Family and World History – Irish Men On The Move — The North Star Reports – by Kirsten Olsen. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal

Family and World History – Irish Men On The Move — The North Star Reports – by Kirsten Olsen. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal


[photo: My ancestor, Dennis E. Mitchell, who was present when President Lincoln was shot.]

Through my research I found connections not only to Ireland, the place to which I could trace my ancestors, but also to places all around the world. Because humans have a tendency to move we are not from just one place in the world but from many. I also found historical connections that put my family in the same time and place of one major historical event.

Researching my family history made me realize that my ancestors followed in the footsteps of most other humans throughout history. Humans have a tendency to move for different reasons, such as to pursue better opportunities or a better life or to escape hardships. I have come to the conclusion that my family moved for these reasons. The oldest ancestor I found left Ireland for the New World during a period of widespread hardship. With more research I found that other members of my family also chose to move quite a bit. One member of my family actually moved six times in his life, I believe to find a good job. Whatever the reason may be for humans to leave, they move for some reason.

When I say that I’m Irish, what I’m really saying is that the farthest back that I found my own family history recorded goes back to Ireland, but the big mysteries are the things that aren’t documented. If humans have been moving for millions of years, how could I say that my ancestors are only from Ireland?

I learned that we might take pride in where we are from but we should also realize that we are all in a way “mutts.” So little things like people saying the only ones who can celebrate St. Patrick’s day are the Irish is actually quite foolish because we could all be Irish in some way, you never know.

Another thing that I learned from being in class was that big historical events in history can be noticed for one specific person but we never account for the people who are behind the scenes helping out or contributing to the event at hand. In my family history I found out that one of my ancestors was at the exact time and place of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and was on duty helping to protect his country. My family takes pride in this claim to fame, connecting our family to a major historical event. But nobody ever talks about the people who are involved in these historical events; we just learn about the famous people that were involved in the event. Having done my research and found a recurring theme, I now have a better understanding about who my family is and where I fit in the world and in society. [Professor Liang’s 2014 World History II class.]

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at)

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, The Middle Ground Journal and The College of St. Scholastica’s collaborative outreach program with K-12 classes around the world. We acknowledge North Star Academy of Duluth, Minnesota as our inaugural partner school, and the flagship of our program. We also welcome Duluth East High School and other schools around the world. The North Star Reports has flourished since 2012. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:

The North Star Reports publishes edited essays from our students, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. Students have reported from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing reviews of books, documentaries, and films, projects on historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and analysis of current events from around the world. We will post their dispatches, and report on their interactions with the North Star Reports students and teachers.

We thank The Department of History and Politics and the School of Arts and Letters of The College of St. Scholastica for their generous financial support for The North Star Reports and The Middle Ground Journal.

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy The NSR is sponsored by The Middle Ground Journal and The College of St. Scholastica. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact chief editor Professor Liang at HLIANG (at)


Filed under History, Professor Hong-Ming Liang, Professor Liang's Classes

32 responses to “Family and World History – Irish Men On The Move — The North Star Reports – by Kirsten Olsen. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal

  1. Mackenzie Sherrill

    I agree that humans typically have a purpose or reason for why they migrate around the world. For my own ancestors, it was to escape famines in Ireland. I also like how you compare us to mutts because if people understood this concept, I think they would be less quick to judge other ethnic backgrounds.

  2. Camila Garcia

    I think is very interesting the idea you point out about how we are really a mix of many things. Sometimes we tend to thing about our history and about our past, as a static process where we can only link ourselves with the present. But the reality, is that we have a connection to much more people than we can imagine, and that we are constantly discovering more about ourselves if we look into our past.

  3. Samantha Roettger

    I like that you made the point that it is human nature to move about and that you, or anyone, does not come solely from one place. Most people identify themselves with one nationality just to feel that sense of belonging to a particular culture. However, in reality most Americans are “mutts” as you put it and come from many places. I am glad you noticed this and also accepted this. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Mike Lehmann

    I totally agree with your statement that in some way we are all mutts, there are very few people in the world who are not. But more importantly I think that your way of thinking can help change the world for the better. Realizing that we are all connected in some way and that no one is better than the other can make real change in this world. The key to our future lies in the past. Awesome article!

