Final Reflection

When I first heard that my teachers had recommended me for COPLAC I felt very honored. I haven’t taken a lot of history courses yet because I’ve been focusing on my other major, so that I left a significant enough impression on my professors to be recommended felt very special.

My first month or two in COPLAC was extremely overwhelming. The sheer amount of different ways of communicating information was horrifying and confusing. Initially there was Zoom for class meetings, Emails, Slack, WordPress, Hypothesis for leaving comments, and Twitter. Aside from email, I had never used any of these other programs. To have to use and check all of these platforms on a regular basis was a huge amount of work, more than I felt I had signed on for. For at least a month I considered quitting because it was too overwhelming. Honestly the only thing that kept me in the class was because I was friends with my partner and didn’t want to let her down.

We eventually gave up Hypothesis. I only used Twitter two or three times because it was too much of a hassle and I could never remember to tweet. I also didn’t see the value in it. I also never used Slack much unless I received a direct message or was told to look at the class channel for resources, although I do see that it could be a valuable platform to use. Overall, I would suggest not using Hypothesis or Twitter. Neither of these things added anything of value to my experience in this class and made it more complicated than it needed to be.

After we started settling into the research portion of the class and the technology issues settled down, I felt much better. Forcing myself to use resources like the archivists, local history society, and public library, that I don’t usually use in research projects was very helpful to me. This class made me seek out new sources of information and become more comfortable using them. It really helped me to develop my researching skills.

It was interesting to work on this research project this semester because in another class I was also working on a local history research project. Many of the skills and tools that I was learning in one class could be used in the other. Research trips made for one class could also be used to dig up research for the other. My partner for COPLAC was also in this history class. We could shift between working on the different research projects and even use some of the same resources.

Being able to talk to other students from across the country was a really fun experience. I enjoyed getting to know students from other areas and hearing about their experiences and local histories. It was also fun to listen to Dr. Dunn and Dr. Turner debate the merits of barbeque. I’ve never had a class taught by two professors before, so this was another facet of the experience. They each brought different ideas, areas of expertise, and personalities to the class. It was sun getting to know both the professors and the students.

The most significant thing I took from this class was the research experience and the digital tools. While we were creating our blogs, we had to try out different digital tools and see what would work best; which ones were better for the story we were trying to tell, and which ones we could actually use with some degree of proficiency.  We ended up using Timeline JS and Google My Maps. I had never used Timeline before, but found it to be a very useful program. Interestingly, my professor for my other research project required us to use Timeline, so my prior experience with it in COPLAC was very useful. I ended up having a lot of problems with it because it’s not the easiest program to use and can be very glitchy and sensitive. It does create a great timeline and I can see how you could use this tool to create very unique projects. Google My Maps was another cool tool that we used on our blog. I had never heard of it before, although I do use Google Maps a lot. It was a bit difficult because I had to teach myself to use it and then teach my partner, but once I got the hang of it I discovered how versatile it can be. It’s a great tool for a big project like this. I’m already using it for a personal project. My friends and I are studying abroad in Europe next semester, so we have been using it to chart out where we’re each going, where we can meet up, and places that we all want to go. This is an extremely helpful tool not only for academic purposes, but also for everyday life.

The start of my COPLAC experience was very rough. I experienced some miscommunication, confusion, and an extremely overwhelming amount of new technology that I was expected to use that I feel did not add to my experience. I really enjoyed the project as a whole, and learned a great deal about research and how to find local and online resources. This experience will be very useful to me in future. I also liked meeting people from other parts of the country and sharing in their research experiences and getting to know them. I learned how to use many different technologies and digital tools, some of which I will continue to use in future. Overall my experience with COPLAC has been one of positive interpersonal interactions, gained experiences in the field of local history and online research, and learning how to use a wide variety of digital tools with varying degrees of usefulness.

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The Numbers Lie

This week I skimmed through a few secondary sources on Irish Immigration that I found in my college library. A particular section about immigration number inacuracies from the book cited below caught my attention. It was completely new and interesting information. Although we knew that some immigrants came to the US via Canada, we had no idea just how many and this book helped put that in perspective.

