Obrien Family History & Genealogy

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My grandfather, John O'Brien, was born on November 16, 1889 in Kilfinane, near Limerick, Ireland. His father was Thomas O'Brien, a stone mason. His mother was Ellen O'Brien (nee Riordan).
The family lore says that John came to America "under a cloud", a reference indicating that he was most likely involved with the Feenian movement against the British Crown. He was initially returned to Ireland as an undesireable alien, but somehow managed to return again. When the United States entered the First World War he enlisted in the Army, serving with "The Fighting 69th" regiment. He was wounded in the neck (as a child I remember the scars) and was gassed. He had a strange cough for the rest of his life from it. He was also a hard drinker. My mom told of how he would drink himself into a stupor at the kitchen table at night and relive his war experiences.My mom says that they (the children) would sneak up on him and try to see the scars on his neck that he tried to hide all the time.
Back from the war and raising a family in Brooklyn, he joined the Treasury Department and was a guard at the Federal Reserve and Mint for many years.He stayed very active in the VFW. Every St. Patty's day we'd watch him and the other 69th veterans march. Then we'd go to the 59th street armory for a big party.
One of my favorite memories of him was when my mom was going to punish me for some infraction or other. My grandfather's voice boomed out from the living room in a thick Gaelic brogue, "Oh, don't hit the boy Ann." He died when I was still a kid and was the only living grandparent I ever had. They didn't live as long in those days.
While he was not a perfect individual he did raise seven children to be good citizens and loving people. Another six children died before they were five from scarlett fever and the like. They were different times.As i grow older I find myself more and more curious about my family history. As an O'Brien we trace our roots to Brian Boru, who drove the Vikings from Ireland. "Remember", my mom would say, "you've the blood of kings in your veins."
He died in 1963, while on a cruise off the coast of Florida, traveling with a "lady friend." He was a rebel till the end.
Sep 18, 2005 · Reply

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