Let's start with Mary Anne Cashin, pictured here, one of my great, great grandmothers on my mother's side. She lived from 1861-1901 and was from Waterford County, Ireland. To my knowledge this is the oldest known photograph of anyone in my family. Mary Anne, her husband, Maurice, and one of their sons, Michael, migrated to the United States. As the photograph below shows, Michael became an officer in the San Francisco Police Department.
A few things should be pointed out in the blue map above, which shows Munster Irish immigration, indicated by the orange-ish dots, from 1875-1925. Some were continuing to migrate to Great Britain, especially if they could not afford the trip to the United States. Most were going to the urban Northeast and it's worth considering why. I suspect that the urban North, due to its industrial prowess, contained a lot of jobs that attracted cheap, immigrant laborers. But outside of small pockets in Louisville, St. Louis, and New Orleans, why not the South? What makes the most sense to me--and again, I pledge my non-expertise and welcome corrections--is that the South already had an abundant supply of cheap laborers in its African American population. Secondarily, Irish Catholics may not have felt welcome in a region that, compared to the North, was more ethnically and religiously homogeneous, dominated by Anglo-Saxon evangelical Protestants.
Because the Flynns came over in the 1880s, they were not potato famine Irish. While discussions of late-19th century immigration to the US are often dominated by noting the large numbers of Slavs, Russian Jews, Italians, Poles, Mexicans, and Japanese, there were still substantial numbers of English and Irish coming to America at this time. The later Johnson-Reed legislation of the 1920s established quotas that favored immigrants from northern Europe above others.
Why have so many Irish Americans become politically conservative in recent decades despite the Catholic emphasis on social justice and the group's long history of economic disadvantages and alliance with the Democratic Party? This is a definite downer for me. Is it Catholicism's tendency toward hierarchical authoritarianism and anti-abortion politics? Is it the trend, common among many immigrant groups, that as they become more "white" and more "American" that they also become less welcoming of new immigrants, a platform more closely aligned with today's Republicans? Is it the experience of being in the police force? Is it tribalism?
Does the stereotype of the intemperate Irishman have any merit? My sense is that this has got to be more than just an urban legend. The "Fighting Irish" is the mascot of Notre Dame. Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan (bleck!), once said that one of his fellow House Republicans was "getting his Irish up" after being confrontational (for what exact reason I forget). And my parents will hate me for saying this, but irritability and argumentativeness are definitely family traits! It would be interesting to speculate about whether the fields of genetics can advance to the point of saying that so and so behaves in this way because of his/her genes. If there is a genetic component to our behavior, it certainly undermines the myth of the free and autonomous individual.
My niece, Tessa Josephine Campbell, pictured below, is the closest thing I have to a kid. I hope she reads this some day and gains some insight on her ancestral roots. She certainly has Irish DNA running through her!