The Ramonat Seminar: Final Reflection (Fall 2015)



What Has Made

Chicago Catholicism Distinctive?

21st Century Perspective

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The Ramonat Seminar: Discovering the Neighborhood 


I was in charge of mapping pg. 683 of this 1870 census, taken around the Holy Family neighborhood! Susie and Claire covered the other portions of our section.

Here are some stats to start off with:

  • I have a total of 40 residents
  • Of those residents, there are 9 “families” (Strong, Haganin, Teas, Vanever, Washburn, Camfield, Genard, Templease, and Brown), and three “singles” (John, Burchman, and Fay)
  • The Strong family only lists children between the ages of 9-16, with no parents attached to them
  • While most “families” consist of a mother and father plus a few kids, the Teas are a husband and wife (I assume) with a large age gap (53 Husband to Wife’s 37), and the Camfields are both in their 40’s with no children
  • 14 residents were born aboard (In Prussia (present day Germany), the Kingdom of Hanover (present day Germany), England, and Canada)
  • The rest are born in either Illinois or a Midwestern state
  • Those born aboard have marked both parents being born aboard, while Lizzie (3) and Mary (1) Genard are the only native-born American’s with that mark, indicated that their family immigrated shortly before Lizzie’s birth
  • It seems after the age of 16 or so, most children haven’t attended school within the year, do to the fact that high school and beyond hadn’t really caught on in that era
  • All men 21 and older could vote, all residences were literate, and no one suffered from mental or physical disabilities 
  • The age range is even as well as the mix of males to females
  • Finally, out of all the data the class collected, my page was the only one who had a family who was not of total white descent. The Browns had a black father, with the Mother and two children of mixed white and black descent or mulatto, to use the antiquated term

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The Ramonat Seminar #2: The Power of Paint and Prejudice

These past two weeks in the Ramonat seminar, we’ve focused on the European origin story of the various Catholic groups we are going to study, that end up in Chicago. Our main groups have been the Italians and the story of their eventual unification into the peninsula we know today, and that of the Irish pre- and post- potato famine.

What has struck me about the whole thing has largely been the similarities in the stories of these internal refugees or and political factions within their home country, who then look outward and within for some semblance of a more universal community.

While I could go into the readings and the trip we took last week (all of which can be found on the main blog for our cohort), Professor Roberts has challenged us to look at a mediums beyond the written word, and to focus on the Irish in particular.

Mick Moloney, a singer and professor, will be visiting us later in the month for the beginning of our seminar series. While I sadly can’t attend, I was happy to hear his rendition of a song around this period of mass immigration from Ireland entitled “The Green Fields of America”. Two lines stood out to me, but the first is a good lead way into a particular Irish practice, that feeds into the images I’ve chosen to study this week.

“For me mother is old and me father quite feeble…Oh, the tears down their cheeks in great drops they are rolling, To think I must die upon some foreign shore”

Thomas Hovenden’s Breaking Home Ties (1890), the image for this post, features a young man seemingly being sent away from his home. He’s dressed very nicely, young and fresh faced if not ghostly pale, while his family and pet surround him in muted colors with forlorn faces. While eclipsing the time period of focus, it hearkens back to a practice called the wake in which Irish families celebrated the lose of their sons to the so-called “green fields of America”. Much like the song lyric above evokes a generational split, one in which the young leave the older generation grieves, so too does this painting speak to that reality.

Patrick Fitzgerald and Brian Lambkin in their book Migration in Irish History, 1607-2007 chart out the three-stage process of Irish immigration (Leaving, Crossing, and Arriving), and of particular interest the scenes of migration between 1845-1850 onward, pre- and post famine. One practice the stood out before the journey was that of the wake. N.A. Woods, An Irish Wake (1819) below shows the chaotic scene of what we usually associate with a wake—death. The scene is in blacks, whites, and grays. The moonlight shines in as people pour in, drunk, angry, sobbing, praying, as the dead man lays in white with a heavy cross. The wake was unique to Ireland where “…even in southern Italy and southern Spain which were the only other regions of Europe where traces of pre-Christian funeral customs survived into the twentieth century” (Fitzgerald and Lambkin 17).


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