Mae-Ling Maureen Choquette has grown up with the importance of heritage being drilled into her head. Each one of her names is a badge of her family‚Äôs history, having a Taiwanese first name, Irish middle name and a French last name.
“It’s weird not knowing necessarily where you come from,” Choquette said.
Her middle name Maureen is in honor¬†of Choquette’s grandmother, who was the only one of her siblings to be born in Canada, instead of Ireland. She passed away without ever getting to go to her homeland. Her son, Choquette’s father, felt the need to go to Ireland in memory of his mother. So Choquette met him in Dublin to find their relatives and explore their heritage.
The father-daughter pair only had the name, number, and hometown for their relatives in Ireland, Joan and Pat Fee. Her grandma’s brother had the information for these relatives from visiting them years before and gave Choquette their contact information.
Choquette called the number as she and her dad drove from Dublin to Fivemiletown and learned that their family was actually in Tempo, so they drove a bit further and arranged to meet at the first grocery store on the left when they arrived. Fee met Choquette and led her and her father to the old family farm in the Irish countryside, which is still family owned and operated. After discussing and examining family records, they discovered that Pat Fee is Choquette’s great-grandfather’s brother’s son – in short, a distant cousin to Choquette.
Finally in the hometown of the Fee family line, Choquette visited the area where her grandma’s family was born and saw the farmhouse where the Fees currently live. It was the first time in Ireland for both her and her father, and looking into their family history was important to them.
‚ÄúAs far as he can remember, and that I can remember, these are the oldest members of our family,” Choquette said, of their connection to Ireland.
It was powerful for her to walk on the family land and to see the farm still housing chickens and cows. They even went to a graveyard to visit graves of¬†family members who lived and died in Ireland. Even though she didn’t know who the people in the graveyards actually were, they still bore the name “Fee” and attested to the long lineage Choquette has in that part of Ireland.
“It made me feel so much more connected to who I am,” Choquette said about finally experiencing such an important area of her life and family.
Currently, Paul Fee’s son is living in Los Angeles, which isn’t too far from San Diego where Choquette lives and goes to school. It was a pleasant surprise for Choquette, who had no idea that there was a Fee living so close to her hometown. She hopes this will make staying connected to the Irish part of her family much easier while in California.
Photos courtesy of Bob & Mae-Ling Choquette