“If you’re lucky enough to be Irish,” they like to say in Ireland, “then you’re lucky enough.”
That makes me pretty lucky. My direct Irishness is only one-eighth, thanks to my mother’s grandfather, Calvin Bond. We don’t know his history beyond the fact that he was one of the orphans exported from Ireland to save them from starvation in the middle of the 19th Century. He was adopted by an Iowa family and wound up in Kansas.
But I am all Irish by marriage, having met Sue Quail in the newsroom of the Topeka Daily Capital in 1954. Her mother’s people were from the west of Ireland, and her paternal ancestors, led by William Quail, came from County Down in Northern Ireland to rural Pennsylvania in 1811. We know more about that branch. A couple of generations later, some of the Quails joined the westward movement but stopped when they found good farmland at what is now the south edge of Topeka.
It was a good choice. The land in Kansas gets thinner the further west you go. And living near the state capital provided educational and professional opportunities. Sue’s great-uncle Frank A. Quail became a lawyer and joined a firm in Cleveland. By 1903, he was affluent and curious enough to go down the family’s back trail in Northern Ireland.
He took his father, also named William Quail, with him. And using documents preserved from the 1811 crossing, they found their roots. The photo below shows the two of them posing casually in front of the house that the immigrant Quails left behind. That’s Frank seated on the left.
That might have been the start of a family tradition. Fast-forward 101 years to 2004. I had a teaching gig in Spain that summer, Sue came along, and we arranged some time in Ireland on the way home. Using the preserved documents, driving around, and querying residents, we found the property. Here it is, with Sue in front. We also found her family name in a couple of places: the Quail Meadow and the Quail Lane. And we found the present owner of the property, who must be related, because he has two middle names, and they are “William Quail.”
There’s more. A similar building on the same property has been restored as a self-catering facility, meaning you can sleep and cook your own meals there. To see what it looks like now, click here.
Makes us wonder what another 100 years will bring. Here’s hoping the Irish luck holds, and our great-great-grandchildren will visit that good place.