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Maybe my last name should be McZowie

From A to Zowie

Maybe my last name should be McZowie

By Richard Zowie

Asking people in Genesee Township and in Bridgeport their thoughts on St. Patrick’s Day reminded me of my own experiences on March 17. Always the absent-minded young boy, I’d forget to wear green and would spend the day getting pinched. My eyes are hazel (mostly green with some brown sprinkled in), but apparently having eyes of that hue doesn’t count. And, when I was around 10, the daughter of one of my Dad’s good friends married an Irishman on—yep, you guessed it—March 17.

When I joined the Army, wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day wasn’t really an issue since most clothes issued to you had green in them (including even the underwear). Granted, it’s more olive-drab green instead of Ireland’s official color of Kelly green, but in the end it matters little.

And when it comes to family, I learned that among some of my ancestors, Kelly green was a popular color.

That’s because one ancestor on my Dad’s side, James McGinnis, was born in 1750 in County Antrim, Ireland (now Northern Ireland). McGinnis, my paternal grandmother’s ancestor, moved to America, married in 1774 and sired eight children. This ancestor also served in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War and—according to family tradition—was present in 1781 when the British surrendered at Yorktown.

This news was very much a surprise since I’d always thought my ethnicity consisted primarily of English and German with trace amounts of American Indian, Scottish and French. I wasn’t really aware there was also Irish.

According to one genealogical website, McGinnis later owned property in Stephens City, Virginia that is today the site of Stephens City United Methodist Church. It seems fitting, considering that James’ grandson Edmund was a minister.

What really makes this fascinating to me is that my oldest nephew, Joshua not only wants to become a minister, but he wants to be a missionary. Where does he want to serve? Ireland.

Another ancestor may have also been Irish. Thomas Hilley, from my mother’s side, was born about four years after McGinnis, and served in the Virginia militia during the Revolutionary War. The surname Hilly is thought to have come from the Irish name “O’Fitheallaig” (“chessplayer”) or “O’Helihys” ( “ingenious”). It’s also possible that Hilley came from the Old English word Hyll (“hill”) and simply was used as a surname by a family that lived on a Hill. Some think Hilley could even be Scottish in origin.

As for me, I’d love to go someday to Ireland and visit. Of course, I’d have to travel to the southern Irish city of Cork to kiss the Blarney Stone.

Here’s something else to chuckle about. I saw this joke in Reader’s Digest many years ago and found it on the internet recently:

Pasteurized Irish Sweepstakes Winner

When Megan O’Malley of County Kildare won the Irish Sweepstakes, she decided to treat herself to some of the finer things in life.

“I’ve nivver had a milk bath,” she told her milkman one morning. “Wouldja be bringin’ me 95 quarts o’milk tomorro’?”

“Whativver ye want, mum,” answered the milkman. “Will that be pasteurized?”

“No,” she said. “Up to me chest will do.”

(Published in the March 17, 2010 issue of the Mt. Morris/Clio and Birch Run/Bridgeport Herald)

Richard “McZowie” Zowie’s a reporter and columnist for the Herald. Kelly green is indeed one of his favorite colors. Visit his blog at http://www.fromatozowie.wordpress.com or e-mail him at richardzowie@gmail.com.

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