Southwest Minnesota Arts Council, McKnight Foundation funded grant awarded for Irish Diaspora writing project!

Featured photograph: Walsh Family from Canada and Ireland – This is a portrait of Catherine Summers Walsh (1833-1909), and her husband Michael J. Walsh Sr. (1812-1901), great great-grandparents of Jannet L. Walsh of Murdock, Minnesota. Undated photo, late 1890s to early 1900s. The couple married at St. Mary’s Cathedral, Kingston, Ontario, Canada, 1857. They had eight children born in Ontario, and baptized on Wolfe Island, Ontario. Michael’s first wife died in Ireland, leaving one child, Patrick. Featured above is an authentic Irish Shillelagh, a traditional hand weapon made of Blackthorn wood, and hand-knitted Aran sweater, both from Ireland. Learn more about the Irish Canadian family at Walsh ‘s blog.

Nonfiction writing project – Irish Diaspora Family Stories from Minnesota and Canada

Jannet L. Walsh
October 4, 2022
Murdock, Minnesota

I am excited to announce I’m a recipient of a Southwest Minnesota Arts Council, SMAC, Artist Growth Grant, 2022–2024. Funding for this program is provided by the McKnight Foundation

Walsh Family – Jannet L. Walsh stands at the graves of her Irish born Great Great-Grandparents, De Graff, Minnesota, September 29, 2022. Her Walsh family lived at least 35 years in Kingston and Wolfe Island, Ontario, Canada, after departing Ireland, and before settling as pioneers in Dublin Township, Swift County, Minnesota. Other branches of her Irish family also lived in Canada before migrating to the United States.

This will be an online nonfiction quest narrative genre writing project entitled Nonfiction Quest Narrative Genre Writing Project – Family Stories: Minnesota and Irish Diaspora. The McKnight Foundation supports working artists to create and contribute to vibrant communities. Minnesota thrives when its artists thrive. The grant starts October 1, 2022, ends June 20, 2024, with a final reporting date of Aug. 29, 2024.

Jannet L. Walsh of Murdock has been awarded $4,000 to write a creative nonfiction quest narrative genre writing project to produce a new collection of her family history stories in Minnesota and Canada, focusing on the “Irish Diaspora, ethnic Irish living outside the island of Ireland.” The collection of writing will be available on her website, offered to credible publications, and used to create her second book.” 

From Southwest Minnesota Arts Council, SMAC. View details at SMAC October 2022 Newsletter.

How to follow project

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Irish Diaspora writing project
A special webpage has been created to host all blogs, stories, online publications for this writing project, and can be view at Irish Diaspora Project located in the menu or navigation of this website.

Writing details
Quest narrative involves someone searching, often traveling to a particular place, as in “Odyssey” by Homer, one of the oldest known quest narratives.  I will use nonfiction creative writing (literature based on fact), prose poetry, and my wit as part of this writing project. The journey to and from Canada and Minnesota is as part of writing project.  

I want to be the storyteller of my family living in rural Minnesota part of the Irish Diaspora; share experience of stepping foot on Wolfe Island, Ontario, Canada since 1877, 145 years since my family departed; and understand the long emigration of 35 years from Ireland, Canada, and finally to rural United States. 

Handwritten record book – Marriage record of Michael Walsh Sr. and Catherine Summers, St. Mary’s Cathedral, Kingston, Ontario. V document at original Source FamilySearch. View enlarged image at blog on Irish Canadian roots.

This nonfiction project will concentrate on my Irish Canadian roots in Kingston and Wolfe Island, Ontario, Canada, although other branches of my Irish family passed through Canada on their way to the United States.  In August 2022, I posted a blog with marriage and baptism records related to my Walsh family in Canada, view blog Uncovering Irish Canadian family genealogy

I will be exploring more family stories related to my family’s Irish roots in rural Minnesota, especially Dublin Township in Swift County. You can read about my forthcoming book with publisher Shanti Arts, Higgledy-Piggledy Stones: Family Stories from Ireland and Minnesota.

Detail view of inscription of memorial of Catherine Summers Walsh and Michael J. Walsh Sr., September 29, 2022.

Artistic vision for writing project
I will continue in my established nonfiction writing practice to tell stories of my rural Minnesota Irish family, expanding to family’s forgotten Canada. When possible, I will write in first person and present tense, engage readers in Irish family history detective work as it happens, writing in notebooks to capture thoughts and events. Readers imagine they are walking with me in rural Minnesota and Canada. My Great Great-Grandfather Michael J. Walsh Sr. (1812, Ireland -1901, Murdock), lived 35 years in Kingston and Wolfe Island, Ontario, Canada before homesteading in Swift County, Minnesota. Wolfe Island is an island in St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario, about four miles from the port of Kingston, accessible by ferry, and part of archipelago of Thousand Islands.

Here’s a few items I’ll be researching and doing in Ontario: 

  • Researching at Queen’s University Library in Kingston, Rare Books and Special Collections department and Archives, Wolfe Island Historical society and more
  • Visiting St. Mary’s Cathedral in Kingston where Great Great-Grandparents Walsh married
  • Riding the Wolfe Islander III – Wolfe Island to Kingston ferry, Kingston to Wolfe Island. View daily ferry schedule. Learn about the new ferry, the Wolfe Islander IV, not yet in service, video at YouTube, and story at Thousand Islands Life.
  • Searching of Irish settlements of Great Famine refugees, Wolfe Island
  • Visiting the Catholic church on Wolfe Island where eight babies in my family were baptized
  • Meeting residents and historians
  • Learning about geography, location, history, a place of refuge for numerous peoples, including Underground Railroad
  • Writing to capture my thoughts, combine with historical facts

History and writing mentors

I’ll be working with two mentors as part of this grant, seeking feedback and guidance along the way.

  • Rev. Gary E. Mills, Th. D., Director Swift County Historical Society, Benson, Minnesota, with 50 years of work related to genealogy and family histories,
  •  Ms. Tracy Ross, MFA in writing, published poet, nonfiction author, and educator

Project Hashtags

  • #IrishDiasporaSMACMcKnight 
  • #IrishFamilyHistoryDetective  

Jannet L. Walsh of Murdock, Minnesota is a photographer, writer, and educator. She is the author of the forthcoming creative nonfiction quest narrative “Higgledy-Piggledy Stones: Family Stories from Ireland and Minnesota,” scheduled for publication in 2023 by Shanti Arts Publishing. Walsh is recipient of a Southwest Minnesota Arts Council Growth Grant funded by the McKnight Foundation, 2022-2024. You can follow Walsh on Facebook and Twitter, and on her other social media channels, with the hashtag #IrishFamilyHistoryDetective.

This activity is made possible by a grant from the Southwest Minnesota Arts Council with funds from The McKnight Foundation.

Subscribe – Get updates on latest blogs and news from Jannet L. Walsh and her forthcoming book Higgledy-Piggledy Stones: Family Stories from Ireland and Minnesota, scheduled publication 2023, Shanti Arts Publishing.

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