Daniel O’Connell

The Irish: O’Connell’s

My Grandmother who lived with my family for about 10 years marred a Kinney, however her family and maiden name was O’Connell. Grandfather Kinney I never met as he died the day I was born. I was given the name of Charles as it was his name also. The O’Connell family immigration to the United States goes way back in time to my great grandfather. I was told he was a union army officer who was at the surrender of Robert E. Lee to General Ulysses Grant at Appomattox. Although he lived in Virginia he stayed with the Union army at the time of the Civil War which I understood did not go over so well with his wife and daughter, my grand-mother, and neighbors.

His grandfather was Daniel O’Connell who often was referred to as “the Liberator” or “Emancipator” of Ireland from England in the fist half of the 19th century. He campaigned for Catholic Emancipation including the right for Catholics to sit in the Westminster Parliament which had been denied for over 100 years. He succeeded in repealing the Act of Union which combined Great Britain and Ireland.

I do not know exactly why the O’Connell’s immigrated to the USA but remember vaguely that there was the potato famine that could have had some influence. My grandmother, Blanche, was a dedicated Catholic who gave me a St. Christopher’s medal which I wore around my neck for over 10 years. In the old days, I understand that it was a custom in the Catholic Church for one to yearly purchase your seats that were then reserved for you for services. My grandmother was so mad at the head priest when he gave the family seats away to a friend that she refused to attend church ever again.

My parents came of age right in the midst of the Depression in 1929. My father was set to attend Princeton University but the Depression prevented that from happening. My father’s family owned a successful large dry cleaning company in Chicago that was forced out of business by the Depression. My Kinney grandfather was friends of the Commisky family who then owned the Chicago White Sox professional baseball team. Stories were told of all the gala parties and gambling games held before the Depression.

Shared by Chuck Kinney of Menlo Park, CA (editor’s note: former Mayor)

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