Leaving Europe on ships bound for Canada was often cheaper than sailing to America. Many such travelers came into North America via Newfoundland, New Brunswick, or Quebec City. There were a few who could not afford the trip to Boston by boat so they walked the nearly 600 miles to North Adams. The actual numbers of immigrants that came over land of over sea are unknown, and at best can only be guessed at.  While there are figures showing those who sailed directly from Ireland to America, those that took a less direct route are not counted in those figures. Some Irish immigrants traveled through England and left from English ports. Some records may show that the passengers were originally from Ireland, but not all do. Additionally, during the 1800s the border between the US and Canada was far more fluid than today. Irish immigrants who simply walked across the border and into the US by way of Maine and other areas of New England would not be included in immigration numbers, as it wasn’t until the early 1900s that such land migrations were really recorded. One estimate believes that anywhere from between 1/4 and 1/7 of all Irish Immigrants into the US would have gone unrecorded. In essence, the true number of Irish immigrants that made the perilous Atlantic crossing to begin new lives in North America can never be known.

O’Sullivan, Patrick. The Irish in the New Communities. London: Leicester University Press, 1997.

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Disappointing Days

I’ve spent the last couple days transcribing Irish names that we found on graves in the local cemetery and trying to decipher names and dates. Some things I just couldn’t make out, which was very frustrating. I used the HeritageQuest database to try to find these people, but I was mostly unsuccessful. I have used HeritageQuest before successfully so I know the database is a good one with detailed census and property records for this area, which made the fact that I couldn’t find most of these people really weird. It’s driving me nuts because some of the grave markers had things like “native of Dublin” on them, so we know that they we immigrants. I just can’t find record of them outside the cemetery.

The one name I found records of was one Michael Dougherty, who lived from 1860 to 1934. He was born in Ireland and emigrated in 1875, married Mary T. Sherry in 1890. He was literate. He worked in one of the local textile mills. He owned a house valued at $6,000 and had a radio!

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Thoreau(ly) No Better Nor Worse

Lojek, Helen. 1994. “Thoreau’s Bog People.” The New England Quarterly 279-297.

Lojek’s article focuses on Henry David Thoreau’s writings about the Irish as a way of examining the common stereotypes of the time. Throughout many of his books, letters, and other writing, Thoreau describes Irish people and characters as dirty, superstitious, rowdy, drunkards, poverty stricken, and firmly lower class. These descriptors, Lojek says, are on par with how the general population viewed the Irish immigrants. One thing of note is that Thoreau rarely disparages the Irish for being Catholic, despite the strong anti- Irish Catholic sentiment that was common throughout New England at the time. Lojek also describes how Thoreau’s most frequent mentions of the Irish occur around and before 1850, when Irish immigration was at it’s height, but as it begins to taper off, and the Irish become more accepted, Thoreau becomes more sympathetic towards the Irish (specifically the way they are exploited and earn very low wages), and calls them hardworking. Lojek concludes that Thoreau’s writing was no more accepting or racist than the common attitude given the time period. Lojek’s writing is clear, concise, and could be easily read. This article is useful for examining the common attitudes (and their shifts) towards the Irish immigrants, and it also provides several key figures and dates for Irish immigration.

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Project Update

We’ve been working to find some new sources as well as visiting the local cemetery and looking for Irish immigrant graves. It was a bit of a needle in a haystack, but we did well. Next we plan to trace some of the families to see where the came from. We’ve also been doing a lot of behind the scenes work like our COPLAC contract, which is now in it’s second draft. We also have more sources added to our bibliography. I went through the other day and found older photos and sketches of many of the areas mentioned in previous posts. They’ve been loaded into the Google My Map that we are using to keep track of locations and journeys.

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Google My Maps: A Good Tool

Google My Maps is a pretty instinctive tool and isn’t hard to learn. I like how we can upload our pictures and tag places. We used the places we’ve come across in our research so far, and we hope to continue to add more throughout the semester. We only have a few places in Ireland that we are sure immigrants from North Adams came from. The lines represent different people’s journeys, but these are very loose guesses, as we have very little documentation as to the routes they took or their method of travel. Google Maps was better for us than Story Maps because it was easier to use and we just liked it’s appearance. Kate and I both worked on finding and entering the locations. Kate did the lines. I found photos for most of the locations and created citations for them. Most of the sources are a bit strange because I found them through a Google search. I hope that we will have a little more information and locations to add in the future.