  5. Carley Henning

    I had to smile when you said we are all “mutts” because it is true once you think about it. We all come from different parts of the world but could find out that our ancestors traveled so much that we don’t actually known where our family story first began. Very interesting article to say the least!

  6. Kaitlyn Young

    I liked that you emphasized how it truly is very difficult for us to know exactly where we came from due to the movement of humans from place to place. I also really liked your point about forgetting the people involved behind the scenes. I find this to be true in both history and in society today. Very good article!

  7. Josie Thao

    I always considered myself 100% because both of my parents share the same cultural identity. But of course that’s not really the case. I appreciate your insight because change is inevitable and progression is a state of life. As human beings, we are meant to find our own “cultural” points of references, hence, wanderlust exist and then there’s immigration which is a sticky situation in itself.

  8. Evangelista Chicheko

    I really enjoyed reading your post and making connections with what you have written. Just like your family, my family has always been traveling across the world to seek better jobs and opportunities. Sometimes it is not out of our own will but circumstances do force us at times. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Karn Pederstuen

    Thank you for sharing some of your family history! You made a great point in saying that many times history is studied by looking at major events and famous people. However, everyday history is important as well.

  10. David Miller

    I remember researching my family history and finding out my heritage more than i could ever have imagined. I recall talking to my grandmother and she even called my family heritage as a mutt heritage. She did this to emphasize the vast cultural heritage my family has. Another interesting I found along with the large number of moves was some of the names changes to avoid being discriminated against. Thank you for sharing and bringing up some of my research memories.

  11. Rachel Studley

    I like that you point out that saying you’re Irish only means that your recorded history can only be traced back that far. In America I think the connotation with saying this is the country that your ancestors immigrated from. I have met quite a few people who pride themselves in saying they are German or Irish only because i feel like they need that identifier or simply because they haven’t bothered to look back that far as you have pointed out.

  12. Bao Vang

    I agree with you when you mentioned that everyone moved throughout the world for many personal reasons. My parents moved from Laos to the U.S for a better life and to get away from the war back home. It is also really cool to see how everyone’s family history has migration and they’re families reasons to why they moved. Furthermore, I thought it was cool that you discovered you had a relative who was present during the assassination of Lincoln. I do agree other people are forgotten because many history texts only focus on famous people. Thank you for sharing your family history. I enjoyed reading it!

  13. Donovan Chock

    Interesting point about “mutts.” I used to think I was a true “mutt”because my father is Hawaiian and Chinese and my mother is German and Danish. However, especially after Professor Liang’s class, I have also come to realize that we are all “mutts.” Thank you for sharing!

  14. Morgan Young

    I love that you pointed out how we are all mutts nowadays. And you’re absolutely right, people have traveled around the world for many different reasons, which would make it impossible for every group of people to be “pure.” I also appreciate the fact that when you say you’re Irish, you mean that you trace your family history back to Ireland. I myself, am part Irish, but I’m also Finnish, and Italian, which means I can trace my family history back to at least those three countries. Great article!

  15. Tyler Winkelman

    I enjoyed reading your post about your heritage. I loved reading the part that we are mutts. Because we truly are, from the changing of borders over the years. Thanks for sharing.

  16. Kyle Hellmann

    It’s nice to know that we are all connected in the fact that we are all a kind of “mutt!” Very cool that your ancestor was alive during such a turning point of the USA, and it makes me want to look at my ancestors and see if they were involved with a different event! Thanks for sharing!

  17. Becca

    I like your point about how we’re all mutts. This is something that I’ve always felt that humans are, but it doesn’t seem like it’s too common of a belief. I wish I could find out more about my ancestors, but it’s hard to do when you have a great-grandma that doesn’t share much!

