Maher/Meagher is an ancient Gaelic Irish surname that extends through the arrival of the Vikings and Normans, actively appearing in Irish history ever forward to the present. My own extensive study of the Maher clan both in New Haven County, Connecticut and in Ireland has grown greatly since 2006, extending sideways into the time and circumstances in which our ancestors lived before and after their emigrations. My family’s connection to the Butler clan has led me to also research the phenomenon of the Anglo-Irish, which inevitably revolves around the issue of Catholicism. Gaelic Irish Catholicism, governed by the Brehon Laws, within which priests could marry, women had significant power, and divorce was allowed, was greatly changed through English influence. Methodical colonization and conquest resulted in the loss of ancestral Irish lands and a nation’s civil rights as religion was used as a weapon against the native people.
A recent pilgrimage to the land of my ancestors, the midlands of Ireland, has convinced me to offer some of my research in a blog format. Here I may explain in one place what I have found myself repeatedly attempting to share with others. Countless hours of study and miles of travel have resulted in an office full of information that must somehow be published. I intend to do this responsibly, with the goal of enabling others to progress without having to recreate their own wheels, as it has seemed that I have had to do. Here I will not need to worry that my writing is too long, too scholarly, does not fit a particular style, or is too Maher-oriented, and those who are interested in the topic will no doubt find me.
René Daumal explained in his allegorical Mount Analogue (Baltimore, MD: Penguin Books, 1974, pg.116) the importance of providing guideposts for others as one trail blazes a chosen mountain. While it is critical to leave clues along the way to aid in one’s own return, it is also important to remove any marks that might confuse someone else who might follow one’s path. “Be ready to answer to your fellow men for the trail you leave behind you,” he urged. With that in mind I will be careful to share that which seems pertinent to the general focus I have established, will serve a general interest, and will illuminate the paths I have taken to arrive where I have.
In gratitude to those who have served as guides for me I offer this blog. I hope that it will advance others’ research and perhaps one day circle back into mine. We who do genealogical research become experts about our own lines, usually to about the level of second great grandparents. If one’s Irish ancestors have historically been Catholic, the search for data is particularly difficult. However, for those researching a particular surname, area and time period, I am convinced that if we collectively get back far enough the connections will appear. May we continue to find them and, most importantly, enjoy the process!
©2011 Janet Ní Mheachair (Janet Maher)
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