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Why it's great to be Irish! - Curt Yeomans

With St. Patrick's Day around the corner, the spotlight is turning to all things Irish.

If you go into stores, you'll have to get past the onslaught of Easter stuff, but you will see St. Patrick's Day merchandise featuring shamrocks, leprechauns, and - yes - Guinness beer.

Chicago will dye the Chicago River green, and New York and Savannah are gearing up for their annual St. Patrick's Day parades.

Yep, March is a great time to be Irish. I already have my outfit picked out to wear on that day, and yeah, it includes some silly hats. But I won't wear them during work, at least not for very long. It wouldn't look too professional to go out for interviews while wearing a silly hat.

Irish blood is something to be proud of, and many people across the United States claim to have some Irish blood in them. It's difficult to explain it, but for me in particular, I like all things Irish, from the Blarney Stone, to the story of St. Patrick, to Guinness beer (my favorite brand!).

I also like, and appreciate, Irish history, especially the struggles to be free of British rule. In a lot of ways, it's similar to the American struggle to break free of British rule.

The Irish fought back, often with bloody results, to be free and independent. I recently saw an Irish movie, called "The Wind That Shakes the Barley," which takes place in 1920 - two years before the Irish republic was established - and it focuses on the fight to be free. It's a great movie, and I recommend it to everyone.

Depending on which branch of my family tree you look at, I'm either a third- or fourth-generation Irish-American. It's all through my mother's side of the family, of course, where the last names include McDermott, McGratty, McInerney, Minogue and Mannix.

So, you may be asking yourself how is it that I'm either a third- or fourth-generation Irish-American. Well, I'm fourth-generation through the McDermotts and McGrattys, and I'm third-generation through the McInerneys, Minogues and Mannixes.

Many of the Irish branches of my family tree reach back to western Ireland, mainly around the County Clare area, around the town of Tulla. I've also seen some records which indicate my family tree reaches back to other parts of Ireland, like Belfast, though.

Actually, to be honest, the Minogues and Mannixes are the same branch. When they came through Ellis Island at the beginning of the 20th Century, the last name was changed from Minogue to Mannix. Nobody in the family has ever explained the reason for the name change to me, but it happened.

In 2006, I visited Ellis Island with my mother, and it was a great experience to see the place where many immigrants came into the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They also have databases where you can search through Ellis Island records to see if your ancestors came into the country through the island.

After a little bit of searching, we found a woman who we believe may have been my great-grandmother, Bridget Mannix, who was more commonly called Delia by everyone in the family.

So, as St. Patrick's Day approaches, everyone (of legal age, of course) needs to raise a pint of Guinness and toast the Irish. This is our day!

Curt Yeomans covers education for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753, ext. 247, or via e-mail at cyeomans@news-daily.com.