into great debates, long litigated, about “What is race?” In America, race is less biology – designations such as quadroons and octoroons notwithstanding – but sociology. My mother, though quite fair, identified as a black woman, as did her parents and grandparents. Her great-grandfather fought in the Civil War in the 26th New York Infantry (Colored).

Those folks from Munster, County Cork I’m related to are more likely related to the Yates, Williams, and Archer families, rather than the Walker, Patterson, and Cone tribes.

Like many people, my family was told that on my mother’s side, we were indigenous North American. well, maybe a ways back. But my father’s side showed no measurable connection.


I might have told this story before, in which case I’m telling it again. My parents could not rent an apartment in Binghamton, NY in the 1950s because they were perceived as a mixed couple, engaged in [horrors] miscegenation! For reasons, they couldn’t buy a place either. My parents finally bought a home in Johnson City; I lent them part of the downpayment since my college costs, in those days, were pretty cheap and I had a Regents scholarship.

I’m hoping the ethnicity inheritance discovery will somehow help me in my genealogical journey.


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