IMAGINING THAT one of my descendants in the late 2090s might be interested in what I was thinking near the start of the 21st century, I wonder what my great great grandparents, like Elizabeth Anders McKelvey (above), might have told me about living in 18th century Ireland.
I wish I knew what my forebears in 19th century Ireland thought about the future. I doubt they thought one of their great great grandsons would return to the auld sod because so many of their friends and relatives were sailing away from famine conditions.
I wish I had little pieces of paper, photographs, prayer cards, or community notices that could share with me some of the voices of the time. I wish I had a diary or a journal where I could read about the dreams and fears of the future.
It's not hard to conceptualise how my Irish ancestors live. I have visited the rocky grounds of the family bungalow in County Clare and know they would not have enjoyed the modern conveniences I insist upon maintaining today. I wonder if they read novels, listened to poetry, appreciated the work of painters and architects. Were their lives locked into calendars set by the Roman Catholic Church? Did they despise the English? How did they view young people, elderly folk, and unmarried women?
I really want to know what sorts of factors were instrumental in their understanding of what it meant to be Irish.
In the future of my family line, I know my grandchildren will have an easier time parsing the Irish dimension from my American past because when I die, I will have lived in Ireland longer than I lived in the United States or Germany. But I feel transnational--even more European--than my brothers and cousins would expect. Perhaps the things I write on my blog and the audio I share on my podcast will offer a more sophisticated understanding of Bernie Goldbach, the transnational Irishman.
I'm getting some inspiration from the annual Society for the Study of 19th Century Ireland's Conference and I plan to reflect on a few topics arising from the organisers' call for proposals. These are questions I want to answer on my blog and during my podcasts.
-- Visual representations and depictions of the future that lies ahead for my children.
-- How Irish people who I read and hear imagine the future.
-- How the future appears to my daughter and how it appears to my son.
-- My opinion of how rural Ireland will evolve.
-- Identifying something authentically Irish.
-- The architectural, engineering and administrative visions of modern Ireland.
-- Transnational perspectives I have learned from the Irish abroad and their view of Ireland’s future.
-- The vision the Irish government has of the future of the Republic of Ireland.