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Beginning from an interest in her own family’s history, with From the Old Sod to the Naugatuck Valley Janet Maher shares a deeply textured journey through a fascinating corner of the Irish Catholic diaspora. She explores the history of Ireland through the perspective of Catholicism, bridging it to the origins of Catholicism in Connecticut generally, then to several Irish families whose personal stories extend to the present.

Mapping and thoroughly transcribing the oldest Catholic cemetery in Naugatuck, Saint Francis, Maher has made connections between generations of families and friends. The book includes selected marriage, baptism and death records throughout the nineteenth century and excerpts from rare letters between Irish immigrants and individuals still in Ireland. It is replete with photographs from Ireland and Connecticut, and restored personal photographs selected from families’ collections, including her own, from materials safeguarded in scrapbooks and albums for years. In many ways Maher has made the people whose graves she encountered in cemeteries come alive again.

Creatively overcoming the limited existence of early genealogical records, From the Old Sod to the Naugatuck Valley draws a colorful, intimate multi-layered vision of a generation of immigrants and their descendants who shaped the character of southern Connecticut. Its fusion with family histories brings to the foreground a captivating thread in the tapestry called America.

Janet Maher has been a professional artist for more than thirty years. Her drawings, prints, artist books, mixed media works and collaborative projects have been exhibited widely and are in numerous private and public collections. A native of Connecticut, she also lived and worked in New Mexico before settling in Baltimore, where she is an Associate Professor of Visual Arts at Loyola University Maryland. This is her first scholarly book.

©2011 Janet Maher/Sinéad Ní Mheachair

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