A Few Thoughts on Family History

Posted by Seoirse on 7/30/2011 in Commentary

Creation of the new Ferriter Family website moved me to a review of certain items that I had in hand, for inclusion on the site. A number of these are now posted as blog entries, including the following. None of these observations, speculations, and theories have been altered by the time that has passed between having been written and now…enjoy reading, and comment, please!

Is there a limit to the value of knowledge that one may obtain,  learn, and hold onto, about one’s own family? What value does such information have in the first place? What boundaries does one set upon the idea of “family” itself?

These thoughts are often in mind as I work to find artifacts of information pertaining to the Ferriter family.



The Merriam Webster Dictionary offers these definitions:

1: a group of individuals living under one roof and usually under one head : household


2 (a) : a group of persons of common ancestry : clan

   (b) : a people or group of peoples regarded as deriving from a common stock : race


O.K., those things seem to make sense: household, clan, and race. And in what order do we owe allegiance, if at all? Do individuals by nature have some bonds within each of these seemingly related definitions?

Many people are fascinated by histories of battles, of successions of power, of the stories of individual greatness. Often these fascinations couple with the ethnic or political national heritage of the interested reader – a sense of relationship perhaps This is a cut and paste exercise – I have created a Word Document that I can use to put my thoughts down on, then I can cut and paste it onto a gmail, and send it along.

Sometimes I sense that I am almost at some sort of breakthrough point or epiphany with respect to the Ferriter narrative. Without doubt, we have something rare and special here. Not singular in the sense that we are a breed apart, but special in the sense that we can look across the warp and weave of our familial tapestry, as bounded by the Name.

Most families in the West, in and of our culture cannot with much certainty identify the familial homeland, in its entirety, cannot save for in some tenuous or hazy way look back at identifiable branching from a common root, and follow the paths that the several, becoming many, branches have taken in immigrating, and in staying in the home area. Many families can trace their pre-immigrant origins; few families can see the development and motion of the entire tribe.

I am sure that an outside observer might brand me as being obsessed or preoccupied with the patronymic, and with the name-bearing lines of descent. There can be no doubt or reservation with respect to the maternal inputs in the growth and development of what we are, and who we are, in time, or of this moment. That said, the Name bounds us, and provides a consistence to the fabric that we are a part of, that is us.

So, while we are a part of the One Thing – the One Great Family if you like, we are also The Ferriter Family, bounded and identified by the family name, and those that bear it.  Looking at the first paragraph, above, the rare gift that we have in our possession can clearly be seen. Very much unlike most families that exist in the 21st Century, the Ferriters can see with some clarity, the whole group, the entire clan. Everybody is visible, and our ancestors preceding us back across time are thus largely visible also.

So, do I envision some sort of voluminous history, some tale of All Ferriters? The narrative seems much more like a painting of some vast size and complexity, or as a sculpture, again of many colors and parts.  A map with many rivers, valleys, channels, and guiding terrain features.

Perhaps the view is obvious to others, but for me, the more I learn about what we have done and where we have come from - the more tangible and focused becomes the image of a single entity struggling and growing across the generations. I have seen many things, and have heard many stories involving Ferriters doing wild and fantastic things: triathlon competitions at advanced ages Open Ocean rowing, first ever swims in dangerous waters, war fighting, motocross, auto-polo, and dangerous work in deep mines, great scholarship, musical prowess, clever escapes, and more. So very many interesting and extraordinary feats and experiences the list could go on and on.

In each generation, there may be a family, or several closely related families that exhibit some superlative characteristics.  Sometimes more than one such “super-family” may exist at once, and in some cases their surpassing skills may be unrelated, i.e., one may have great scholars, and another may have great athletes.

Throughout history, most cultures and societies have shared the reality that the family – the family as a network of relationships – serves as a trustworthy barrier against vicissitude.  Surely, this time proven approach should hold true yet today.

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Know Your Ancestors

Catherine Ferriter

photo b. 1840
d. 11 Jan 1913

Catherine Ferriter was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in about 1840. She was the daughter of John and Honora (Fitzgerald) Ferriter. The family moved to Tioga County, Pennsylvania, soon after her birth, and she lived the rest of her life in that area. She married Edward Mitchell, originally from Dublin, Ireland, around 1856, and they lived in the Morris Run and Fallbrook, Pennsylvania, area.  My mother's notes have her described as a redhead, with a great sense of humor. Edward and Catherine were the parents of at least eleven children, many of whom passed away fairly young. One of those children was my grandfather, Michael Mitchell.... Read More