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Info Mine: a distinctly dusty dissertation

Coogan, Timothy. 1992. The forging of new mill town: North and South Adams, Massachusetts, 1780-1860. Dissertation, New York: New York University.

Image result for hoosac tunnel

Coogan writes his dissertation on the history of the Adams area of Massachusetts in Jacksonian America. He makes a comparative analysis of the Northeastern factory communities and their paternalistic arrangements such as boardinghouses, management policies, millwork experience and interpersonal relations. He traces the town’s agrarian and Yankee roots to its transformation into an industrial town with a large Catholic immigrant population. This dissertation was extremely lengthy with a plethora of annotations and footnotes. It follows more general trends than coverage of specific events. It was not clogged with too much academic jargon, but still not an easy read. This source is useful for observing social and economic trends in North Adams during the early part of the nineteenth century.

Wow. I was not expecting much from this extremely long dissertation written by a guy in New York nearly thirty years ago, but I found so much information.  We already knew a lot about the general socio-economic live of the Irish Immigrants, but it is nice to have concrete confirmation. He also included some very helpful facts, figures, and sources. Hopefully I’ll be able to find some of the sources he used and mine them for more information about some interesting events I found. For instance, an Irish tunnel worker was found beaten to death in the Hoosac Tunnel in the 1860s as tension in the town rose due to increasing immigration and strike activity, but Coogan doesn’t say who he was or if his killer was ever found. A man’s murder was reduced to an interesting factoid in parentheses. I find this story very sad, and now I want to discover more.

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“Make America Great Again” is Nothing New


Image result for edith wharton

Ammons, Elizabeth. 2008. “The Myth of Imperiled Whiteness and Ethan Frome.” The New England Quarterly 5-33.

Ammons writes an analysis of the well-known book Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton, looking specifically at several different characters and how they represent the ideas of white New England versus colored immigrants as well as farming versus industry. Ammons also draws from Wharton’s contemporary writers and politicians to show how common the views expressed in Ethan Frome were at the time. She discusses the common fear of change and racism that is evidenced by police reports, newspaper clippings, and personal letters. This article is well researched and fully cited, and is written with an higher level academic audience in mind. This source will be useful in examining the common attitudes towards immigrants in New England. As Ethan Frome is in fact set in a fictionalized version of North Adams, this article is one of the few that specifically references the small town, and gives exacting evidence of the racism immigrants to the town faced during this time period.

Because this is an article about a book from the time period, the article itself is a secondary source, but I may want to ready through the book myself so that it can be a primary source. Perhaps when I have time…ke

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Irish Versus the Yankees (no, not the baseball team)

Image result for sprague electric mill

(above) a view of one of the largest factories/mills in North Adams

Morgan, Jack. 2009. “Among Cromwell’s Children: The Irish and Yankee New England.” New Hibernia Review 89-107.


Morgan’s article explains the anti-Irish sentiment of native New Englanders pre-Civil War as mostly a struggle between nativist sentiment versus immigrants (Yankees being natives and Irish being newer immigrants) and Protestants versus Catholics (Yankees being Protestant and Irish being Catholic). He goes on to explain that rising numbers of Irish around the mid 1800s, their fighting in the Civil War, and the emergence of several respectable figureheads in the intellectual and political communities lead to a softening in attitude. Although there was still pushback when agrarianism was supplanted by industrialism and Irish immigrants took work in factories. Eventually many intellectuals became more exposed to Catholicism and Celtic culture and helped soften Protestant Nativism, and the Irish became viewed as an infusion of energy and culture into a stagnating Protestant Yankee culture.

Morgan’s writing is clearly directed towards those who have an extensive background in New England and Europe history, and there are whole paragraphs that are nearly incomprehensible to the uninformed.

This article provided a background and general timeline from the main influx of Irish immigrants in the 1800s to their general acceptance just before the 1900s, as well as illuminating the Protestant versus Catholic conflict and Irish contributions to New England culture. This article is very useful for exploring the main reasons that the Irish came into conflict with the New Englanders, as well as how they eventually came to be accepted.

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