As a school boy he listened as his history teacher talked for two days about the Algonkin Indian tribe of Canada who were constantly at war with the Iroquois Nation of upstate New York. “On the second day I asked, “Can you tell me why these two were not getting along?” and his answer to me was, “Well Kenneth, that”s just the way it was.” And I said to myself “that answer is no answer at all!”" As an adult, Ken sought to not only answer the Algonkin /Iroquois question, but as a labor of love researched all American Indian tribes as well as their languages over a 15-year period. He knows the answer to his question now ” and it is much more complex than anything his former teacher could have imagined. In 2002, Ken began to research his own Irish ancestry. His mother, Bridget Agnes Hannon, was a 15-year-old girl when she emigrated from a hamlet near Ballymote, Co. Sligo. “My wife, Diane, said to me, “You know you really should look into your mother”s Irish surname (Hannon)”". He found a quote from a popular genealogist that said “for an armigerous family very little is known about the Hannons”. For Ken it was “game on!” He made a vow to himself that the lack of knowledge would end that day. “I just started pouring into it ” I knew where to go and what to do and how to find the information.” Not only did he learn about the Hannon name, but he also became one of the founding officers of Clan Hannon. “We have members now in 16 countries on 5 continents ” we are also members of the Clans of Ireland Ltd. of County Dublin, Ireland, (that was begun by the Irish government) which actually organizes all officially registered Irish clans.” Ken has also spoken to many Hannons worldwide giving proof to the width and length of the Irish Diaspora; including descendents of the Wild Geese still living today on the European continent that hunger for information on their Hannon ancestors. In 2005, as a dual citizen of both the USA and the Republic of Ireland he returned from San Francisco”s Irish Consulate with his new Irish passport. “My siblings and I consider the opportunity to obtain an Irish passport a final gift from our immigrant mother.” Turned on to his Irish side, Ken got involved with the Colorado Irish Festival. For the past 4 years he has been Cultural Coordinator in charge of the fest”s Cultural Village. After last year”s fest, fellow board members approached him about adding an Irish surname exhibit to the Cultural Village. They didn”t need to twist his arm. “I have a tremendous respect for our Irish ancestors and have studied and researched this topic for years ” so it”s something pretty close to my heart” said Ken, who has been working on the exhibit the better part of this year. “I spent some good time working on this,” he chuckled, and added, “I think this will be worth the time for people to come and see the exhibit at the Colorado Irish Festival.” Ken continued with great enthusiasm about Irish surnames and of the information that will be on hand at the exhibit. “Ireland was the first country in Europe to have surnames ” ” Cl”irigh (O”Cleary) being the first on record in 916 A.D.,” he pointed out proudly, “That fact has been forgotten because of all the turbulence that Ireland has gone through over the centuries ” and also because Ireland”s surnames were forced to be anglicized from their original Irish spelling. The Irish surnames in their Irish form mean something totally different from the anglicized form which was adopted, and those anglicized versions for the most part have remained today, though many are reverting back to the original form in Ireland itself.” To put things in perspective ” Norway did not have permanent surnames “til they passed a law in 1925 (1,000 years after Ireland!) and Iceland to this day still does not use permanent surnames. Early Irish surnames often indicated a clann, place of origin, or a trade, under “Brehon Law” (the Celtic legal code). At the exhibit there will be Irish surnames that show the original Irish language spelling and meaning next to the anglicized version ” along with the spelling used by 137 historic figures who had those surnames. He found 103 Irish surnames that begin with “Mac Giolla …” which means “son of the servant of” followed by an Irish saint”s name. The exhibit has included a couple of those names. Ken wants people to know and understand that the surname their ancestor had is different than the one they have today. “I want to tell the stories of the men and women who no longer can speak for themselves. I want to tell the story of the people who suffered in the Great Famine “An Gorta Mor.” I want to tell the story of the 138 years of the Penal Laws which lasted through six British monarchs (five to six Irish generations) ” not to make people angry, but rather to educate them and make them proud of their ancestors who faced those hardships and survived. If our ancestors had not survived, we ourselves would not be here today. According to Ken, the first time England tried cracking down on the Irish surnames, along with the Catholic Cambro-Norman surnames, was in the 1300″s. England escalated efforts in the 17th and 18th century to anglicize the Irish surnames ” names that spoke of family history and religion. “So the Irish name, spelling, pronunciation, and meaning that had been used for 775 years now had to be changed. In the exhibit I talk about this, how they (England) made suggestions to the Irish ” “Use the name of your trade ” if you are a butler, clerk, cook, or blacksmith for example, use those names ” or just use the surname of White, Brown, or Black.” An example of how the English neutralized the Irish surnames was given by Ken, “McGowan (anglicized), a surname originating in Ulster, where the McGowans of Co. Cavan changed their name to “Smith” (their trade was blacksmiths) ” however, the McGowans in Counties Sligo, Leitrim, and Donegal, kept the name of McGowan ” and yet they were all related to begin with, but you would not know that at first glance.” Most of the Irish tried to stay as close to their surname as possible, but if they wanted work they had to anglicize their surnames. “If you were Irish Catholic you could not educate your children, practice your religion, own property, or own your own business ” in effect all Irish Catholic men were destined to be day laborers under the Penal Laws.” Ken pointed to a University College in Cork 3-year research project that recently ended resulting in the discovery of 3,700 Irish Surnames ” spelled 11,500 different ways! “We cannot do all of the 3,700 Irish Surnames ” that”s just physically impossible…but we do have ninty-six featured surnames as a microcosm of Irish history covering over a thousand years.” Most of the names in the exhibit are taken from the local Colorado Irish community, but there will be some historical Irish heroes” surnames as well. Much of Ken”s research material for the exhibit came from the work of Reverend Patrick Wolfe who wrote a book “Irish Names and Surnames” in 1923. His research and book are still highly regarded by many who study Irish surnames. Ken spoke with great respect and admiration, “For twenty years Reverend Patrick Wolfe researched Irish forenames and surnames. He went from town to town throughout all 32 counties. He also went to the Gaelic areas of Scotland because of the Dalriadan Clans (Irish who left Co. Antrim c.500 AD, colonized Scotland, and later gave rise to the term “Highlanders”). He met many people during those 20 years ” people who told him where they were from before they were transplanted off their lands, and where their surnames originally came from “. With hopes that folks make an effort to experience the new Irish Surname (Sloinnte Gael) Exhibit at the Colorado Irish Festival this July 11-13, Ken believes that they will be educated if not surprised ” and some might be outright encouraged. “If I can tantalize you a little bit by helping you find out where your surname was from perhaps you will get into researching a bit more than you might have. Perhaps you will do your own family research ” maybe not to the extent that I did with the Hannons, but I”m hopeful that many people will. The joy of discovering the history of your ancestors can be very rewarding.” For more information on the Colorado Irish Festival go to

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