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Shannon Casas: Irish or not, this St. Patrick’s Day my mind is in a pub in a tiny town on the Irish coast
Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher on the west coast of Ireland, pictured in July 2017. - photo by Shannon Casas

A couple of years ago, I took one of those DNA tests to learn more about my ancestry.

Don’t worry, I’m not about to tell you I’m Cherokee because I have a drop of Native American blood. Actually, I don’t have a single drop of that, it turns out.

I do have a drop of Irish. But just a drop, according to the results I first received. I thought I was more Irish than that. The data was disappointing.

My grandparents took me to Ireland on a three-week vacation when I was 13. I fell in love with the place. It was the kind of head-over-heels love only a teenager can experience.

While the other teen girls were obsessing about Nsync and the Backstreet Boys, I was listening to the Irish boy band Westlife.

I enjoyed reading, and I started reading books about Irish culture and trying to read James Joyce (I didn’t get very far with that last one).

I even set my watch to 24-hour time because that seemed to be what they used more often in Ireland. I can still translate those times to our standard 12-hour structure without thinking about it.

In high school, I did an independent study on the Irish Gaelic language, which is still spoken, especially on the west coast of the country.

Recently, I was looking through my DNA results again and saw that my percentage of Irish heritage was now up to 11 percent. The results supposedly get more accurate over time as more DNA is collected.

Upon further examination, it appears I have between zero to 11 percent Irish blood. Thanks,, for that clarity.

Some genealogical research confirms that I should have at least a drop of Irish. During that visit with my grandparents, we searched for some family relatives on my grandmother’s side. A pleasant man with the right last name, Dockery, even invited us into his home and took us to some family graveyards for research. I still have no idea if we are related to him. We haven’t been able to officially trace that side of the family back to Ireland.

Another side does trace to County Cork, though, so I’m claiming a little Irish.

The one in my family who’s really Irish, though, is my husband.

His DNA test results show he’s 36 to 59 percent Irish. It’s possible that’s Scotch or Welsh blood. But the family lore on that side is all Irish, and there are Savannah parade pictures from decades past to prove it.

For my mother-in-law, St. Patrick’s Day isn’t a single day. It’s a season. I think it starts right after Valentine’s. It lasts almost as long as Christmas, and the house is decked out in shamrock-themed decorations.

Celebrating Irish culture can be a big deal for Irish-Americans, though the holiday originated here in the states rather than Ireland, according to National Geographic.

I may not decorate for the season, but I do still love Ireland.

My husband and I spent two weeks along the west coast there in the summer of 2017. It was just as magical as I remembered.

One of our first nights of the trip, we ate fish and chips at a pub while listening to traditional Irish music in a tiny town overlooking the ocean. I’m not sure it gets much more Irish than that.

This St. Patrick’s Day, you can keep your leprechauns and green beer. Whether I’m Irish or not, I’ll be thinking of that little town on the coast, the mushy peas next to my fish, the bubbles rising in my hard cider and the sounds of trad music.


Shannon Casas is editor in chief of The Times and a foster parent. You can hear her most weeks on the Inside The Times podcast on iTunes or Google Play.

A moment on the coast of Ireland

A pub in the west coast town of Fanore, Ireland, serves fish and chips with a side of mushy peas. It goes down great with a hard cider and is best enjoyed with the sounds of traditional Irish music.
By: Shannon Casas

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