People and cultures

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Ethnicity Assignment

It is a well known fact that America, the country you and I were born and raised in, is a giant melting pot of people and cultures. Every one of us has ancestors that arrived here, in America many, many years ago from other countries all over the world. After much digging and asking many questions, I have found that my ancestors are of Scotch/Irish descent.

My ancestors came to America from Ireland starting with Christopher J. Devlin and Bridget H. Devlin. No one in my family can determine when they arrived but upon arrival to America, Christopher and Bridget settled in Pennsylvania. Their reasoning for leaving their homeland was to obtain better opportunities for a better way of life, possibly to escape poverty. It is also said that the Irish Famine (potato famine) in 1845 and 1846 was part of their reasoning. This famine ruined approximately three quarters of the country's crop, which supplied over four million people with their major source of food. Due to the famine, an estimated 350,000 people died of starvation as well as an outbreak of typhus.

Once in Pennsylvania, Christopher and Bridget had a son who they named James C. Devlin. Little did they know, James would be the one to pull the family out of poverty. When James reached adulthood he married Edna L. Kentlein and they had a daughter whom they named Ruth Alice Devlin. Later he started his own electrical/construction business called Devlin Electric/Decco Sound. A great part of his business can still be admired today. At the point in Pennsylvania, where the three rivers come together to form the Ohio River, there are a number of fountains. All the electrical wiring that makes these fountains work, was done by James's business, Devlin Electric.

The republic of Ireland, also known by its Irish name of Eire is an Island surrounded by the North Atlantic Ocean, the Celtic Sea, and the Irish Sea. Ireland is slightly larger than West Virginia and has a western maritime climate. The predominant influence is the Atlantic Ocean, which is no more than 70 miles from any inland location. The mild southwesterly winds and warm waters of the North Atlantic Current contribute to the moderate quality of the climate. Temperature is almost uniform over the entire island. The Landscape/terrain is 10% arable (farm land), 77% meadows and pastures, rough grazing 11% and 2% inland water. (

Some subsistence strategies used in Ireland are Agriculture, Pastoralism and Industrialism. Early in the 19th century, agriculture was the dominant industry of Ireland. Most of Ireland's agricultural land is used as pasture or for growing hay. The moderate climate makes for abundant vegetable and other plant growth which is beneficial to the rich grasslands that enable grazing stock to be kept on pasture all year round. Most of the gross agricultural output consists of livestock and livestock products. Beef is the biggest single item followed by milk and pigs. Other important products are poultry and eggs, and root crops including sugar beets and potatoes. Cereal growing is important in the east and southeast. Most farms are family farms, only a small percentage of those employed in agriculture work as hired labor. Adverse conditions in export markets following World War II brought the expansions of Irish agriculture to a screeching halt and the industrial and service sectors grew tremendously.

Pastoralism in Ireland is important as well. Ireland is well known for raising livestock as well as pigs. Sheep-raising is widespread on the rugged hills and mountain slopes throughout the country.

Industrialism is yet another subsistence strategy used in Ireland. After the slowed process of agriculture, industrialism grew at a rapid pace and included manufacturing and mining. Among the things manufactured in Ireland are: chemicals, car parts, cocoa, chocolate and sugar as well as paper. Mining for zinc and lead also helped industrialism take off.

When referring to secondary institutions of culture such as economics, religion, social organization and politics, each of them are exercised while we realize it or not. Religion in Ireland is mainly Roman Catholic but may other religions are carried out as well. The other religions include the Church of Ireland, Presbyterian, Methodist, and Baptist. There are also several American groups such as Jehovah's witnesses and Mormons. In addition to these, there are centers for Buddhists, Hindus as well as for people of the Islamic and Jewish faiths. Having mentioned all of these, it is easy to see that Ireland is a country where religion and religious practices are and always have been held in high esteem. It is said that Ireland is the "Land of Saints and Scholars," according to an old Irish proverb. (

The Irish republic is a parliamentary democracy. Ireland won its independence from Britian on December 6, 1921 and the Irish constitution was put into effect on December 29, 1937. The executive branch of government includes the president, chief of state and the Prime Minister (Taoiseach, head of government). The legislative branch is the bicameral national Parliament called Oireachtas and the House of Representatives (Dail) and the Senate (Seanad). The Judicial branch is made up of the Supreme Court and administrative subdivisions: 26 counties and 34 local authorities.

The Irish republic has a mixed economy. The constitution allows the state to provide essential services and promote development projects in the absence of private initiatives, State sponsored (semi-state) bodies operate the country's rail and passenger road transport, its electricity generation and distribution system, and its peat industry. (Britanica Macropaedia Volume 21 India/Ireland pg 1001) The Irish pound was the monetary system and was linked to the British pound sterling until 1979 when Ireland joined the European Monetary System. In 1999 the country adopted the Euro, the EU's single currency. (Britanica Macropaedia Volume 21 India/Ireland pg 1001) The United Kingdom is still Ireland's chief trading partner. Other countries to trade with Ireland are: Germany, France, the Netherlands, the United States, Japan and Singapore. The wide ranges of manufactured products that are exported include electrical machinery and apparatus, processed foods, chemical products, clothing and textiles, and beverages. The country is among the world's leading exporters of computer software. The principal imports include machinery and transport equipment, chemicals, petroleum and petroleum products, food products and textiles. (Britanica Macropaedia Volume 21 pg 1002-1003

In other interesting facts about Ireland is their style of clothing. Clothes in medieval Ireland consisted of two main items that were found in the earliest found records up until the 16th century: the leine, a smock-like garment that was sleeveless or fitted with sleeves and fell to just above the ankles. The brat is a rectangular cloak most often made from wool and is worn like a shawl. A full Length leine was never worn without a brat. Most Irish clothes of the time were very brightly colored, often striped, dotted or patterned. Brehon's Law (a set of laws that governed ancient Ireland) dictated three specific colors a person's clothes should be: the son of a king of Erin shall wear satin and red clothes, sons of the inferior classes of chieftains shall wear black, yellow or gray clothing and the sons of the lowest class of chieftains shall wear old clothes. Material for garments varied with social class. The lower classes (a majority of the population) wore clothing made of wool or linen. Silk and satin had to be imported so only the very rich could afford garments made of these materials.

Other types of garments found are the Inar, a close fitting jacket that came to the waist and was made with or without sleeves. The Broc, bright fitting trousers, come to the knee or sometimes longer and were made with a strap to go around the foot, similar to modern day stirrup pants. The Brocs were always worn with the Inar. The Crios is a belt, either woven or made out of leather, and the Brog, also known as shoes, were made out of untanned hide so they were soft and pliable.

There is still some speculation as to whether or not the ancient Irish wore kilts. Some historians believe they did wear kilts, while others believe it was a leine pulled up through the belt, giving the appearance of a kilt. (

Ireland is the place from where my ancestors came. It is a country of many religions and values and there is so much more to learn. Though this was a very hard assignment, it does make me curious to know more about my family throughout the ages.