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    Maryland dig aims at exploring diaspora experience

    By Noreen Bowden | July 21, 2009

    A project exploring the experience of Famine-era migrants in Maryland aims to connect the history of one destination town with wider questions about the Irish diaspora and with the emigrants’ place of origin.

    It’s an archaeological dig in Texas, Maryland, a suburb of Baltimore that was founded around 1847 by Irish immigrants; many of the immigrants came from the Roscommon townland of Ballykilcline, after they were evicted during the famine. The dig is aimed at discovering the everyday lives of working-class Irish in America, and University of Maryland assistant professor Stephen Brighton, who is directing the dig, told the Baltimore Sun that it is the first to do so.

    So far, a student group that spent six weeks working on the site have found a number of artifacts such as pennies, bottles, buttons, toys and pottery shards. The dig on the site will resume next year, while researchers will spend many months examining the artifacts unearthed so far.

    The project is seeking to answer questions such as:

    • What impacts did the Famine, eviction, and transportation have on rural Irish cultural practices?
    • What kind of social and material life did Irish evictees have after settling in Texas and how was it affected by their traumatic Irish past?
    • What cultural and material practices were adopted in the United States?
    • How does this compare to other Irish immigrant experiences throughout the United States?

    The project is most unusual for its links between Ireland and the US, and the intensity with which Ballykilcline has been studied. There are societies focusing on both the descendants of those who used to live in Ballykilcline, and two books have been published about the area and its emigrants.

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