  18. I think your comment about how humans are all in a sense “mutts” is true, especially in the fact that our dna is 99.9% the same. I believe people are so adamant and proud of where much of their origin can be traced from is because they want to have a sense of stable identity. I also have done some research on my family and found that several of my relatives served in the American Civil War as well. Interesting article and I hope you are enjoying your research.

  19. Zach Friederichs

    Moving in order to improve one’s life and find work has been a common theme in my family history too. My dad always tells me how he had to move 7 times to 3 different states during his childhood as his dad attempted to find a decent job.

  20. Austin Kindt

    I think people throughout the world like to identify themselves with a certain country or ethnicity even though we all are in many ways a heinz 57 or as you put simply, mutts. Its really neat to look back and study family history to learn about the hardships and how many left much behind in order to pursue a better life.

  21. Hannah Kunde

    I thought it was very interesting how you kept connecting your family history with what you learned in class. This specific statement especially stuck out to me, “Another thing that I learned from being in class was that big historical events in history can be noticed for one specific person but we never account for the people who are behind the scenes helping out or contributing to the event at hand.” In history classes I often hear abut the Korean War and how the separation of the country into two separate parts. However, having a relative who grew up during this separation was a very different side of a story. Individuals give a very different perspective than the ones in history books and your article made that very clear.

  22. When I think about all of the cultural migrations, invasions, and expeditions throughout history, I don’t know if anyone could call themselves a pure anything at this point. What is a person’s identity if not their culture? I am of Irish/Slovak heritage, yet I could not identify with my ethnic heritage more than any other third-generation American could – we lose that over time. I think the issue of being American is unique in that we are an amalgamation of culture – which do we hold on to, our past or our present?

  23. I am not sure if I am the only one noticing this but this article is so much like what we have been learning in class. First, history is not only focused on big people or big events, but those small people who are often forgotten. The Pharaohs did not build the pyramids (the Egyptians either) it was the slaves who toiled from the foundations to the tip. Thanks for sharing!

  24. Andy Lawrence

    I enjoyed the way you talked about your family and how they moved to the New World. I researched my family history too and I loved learning about the reasons why they migrated. It is interesting to see where your family is from to get a good perspective on what your true personal meaning of life is.

  25. Ryan Lyzhoft

    I really liked how you you talked about how no one is 100% of one specific region. It’s hard to say that you’re German or Swedish when thats as far back as you can trace it. I like how you said that we are all “mutts” because we don’t know where our ancestors came from before they started to document things. Thanks for sharing this and how it connects to the class!

  26. Chelsey L

    This is a very good story. I like your statements about the connections around the world. I also found some interesting things about my family. I see that you go by Irish, I actually go more Norwegian and have found the similar things of my ancestors.

  27. Tommy Traaholt

    I completely agree with you. It’s impossible to say exactly where we came from, because my ancestors came from Poland and Norway, but where did they come from before that? There is no way of knowing, and i liked how you said we are all “mutts”. I also like how you said people tend to move around for different reasons, which has been one of the main themes in my history class this semester.

  28. Emily Schiro

    This article does put it into perspective that we may all be sort of mutts like you referred to in your story because our ancestors do move a lot. I think that is a good thing to remind people of because we take so much pride in where we come from and unfortunately may judge others even though we are more closely related then we think.

  29. Eleni Birhane

    Your view on human migration and interrelations are very interesting. Humans do tend to move around for various reasons. In my country(Ethiopia) for instance we can see thousands of people looking to leave the country to make a better life for themselves and their family. It is sad to think of but it is the reality. Through these various movements, like you pointed out, can come an extremely woven and interrelated set of people all around the world.

  30. Jenna Algoo

    Your writing hits home for many people. You are right, as a people we are constantly in motion always in search of something “better”, whether we find it or not. I think that is one of mankind’s fatal flaws, but also one of their greatest qualities. This creates a huge camaraderie between many peoples and nations, and much like what you wrote and most importantly it creates ties all over the world.

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